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Remembered Today:

Who were better prepared; 1914 Reservists or Kitchener Army?


timsanders
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4 hours ago, timsanders said:

whether it was common for a man, on reserve since 1905/1906/1907, to have embarked with the first draft on 11th-14th August 1914?


This is a big undertaking as a piece of work, but:
 

  1. Get access to the 1914 Star roll for the NF
  2. Record the name and number of those who first landed at Le Havre, disregarding the subsequent drafts of reinforcements.
  3. I doubt that any Special Reserve were among those who first landed in August, so no worries about disentangling them from regulars
  4. Do some analysis on the service numbers, to determine when they joined
  5. To prove the hypothesis as to service number ranges and years, look into which men who disembarked have a surviving service record.
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Stand To! 100 June 2014
British Infantry Reserves for the Great War (Part 1) by David Langley

Stand To! 101 September 2014
British Line Infantry Reserves for the Great War - Part 2: A Case Study of the Royal Welch Fusiliers by David Langley

Stand To! 102 January 2015
British Line Infantry Reserves for the Great War – Part 3 by Martin Gillott
 

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14 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

 

Untrue I am afraid. 3 and 9 was useless in providing soldiers to police the empire. Politically driven, it had two purposes: to build a reserve of sorts, rapidly, and to give young men, unwilling to commit to long contracts, a taste of army life in the hope that they would convert.

 

I was writing mainly from the point of view of combat experience for the men who enlisted 3 and 9 in the interwar years and the hard fact that there were no major conflicts in that period.

 

I haven't widely researched the active service of those who enlisted into The Edwardian Army 3 and 9 but two Nottingham men who enlisted into 3rd Battalion NF in February 1904 (both aged 20) were overseas in Bloemfontein with their regiment in November of the same year. One of the men became a paid Lance Corporal in March 1905.

 

One of the men left the army in 1907 and the other extended his service - both were aboard the SS Norman on 13th August 1914.

 

Hopefully we agree that 3 and 9 was useless in providing soldiers to fight a major European war in 1914, which was the main thrust of my reflections.

 

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21 minutes ago, Keith_history_buff said:

Stand To! 100 June 2014
British Infantry Reserves for the Great War (Part 1) by David Langley

Stand To! 101 September 2014
British Line Infantry Reserves for the Great War - Part 2: A Case Study of the Royal Welch Fusiliers by David Langley

Stand To! 102 January 2015
British Line Infantry Reserves for the Great War – Part 3 by Martin Gillott
 

Thank you, I'll leaf through the WFA for these.

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4 minutes ago, timsanders said:

 

I was writing mainly from the point of view of combat experience for the men who enlisted 3 and 9 in the interwar years and the hard fact that there were no major conflicts in that period.

 

I haven't widely researched the active service of those who enlisted into The Edwardian Army 3 and 9 but two Nottingham men who enlisted into 3rd Battalion NF in February 1904 (both aged 20) were overseas in Bloemfontein with their regiment in November of the same year. One of the men became a paid Lance Corporal in March 1905.

 

One of the men left the army in 1907 and the other extended his service - both were aboard the SS Norman on 13th August 1914.

 

Hopefully we agree that 3 and 9 was useless in providing soldiers to fight a major European war in 1914, which was the main thrust of my reflections.

 

 

Given that the standard Foot Guards enlistment was 3 and 9 I am hardly going to agree. I seem to recall that they did rather well.

 

Without wishing to be too negative, the experience of any one battalion, or any one regiment has to be accompanied by so many caveats that no generalisations can be legitimately drawn.

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1 minute ago, Muerrisch said:

Without wishing to be too negative, the experience of any one battalion, or any one regiment has to be accompanied by so many caveats that no generalisations can be legitimately drawn.

I quite agree. I've aimed to post of series of questions seeking to explore a train of thought that is naturally going to start with the area of knowledge (or regiment) immediately known to me.

 

I'm a keen reader, but reluctant poster and happy for anything I write to be scrutinised. 

 

Have a good day sir.

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4 hours ago, timsanders said:

I quite agree. I've aimed to post of series of questions seeking to explore a train of thought that is naturally going to start with the area of knowledge (or regiment) immediately known to me.

 

I'm a keen reader, but reluctant poster and happy for anything I write to be scrutinised. 

 

Have a good day sir.

 

If you need a link to GARBA please ask.

 

For expertise on NF, seek Graham Stewart of this Forum. He has a superb database and information collection.

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Not relating to the NF, but relevant to the question posed in the thread title, and from the account of an eye-witness, John Lucy in There’s a Devil in the Drum describes how, as the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles prepared for war in August 1914 (two years after he had enlisted as a regular soldier with them) the regiment’s reservists “came streaming in” to make up the regiment’s war strength, “cheerful, careless fellows of all types, some of them in bowler hats and smart suitings, others in descending scale down to the garb of tramps”. As they received their uniforms and kit: “Smart sergeants and corporals and beribboned veterans of the South African war hatched out of that crowd of nondescript civilians, and took their place and duties as if they had never left the army. They were an excellent lot …

Landing in France later that month, Lucy had four reservists in the section of eight of which he was in charge. He describes the four reservists as “older men, and not so easy to command as the serving regulars”, and says: “They groused rather too much, and gave gratuitous advice on soldiering.” At no point, however, does he comment that they were less fit than the regulars, or that they had forgotten their training. His battalion was at Mons and Le Cateau (in which one of the reservists was killed instantly by an exploding shell, while one of the regulars was wounded by the same shell), and he then goes on to describe in graphic detail the exhaustion of the retreat from Mons, but there is no distinction made between how the reservists and how the regulars suffered, and it seems that all the surviving members of the section made it to Aisne and Marne. I have yet to read on, so I don’t know whether the reservists may have suffered later, but it looks as though Lucy’s reservists, at least, were as fit as the regulars, and, indeed, as if his impression was that the RIR’s reservists were generally battle-ready to an acceptable extent, since he describes them on joining simply as “excellent men”.

A similar question arises as to how battle-ready the Territorials were compared to Kitchener’s army. My grandfather, a Territorial man, comments with heavy irony when some Kitchener recruits were sent to join his unit for instruction on the Western Front in August 1915, saying that they “thought Kitchener’s Army had decided to remain neutral – they were so long in coming out to France!” He himself had enlisted with the reserve battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers in September 1914, i.e. at the same time as the first 100,000 were being appealed for, and he went to France with the 2/5th LF at the beginning of May 1915, after only 6 ½ months’ training, despite the fact that neither he nor many of his comrades had previously been soldiers before the war (though he had at least been in the OTC at school and University).

My reading of my grandad’s ironic comment about Kitchener’s men is that it was not really intended to disparage so much as to express pride that his own unit had risen to the challenge of being on the front line after so short a period of training, learning, as he himself says, “the routine of trench warfare by experience and mistakes”; given the last phrase, I think that he would have been the first to admit that they were not exactly “battle-ready” when they arrived in France in May, and it was just as well that the possibility that they might be plunged straight into the Fromelles conflict came to nothing. The 1/5th LF, in contrast, who departed for Egypt as early as September 1914, were famously in action at Gallipoli in early May 1915, but surely this unit must have been made up principally of men who had been in the TA before the war?

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10 hours ago, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

Not relating to the NF, but relevant to the question posed in the thread title, and from the account of an eye-witness, John Lucy in There’s a Devil in the Drum describes how, as the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles prepared for war in August 1914 (two years after he had enlisted as a regular soldier with them) the regiment’s reservists “came streaming in” to make up the regiment’s war strength, “cheerful, careless fellows of all types, some of them in bowler hats and smart suitings, others in descending scale down to the garb of tramps”. As they received their uniforms and kit: “Smart sergeants and corporals and beribboned veterans of the South African war hatched out of that crowd of nondescript civilians, and took their place and duties as if they had never left the army. They were an excellent lot …

Landing in France later that month, Lucy had four reservists in the section of eight of which he was in charge. He describes the four reservists as “older men, and not so easy to command as the serving regulars”, and says: “They groused rather too much, and gave gratuitous advice on soldiering.” At no point, however, does he comment that they were less fit than the regulars, or that they had forgotten their training. His battalion was at Mons and Le Cateau (in which one of the reservists was killed instantly by an exploding shell, while one of the regulars was wounded by the same shell), and he then goes on to describe in graphic detail the exhaustion of the retreat from Mons, but there is no distinction made between how the reservists and how the regulars suffered, and it seems that all the surviving members of the section made it to Aisne and Marne. I have yet to read on, so I don’t know whether the reservists may have suffered later, but it looks as though Lucy’s reservists, at least, were as fit as the regulars, and, indeed, as if his impression was that the RIR’s reservists were generally battle-ready to an acceptable extent, since he describes them on joining simply as “excellent men”.

A similar question arises as to how battle-ready the Territorials were compared to Kitchener’s army. My grandfather, a Territorial man, comments with heavy irony when some Kitchener recruits were sent to join his unit for instruction on the Western Front in August 1915, saying that they “thought Kitchener’s Army had decided to remain neutral – they were so long in coming out to France!” He himself had enlisted with the reserve battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers in September 1914, i.e. at the same time as the first 100,000 were being appealed for, and he went to France with the 2/5th LF at the beginning of May 1915, after only 6 ½ months’ training, despite the fact that neither he nor many of his comrades had previously been soldiers before the war (though he had at least been in the OTC at school and University).

My reading of my grandad’s ironic comment about Kitchener’s men is that it was not really intended to disparage so much as to express pride that his own unit had risen to the challenge of being on the front line after so short a period of training, learning, as he himself says, “the routine of trench warfare by experience and mistakes”; given the last phrase, I think that he would have been the first to admit that they were not exactly “battle-ready” when they arrived in France in May, and it was just as well that the possibility that they might be plunged straight into the Fromelles conflict came to nothing. The 1/5th LF, in contrast, who departed for Egypt as early as September 1914, were famously in action at Gallipoli in early May 1915, but surely this unit must have been made up principally of men who had been in the TA before the war?

Thank you for sharing. Great to get the view of another regiment. 

 

Of the books I've read on The Great Retreat, many commentators have written of the 'bedraggled, exhausted infantry marching while asleep or falling out at the side of the road' etc. - but I'm yet to read a contemporary account that singles out the reservist as a liability in action.

 

It's testament both to the resilience of the reservist and the command of the BEF that the prevailing view of the 1914 men is that of a professional, elite army, albeit small in number.

 

 

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An interesting snippet from one of the aforementioned threads initiated by Martin Gillott. 673 reservists to the NF
Deficit.JPG.eda98af53ccb776f3d40496d65c7ba23.JPG



 

 

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Jim Pennymen MG Officer with KOSB Taken from Jerry Murland's book 'Retreat and Rearguard 1914'

"It is a curious fact that all the reservists' boots were too small for them. When a man leaves the colours he states the size of his boots and boots of that size are given him when he is called up. The men cannot all be vain enough to ask for sizes too small for them, so the conclusion is either that their feet expand during fat civilian life or that hard marching makes their feet swell abnormally. Anyhow, the state of their feet was appalling."

 

Hard to overstate the importance of correctly sized worn-in boots especially considering a 250mile retreat (and the march to Mons) lay in wait days later.

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12 minutes ago, Keith_history_buff said:

An interesting snippet from one of the aforementioned threads initiated by Martin Gillott. 673 reservists to the NF
Deficit.JPG.eda98af53ccb776f3d40496d65c7ba23.JPG



 

 

Martin G's research in this area is so valuable. Those numbers are quite staggering and fairly comprehensive in coverage across the battalions. 

 

Quote

Average number of Reservists as % of ORs embarked....................53.6%

 

Or in other words, over half of the OR at Mons were reservists.

 

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Taken from Mobilization Regulations

 

 

To be considered fit for service a reservist must fulfil the following conditions:

 

a) Capable of bearing arms and sufficiently trained.

b ) Have completed a recruits course in musketry

c) Medically fit for service

d) Have reached the age of 19 years

 

When the number of regular reservists available for a unit of the Expeditionary Forde is in excess of mobilisation requirements the O.C. the depot should endeavour to complete the unit with the reservists who have most recently transferred to the reserve.

 

It stands to reason that the units that required the most men to complete their number would need to cast their net the furthest.

 

post-28615-0-51879100-1453219628_thumb.jpg.c5ae0685bc61a78eea3b8e74ebdce218.jpg

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1 hour ago, Keith_history_buff said:

An interesting snippet from one of the aforementioned threads initiated by Martin Gillott. 673 reservists to the NF
Deficit.JPG.eda98af53ccb776f3d40496d65c7ba23.JPG



 

 

Looking at the data recorded on this spreadsheet, there appear to be a few discrepancies in the numbers recorded that would require further investigation cross-referencing with War Diaries, etc. to try and perhaps get some clearer understanding regarding the situation with each Battalion that sailed for France in August 1914. One particular that needs to be noted is the actual embarkation strength, as recorded in the relevant War Diaries, as compared to the fixed War Establishment of an Infantry Battalion. 

 

This information regarding the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry is taken from 'The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the Great War 1914-15' which may be of interest in what is recorded as compared to what is stated on the spreadsheet.

IMG_20210429_130152.jpg

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Whether this is of interest or assistance, I don't know, but mention was made of the expertise brought to Kitchener units by Old Soldiers. I'm not entirely sure where I read this, I'm afraid (I think it was a Kitchener Divisional or Battalion history but I cannot recall which), but someone mentioned that amongst the early volunteers were Soldiers so Old that they still stood at ease with the hands clasped in front, rather than behind.

 

Now, if their knowledge of foot drill was so shaky, one wonders what their other knowledge was like.

 

And I have a question: was there any requirement for Reservists to attend 'refresher' training, or was it simply assumed that, once acquired the knowledge was permanent?

 

And where do Special Reservists fit in? Were they held back as First Reinforcements, or did they join the initial deployment? And what was their value?

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Why, if these Section D men were found unfit for active service in South Africa, should they now be considered fit for active service at a moment’s notice with the Expeditionary Force in Europe and elsewhere? The noble Viscount (Haldane) knows that the reason why the men ... proved unsatisfactory in South Africa was due to the length of their absence from the Colours. I must remind the noble Viscount that whereas the men found ... unfit for immediate active service abroad had been absent from the Colours from five to nine years, the men now relied upon by the noble Viscount to complete his Expeditionary Force will have been absent from the Colours from nine to thirteen years. The noble Viscount must be aware that he is counting upon men who will be the product of the three years with the Colours and nine with the Reserve term of enlistment, and that consequently the unfitness complained of by Lord Methuen and Sir T. Kelly–Kenny (during the Boer War) will be not only intensified but in some cases more than doubled.

The Duke Of Bedford Hansard 4 May 1911.

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Much has been made of the 3 and 9 men's unpreparedness. No attempt has been made to assess their maximum possible proportional representation within the deployed reservists. Using GARBA, it should not be a difficult exercise to perform infantry-wide, surely more useful than a battalion here and a battalion there?

 

WARNING. More thread drift [as in "where is mention of the New Armies?"]

 

There has been brief reference to continuation training. In my opinion it was risible. Here are the details:

 

Section A. membership was voluntary and limited, each infantry regiment being allowed about 50 men on their books, and the Army total not to exceed 6000. The Section could be called out without Proclamation. These men had to be of “Good” character or better on a scale of: “Exemplary, Very Good, Good, Fair, Indifferent, Bad and Very Bad”. They were selected from those with the best musketry qualifications, were paid full infantry basic pay of 1/- per day, and could remain in the Section for a maximum of two years. There was no provision for continuation training.

 

Section B. was the normal destination for the balance of the 12 years enlistment, and was on half-pay. Regarding continuation training,

Haldane:  

... The Regulations for the training of the Army Reserve are issued annually. In the case of Section B. of the infantry, men enlisted for three years are required to train in the fifth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh year of their service, and those enlisted for more than three years in their tenth year of service. The training consists of one day's musketry instruction, or, if the man so prefers, six days' training with a Special Reserve unit. (Hansard 24th August 1909). 

 

Many men found the 6d per day on Reserve a valuable supplement in hard times, so that when it stopped they volunteered for further reserve liability in Section D, for four years only. Those leaving after 12 years colours service were also eligible. The authorities used D. as a shock absorber, opening it to enrolment subject to medical examination only when reserves were scarce. It was closed to infantry for eight months from 1st October 1906 and for 18 months from 1st June 1908. The quarterly payment was substantial, and, if one were so minded, paid for a great deal of beer at 3d per pint. Section D had no continuation training.

 

As a footnote, many Special Reservists would be within a year or two of their initial six months of training on enlistment. 

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GARBA data for 1913 is available on this previous thread, as well as earlier discussions regarding Regular Reservists.

 

I do disagree with the assertion that looking at particular Battalions is not 'useful' however. If anything going into much deeper detail can assist in trying to gain a better insight into a research question like that posed by Tim. By doing this work it is sometimes possible to find information that contradicts assumptions and often-repeated received wisdom. It is a useful exercise analysing multiple sources, such as the 1914 Star Roll; surviving service records (including Militia Records in the WO 96 series that provide information on individuals who later attested on Regular engagements and the date this occurred); the Register of Soldiers' Effects; Census, marriage certificates and local newspaper reports. It can help to gain a better understanding of Regular Reservists rather than viewing them as a homogeneous entity, particularly with regard to trying to gauge how long a period had been spent on the Reserve and how there were variances in the numbers absorbed by units during Mobilisation. The research is time-consuming, occasionally frustrating due to the survivability (or not) of records, but if it helps to build up data and citable evidence that can help in testing a hypothesis it is worth investing time and energy doing it.

 

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27 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

assess their maximum possible proportional representation within the deployed reservists. 

This is a key question. If the 3 and 9 men made up only a tiny fraction of the deployed, then their relative 'softness' would have had little effect on the professionalism and efficiency of the BEF as a whole. 

 

Does the GARBA break the deployed other ranks down into reserve categories? If so, that would be invaluable.

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Alexander Watson in Enduring the Great war addresses the issue of preparedness of the British Army in 1914 ie the regulars and reservists to withstand both the initial manoeuvre phase and subsequent trench warfare. He doesn't paint a particularly  positive picture of the abilities of the 1914 army either in terms of battle tactics or the ability to endure the rigours of an unfamiliar type of battle. The latter, Watson suggests, being a product of low levels of education and general physically inferior ORs in the British Army. By contrast he notes that Kitchener recruits were were afforded considerably more insight during training into the demands of static warfare, were physically superior and had a higher level of education. This combination produced soldiers who were significantly better at enduring a war of attrition.

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9 minutes ago, ilkley remembers said:

By contrast he notes that Kitchener recruits were were afforded considerably more insight during training into the demands of static warfare, were physically superior and had a higher level of education. This combination produced soldiers who were significantly better at enduring a war of attrition.

 

This was the basis of my wider question regarding the comparative preparedness of the 1914 Reservist and Kitchener recruit.

 

Were the recalled reservists under fire at Mons equally untried, unprepared and unproven as the new recruits thrown into battle at Loos?

 

One had 10 days to prepare, the other many months. You don't need a slew of documents to evidence that fitness, equipment fit out and tactical training are all enhanced with the benefit of time as is. Additionally the luxury of observing how the opening months of hostilities played out gave the new soldiers of 1915 some tactical advantage, although the outcome of the 1915 battles would dispute the value of this.

 

The key advantage that a 1914 reservist had, was that they were surrounded by regular career soldiers under the leadership of experienced officers and NCOs. The extent of this advantage hinges, in part, on the ratio of reservist:regulars in the original deployment and which regiment they served with.

 

As has been previously mentioned, a reservist could be used to describe a man out of the colours for only a few months and also one who'd left up to 8 years previously. The suitability of these men is probably best seen as a spectrum rather than a general label, but even a man out of the colours for a short time would have found the month of August 1914 particularly trying and certainly a rude awakening from civilian life.

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Extracts from the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment that address the situation with regard to Reservists who had served for three years with the Colours and nine on the Reserve. Of course it is only how one Battalion approached the issue, but it may be of interest, Tim. 

1ST Battalion East Surrey Regiment War Diary.PNG

1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment War Diary 2.PNG

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3 hours ago, timsanders said:

This is a key question. If the 3 and 9 men made up only a tiny fraction of the deployed, then their relative 'softness' would have had little effect on the professionalism and efficiency of the BEF as a whole. 

 

Does the GARBA break the deployed other ranks down into reserve categories? If so, that would be invaluable.

 

GARBA with the Victorian/Edwardian depth of analysis ends in October 1913 of course. The deployment in 1914 cannot therefore be covered. The replacement document, Statistics of the Great War etc etc does not provide the fine grain that one needs, or, if it does, I have never found it. I doubt if record keeping on the level needed was attempted in the crisis of autumn 1914, the army had more pressing priorities than helping us on GWF.

 

What follows is composed on my laptop sitting in front of the fire, away, by a flight of stairs, from my references. It illustrates a possible methodology using hand-waving numbers. I make absolutely no claim for the numbers. As Martin would say "any mistakes are mine".

 

Crudely, what we could attempt from GARBA 1913 is to total the 3 and 9 men[ all army arms, cannot split down] going to the reserve. That is [I approximate all that follows] 40,000 men. We can then, from GARBA, estimate half of this figure were infantry, say 20,000. The next step is difficult: wastage before 1914. In general, Martin and I found that whereas wastage DURING COLOUR SERVICE before passing to the Reserve was surprisingly high, nominal wastage DURING RESERVE SERVICE was surprisingly low. To qualify for the quarterly payment of half pay all a soldier had to prove was that he was alive. Thus, many very unfit men presented for medical in August 1914 and were found unfit. We might surmise that the 3 and 9 men, being older, headed the sick and sorry queue. Thus, whatever figure follows is a guess: perhaps 10,000 of  3 and 9 men remained fit for duty. These, although primarily needed for the Home based infantry forming the EF [later called BEF], would ultimately be needed to be shared*** among all battalions sent to F & F in 1914 [I am again guessing crudely that, after 31 December 1914 they were either dead, wounded, prisoners, sick, or stacking blankets. In August 1914 we had 19 regular infantry brigades of 4 battalions in F & F, and as many again hastening back Home to serve. Say [again amazing crude figure] about 150 battalions in total. These to share, potentially, 10,000 3 and 9 men. 60 odd per battalion.

 

All of which [if using accurate figures rather than my guesswork] might give an idea of the dilution of the battalions by these veterans, with only a few refresher days under their belts.

 

But it tells us nothing about the quality of the New Armies: the thread is supposed to be about a comparison, as I understand the title.

 

*** shared is misleading. At that stage in the war, the Blankshire's surplus could not be gifted to the Loamshires.

Edited by Muerrisch
clarification
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2 hours ago, AndrewThornton said:

 

. The research is time-consuming, occasionally frustrating due to the survivability (or not) of records, but if it helps to build up data and citable evidence that can help in testing a hypothesis it is worth investing time and energy doing it.

 

If you read my offerings carefully, you will agree that I did not  assert that looking at particular Battalions is not 'useful' Indeed the whole of my Part 2 in the series in ST! is about the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. I called it what it is, a case study. Part 3, by Martin Gillott, deals with the infantry-wide Reserves issue of 1914.

 

As a retired scientist I am all for testing an hypothesis, as you put it, but what is the hypothesis?

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48 minutes ago, AndrewThornton said:

Extracts from the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment that address the situation with regard to Reservists who had served for three years with the Colours and nine on the Reserve. Of course it is only how one Battalion approached the issue, but it may be of interest, Tim. 

1ST Battalion East Surrey Regiment War Diary.PNG

1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment War Diary 2.PNG

Great source Andrew

 

"as far as possible replaced replaced the 3 years men" is a policy also adopted by 1st Bn NF. After discarding 400 reservists, the Colonel sent an urgent telegram to the Depot Commander asking for "100 men who had most recently left the regiment".

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