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Who were better prepared; 1914 Reservists or Kitchener Army?


timsanders
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16 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

what is the hypothesis?

 

 

No hypothesis or hyperbole statement as such, just a series of questions with the goal of greater understanding. One of which is:

 

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

 

This question makes the assumption that Kitchener Men were unprepared, untried and unproven, I'm willing for this to be challenged and corrected as I have very little detailed knowledge of the organisation and training of the Kitchener Army. But, I believe exploring the challenges and experiences of the men torn from civilian life in August 1914 is a worthwhile pursuit and perhaps something that is skimmed over in many historical commentary on the opening months of war.

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6 minutes ago, timsanders said:

 

 

No hypothesis or hyperbole statement as such, just a series of questions with the goal of greater understanding. One of which is:

 

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

 

This question makes the assumption that Kitchener Men were unprepared, untried and unproven, I'm willing for this to be challenged and corrected as I have very little detailed knowledge of the organisation and training of the Kitchener Army. But, I believe exploring the challenges and experiences of the men torn from civilian life in August 1914 is a worthwhile pursuit and perhaps something that is skimmed over in many historical commentary on the opening months of war.

Thank you. I was rather hoping that Andrew Thornton would clarify the matter of the hypothesis, having introduced it.

 

I too know very little about the New Armies, other than book learning. My interest, as was Martin's, is the 1914 period.

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David, the hypothesis, which I perhaps used incorrectly, I was referring to were the initial questions that Tim wanted to explore at the start of the thread. My interest is also in the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 so joined the thread to offer some information that may assist him.  That is what the GWF exists for.

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2 hours ago, timsanders said:

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

 

Is it pertinent to ask whether or not the British Army as a whole was prepared for a large scale continental  war in 1914. It may have been professional, with the assumption that it was superior to other field armies, but is it heretical to question its performance at the beginning of the war. It was hardly trained for a continental war of which it had virtually  no recent experience. Its training was mainly for policing actions across the Empire and its Staff imbued with notion that wars and battles were won by manoeuvre not from static lines where the influence of cavalry was minimal. Perhaps limiting the discussion to the preparedness of lower ranks misses view that its lack really came from the top.

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18 hours ago, AndrewThornton said:

David, the hypothesis, which I perhaps used incorrectly, I was referring to were the initial questions that Tim wanted to explore at the start of the thread. My interest is also in the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 so joined the thread to offer some information that may assist him.  That is what the GWF exists for.

 

Thank you. I believe we now need someone who is very knowledgeable on the New Armies, to counterbalance the weight of fact, data and anecdote on the Old Contemptibles....

 

One anecdote regarding August 1914

 

my wife's grandfather was a cow-man in Wealdstone, aged about 35, on 4th August.

On 29th August he was on the dockside at Rouen or Le Havre in ASC uniform unloading ships and loading trains. He had not a scrap of military experience. [Later in the war he was transferred to the KRRC and died at Hooge at the end of October 1918]. 

Edited by Muerrisch
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27 minutes ago, ilkley remembers said:

 

Is it pertinent to ask whether or not the British Army as a whole was prepared for a large scale continental  war in 1914. It may have been professional, with the assumption that it was superior to other field armies, but is it heretical to question its performance at the beginning of the war. It was hardly trained for a continental war of which it had virtually  no recent experience. Its training was mainly for policing actions across the Empire and its Staff imbued with notion that wars and battles were won by manoeuvre not from static lines where the influence of cavalry was minimal. Perhaps limiting the discussion to the preparedness of lower ranks misses view that its lack really came from the top.

That's a big question to answer which I think has been widely debated, if not satisfactorily or comprehensively answered - not sure it ever will. For what it's worth i think we were outnumbered, so yes, unprepared in the scale of land army required.

 

It should also be remembered, the lack of training and recent experience of reservists was a problem shared by the other waring nations, but ultimately, I think the outcomes of 1914 and 1918 were decided by weight of numbers.

 

I was hoping to hold a light to the plight of the 1914 reservist specifically, as the narrative on the build up to war often assumes the men who had spent many years on reserve were swiftly discarded or sent to retrain for future use.

 

They may turn out to be the exception to the rule, but perhaps these men deserve a closer look, much in the same way 'Great Uncle Walter the Bank Clerk who answered the call in 1915' and 'The lads of the Warrington Rugby Club who were slaughtered on the Somme'.

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1 minute ago, Muerrisch said:

I believe we now need someone who is very knowledgeable on the New Armies, to counterbalance the weight of fact, data and anecdote on the Old Contemptibles....

Indeed, that would be most valuable, as is your input. I've spent many an hour reading your (and Martin G) work on 1914 over the years and learned a great deal. Thank you.

 

 

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On the subject of 3 and 9, I can give you the following from a researched medal roll, as this is the only way that you get a credible answer.

On the medal roll for the South Wales Borderers, there are 954 Other Ranks who are identified as the first to deploy.

Of those, there are 351 men whose service numbers were issued by the regiment at a time when the 3 & 9 combination were in place. The first is 7272 Adams, the last is 8578 Lixton.

The following NCOs are believed to have extended their service: 
7767 Sergeant Parry, appears on 1911 census

7800 Sergeant Pitt, ditto

7909 Sergeant Lloyd, ditto

7928 Sergeant Hollis, ditto

8028 Sergeant Young, ditto
8119 Sergeant Moss, ditto
8159 Sergeant Lowe, ditto

8181 Sergeant Brain, ditto - Brain has a surviving service record
8209 Sergeant Drane, appears on 1911 census
8328 Corporal Vine, ditto
8475 Sergeant Williams, ditto
8555 Corporal Redhead, ditto

7473 Private Corbett has a surviving service record and is understood to have been with the colours at the outbreak of war
7965 Private Joynes, ditto
8089 Private Llewellyn, ditto

The incompleteness of records does make it difficult to determine which of these men were still serving with the colours in 1914. If they appear on the 1911 census, it indicates they extended, but you cannot ascertain when they transferred to the Army Reserve, or if they were with the colours in 1914. 

I have to say it is a bigger chunk of the initially deployed battalion than I would have expected, but I still don't know who in this "soup" is definitively divided into (i) with the colours at the outbreak and (ii) with the Army Reserve, then mobilised (my spelling) after the outbreak of war.

Of other men on the list:

90 men whose numbers indicate serving 9 & 3, and with the Army Reserve in August 1914 (8584 Knott to 8849 Weston)
29 men whose numbers indicate serving 7 & 5, and with the Army Reserve in August 1914 (9404 Morris to 9595 Ravenhill)

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16 hours ago, Keith_history_buff said:

On the subject of 3 and 9, I can give you the following from a researched medal roll, as this is the only way that you get a credible answer.

On the medal roll for the South Wales Borderers, there are 954 Other Ranks who are identified as the first to deploy.

Of those, there are 351 men whose service numbers were issued by the regiment at a time when the 3 & 9 combination were in place. The first is 7272 Adams, the last is 8578 Lixton.

The following NCOs are believed to have extended their service: 
7767 Sergeant Parry, appears on 1911 census

7800 Sergeant Pitt, ditto

7909 Sergeant Lloyd, ditto

7928 Sergeant Hollis, ditto

8028 Sergeant Young, ditto
8119 Sergeant Moss, ditto
8159 Sergeant Lowe, ditto

8181 Sergeant Brain, ditto - Brain has a surviving service record
8209 Sergeant Drane, appears on 1911 census
8328 Corporal Vine, ditto
8475 Sergeant Williams, ditto
8555 Corporal Redhead, ditto

7473 Private Corbett has a surviving service record and is understood to have been with the colours at the outbreak of war
7965 Private Joynes, ditto
8089 Private Llewellyn, ditto

The incompleteness of records does make it difficult to determine which of these men were still serving with the colours in 1914. If they appear on the 1911 census, it indicates they extended, but you cannot ascertain when they transferred to the Army Reserve, or if they were with the colours in 1914. 

I have to say it is a bigger chunk of the initially deployed battalion than I would have expected, but I still don't know who in this "soup" is definitively divided into (i) with the colours at the outbreak and (ii) with the Army Reserve, then mobilised (my spelling) after the outbreak of war.

Of other men on the list:

90 men whose numbers indicate serving 9 & 3, and with the Army Reserve in August 1914 (8584 Knott to 8849 Weston)
29 men whose numbers indicate serving 7 & 5, and with the Army Reserve in August 1914 (9404 Morris to 9595 Ravenhill)

 Regarding [i agree] the surprisingly large number of 3 and 9 men deploying in 1914, I believe that the answer will lie in

 WO 114/23 -  General Monthly Return of the Strength of the British Army 1913

 

This was the series that Martin and I used, and is the source of the annual GARBA. It notes, painstakingly, for each regular battalion of every regiment the numbers of men serving in a particular month on each of a myriad of terms. If the 3 and 9 men, hitherto identified by regimental number, had accepted the various inducements to extend, or died, or were dismissed, or bought themselves out, it would directly affect the statistics, because the reservists [from memory] remained on the books, together with the year in which they were due to end their commitment [apart from the extra year for King George].

 

I had the leisure and enthusiasm to do the work for RWF .....THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.

 

 

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the days when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.
 
 
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and the earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
Edited by Muerrisch
clarification
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  • 4 weeks later...

I have transcribed some of the April 1911 data in respect of the Northumberland Fusiliers. It's taken from the images posted on the thread I created on 28 May 2021. 


 

For 2 Years <=1 1BN 0
For 2 Years >1 1BN 0
For 3 Years <1 1BN 0
For 3 Years >=1<2 1BN 0
For 3 Years >=2<3 1BN 0
For 3 Years >3 1BN 0
For 7 Years <1 1BN 2
For 7 Years >=1<2 1BN 97
For 7 Years >=2<3 1BN 97
For 7 Years >=3<4 1BN 48
For 7 Years >=4<5 1BN 7
For 7 Years >=5<6 1BN 1
For 7 Years >=6<7 1BN 1
For 7 Years >=7<8 1BN 0
For 8 Years >3 1BN 0
For 8 Years <1 1BN 0
For 8 Years >=1<2 1BN 0
For 8 Years >=2<3 1BN 0
For 8 Years >=3<4 1BN 0
For 8 Years >=4<5 1BN 0
For 8 Years >=5<6 1BN 29
For 8 Years >=6<7 1BN 113
For 8 Years >8 1BN 0
For 9 Years <1 1BN 0
For 9 Years >=1<2 1BN 1
For 9 Years >=2<3 1BN 0
For 9 Years >=3<4 1BN 1
For 9 Years >=4<5 1BN 57
For 9 Years >=5<6 1BN 238
For 9 Years >=6<7 1BN 168
For 9 Years >=7<8 1BN 53
For 9 Years >=8<9 1BN 6
For 9 Years >9 1BN 0
Extended Service <10 1BN 28
Extended Service >=10<11 1BN 4
Extended Service >11 1BN 6
Long Service <10 1BN 31
Long Service >=10<11 1BN 7
Long Service >11 1BN 5
Re-engaged men <19 1BN 6
Re-engaged men >=19<20 1BN 2
Re-engaged men >20 1BN 3
For 2 Years <=1 2BN 0
For 2 Years >1 2BN 0
For 3 Years <1 2BN 0
For 3 Years >=1<2 2BN 1
For 3 Years >=2<3 2BN 1
For 3 Years >3 2BN 0
For 7 Years <1 2BN 157
For 7 Years >=1<2 2BN 120
For 7 Years >=2<3 2BN 137
For 7 Years >=3<4 2BN 47
For 7 Years >=4<5 2BN 3
For 7 Years >=5<6 2BN 1
For 7 Years >=6<7 2BN 0
For 7 Years >=7<8 2BN 0
For 8 Years >3 2BN 0
For 8 Years <1 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=1<2 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=2<3 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=3<4 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=4<5 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=5<6 2BN 0
For 8 Years >=6<7 2BN 30
For 8 Years >8 2BN 0
For 9 Years <1 2BN 0
For 9 Years >=1<2 2BN 2
For 9 Years >=2<3 2BN 0
For 9 Years >=3<4 2BN 11
For 9 Years >=4<5 2BN 1
For 9 Years >=5<6 2BN 45
For 9 Years >=6<7 2BN 25
For 9 Years >=7<8 2BN 11
For 9 Years >=8<9 2BN 4
For 9 Years >9 2BN 0
Extended Service <10 2BN 11
Extended Service >=10<11 2BN 2
Extended Service >11 2BN 2
Long Service <10 2BN 94
Long Service >=10<11 2BN 28
Long Service >11 2BN 7
Re-engaged men <19 2BN 18
Re-engaged men >=19<20 2BN 3
Re-engaged men >20 2BN 1
For 2 Years <=1 DEPOT 0
For 2 Years >1 DEPOT 0
For 3 Years <1 DEPOT 0
For 3 Years >=1<2 DEPOT 0
For 3 Years >=2<3 DEPOT 0
For 3 Years >3 DEPOT 0
For 7 Years <1 DEPOT 52
For 7 Years >=1<2 DEPOT 0
For 7 Years >=2<3 DEPOT 7
For 7 Years >=3<4 DEPOT 3
For 7 Years >=4<5 DEPOT 2
For 7 Years >=5<6 DEPOT 0
For 7 Years >=6<7 DEPOT 1
For 7 Years >=7<8 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >3 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years <1 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=1<2 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=2<3 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=3<4 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=4<5 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=5<6 DEPOT 0
For 8 Years >=6<7 DEPOT 10
For 8 Years >8 DEPOT 0
For 9 Years <1 DEPOT 0
For 9 Years >=1<2 DEPOT 0
For 9 Years >=2<3 DEPOT 0
For 9 Years >=3<4 DEPOT 0
For 9 Years >=4<5 DEPOT 5
For 9 Years >=5<6 DEPOT 6
For 9 Years >=6<7 DEPOT 3
For 9 Years >=7<8 DEPOT 1
For 9 Years >=8<9 DEPOT 1
For 9 Years >9 DEPOT 0
Extended Service <10 DEPOT 5
Extended Service >=10<11 DEPOT 2
Extended Service >11 DEPOT 2
Long Service <10 DEPOT 5
Long Service >=10<11 DEPOT 2
Long Service >11 DEPOT 0
Re-engaged men <19 DEPOT 12
Re-engaged men >=19<20 DEPOT 0
Re-engaged men >20 DEPOT 1
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1 April 1911
Northumberland Fusiliers

Number of Men with the Army Reserve borne as Supernumerary - 1746

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On 27/04/2021 at 13:28, timsanders said:

However, in the case of many pre-war reservists, August 1914 found them in civilian life at home with their wife and children. Some had left the colours 7,8,9 years earlier after only 3 years active service and with no meaningful combat experience. Moreover, the battle hardened Boer War veteran recalled in 1914 would be well into his 30s and perhaps less well-acquainted with modern warfare.

 

Notice of mobilisation to embarkation was under 10 days, leaving no time for substantial organisation and re-training. The demand on fitness, march discipline and importantly, breaking in of footwear, would be crucial in preparing the soldier for a 250mile retreat under fire in two weeks' time.

 

Smith-Dorrien’s reluctance to commit men into battle in 1914 is often criticised, yet if 60% of his men were reservists recalled only a few weeks earlier, it’s reasonable to wonder how fit to face the advancing German Army, the BEF really were.


It's the same time frame, albeit a different army facing the challenges of mobile warfare.
 

Quote

Pg 14

The overall confusion was made worse by poor communications within formations and with flanking formations. Increasing fatigue also played its part. While the regular soldiers [of the French Army] could endure the endless marching and counter-marching, recalled reservists were less fit and either fell out or marched in increasing pain and difficulty.


Clayton
Paths of Glory - The French Army 1914-18
Chapter 1.

1914: Manoeuvre war, the French frontier offensives.

 

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  • 3 months later...

Two interesting quotes in relation to the Northumberland Fusiliers on an old thread 

On 16/12/2013 at 18:49, ss002d6252 said:

A quick look through the CWGC shows that from August 1914 through to mid April 1915 that the N.Fus suffered at least 600 O.R's killed.

The N.Fus. were quite possibly hampered by virtue of the massive number of battalions raised on Tyneside during a relatively short period.

If they were required to supply a cadre of men to each of the 20 or so Kitchener battalions which formed during that the period then the number of men lost from the battalion would sharp add up once injuries and sickness are added in.

Craig

  

On 16/12/2013 at 21:15, Guest said:

Craig...600 fatal casualties is high but not unusual (I calculate 628 for the 1st and 2nd Bns) by the standards of the BEF. One battalion of the Cameraon Highlanders alone suffered 584 killed before Christmas. The main swing factor here is (I suspect the second point) if the Regiment had to send 15 NCOs to each new Northumberland Fusilier Service battalion being raised that would put an additional drain of 19 battalions x 15 men = 285 by the end of 1914, or 300 if you include the 27th Bn (4th Tyneside Irish) rased in Jan 1915.

Here is my preliminary Calc.;

4th Aug 1914: Reservists..................................................................................................1,783

4th Aug 1914: Special Reservists........................................................................................311

4th Aug 1914: Total Reservists......................................................................................................................2,094

4th Aug 1914: less SR recruits...........................................................................................-261

4th Aug 1914 subtotal....................................................................................................................................1,843

5th Aug 1914: less Reservists for 1st Bn.............................................................................-600

5th Aug 1914 subtotal....................................................................................................................................1,243

6th/7th Aug 1914. Returned unfit under-aged from 1st Bn................................................ +404 (includes retention of 93 for 1st Reinforcements)

6th/7th Aug subtotal ......................................................................................................................................1,647

7th Aug -Jan 1915 20 x 15 NCOs cadres for Service Bns...................................................-300

Subtotal.........................................................................................................................................................1,347

14th Aug 1914 -1st Apr 1915 Fatal casualties...................................................................- 628

Subtotal ...........................................................................................................................................................719

This is as far as we can go with static data. the rest is dynamic data that does not give cumulative totals, however on 29th March there were;

29th Mar 1915 Invalids from Exped Force - Temp unfit for Foreign Service........................-606

29th Mar 1915 Invalids from Exped Force - Now fit for Foreign Service..................................+2

29th Mar 1915 sub-total...................................................................................................................................115

Which would leave only 115 men for POWs and men still in hospital or men under-aged or men discharged. The above figure does not include any reservists allocated to the 2nd Bn which landed in France on 18th Jan 1915 or does it quantify the number of time-expired servicemen who re-enlisted.The returns for the 29th March also record:

Temporarily medically unfit for foreign service or under 19 years' of age..............................-474

Sick, Prisoners, Absentees....................................................................................................-173

Fully Trained and effective .....................................................................................................+18

Which suggest that the Northumberland Fusiliers had recruited over 550 'trained' men or had trained 550 men in the interim period. Either way with just 18 fully trained and fit men aged 19 or over on 29th March, this was a fairly big crisis that would not survive a another Ypres By the 12th April the figures were:

Temporarily medically unfit for foreign service or under 19 years' of age..............................-545

Sick, Prisoners, Absentees....................................................................................................-129

Fully Trained and effective ........................................................................................................0

Permanently unfit for overseas service (medically or on account of age)..............................-238

Invalids from Exped Force - Temp unfit for Foreign Service...................................................-699

Invalids from Exped Force - Now fit for Foreign Service.............................................................0

1,611 men and not one man fit enough to serve. This, the strongest Line Infantry Regiment in the British Army only 8 months earlier with 2,094 trained Reservists. If we go full circle and add back the known KIA of 628 that would make 2,239, again reinforcing (excuse the pun) the idea that not only did the Northumberland Fusiliers run out of men, it did so despite recruiting at least 145 ex-servicemen.

The OP asked "Special Reserve: Necessary but not Sufficient?"

QED. Again.

MG

Link to original thread
https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/200389-special-reserve-necessary-but-not-sufficient/page/5/?tab=comments#comment-2002982



 

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I came across the following in the acts passed as a direct result of the Cardwell & Childers reforms, which were to set the scene for 1914

1870 Reserve Forces Act

Quote

19 Training of first class of reserve force [remainder of the 12 year term]
The Secretary of State may from time to time make regulations for the training of persons serving in pursuance of this Act in the first class of the reserve force in such manner and during such periods as he may consider to interfere as little as possible with their ordinary trades or occupations, and as do not exceed in any one year twelve whole days or twenty drills.


Regulation of the Forces Act of 1881
 

Quote

10 Provision for Supplemental Reserve

  1. For the purpose of establishing a Supplemental Reserve it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to authorise men to be enrolled in the first class of the army reserve force under the condition that they are not called out for permanent service until the whole of the remainder of the said first class have been called out for permanent service, and regulations may from time to time be made under the Reserve Force Act 1876 for carrying into effect this section.

12 Amendment as to service of reserve forces

  1. [omitted]
  2. [omitted]
  3. [omitted]
  4. Men in the army and militia reserve forces shall be liable to be called out annually for training and exercise for such times as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct, not exceeding in the case of a man in the army reserve force twelve days or twenty drills, and in the case of a man in the militia reserve force fifty-six days. Every such man during his annual training and exercise may be attached to and trained with a body of the regular or auxiliary forces.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

A comment on the "ideal" duration of years with the colours that a man enlisting under Regular terms of service ought to serve, from a speech by Lord Childers ahead of his reforms later that year, given on 3 March 1881, with specific reference to there being service in India, and mentioned in Skelley's book:
 

Quote

I think it may be fairly said that six years is, according to the best authorities, about the time during which a soldier who is not invalided should generally be kept in India, and this undoubtedly points to an increase in the present time of service.


Link:
https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1881/mar/03/statement

This ties in with the role of the British Army in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Quote

The size of the British Regular Army had diminished steadily through the 1860s
as a result of the usual demands for financial retrenchment after a war, until in
1870 it reached the lowest figure since the end of the Crimean War of 170,817 rank
and file.(1) The infantry, by far the largest and most important arm, comprised 141
battalions; more than half of them stationed in India or the colonies. All but the
first 25 battalions were independent units, or regiments, depending on four detached
depot companies in Britain for drafts of fresh men. The principal duty of the
Regular Army was to act as a colonial police force, just as it had in Wellington's
time. Secondly it was required, with the assistance of the Militia and the newly
reconstituted Volunteers, to deal with civil emergencies at home and to resist
invasion. This dual role strained the small, long-service Army to breaking point.


THE EFFECT OF THE CARDWELL REFORMS IN ARMY ORGANIZATION, 1874-1904
By BRIAN BOND

Contained within:
pg 235
Warfare in Europe 1815-1914 
Edited by
Peter H. Wilson

Routledge
First published 2006
Reissued in 2018
ISBN 13: 978-0-815-39892-9 (hbk)
ISBN 13: 978-1-351-12671-7 (ebk)

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Following on from the above, the needs of a peacetime army, largely utilised as a colonial police force, did necessitate at least six years service with the colours for line infantry. Some of the literature that I have been looking at was insistent that those men who did not look like they would be going overseas should be transferred to the Army Reserve at the earliest opportunity

Stepping away from that, and looking at a war in Europe, there does seem to be a plausible argument that three years service with the colours, thereafter bolstered by frequent training and the ability to maintain a certain level of fitness (and I do know this latter italicised phrase is contentious) could be the way to successfully emulate the Prussian model, which had succeeded against Danish, Austrian and latterly French forces.

As before, a quote from a "memorandum" read out by Childers on 3 March 1881, accessed via the link in the prior post, looking back at the advent of the Cardwell reforms.

 

Quote

 The Crimean War had indeed shown, some years before, that without a Reserve of men who had passed through the Army, our military force would soon be exhausted; but it was the two great wars in which Germany was concerned that occasioned the deepest anxiety in the public mind. In 1866 Prussia, with an army consisting of men between 20 and 23 years of age, enlisted for three years with the colours, and, supported by Reserves, had, in seven weeks, totally defeated the more veteran troops of Austria; and in 1870 the French Army, which had only recently been re-formed on the basis of
 
192containing a much larger proportion of old soldiers, received a still more crushing defeat at the hands of Germany. Is it to be wondered at that the difficulty in obtaining recruits, and the impossibility of forming a Reserve with long service, taken in connection with the evidence of what a short-service system could do on the Continent, made public opinion all but unanimous in favour of such a system being tried here?

 

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Just to throw a speculative little spanner in the works, the original post and most subsequent replies have presumably been solely related to infantry regiments....I wonder in what direction this fascinating and worthwhile discussion would go if we're introduce the 'tail' elements of the BEF to the question, the supply, logistical, engineering and transport branches without which no military force can function; after all, the consequent 'readiness' of the 1916 incarnation compared with its 1914 predecessor can surely only be fully appreciated if one considers the expansion of these support services, which began whilst the 14 blokes were still fighting and both continued and grew more complex as front-line lessons were absorbed

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  • 1 month later...

Very interesting topic, and one I've often pondered....

My g-grandfather, William George Fenemore, served in the Coldstream Guards June 1906 to June 1913 and was living in London with his wife and young son (my grandfather) when war was declared. He was Mobilized on 5 August and 8 days later was in France with the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards. 

The 3rd CG war diary states (20 Aug): The battalion marched from Grougis....to Oisy. The whole Brigade suffered a good deal on this march. It was the first march that the reservists had made, their feet were soft besides which a large part of the battalion were suffering from the effects of inoculation & the weather was tropical hot.

(22 Aug): ...we had a hot and tiring march....

(23 Aug): ....received orders to dig themselves in, facing the Harmignies hills and covering the village of Harveng. The men who had by this time been 18 hours under arms, under a hot sun, could hardly be kept awake.

(24 Aug): ....we retired... to Malgarni which we reached about 7pm having been under arms continuously for 32 hours. The men were pretty well dead beat, and badly in want of sleep.

(28 Aug): ....Every day the men were getting more dejected and tired from want of sleep. The heat was intense, the men suffered a good deal from sore feet, the water question was a constant one.

(30 Aug): ...This day was the hottest we had so far experienced....we realised how the heat was telling on the Brigade in front of us. They literally fell out in hundreds, but I am glad to say that our men stuck to it manfully..... 

(11 Sept): ...The morale of the battalion had greatly improved by now. Throughout the trying retreat...the men had been severely tested though at all time, taking everything into consideration, they had been wonderfully cheerful.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Remembering today my GGF Pte Abner Sanders of 1st Northumberland who d.o.w. 1st November 1914. The man who's story inspired this topic.

Abner briefly served with 3rd NF for 3 years in 1904 (3&9) and had been on the reserve for more than 7 years when in August 1914, a telegram ordered him to leave his wife and two children and assemble at Portsmouth with the remainder of the NF. 

Despite The NF boasting the largest surplus of reservists in The British Army, he left for France just a few days later.

On 14th Oct (during The Battle Of Bassee) 2 months after arriving in France, Abner is shot in the side of the head and seriously wounded.

He is returned to England and admitted to Connaught Hospital, Aldershot, where he succumbed to his wounds on 1st November - leaving behind a wife and two small children.

Thank you to those who have contributed to, what I believe is a worthwhile discussion both for a wider understanding of the challenges facing the men of 1914 and personally, the pursuit to understand how a married father, a reservist of over 7 years with little active service could be selected to fight with the first, 'elite' draft of men.

Abner Sanders 457.JPG

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What a sad story - a sad story amongst so many from WW1, but they all deserve to be remembered individually. He looks so proud in his uniform, which I see is your avatar. Thank you for sharing.

Tricia

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