Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Why East Kent vs Sussex Regiment in 1914?


Bob Drummond
 Share

Recommended Posts

My great uncles were born in Guildford and living in Frensham in southwest Surrey in 1914 when they joined the 8th Buffs/East Kent Regiment rather than one of the Surrey-affiliated regiments like The Queen's or the East Surrey.  Colonel Moody's "Historical Records of The Buffs..." mentions a "draft of 500 odd from Canterbury" for the 8th battalion to begin training at Shoreham in September 1914 but doesn't elaborate on the sourcing of the remainder of the battalion's non-officer strength.  I'm not aware of any family connection to Kent and with the emphasis at the time on local affiliations for army service, I am wondering why my great uncles would have joined a battalion centered 130km east of their home village.  Were the Surrey-based battalions already filled, did they not have the same "Kitchener Army" expansion in the late summer - early fall 1914?  I would appreciate any insights or information on this.  Thank you.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

I assume you mean 'East Kent vs Surrey', nevertheless the answer is the same.  The 8th Battalion Buffs (East Kent ) Regiment was raised as part of Kitchener's Third Army (K3) which was created on 13 September 1914.  By this time any territorial basis on which the First and Second Armies had been formed had become impossible to maintain.  As a generalisation K1, "the first 100,000" initially drew drew mainly from the traditional recruiting pool of the Army, that is the lower working classes, those middle class recruits were quite shocked by their comrades, their language and behaviour.  In spite of this recruitment continued to rise, overwhelming the Army's organisation and structure.  The peak was reached in the week from the 30 August to the 5th September 1914 when 174,901 men were attested, the highest number in any one week for the whole war.

The first 100,000 (K1) were formed into six Divisions, most regiments raised one battalion with a war establishment of 1,100 men, some provided two at this stage.  Once these were filled, by September 1st, six more Divisions were raised (K2).  Then on September 13, a further six more (K3). By this time the social composition of the Army had completely changed, but the greatest reserves of manpower were in the cities and industrial areas,  recruitment in rural counties was much slower, so for example there were nineteen battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, including 'locally raised' or 'Pals" Battalions whereas the Buffs could only muster three, the recruitment situation in the South West was even more erratic.  Rural populations tended to take less notice of events outside their communities and there is little evidence of the so called 'rush to the colours' outside the main population centres.

Men were generally sent to the Training Centres from the Depots in batches from 100 to 500.  One account locally here at Sussex told of men who had reported to the Depot at Chichester being sent elsewhere, whilst a trainload of recruits from Newcastle arrived and were posted into one of the Service Battalions of the Sussex Regiment. The soldier described the situation as one of complete confusion, though to be fair the Army was not prepared for such an overwhelming response, or the encouragement afforded to volunteers by their employers and the local worthies. (I did some research a few years ago to identify some of these men from Newcastle but no longer have the details). 

There is little doubt your great uncles attested at Guildford (a name is always helpful) probably anticipating they would be posted to the 8th Queens (K3), but once that Battalion was up to establishment recruits were posted from the Depot to other battalions to bring them up to strength so that they could be absorbed into the Divisions.   It was by no means unusual, especially in the County Regiments.  The Queen's drew in recruits from population centres in South London I don't have the figures but they probably reached establishment relatively quickly.  Many battalions, especially those raised in K3, effectively a surplus, had large numbers of men from outside traditional recruiting areas.

See also:-

https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/faq-concerning-researching-soldiers/faq-can-i-assume-my-soldier-served-with-a-local-regiment/

With names and service numbers it may be possible to track the draft to give a more specific answer relating to your great uncles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you very much for your very informative reply, kenf48.  Sorry for my mistake, again, in the subject title (an annoying habit lately...) but thanks for answering so fulsomely.  The service numbers and names of my great uncles were:

G/1850 Percy Fowler (made corporal and kia 18 Aug 16 at Guillemont, name on Thiepval);

2413 Frederick James Fowler (gunshot wound(s) Aug 16 at Guillemont, before his brother was killed, released Sep 17 as unfit)

Is the "G" in Percy's number but absent in Fred's significant?

Neither of their service files survived but I have images of their medal index cards, pension cards & CWGC documents for Percy.  It would be wonderful if any more information about them and their draft could be obtained. 

Thanks so much for your explanation of the raising of the New Army, I didn't know the details you provided including the K1 - K3 "waves", the magnitude of the response in such short time periods and the effects on the army structure, and the differences of city versus country/rural recruitment - very interesting and informative!  Thank you, also, for the Long, Long Trail reference on this topic.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Bob, 

Just to add to Kenf48s detailed and excellent answer a little, the Queen's were indeed swamped and filled battalions quickly, both 6th (12 Div) and 7th (18th Div) definitely. The 18th Div history mentions how 7th Queens were full of Surrey men (I researched Croydon fallen on 1/7/16 and a huge amount were 7th men for example). Meanwhile 8th East Surrey's, again from 18th Div history and Billie Neville's letters indicate men from Norfolk drafted in. Add to this Regimental precedence ... Queen's were the old 2nd Foot ....the Buffs were the 3rd.... the East Surrey's IIRC the 31st and had a 'rougher sort' of soldier in some opinions (there is evidence cited by Richard Holmes in 'Tommy' I believe of a recruit joining the ES and being shocked by the manner of his fellow recruits getting himself posted to the Londons (I have two relatives linked to ESs and although a Croydon man myself and that a Queen's area, I am not being biased). To get to the point maybe they tried to join the local Queen's, saw it was swamped and rather than join the East Surrey's in Kingston opted for the next most 'prestigious' Regiment the Buffs, the old 3rd Foot (the old 1st being the Royal Scots and therefore not local enough). Just a thought? 

To add to this, I have GW relatives also in Kent, in the Buffs recruiting area, and with Chatham nearby they either opted for RE or Navy ... large family and none ended up in Buffs. Buffs were against RE and Navy for drawing recruits so helps explain why more opportunities for recruits from nearby counties and beyond. 

Have a good Easter 

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add to Kenf48s comments again. I cannot get to my copy at the moment but I'm sure in the research done by Michael Lucas on the 9th East Surrey's (same 24th Division as your 8th Buffs) there were men from Wales, Birmingham and I think Suffolk as large contingents of that Battalion too IIRC. So probably a lot of battalions in Eastern District like that by K3, as Kenf48 says.

Cheers Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin
5 hours ago, Bob Drummond said:

Is the "G" in Percy's number but absent in Fred's significant?

To answer the specific question, the 'G/' prefix denotes 'General Service' it's often omitted from Records.

The medal Rolls show both men had the 'G/' prefix.

The medal Rolls, incidentally merely indicate the Battalion a soldier was serving with when he entered a theatre of war.  Service at home was not recorded as it was not administratively necessary for the naming of the medals. They were issued by the Record Office of the last unit who had the address of the next of kin or that on demobilisation.

Frederick was awarded the Silver War Badge which I assume you have seen (the 'G'omitted from that record) and  shows enlistment on the 7th September 1914, therefore in the period K2 as previously outlined. Neither brother's record appears to have survived but Percy's entry in Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) shows enlistment at Guildford, again as the previous guess.

The service record of G/1852 Groom although badly burned has survived. He enlisted at St Pancras on the 8th September  and on the 10th was posted to the 7th Buffs; G/1859 Parkes enlisted at Canterbury on the 8th and was posted to the 7th the same day.  Men in the 183* series were posted to the 6th Battalion from Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire.

Will have another look later but it appears both great uncles enlisted at Guildford on or around the 7th/8th September 1914.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

Frederick's service record has survived and confirms he attested at Guildford on the 7th September 1914 and was posted to the Buffs, although the recruiting Sergeant was from the Queen's his attestation form shows his number as 8/2413 which may explain some of the confusion and indexing on present genealogical sites.  The link to the UK page of FMP is here.

Some crucial documents are missing but gives an idea as to his service and application for a job as postman post war.

 

His record states he joined at Canterbury on the 7th September and was posted to the Depot of the Buffs and on to the 8th Bn on the 13th.  He was posted back on the Depot strength on the 24th August 1916 which would have been when he came 'non-active' his wound was apparently very serious and there is a death notification form in the file but it appears blank.  No clue in the document as tow hy the Buffs unless it was because his brother was already there.

Don't know if you have seen this from the Surrey Advertiser dated 28 August 1916

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 15.24.48.png

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kenf48 and Jim, thank you so much for the wonderful information and insights you have provided, I am very grateful.  If it's a good day when you learn something then I've had a great one!  Where to begin?

Jim, thank you for the explanation on why the Buffs might have had room for a couple of Surrey men and the information on Regimental precedence - I knew that The Buffs were aka 3rd Regiment of Foot but had never explored what that meant.  Your reply got me researching Regiments of Foot, so adding a new dimension of my understanding.  I also appreciated your insight into the class structure and implications for regiments and Kitchener's Armies.  I can't wait to tell my 87 year old aunt, Percy and Fred's surviving niece thru their sister (my grandmother) Dorothy - my aunt often mentions how her father's (my grandad) family didn't approve of him marrying Dorothy as they considered her of a lower class.  He was from a solidly middle class family of eight children in London and had emigrated to Canada before the war, joining the CEF in Jan 15.  He met Dorothy while stationed with the admin section of the CEF influenza "segregation camp" on Frensham Common in summer 1918, they married the following March and he took her back to Canada/Alberta with him - only one of his siblings attended the wedding due to the "class" issue.  Apparently, Dorothy took particular pleasure hosting her in-laws at a reception at their hotel when she and grandad returned to London for a visit in the 60s  ;-)  I've attached their wedding day portrait.  My aunt will have a laugh to think that her "lower class" uncles got into the #3 regiment when they found the "local" #2 regiment filled.

Kenf48, in addition to the insights regarding the raising of Kitchener's Armies, thank you indeed for all the research you have done regarding my great uncles' records, it is truly appreciated.  While I was aware that Fred would have received the Silver War Badge I didn't know that the badge registration list/form was available, so that's a new record for me regarding Fred!  And news that parts of his service record have survived is a real revelation, I need to get signed-up with FMP asap!  The same aunt I mentioned above worked at Alberta House in London from 1958 to 61 when she traveled to Frensham several times to visit Fred and his wife, Ellen.  She remembers that Fred's left arm was pretty useless and he would take her to the local British Army Legion to show off his young Canadian niece to his buddies.  By the way, my aunt has Percy's medals and death plaque, which she recently had mounted - unfortunately, she's in Vancouver and I'm in Ottawa, so I haven't had the chance yet to see them.

Many thanks, also, for the newspaper clipping.  My aunt had sent me the text of this clipping by email but she didn't have an image of the actual newspaper entry.  It was her sending me this text exactly five years ago that provided my first revelation of family connections to GW battles - Loos and the Somme (grandad serving in England as CEF admin), so it is special.  I found my only photo of Percy from the Farnham Herald thru the "Surrey in the Great War" website (they got his date of death wrong, should be 18 Aug). 

Again, thank you very much, Kenf48 and Jim.

Bob

Frederick Cope & Dorothy Fowler 26 Mar 19 - 3.jpg

FARNHAM HERALD_1916_09_09-6.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PS - Regarding Kenf48's discovery of Fred's surviving service records, I had looked for them in The National Archives and Ancestry + Fold3 to no avail, so it's a very happy surprise that you found them in Find My Past.  Does FMP have other UK records typically not found in sources like Ancestry & TNA?

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Morning Bob,

A pleasure, I'm at my books now, and the Billie Neville Letters edited by Ruth Elwin Harris says that 8th East Surrey's (18 Div) contained men from all over the UK, their Adjt (and later CO) Irwin placing the men from the same area together, A Coy were Londoners, C Coy Suffolk, D Welsh miners and B the remainder. I was wrong about 9th East Surrey's (same 72 Bde as your relatives), 53% of them were Surrey men, with 8% coming from outside the Greater London area, and it is also Michael Lucas' The Journeys End Battalion that cites the incident of a recruitment moving from the East Surrey depot to the LRB where there were "no rough characters". 

In terms of regimental precedence I did not really understand it truly until, as a Gunner in the 1990s I was part of two troops seconded to the Royal Scots for an operational tour, and how the 1st Foot lineage was expressed in so many ways. 

My grandmother was chastised for marrying under her 'station' too! Daughter of a Captain marrying a RE Pioneer! But my grandfather was an amazing chap! 

Glad I've helped in a little way, enjoy your Easter Bob

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fascinating and informative, Jim, thank you!  It's great to add cultural and societal context to dates and places, particularly as these connect to family stories and experiences.  I understand that despite containing battalions like 8th Buffs from Kent, 72 Bde (as you said) and 24 Division overall had significant Surrey and London area representation. 

Like your grandfather, while my grandad's family judged this country-girl as below his station, my grandmother was a wonderful woman and beloved by all her grandchildren, I can attest.  I'm looking forward to calling my aunt to wish her Happy Easter and chat about our new insights from you and kenf48.

Best Easter wishes, Jim.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin
10 hours ago, Bob Drummond said:

Does FMP have other UK records typically not found in sources like Ancestry & TNA?

They do but not relevant to your research on these individual soldiers.  Ancestry has the Medal Rolls and the Silver Wr Badge Rolls - FMP has transcripts of both but no images.  I used the ''less is more' technique on FMP and was surprised when his record turned up as it did not reveal itself under a general search.  I suspect therefore it is on Ancestry but FMP has a much better search engine.  Similarly they include all records whereas Ancestry splits them under 'burned records' and 'pension records' it will, in all probability. be there on Ancestry but will take a bit of digging.  

Unfortunately you need both for more detailed research, but then again it's a relatively cheap hobby!  Unlike say collecting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fabulous and valuable insight, kenf48.  We who are newer to "the chase" appreciate very much you sharing your lessons learned by experience as I had given up there was any more original documentation to find.  As you say, results can depend on how the questions are asked...

While initially balking a bit at the outlay for access to both genealogy data bases & their search engines, it's good to know they are somewhat complementary and there's value in the money spent which is relatively modest, as you said.  Mine is the first/only effort in my family of which I'm aware to gather, document and pass along the service and sacrifice of these ancestors, so I want to be thorough as possible.

Many thanks,

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...