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                     The First Battalion 1914 - 18

                                                             1914

Battalion under canvas at Rushmoor Bottom, Aldershot, on annual training. 1st August orders received to march back to barracks at Bordon. On 4th August, at 6pm, orders received for General Mobilisation. Reservists rushed to join the Battalion and bring it up to strength. Captain N.F. Baynes, Lieutenants W.V. Churchill-Longman and T.R.A. Morris, 2nd Lieuts. H. Cox, all from 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, with 2nd Lieuts. W.F. Watkins, H.E. Hippisley and M. Kershaw, from Supplementary List (Reserve of Officers) joined the Battalion. Two officers on leave in the UK were attached; Capt. A. St. J. Blunt (York & Lancs Regt) and Capt. A.G. McC. Burn (East Surrey Regt). On 7th August Lieuts. K.A.R. Smith and R.K. Swanwick (3rd Bn) also joined. Orders received for every Battalion to send 1 Captain, 2 subalterns,with 15 sergeants or corporals to their depots. These men would begin the process of training the New Army. Capt. W.P. Pritchett, Lieuts. Smith and Cox, 5 sergts and 10 corpls. left for Bristol. 8th August the Battalion was ready to move, orders arrived on the 11th:

Special Orders For Entraining

The Battalion will entrain in two trains, as follows, hour of parade for each train loading will be notified later. Attention is directed to "Aldershot Command Instructions for Entraining," issued to Companies.

1st Train loading. Train No. 406.
Headquarters (less Senior Major, Regimental-Quartermaster-Sergeant, Transport Sergeant, Pioneers, Half Stretcher Bearers, 2 SAA carts, 1 watercart, 1 tool wagon, spare horses, Senior Major's batman and horse, 3 RAMC personnel, and 2 train GS wagons).
'A' and 'B' Companies.

2nd Train loading. Train No. 410.
Remainder of Headquarters.
Machine Gun Section
'C' and 'D' Companies.

Before leaving Barracks the following fatigues will be detailed:
'A' and 'C' Companies -
a) Two hold parties of 1 NCO and 5 men each.
b) 1 Officer and 30 NCO's and men for loading transport.
c) 1 Officer and 10 men for loading baggage.
a) will report to Embarkation Officer on arrival at docks.
b) and c) will, on arrival at Bordon Station, form up at the entrance of the station, and the officer in charge will report to RTO on the platform.

After marching on to the platform, entraining will begin at once from both ends of the train, 8 men to each compartment. Companies will take up compartments for their fatigue parties.

Special Battalion Order:
In accordance with instructions issued to Companies -
1 am tomorrow, 12th inst. 1st Train loading.
2.40 am tomorrow, 12th inst. 2nd Train loading.

All ranks will carry 3 days' rations per person.
Ammunition will be issued before parade.
Transport will be loaded at 5pm today.

The 2 trains arrived at Southampton at 5am and 6.30am. The Battalion embarked on the SS 'Gloucester Castle'.
The following Officers embarked:

Headquarters:
Lieut-Col. A.C. Lovett, Commanding Officer
Major J. O'D. Ingram, Senior Major
Capt. A.H. Radice, Adjutant
Lieut. M.W. Halford, Transport Officer
Lieut. D. Duncan, Machine Gun Officer
Lieut. W.J. Hewitt, Quartermaster
Capt. A.W. Howlett, RAMC, Medical Officer

'A' Company:
Capt. R.E. Rising, Commanding
Capt. A. St. J. Blunt (Yorks & Lancs Regt), 2nd in Command
2/Lieut. D. Baxter, No.3 Platoon
2/Lieut. H.E. Hippisley (S.L.) No.4 Platoon
2/Lieut. M. Kershaw (S.L.) No.2 Platoon

'B' Company:
Capt. G.M. Shipway, Commanding
Capt. N.F. Baynes (3rd Bn), 2nd in Command
2/Lieut. B.F.R. Davis, No.7 Platoon
2/Lieut. A.D. Harding, No.8 Platoon
2/Lieut. R.M. Grazebrook, No.6 Platoon

'C' Company:
Capt. W.A.M. Temple, Commanding
Lieut. H.E. de R. Wetherall, No.9 Platoon
2/Lieut. Hon. N.F. Somerset, No.10 Platoon
2/Lieut. W.F. Watkins (S.L.), No.12 Platoon

'D' Company:
Major R.M.S. Gardner, Commanding
Capt. A.G. McC. Burn (East Surrey Regt), 2nd in Command
Lieut. F.H. McL. Young, No.13 Platoon
Lieut. J.A.L. Caunter, No.16 Platoon
Lieut. R.K. Swanick (3rd Bn), No.14 Platoon
2/Lieut. W.S. Yalland, No.15 Platoon

The Glosters were joined by the 1st Bn South Wales Borderers on the ship, which sailed at 12.10pm, 12th August. The ship arrived at Le Havre at 1am on the 13th August 1914. They were part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force; The 'Contemptible Little Army.' The men of the B.E.F. proudly adopted the name of  'The Old Contemptibles.' This originated from a German order issued 23rd September 1914 by the Kaiser:

"It is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate present, upon one single purpose, and that is that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to exterminate first the treacherous English and walk over General French's contemptible little army."

While the ship was unloaded the men snatched some sleep in a cargo shed. At 6am the Battalion fell in. Guided by French Boy Scouts, they marched to No. 1 Rest Camp, near the French forts at Ste. Adresse, about 4 miles from the docks. Two translators were attached to the Battalion, Leroux and Duval, both privates of the French 104th Regiment of Infantry. The night of the 14th August was marked by a very violent thunder storm, wind and rain.

15th August, Reveille was at 4am. At 8 am the Battalion boarded a train and passed through Rouen (5pm), Amiens, St. Quentin and Wassigny. Finally they detrained at Le Nouvion on the morning of the 16th. At 10am they marched to Leschelles and posted picquets.

20th August, marched to Beaurepaire. On the 21st the First Division moved to the Avesnes-Landrecies area. The 3rd Brigade consisted of the 1/Gloucesters, Welch Regiment, South Wales Borderers, Queen's Regiment, 26th Field Company Royal Engineers and the 43rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

The French were being driven back and by that evening the BEF (80,000 men) were 9 miles in advance of the French positions. Facing overwhelming German forces (245,000 men) the British command agreed to remain in position to buy the French time.

23rd August, the Battalion dug trenches near the village of Haulchin. 24th August Battalion ordered to retire to billets near the fortress of Maubeuge. 25th August reired to positions near the village of La Grand Fayt.

26th August, Reveille at 1am. At 4.30am 'A' and 'B' Companies advanced west towards to Favril, along the road to Landrecies. 'B' Company was sent forward as a screen, while the Battalion entrenched behind a hedge. 'C' Company held to the right of the road. Just off the road was dug-in a secton of 54th Battery, RFA, commanded by Lieut. Blewitt. To the west of the road was 'D' Company and the Machine Gun Section. 'A' Company was then withdrawn into reserve positions.

At noon an enemy column approached. Captain Shipway and CQMS Brain moved forward to try and locate the enemy positions. Shipway was wounded by a sniper and died at Etreux that evening. In the action the Glosters lost 1 man killed, Captain Shipway died of wounds and 29 men wounded. The Battalion withdrew to Oisy (reached at 10pm). Capt. Blunt assumed command of 'B' Co. The next day it marched through Etreux, Guise and Bernot. The next day they reached Mont d'Origny, then on to La Fere and the Glosters moved to Bertaucourt. On the 30th the Brigade withdrew across the Aisne and the Glosters reached Brancourt. The withdrawl continued until the 6th September, the Glosters had marched around 200 miles. The advance began as the Germans fell back.

By the 8th September the River Marne was crossed and the Glosters pushed on to Sommelans. Finally the Germans had halted their retreat and dug in defensive positions along the River Aisne.
The Battalion was in reserve during the initial attacks but detached companies assisted where needed. 14th to 15th September the battalion lost 10 men killed, 72 wounded and 2 missing; among the officers Lieutenant Swanwick was killed and Lieut. Somerset was wounded in the head and 2nd Lieut. Duncan in the arm.

On the 16th the British dug in and trench warfare had begun. German shelling of 'A' companies trenches left 3 dead and 9 wounded. On the 18th the Glosters advanced and filled in 2 German trenches.

24th Sept. Lieut. D.A. Greenslade (3rd Bn) joined the Battalion and was posted to 'A' Company.
26th Sept. a shell burst in front of the trenches where a group of officers were standing. Lieut. Morley, RE was killed and 2/Lieut. Watkins slightly wounded in the shoulder.

On the 27th they moved to Bourg for a rest period, but by the 1st October were marching to Moulins.

4th October, Lieuts. T.R.A. Morris and J.F.L. Hartmann (both 3rd Bn) joined the Battalion and were posted to 'B' and 'C' Companies.

18th October, Lieut. J.H. Scott-Tucker arrived (appointed Adjutant) and 2/Lieut. H.K. Foster arrived, posted to 'C' Co. Captain Radice was assumed command of 'B' Company.

On the 15th the BEF began the move to Flanders. Entraining at Fere-en-Tardenois they reached Cassel on the 18th and marched to Longue Croix. On the 20th they were near Poperinghe. On the 21st an attack was ordered. The Glosters advanced on Langemarck. Captain Temple was shot and died on the 23rd. Captain Capel was shot through the right eye. Lieut. Young was badly wounded in the stomach. Lieutenant Wetherall was awarded the Military Cross (the Regiments first of the war) for his actions on this day.

On the 23rd a surprise German advance had pushed the Coldstream Guards from their positions at Langemarck and they were stubbornly fighting back in a turnip field. Two platoons of Glosters under Captain Rising moved to assist them. Exposed on one flank the Glosters were repeatedly attacked but fought off every assault. Lieuts Hippisley and Yalland (both 'A" Co.) were killed, Lieut. Baxter seriously wounded. The Germans were repulsed but the Battalion lost 3 officers and 51 men. Captain Rising was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, Lieut. Baxter the Military Cross, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to Sergeants T. Eddy and T. Knight, Private W. Crossman ('A' Company) and Sergt. J. Wilson ('D' Company).  Privates Dutton, Robbins, Taylor, and Drummer Moulder were all commended. By that evening the Coldstream's trenches were retaken.

Click here for: An account of the action at Langemarck by Private S.J. Barton

On the 28th the Battalion was near Veldhoek. On the 29th the Germans attacked at Gheluvelt. In a confused severe action the battalion lost 3 officers, 14 NCOs and 42 men killed, 2 officers, 14 NCOs and 50 men wounded and 2 officers, 8 NCOs and 2 men captured.

As the outnumbered, tired defenders of Ypres waited the Germans moved in fresh corps. On the 30th German shell fire killed 7 men. On the morning of the 31st a heavy German bombardment opened up on the British lines. At 6am the Germans attacked. They threw 13 Regiments against around 1000 British infantrymen. Overwhelmed the remains of the British battalions were being pushed back, but fought stubbornly. A brilliant counter-attack by the 2nd Worcesters signalled a fight-back and the situation was saved.

"Thus passed the 31st October, the most critical day in the Battle of Ypres 1914, and one which will for all time live in the annals of the British Army as a splendid feat of arms."

The Glosters lost Major Gardner killed and Lieuts Bush and Scott-Tucker wounded, Lieut. Caunter was missing (he was captured and escaped from Germany in July 1917. He was awarded the MC for his actions at Ypres.) The Regiment lost 66 men.

On the 1st November the Glosters were relieved and moved to Inverness Copse, a mile behind the line. Another 76 men had been lost. The battalion could now barely muster 300 men, the whole brigade about 800 men (the strength of one battalion.) The Glosters halted near Hooge and moved into Sanctuary Wood. That afternoon orders came to advance on Gheluvelt again. A German attack was repulsed and the battalion returned to the Wood. It had lost 2 officers, and 11 men killed, 2 officers and 45 men wounded. On the evening of the 2nd a draft of 200 men under Captain Pritchett arrived. 2 more men were killed by shell-fire that night. While in the trenches east of Herenthage Wood they lost another 13 killed and 28 wounded to shell-fire.

On the 6th the Glosters moved to a position north of Zwarteleen. On the 7th they were ordered to advance and occupy the German trenches, said to be abandoned. They immediately came under fire. Lieut. Kershaw was killed. Major Ingram and Captain Rising were wounded. Rising died that day. Lieut. Halford was wounded. That evening the battalion numbered 213 men. From 6-7th another 43 men had been killed and 47 wounded, 8 were missing. Major Ingram was awarded the DSO and L/Corporal G. Royal the DCM. That night Captain Bosanquet joined with 20 men, the Regiment now had 4 officers. On the 10th the battalion moved to Bellewaarde Farm.

                                     NONNE BOSSCHEN - 11th November 1914

"None of the survivors who were present at Ypres on the 11th November 1914 will ever forget the final and violent effort of the Germans on that day to break through the British line. Twelve battalions of the famous Prussian Guard, with other German troops, were brought up to accomplish what their comrades had failed to do. Four of the most renowned regiments of the German Army, each consisting of 3 battalions of fresh troops, advanced against a thin line of British troops, who for 3 weeks had been engaged in incessant fighting and were almost worn out from fatigue."

17,500 Germans were attacking 7,850 British. The Germans advanced to Nonne Boschen wood, where they were stopped dead and thrown back by an incredible charge of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. The Glosters were in reserve and moved forward to assist in the counter-attack. The Germans had failed.

On the 15th the Glosters were relieved and left the Ypres Salient. Reaching Outtersteenee on the 17th they remained there until the 20th December. On the 23rd Nov. another 400 men joined bringing the battalion back up to 9 officers and 752 men. Barely 2 officers and 100 men remained of the battalion that landed in August.

On the 20th December the Germans attacked the Indian Corps and advanced on Givenchy. The 1st Division was ordered to support the Indians. On the 21st, the Glosters and South Wales Borderers attacked near Festubert. They lost 7 officers (2 died), and 45 men killed, 109 wounded and 4 captured. Sergt. W. Duddridge and T. Harding were awarded the DCM.

On the 23rd December they tried to improve their trenches, but the heavy rain had turned the ground to liquid mud. In the intense cold frost-bite was rife and nearly 200 men were afflicted. Fur coats were issued.


Honours and Awards Gazetted 1914

Companion of the Bath
Lieut-Col. A.C. Lovett

Distinguished Service Order
Major J.O'D. Ingram
Captain R.E. Rising

Military Cross
Lieut. H.E. de R. Wetherall
Lieut. J.A.L. Caunter
Lieut. D. Baxter

Distinguished Conduct Medal
7102 Pte G.V. Law ('D' Coy)
7640 Pte T.H. Orr ('D' Coy)
5233 Sergt. J. Wilson ('D' Coy)
8128 Sergt. T.H. Eddy ('A' Coy)
9360 Sergt. T.J. Knight ('A' Coy)
6732 Pte A.E. Crossman ('A' Coy)
6762 Pte J. Shipway (Signaller)
7078 Lce-Cpl. G. Royal (Stretcher Bearer)

Mentioned in Despatches
8th October 1914:
Lieut-Col. A.C. Lovett
Capt. & Adjutant A.H. Radice
2 Lieut. W.F. Watkins
5506 CSM W.H. Hodges
9714 Drummer Fluck
7102 Pte G.V. Law
7640 Pte T.H. Orr


1915