London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories
Mobilisation — Departure Overseas of the London Volunteer Corps
MOBILISATION — DEPARTURE OVERSEAS
Of the London Volunteer Corps the unit now known as the 4th (City of London)
Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) is one of the most ancient.
Called out as a Trained Band in 1643 to share in repelling a threatened Royalist
invasion of the City during the Civil Wars, it has had a practically unbroken
history for nearly three hundred years. After the regular constitution of the
Volunteer Forces in the middle of last century it achieved some distinction as
the 1st Tower Hamlets Rifle Brigade, and despatched a machine-gun detachment to
the fighting in South Africa in 1900. In 1903 it became affiliated to The Royal
Fusiliers, as the 4th Volunteer Battalion of that distinguished Regiment. On the
reorganisation of the auxiliary forces in 1908 by Lord Haldane, it acquired its
present designation, which we will abbreviate to the more convenient title by
which it became known in the Great War, namely. The 4th London Regiment.
Prior to the War the training provided for the Territorial Force was only such
as to furnish the nucleus of a Second Line Army. Fourteen days in camp each
summer, an easy musketry course, and a few drills at headquarters could not
develop a soldier fit to meet fully trained troops. That this was recognised by
Lord Haldane is evidenced by the fact that his scheme provided for a period of
six months' training at home for all Territorial soldiers should war break out,
prior to their despatch on active service.
But they were none the less given a definite role in the defence of the
Motherland. Possibly this was not always realised to the full by all the
officers and non-commissioned officers of the Regiment ; but it was unmistakably
brought home to them one evening in February 1914 when a secret meeting of
officers was convened at Headquarters in Hoxton for the explanation of the
scheme of mobilisation and of the task which the Regiment would be called upon
to execute should war occur.
At that date the scheme of Mobilisation was already complete. Under it the 1st
London Infantry Brigade, of which the 4th London formed a part, was entrusted
with the supremely important task of guarding the London and South Western
Railway between London and Southampton during the mobilisation and embarkation
of the Expeditionary Force from the latter port. The section allotted to the 4th
Battalion was the main line from Waterloo Station to Farnborough (inclusive) ;
the Alton branch from its junction with the main line near Brookwood to Bentley
Station ; and the branch from the last-named station to Borden Camp, These
dispositions were worked out in the greatest detail, and arrangements were made
for the efficient guarding of all railway stations, signal boxes, junctions,
tunnels and bridges, and for a system of constant patrolling of the line.
The Infantry of the Territorial Force not being supplied during peace time with
war scale of transport, ammunition, etc., provision was made for this necessary
equipment to be drawn on mobilisation, and waggons and horses in civilian employ
were " earmarked " beforehand for this purpose.
The scheme having been explained, arrangements were made to detail all guards,
patrols, and requisitioning parties in readiness.
When the war cloud over South-eastern Europe began to spread in July 1914 and
threatened to envelop this country in the storm, the finishing touches were put
to the scheme at a memorable secret meeting at Headquarters on the evening of
Thursday, 31st July 1914. After that meeting few who attended it had any doubt
as to what was about to take place.
The annual camp in 1914 for the 1st London Division (Major-Gen. W. Fry, C.B.,
C.V.O.) had been arranged for Sunday, 2nd August, and on that date, this country
still not having declared its intentions as to the war, the 4th London Regiment
entrained for Wareham, in Dorsetshire, where the camp was to be held, with a
strength of 23 officers and about 650 other ranks under Lieut. -Col. G. P.
Camp was reached shortly after noon, but scarcely had the Battalion marched in
when an order was received recalling it to London. By 2.30 p.m. it was once
again entrained, quivering with excitement and well-nourished on the journey to
town with the most impossible rumours of gigantic battles, most of which
apocryphal happenings it swallowed with gusto. At 2 a.m. on the 3rd August the
4th Londons marched into Headquarters, and after a few hours' rest began to put
the wheels of the carefully assembled machine of mobilisation into motion. All
went without a hitch. Field dressings, identity discs and small books were
issued : separation allowance and next-of-kin rolls prepared. The " earmarked "
horses and vehicles were collected, and with the aid of these, ammunition drawn
from the Hyde Park Magazine.
Blankets, lanterns and other stores sent up the River from Woolwich were
unloaded and conveyed direct to the platform at Waterloo Station, ready for
issue to the Battalion on its arrival there. The machine was moving steadily.
During the day the Regimental Colours were handed over to the Lord Mayor of
London for safe keeping.
Shortly after midnight the 4th London Regiment entrained at Waterloo in two
trains, from which at each stop the allotted platoons detrained : so that by the
time the end of the sector was reached in the early hours of the 4th August
1914, the railway was already guarded. Eighteen hours before the declaration of
war the Battalion was on its war station : a good lead from Territorial troops
to the rest of the country !
The distribution of the Battalion was as follows :
Battalion Headquarters, Lieut.-Col. G. P. Botterill, Surbiton.
A and B Companies (forming No. 1 Double Company), Head-quarters at Clapham
Junction, under Capt. H. J. Uvincan-
C and E Companiea (forming No. 2 Double Company), Head-quarters at Woking, under
Capt. G. H. M. Vine.
D and F Companies (forming No. 3 Double Company), Head-quarters at North Camp,
under Capt. R. J. Jackson.
G and H Companies (forming No. 4 Double Company), Head-quarters at Bentley,
under Capt. E. H. Stillwell.
The Transport Section returned to Headquarters at Hoxton to complete the
formation of the Battalion transport on a war footing.
Brigade Headquarters were at Waterloo Station under command of Brigadier-General
the Earl of Lucan. The Brigade Major was Major R. F. Legge (Leinster Regiment) ;
and the Staff Captain, Captain Cornelius-Wheeler (3rd London Regiment, Royal
On the evening of the same day Lord Grey of Falloden (then Sir Edward Grey), in
the House of Commons, made his never-to-be-forgotten indictment of the duplicity
of Germany's action in the pre-war negotiations and in her violation of Belgian
neutrality, and the formal declaration of war followed.
The order for General Mobilisation, which was applicable to the Territorial
Force equally with the Regular Army, immediately ensued, and orders to report
forthwith were issued to all members of the Battalion who had not paraded for
the summer training two days previously. It is to the credit of the Battalion
that within twelve hours no member had failed to reply. The N.C.O.'s and men
thus reporting for duty were as quickly as possible despatched from peace
headquarters and reported to their respective companies on the line.
As the N.C.O.'s and men of the Battalion reported for duty they were subjected
to medical examination, and a certain number were unfortunately unable to pass
fit at the high standard required during the early days of the war, so that the
strength of the Battalion on the 6th August was 24 officers and 785 N.C.O.'s and
The early days of August on the railway line afforded unmistakable proof, if
such were needed, of the extraordinary power of the London soldier to adapt
himself to circumstances. Men from offices, factories and docks, suddenly taken
from their occupations and their homes settled down to patrols and guards, to
cooking their food and taking responsibility, as to the manner born. All were
swept forward on the high flood of a great enthusiasm, and buoyed up amid minor
discomforts with intense pride that their country needed them and had given them
a job of work to carry out. This enthusiasm certainly bid fair at times to show
signs of excess of zeal. But the zeal was tempered with an immense sense of the
dignity of each and every one as a soldier in the 4th Londons : the days on
railway guard thus formed the basis of the esprit de corps which is essential to
military success and which in pre-war days it had been difficult, by the nature
of things, to develop. Scattered though the Battalion was over some 50 miles of
railway, disciplinary trouble of a serious nature was conspicuous by its
By the middle of August the greater part of the Expeditionary Force had been
embarked to France, but the Brigade remained at its war station. During the dark
days which ensued, when telegram after telegram told always of withdrawal before
overwhelming forces of the German Army after the glorious resistance at Mons,
the Battalion continued to guard the railway, and was busily occupied in
recruiting to full strength and in completing its equipment. The strength of the
Battalion rose steadily and rapidly, and by the end of August 941 N.C.O.'s and
men were at duty on the railway line.
The duties on the railway were extremely heavy, and no training was possible
except the rudimentary instructions of the recruits who were retained at peace
On the night of 31st August / 1st September orders were issued to the Brigade to
withdraw from the line and return to peace headquarters. The move was
satisfactorily completed by 12 noon on the 1st September, the duties of the
Brigade on the railway being taken over two days later by the 3rd London
Infantry Brigade. On return to headquarters the Commanding Officer informed the
Battalion that the whole Brigade would be despatched on overseas garrison duty
almost immediately, and called for volunteers, a call which met with a
favourable response from all ranks.
The two following days were actively occupied with medical inspections,
recruiting to fill the few remaining vacancies, etc.
On the afternoon of the 3rd September the Battalion was paraded for inspection
by Major-Gen. W. Fry, C.B., C.V.O., commanding 1st London Division, who, in an
address to the troops, announced that the destination of the Brigade was Malta ;
and conveyed to the Battalion, to the great satisfaction of all ranks, the
direct assurance of Earl Kitchener that the Battalion would be retained in Malta
only until it should be passed fit to take the field. This announcement was
received with enthusiasm as it served to allay the disquieting rumours of the
possibility of the Malta station proving to be a " side-track " for the period
of the war.
Shortly after midnight on the 3/4th September 1914, the Battalion (strength 29
officers and 976 other ranks, fully armed and equipped) paraded and marched to
Waterloo amid scenes of enthusiasm and excitement in Hoxton which will probably
never be forgotten by those who witnessed them, and entrained at 3.30 a.m. on
the 4th September for Southampton, embarking on arrival in H.T. Galician (Union
The following officers proceeded overseas with the Battalion :
Lieut.-Col. G. P. Botterill, in command.
Major L. T. Burnett, second in command,
Capt. G. B. Scott, Adjutant (2nd Battalion The Leinster Regiment).
Major R. J. J. Jackson, commanding F Company.
Capt. G. H. M. Vine, „ E
H. J. T. Duucan-Teape, commanding A Company.
,, R. N. Arthur, ,, H ,,
,, H. P. L. Cart de Lafontaine, commanding D Company.
,, W. Moore, commanding B Company.
„ W. G. Clark, „ C
Lieut. C. R. Saunders, ,, G ,,
S. Elliott (Machine Gun Officer).
„ V. W. Edwards.
,, F. C. Grimwade (Signalling Officer).
,, P. B. K. Stedman (Transport Officer).
Lieut. H. W. Weathersbee.
2/Lieut. A. L. Long.
J. T. Sykes.
R. L. Herring.
R. V. Gery.
E. W. Bottomley.
T. I. Walker.
A. B. L;icy.
A. R. Moore.
J. R. Pyper.
Hon. Lieut, and Q.M., E. S. Tomsett (Quartermaster).
Major J. F. F. Parr, R.A.M.C.T., Medical Officer attached.
At 4 p.m. that afternoon anchor was weighed, and the transport convoy, conveying
the first Brigade of Territorial troops to leave this country, dropped down