London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories

Royal fusiliers in the Great War - RAISING OF THE BATTALIONS

The Royal fusiliers in the Great War 1914 - 1919


The 7th (Extra Reserve) Battalion after demobilisation reported daily to Finsbury Barracks for roll call, lectures, etc., until August 8th, when it entrained, 18 officers and 750 other ranks strong, for Falmouth. Before leaving London 100 men, under the command of Major the Hon. A. C. S. Chichester,* had marched to the Guildhall and handed over the battalion colours to the Lord Mayor for safe custody.

The battalion, at first commanded by Lieut. -Colonel Cockerill ** and later by Lieut. -Colonel R. S. I. Hesketh, became a draft-finding unit and, like the 5th and 6th Battalions, sent out periodic reinforcements to the Fusilier battalions overseas. This continued until July, 1916, when the 7th mobilised for service in France, becoming part of the 190th Brigade of the 63rd (Naval) Division.

Some of the battalions formed during the war were the direct product of the units already existing. The 8th and 9th, both sendee battalions, began in this way. A draft of one officer (Lieutenant T. G. Cope) and 100 O.R. left the depot on August 15th for Colchester in company with a similar draft under Lieutenant D. E. Estill to form the 8th and 9th Battalions respectively. The 8th was reinforced by a draft of at least 500 from the 5th Battalion, and on August 21st Lieut. -Colonel A. C. Annesley arrived to take over command. This battalion secured two Victoria Crosses during the war. Lieut. -Colonel J. C. Robertson was the first CO. of the 9th, and both battalions, after a period of strenuous training at Colchester and Aldershot, left for France at the end of May, 1915.

The 10th (" Stockbrokers' ") Battalion was raised at the direct suggestion of Sir Henry Rawlinson, then Director of Recruiting, by Major the Hon. R. White. In a letter to the latter at the Travellers' Club Sir Henry stated his belief that there were " many City employes who would be willing to enlist if they were assured that they would serve with their friends." Major White was asked to collect the names and addresses of those who would be willing to serve in the service battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. The battalion, which would be composed entirely of City employes, would be sent abroad as soon as it had attained a sufficient standard of efficiency. The letter was dated August 12th. Recruiting began on the 21st, when 210 men presented themselves. The following day the battalion was 425 strong ; it was 900 on the 24th, 1,300 on the 25th and 1,600 on the 27th. The numbers speak for themselves ; but they represent the result of a careful selection among the eager flock who presented themselves. Parading in all sorts of clothing, from silk hats and morning coats to caps and Norfolk jackets, the battalion was inspected on the 29th by Lord Roberts in Temple Gardens, and marched thence to the Tower Ditch, where they were sworn in by the Lord Mayor, Sir W. Vansittart Bowater, who afterwards became Honorary Colonel. The battalion proceeded to Colchester to begin training, their first CO. being Lieut. -Colonel Hawker, D.S.O., who was succeeded in November by Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. R. Wbite. In July, 1915, they went to France, where they won many decorations, including a V.C. (Lance-Corporal Robertson) and suffered 2,647 casualties.

* Later transferred to the Irish Guards.

** Transferred to War Office on August 4th. He became Director of Special Intelligence.


There was a twin to this battalion, differing wholly in characteristics from it. How it was raised cannot be told in a few words. Its description was " 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers or Intelligence B," abbreviated I (b). It seems, like Topsy, to have just " growed." The first nucleus was provided by a small body of men from Scotland Yard especially selected for their knowledge of French and German. It performed mysterious and wonderful things, such as forming the buffer state between a colonel and a babel of tongues. This representative of I (b), a professor of languages, had to explain any lapses from discipline to the colonel, and any punishments inflicted on behalf of discipline to the recruits who were possessed of the gift of tongues. The latter appears to have been the more wearing task, though only by a shade. In France their work consisted in the detection of German agents. Working generally in civilian clothes, the small nucleus expanded into a numerous body of officers and men, recruited for their knowledge of languages, from various units. In civil life these men represented the oddest mixture of classes. There were some of those mere idlers who pick up a variety of languages from their penchant for travel. One was a travelling showman of Russian bears, who piloted performing bears from the extreme north to the southernmost point of Europe. Another was an Anglo-Armenian sergeant, born in France and educated in Czecho-Slovakia and Italy. Another was a strange cross of Aberdeen and Naples.

This aggregation of strange types was at length placed for administrative purposes in one unit, the ioth (b) Royal Fusiliers. Beginning in France, where their counter-espionage work did much to make our intelligence work almost invariably superior to that of the enemy, I (b) gradually spread to Italy, Salonika, the East, and, finally, to Russia.

The 11th Battalion is an example of the meaning of personality. Recruited at Mill Hill as a battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, they were received at Colchester by Colonel the Hon. R. White (of the ioth), who asked them if they would care to be a sister battalion to his own. This was agreed to unanimously. At this time the battalion was simply a body of enthusiastic recruits from Manchester and Notting Hill ; and they slept their first night at Colchester under hedges. During the next week officers began to arrive. Major Taylor was the first officer in charge of the battalion ; but Lieut. -Colonel C. C. Carr was their first commander. The 10th battalion, which had given the name to the nth, was transferred to the 11th Brigade ; and the nth battalion was left to represent the Royal Fusiliers in the brigade. The 11th battalion had the good fortune to find in Mr. S. C. Turner, a City business man, an ideal godfather. It has been very difficult to trace some of the war battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. They have disappeared with a completeness hardly credible in so short a time. But in Mr. Turner the nth Battalion lives on its individual life. During the war he took charge of every effort for the amelioration of the men's conditions, and saw to their relatives. He invented an ingenious contrivance for drying the men's socks — a very pressing need — and devised a special paper currency for the use of the battalion in France. These " Fusilier " francs and centimes were accepted, not only in the canteens, but by the French people in billeting areas ; and, issued at first in exchange for the men's money, were soon used, at the request of the men, for their pay. The difficulties of small change were thus overcome as easily as ingeniously. Between 5,000 and 6,000 men went through this one battalion in the 54th Brigade, with whom they went out to France in July, 1915.

The 12th Battalion was collected at Hounslow and taken down to Shoreham. It was apparently formed in pursuance of Lord Kitchener's policy announced by Sir Henry Rawlinson to Major the Hon. R. White— the desire to extend the scope of the Royal Fusiliers by adding further units to the regiment. About September 25th, 1914, Colonel C. J. Stanton arrived to take command, and the battalion went to France on September 1st, 1915. During the first day of the battle of Loos Colonel Stanton was called to Divisional Headquarters to take over the work of Brigadier-General, and he handed over command to Lieut.-Colonel Garnons- Williams, the second in command, who was mortally wounded the same day. Thus, at one stroke, the higher direction of the battalion, in whom all had learned to trust, was wiped out. Fortunately in Major Compton the unit found a worthy successor to these distinguished soldiers.


The 13th Battalion was formed in much the same way as the 12th. It was assembled in October, 1914, the first CO. being Colonel F. P. Hutchinson. After a period of training the battalion left for France in July, 1915, where it performed distinguished service. Colonel Des Vceux took the unit to France, and remained in command until August, 1916, when he was evacuated sick.

In the " Army List," at the end of 1914, the 14th appears as a service battalion, as do also the 15th and 16th. But these were all training reserve battalions. The nucleus of the two latter was furnished by the 6th (Reserve) Battalion, like which they performed the most necessary and important role of training drafts for the front. The battalions were first commanded by Lieut. -Colonel C. R. Hely-Hutchinson, Colonel S. G. Bird, D.S.O., and Lieut.- Colonel G. R. Lascelles, respectively. The staffs of these units consisted chiefly of N.C.O.'s of the Royal Fusiliers, and the work of training went on so smoothly that reinforcements were sent out at regular intervals. The 16th Battalion despatched drafts every nine weeks.

The 17th (Empire) Battalion was raised by a body of gentlemen styled " The British Empire Committee." The motive which drew them together in August, 1914, was the desire to assist in the raising of troops ; and their first intention was to raise a cavalry regiment on the lines of the Imperial Light Horse. After various communications with the military authorities it was found that cavalry were not desired, but the Committee were authorised on August 30th, 1914, to raise a battalion of infantry to be designated the Empire Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. It was subsequently numbered " the 17th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Empire)." The battalion was raised within ten days, and it went into camp at Warlingham on September 12th. This successful result says much for the energy of the Committee, under the chairmanship of General Sir Bindon Blood, G.C.B., who, at the request of the battalion, became their honorary colonel. The Committee also included Mr. Herbert Nield, K.C., M.P., and Major-General Lionel Herbert, C.B., who became secretary early in 1915, and very largely contributed to the successful completion of the task. The same gentlemen later raised, at the request of the War Office, two brigades of Field Artillery, a Field Company R.E., and a Divisional Signal Company R.E. They clothed, equipped and hutted the battalion, whose first commanding officer was Major G. Harland Bowden, M.P. The men never forgot the welcome they received at Warlingham, and " Warlingham Crater," near Givenchy, perpetuated their connection with the pleasant Surrey village. Their war service secured many distinctions, including a Victoria Cross for an action which stands out even among heroic deeds.

British Public Schools and Universities yielded the material for the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Battalions. The origin of these four battalions is fortunately clear. On August 26th, 1914, there appeared in The Times a letter over the signature " Eight Unattached," calhng upon all Public School men of similar age and qualifications {i.e., marksmen at Bisley between the years 1898 and 1903) to discuss the formation of a " Legion of Marksmen" at 59a, Brook Street, W., between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., on August 27th. On proceeding to the rendezvous some of the " Eight Unattached " informed inquirers that they had that day joined the 10th City of London Regiment ; but that, if any of those who had come wished to carry on, the manager of Claridge's had kindly placed a room at their disposal. Mr. J. P. Thompson, a young man of fifty-three, who had spent fifteen years ranching in Texas, decided to see if anything could be done, and with about forty others took advantage of the offer of the manager of Claridge's. A meeting was held at which he was elected chairman and Mr. H. J. Boon secretary. After some discussion it was decided to offer to form a brigade 5,000 strong of old Public School and University men. Offices were taken at 66, Victoria Street, and Dr. Hele-Shaw and Mr. S. M. Gluckstein were added to the first committee.


The War Office soon recognised the usefulness of their efforts and the plan was launched.

Mr. Thompson * resigned from the chairmanship, fearing that it would preclude his going to France ; and Mr. H.J. Boon became chairman in his place. Recruiting offices were opened throughout the country, and the Public Schools and Universities Force (" U.P.S.") came into being. Within eleven days over 5,000 men had been recruited. In the early days Sir Francis Lloyd inspected the London contingent, some 2,000 strong, in Hyde Park, and remarked, " The finest body of men I have ever seen." They were fine men, a great number of them very young, but a sprinkling between thirty and forty years of age. The 18th and 19th and half of the 20th Battalion went to Epsom on September 18th, the other half of the 20th to Leatherhead, and the 21st to Ashstead.

They were all enormously keen on their drill, and settled down to their work in grim earnest. On October 11th the first rifles were issued, 200 to each battalion, and the command was as follows : —

Brig.-General R. Gordon Gilmour, C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O.

Major H. E. Raymond.

Captain R. Hermon-Hodge, M.V.O.

18th Battalion : Colonel Lord Henry Scott.

19th Battalion : Lieut. -Colonel W. Gordon.

20th Battalion : Lieut. -Colonel C. H. Bennett, D.S.O.

21st Battalion : Lieut. -Colonel J. Stuart- Wortley.

* Mr. Thompson became a private in the 18th Battalion ; but, under the well-established fear that it would become merely an officers' training unit, offered himself to the A.S.C., by whom he was accepted after manipulating his age. He became Captain in January, 1915, and served in France from September, 1915, to March, 1918.

The controversy on the supply of commissions came to a head early in 1915, on a suggestion that the " U.P.S." should provide an obvious reservoir. It was suggested in the Press that the men were being prevented taking commissions. How untrue this was may best be appreciated from a stanza appearing in The Pow-Wow, the brigade magazine : —

" Eight little P.S.U.'s feeling fit for heaven,
One joined the Flying Corps, and then there were seven ;
Six little P.S.U.'s tired of being alive,
One applied for Sandhurst, and then there were five ;
Five little P.S.U.'s found the ranks a bore,
The worst got gazetted, and then there were four."

And on April 15th a letter, signed by the committee of the brigade, stated that when the new demand for officers had been satisfied no fewer than "3,083 men will have been taken altogether " for that purpose.

How the brigade coped with such a drain is impossible to say. In some way they kept their corporate spirit and looked forward eagerly to going out. It was this sort of impatience that inspired the quatrain in The Pow-Wow, —

" Some to the Pyramids have raised their Eyes,
Others declare that France shall be our Prize ;
Some speak of Aldershot — This much is Truth,
We are at Woodcote — and — the Rest is Lies."

A very delightful cartoon of " Our Lady of Rumours " emphasised the point by suggesting such places as Spain (!), Sahara, Timbuctoo and China.*

At length the brigade went out and learned its paces where a very great number of battalions first took lessons in trench warfare : in the area about the La Bassee Canal. There were at least seven battalions of Royal Fusiliers in this area simultaneously : the four Public School Battalions, the 8th, 17th and 24th. They went out to France in November, 1915, and after a short acquaintance with trench warfare, the demand for officers still continuing, the 18th, 19th and 21st Battalions were disbanded in April, 1916, the bulk of the men going to various cadet schools, and the remainder as drafts to other Royal Fusilier battalions.

* Cf. " The History of the Royal Fusiliers ' U.P.S.' (University and Public Schools) Brigade (Formation and Training)," published by The Times.

Before disappearing as a unit, however, the 18th had the good fortune to capture a big Fokker behind the lines on April 10th, 1916. They came on the scene when a private of the Royal Engineers was attempting to convey his delight at meeting a presumed French airman who was trying to restart his machine. The German, finding his hand warmly gripped, tried to look the part ; but the 1 8th Royal Fusiliers instantly recognised the machine, with its Iron Cross, for what it was. They doubled, unslung their rifles, and, thinking the German was trying to pass papers to the other man, opened fire. But their zeal outstripped their performance. The sapper, now thoroughly bewildered, took to his heels; and the 18th took over the machine and the pilot. The 20th Battalion continued in being, and did good service, until February, 1918, when they too were disbanded.

The 22nd (Kensington) Battalion was raised by the Mayor of Kensington, then Alderman William H. Davison. C and D Companies were directly enlisted for service in this battalion ; but A and B Companies were formed as King Edward's Horse, and joined C and D at the White City in September, 1914, to form the 22nd (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers. The battalion combined a very good type of Londoner and a very good type of colonial, and the two amalgamated very successfully. They trained at the White City, Roffey (Horsham), Clipstone Camp, and Tidworth, sailing for France on November 15th, 1915. Two depot companies were formed to keep the unit up to strength ; and these, with the two depot companies of the 17th Battalion, formed the 27th Reserve Battalion. The 22nd were disbanded in February, 1918, being chosen by lot from the 99th Brigade when it was decided to reduce the number of battalions in the brigades. By that time the 22nd had earned for themselves a name for courageous and skilful fighting. Sergeant Palmer gained the Victoria Cross and a commission for an act which not only called for pronounced personal bravery, but also for no little foresight and skill.

By a strange turn of fortune it devolved upon General R. Barnett Barker, the former and best-beloved commanding officer of the battalion, to disband them. He had left the battalion in November, 1917, to take command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, and he succeeded General Kellett in command of the 99th Brigade in January, 1918. He sent them a farewell message which deserves a permanent record : —

" In bidding farewell to the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Kensington)," he wrote, " I am sure that I voice the feelings of all ranks of the 99th Brigade in expressing our deep regret that we have to part with such comrades.

" Since November, 1915, under the able leadership of our beloved and gallant brigadier, Brig. -General R. O. Kellett, C.B., C.M.G., we have fought together in the following actions : — Delville Wood, Vimy Ridge, Ancre, Miraumont, Grevillers Trench, Oppy, and Cambrai, in every one of which the 22nd Royal Fusiliers played a conspicuous part. The mention of these important actions, in which we have added fame to the 2nd Division, is sufficient to prove the magnificent part you have filled in making the history of the 99th Brigade.

" We all understand with what feelings you must view the disbanding of your fine battalion. We know full well your splendid esprit de corps, which engendered your fine fighting spirit. We know of the N.C.O.'s and men still with you who gave up their all in 1914 to join you. Nor do we forget your many heroes who died for you and us all.

" Knowing full well all this, we can truly offer you our heartfelt sympathies in your day of trial.

" The 22nd Battalion never lost a yard of trench or failed their comrades in the day of battle. Such is your record, and such a record of you will be handed down to

" All of you, I am thankful to say, will remain in our famous division, and 300 of you in the old brigade.


" I know that the 22nd Royal Fusiliers will accept the inevitable in their usual fine spirit, and will in time transfer the esprit de corps they always prized so dearly to their sister battalions.

" I feel certain their sister battalions will welcome them with open arms and endeavour to heal the sores they now so intensely feel.

" As one who served with you from the day of your foundation to your disbandment (except for two months) , I know full well what this step means to you all.

" I also know that, though the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers has ceased to exist as a unit, you will not forget that we are all Englishmen fighting Germans, and that the fine, indomitable spirit of the battalion will still carry you on until the one red and two white stars are inscribed on the forts of the Rhine."

The 23rd and 24th were the Sportsman's Battalions, which owed their origin to Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen,* daughter of the late Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen, K.C.B., and wife of
the late Edward Cunliffe-Owen, C.M.G.

The idea arose quite spontaneously. Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen, on rallying some men-friends for not being in khaki, was challenged to raise a battalion of middle and upper
class men up to the age of forty-five. She promptly went with them to a post-office and telegraphed to Lord Kitchener, " Will you accept complete battalion of upper and middle class men, physically fit, able to shoot and ride, up to the age of forty-five ? " The reply was, " Lord Kitchener gratefully accepts complete battalion."
The India Room, Hotel Cecil, was taken for a month, a dozen ex-officers were begged from the Officers' Association, and the enrolment began. Each applicant, in the
presence of one of these ex-officers, filled in a form stating his chest measurement, height, weight, nationality, and
whether he could shoot and ride and walked well. The form was then taken to a screened-off part of the room,
where Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen signed it. The men were then

* Now Mrs. Cunliffe Stamford. sent to a recruiting office to be medically examined and attested.

The first battalion was complete in four weeks, and Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen hustled a contractor into putting up a fully equipped and model camp in nineteen days. These
were astounding achievements. Most other battalions raised outside the War Office regime called upon more or less elaborate organisations. Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen formed her own organisation, looked into everything — even the menu - and pushed the scheme through to a triumphant success.

The 23rd Royal Fusiliers, in uniform with full band, marched through the streets of London to entrain at Liverpool Street Station for Hornchurch, Essex, after being inspected in Hyde Park by Colonel Maitland. On March 17th, 1915, the 24th Royal Fusiliers (2nd Sportsman's) were inspected on the Horse Guards' parade
ground by Brig.-General Kellett, who, after thanking Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen in the name of the King and the nation for raising two such fine battalions and congratulating her on being the only woman in the world to have achieved such a feat, requested her to take the salute. The recruits for these battalions were a fine body of men, and were drawn from all parts of the world. " A man who had gone up the Yukon with Frank Slavin, the boxer ; another who had been sealing round Alaska ; trappers from the Canadian woods ; railway engineers from the Argentine ; planters from Ceylon : big-game hunters from Central  Africa ; others from China, Japan, the Malay States, India, Egypt — these were just a few . . ." * of those who presented themselves at the Hotel Cecil in the autumn of 1914.

* The lyd Service Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (First Sportsman's), by Fred W. Ward, p. 26.


The connection of the 23rd and 24th with London was very intimate. They did physical jerks in Savoy Street, and were put through their early paces in the very heart of London. The men were all big fellows, the average height being over 6 feet, and they took to their work gaily. Both battalions formed part of the 99th Brigade
of the 33rd Division at first ; but almost immediately after their arrival in France on November 17th, 1915,
the 24th Battalion was placed in the 5th Brigade. At the same time the brigade lost the 17th Battalion. These changes were carried out in accordance with the reorganisation of the 2nd and 33rd Divisions into brigades, each consisting of two new and two regular battalions. From first to last 4,987 officers and men served overseas in the 23rd Battalion, and their casualty list came to a total of 3,241.

Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen had supplied 1,500 fully trained officers to the army by April, 1915, and when she formally handed over the two battalions to the War Office on July 31st, 1915, she did not cease to follow their fortunes. She wrote to every sick and wounded man, and visited most of them in hospital. She, furthermore, raised the
nucleus of the 30th Royal Fusiliers as a training reserve battalion, and put up the Eagle Hut in the Strand as extra recruiting offices for them. F. C. Selous was one of the 24th 's most eminent recruits. He was already an old man, but he enlisted as a private. Another distinguished recruit was Warneford, who, after four months' service in the battalion, joined the Royal Air Force, and gained the Victoria Cross for first bringing down a Zeppelin.
When the 23rd Battalion was demobilised, Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen was presented with one of the original drums as a souvenir.

To many it will seem that the field from which the 25th (Service) Battalion was chosen resembled that which provided the Sportsman's Battalion ; and, indeed, there was
a distinct similarity. But the Frontiersmen who formed the 25th were already an existing organisation. Numbers of the Legion passed through London soon after the outbreak of the war and found a home in various units.

But on February 12th, 1915, Colonel Driscoll, who led " Driscoll's Scouts " in the South African War, was informed that approval had been given for the raising of

" an infantry battalion 1,000 strong, to be called the 25th (Sendee) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen)." It was stated later that the battalion was to be used to stiffen troops in East Africa, then invaded by German troops. Within three weeks of the subsequent appeal, the unit had raised more than the required strength. About a third of the men were members of the Legion ; and the battalion included men of various ages and with strange experience  rom all quarters of the globe. Among them were F. C. Selous, the famous big-game hunter, explorer and naturalist, who had been a private in the 24th, Cherry Kearton, Martin Ryan and George Outram. On April 10th the  battalion — accepted and sent on active service without preliminary training, the only unit so treated during the war — embarked 1,166 strong at Plymouth. They had travelled nearly 6,000 miles vid Aden before they reached Mombasa, on May 4th. Fighting in East Africa involved the overcoming of two enemies, nature and the Germans ; and so terrible did the first prove, even to such hardened and splendid adventurers, that by Christmas, 1916, only 60 of the original unit remained in the field, and a draft of 600 were sent out. The 25th certainly left a name in East Africa and secured a V.C. (Lieutenant W. Dartnell). But this is a trite summary of a campaign that proved a heavier strain on endurance than any other.

The 26th (Service) Battalion the Royal Fusiliers (Bankers) was raised early in 1915 from bank clerks and accountants by Major William Pitt, an old Volunteer
officer ; and it had Sir Charles Johnston and Sir Charles Wakefield, two Lord Mayors of London, as honorary olonels. Drawn from all parts of the country, the men carried through the first part of their training at Marlow and High Beech ; and, made up to full strength in November, the battalion moved to Aldershot, becoming
part of the 124th Brigade of the 41st Division, commanded by Sir Sydney Lawford. Under command of  Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. W. F. North they embarked for
France on May 4th.


The 26th was one of the two Fusilier battalions to see service in Italy ; but they were brought back to France early in 1918 in time for the German March offensive.

In order to retain even the battalions enumerated at full strength a number of special training reserve units were formed, the 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st, being raised and used for this purpose.

The 29th and 30th Battalions, who sent a specially picked Volunteer Company to Russia in June, 1918, were battalions of the London Regiment, formed of low category
men and men who had been disabled overseas. This was apparently the first formed British infantry unit to serve in Russia since the Crimea. The company took part in most of the operations at Murmansk, and in July — August went to Archangel. From the landing up to the capture of Oboyerskia they remained in the Archangel area and returned to Murmansk on relief by American  infantry. Two other battalions also served in Russia, the 45th and 46th, and the former won two V.C.'s. Each of these was awarded long after the war proper had ended.*
But the exploits are worthy of record here.

The first was awarded to Corporal Arthur Percy Sullivan. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on August 10th, 1919, at the Sheika River, North Russia.

The platoon to which he belonged, after fighting a rear-guard covering action, had to cross the river by means of
a narrow plank, and during the passage an officer and three men fell into a deep swamp.

Without hesitation, under intense fire, Corporal Sullivan jumped into the river and rescued all four, bringing them out singly. But for this gallant action his comrades
would undoubtedly have been drowned. It was a splendid example of heroism as all ranks were on the point of exhaustion and the enemy less than 100 yards distant.

And the second to Sergeant Samuel George Pearse, M.M.

For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice during the operation against the enemy battery position north of Emtsa (North Russia) on August 29th, 1919.

Sergeant Pearse cut his way through the enemy barbed wire under very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, and cleared a way for the troops to enter the battery position.

Seeing that a blockhouse was harassing our advance and causing us casualties, he charged the blockhouse single-handed, killing the occupants with bombs.

This gallant non-commissioned officer met his death a minute later, and it was due to him that the position was carried with so few casualties.

His magnificent bravery and utter disregard for personal danger won for him the admiration of all troops.

There were still other battalions who served in the operations which are more strictly comprised under the title The Great War. The Mayor of East Ham had raised three or four brigades of artillery when he formed the impression that an infantry battalion could also be formed.
After consultation with Major F. Cannon, the recruiting officer at East Ham and Barking, he wrote to the War Office early in October, 1915, and approval was given, subject to the proviso that if 600 men were not raised before Christmas the approval would be withdrawn. Major Cannon took up the recruiting, and in the first three weeks secured only one recruit, a typist, who was employed in the office. A few more offered themselves early in November, and at the end of the month the total sprang to 500.
Only one N.C.O., C.Q.M.S. Childs, afterwards killed in action while serving with the 10th Queen's, was available to pay, billet and look after the new recruits. Major Cannon was placed in command, and the other units of the regiment supplied officers. At Christmas the battalion (the 32nd) was ordered to Aldershot and remained there until May 5th, when it embarked for France under the command of Lieut. -Colonel Key, of the Yorks and Lancs. Regiment, who had lately returned from Gallipoli. The men were quick to learn and, though the officers were drawn from various units, the battalion worked well together, and with the 26th did good service in the war.


An honourable group of units was formed as Labour battalions. Among these were the 34th, 35th, 36th and 37th Battalions, which were raised in the spring of 1916 at
Falmer, near Lewes, and left for France in June. Colonel N. A. K. Burne was in command of the 35th, Colonel G. E. Even, C.B., of the 36th, and Colonel Savage of the 37th.
The battalions served in various parts of the country, unloading ships, making roads, or constructing ammunition dumps. While working on a ship at Rouen in the morning of January 28th, 1917, Private Noble slipped on the gangway and fell into the Seine. It was bitterly cold and the Seine was crowded with boulders of drift ice. In spite of this Private Robert Barker, of the 35th Labour Battalion, finding that Noble could not swim, jumped into the river and supported him until both could be pulled out. He was awarded the Royal Humane Society's Testimonial on Vellum for this brave action.

But for the most part the work of the Labour battalions did not offer the opportunity of spectacular actions. The men worked steadily and well. The work was heavy, and for some time the 35th worked in shifts, by night as well as day, unloading heavy gun ammunition from ships at Rouen. In May, 1917, the Labour battalions were broken up and formed into Labour companies of 500 each, the 35th becoming the 103rd and 104th Infantry Labour Companies ; the 36th, the 105th and 106th Labour Companies ; the 37th, the 107th and 108th Companies. Sergeant Lyles, of the 36th, was among those who, at the end of the war, received a decoration, being awarded the M.S.M.

Another group of battalions was composed of Jewish recruits. When the idea was first mooted in the autumn of 1915 by Mr. Joseph Cowen and Dr. Eder, it met with no sympathy at the War Office. But in April, 1915, the Zion Mule Corps was formed in Alexandria, Egypt, by some 500 or 600 Palestinian refugees and local Jews. It was commanded by Lieut. -Colonel J. H. Patterson, D.S.O., and did good service in Gallipoli, but was disbanded in the summer of 1916. About 100 of its members re-enlisted in the British Army, were brought to London and posted to the 20th London (Territorials). They afterwards formed the nucleus of Jewish N.C.O.'s and instructors for the Jewish infantry battalions.

In the meantime the old idea had sprung to life once more and the Government was pressed to allow the formation of a Jewish unit for Palestine. The movement
was led by Mr. Vladimir Jabotinsky, and was strongly supported by Dr. Weizmann, the President of the Zionist Organisation. In April, 1917, the War Cabinet decided to allow the formation of the unit. In August its formation was announced under the name of " Jewish Regiment of Infantry " ; but this description was subsequently withdrawn and the Jewish battalions became the 38th to 42nd Royal Fusiliers, with their depot at 22, Chenies Street, W.C., and their camp at Plymouth. The battalions were chiefly intended for the reception of Russian Jews, to  be enlisted under a special convention with M. Kerensky's Government. Permission to use Kosher food was granted with the assurance that the battalions would be employed  on the Palestine front, and would be granted a Jewish name and badge if they distinguished themselves.


About 2,000 Jews joined from England, a proportion of them being volunteers. Their enlistment was stopped after the fall of M. Kerensky's Government and the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia ; but, in the beginning of 1918, a widespread movement of voluntary recruiting began in the United States and Canada. Jews in the Argentine were also allowed to enlist, and practically the whole of the able-bodied young Jews in the liberated part of Palestine (Judea) applied to be enlisted. These various sources involved large numbers ; but owing to technical difficulties connected with the numerous nationalities and difficulties of transport, only a small proportion of those overseas could actually be enlisted. But altogether about 10,000 joined the Jewish battalions, of whom over three-quarters were volunteers; and some 5,000 actually served in Palestine. The recruiting campaign in the United States, Canada, the Argentine, and especially Palestine, evoked unprecedented enthusiasm, both Zionist and pro-British.

The 38th Battalion, under Lieut. -Colonel J. H. Patterson, landed in Egypt in January, 1918, to complete their training, and went to the front in June, 1918. They reached Ludd on June 6th, and were inspected by General Allenby, for the second time. After a few days they marched off to take their share in the line and took over the three miles lying between Jiljilia (some three miles west of the Nablus road) and Abwein. They speedily won their spurs in the tasks of the hour — scouting, patrolling and trench digging — and were then given a most trying part of the line in the Jordan valley. The seven miles for which they were responsible stretched westward from the Jordan above Jericho, and seemed at times to be almost an island in a sea of enemies. On the west was a gap which offered a constant invitation to the enemy ; but the battalion ably supported the Anzac Mounted Division in harrying the Turks and discovering their plans. They also took part in Allenby's attack in September by capturing the ford of Umm-esh-Shert on the night of the 21st, and so enabling the mounted troops to cross the river towards Es Salt (Ramoth Gilead) and outflank the Turks. In this operation they were assisted by the 39th battalion, commanded by Lieut. -Colonel E. L. Margolin, a former officer of the Australian Expeditionary Force. The force known as Patterson's column crossed the Jordan and occupied the road between Tel Nimrin and Es Salt until the collapse of the Fourth Turkish Army and Second Turkish Corps, when they returned to Jerusalem with a large body of Turkish and German prisoners. They had performed distinguished service, and were awarded a number of distinctions.

The 40th Battalion consisted chiefly of Palestinian recruits. Many Turkish Jews, who were prisoners of war in Egypt, asked permission to join, and 150 of them were
accepted. They were trained at Tel-el-Kebir and were employed on garrison duty during the autumn and winter of 1918-1919. Their first commander was Lieut. -Colonel Scott, who was succeeded by Lieut. -Colonel F. Samuel.

These battalions had some well-known recruits. Major James de Rothschild was in the 39th. Jacob Epstein was for some time a private in the 38th. Anton Tchaikov, the violinist, and now the Director of the School of Music at Jerusalem, was at first a private and later a sergeant in the 38th. Mr. V. Jabotinsky, the initiator of the movement, was a sergeant and later honorary lieutenant in the 38th ; and M. Smeliansky, the well-known Jewish novelist, was a corporal in the 40th, who also numbered
among their privates Mr. Vinnik, the Chemical Director of the Rishon Wine Cellars, and Mr. Ben Zivi, a member of the Advisory Council to the High Commissioner for Palestine. Other names of distinguished and remarkable men who enlisted in these battalions might be quoted ; but it is obvious that the units started with a strangely ideal impetus and naturally cast a wide net among Jews. The 41st and 42nd Battalions were formed as draft-training units for the three battalions on active service, and were stationed at Plymouth.

All these battalions performed good service. During the trouble in Egypt these were practically the only white infantry troops in Palestine. They guarded the whole railway line from Romani up to Ludd-Haifa-Semach. In the autumn of 1919 they were officially given the name " Judeans " with a special badge " theMenora " (the eight-branched candlestick, the symbol of the Maccabeans), with the Hebrew word " Kadima " (" Forwards and Eastwards "). The sleeve badge Shield of David (38th, purple ; 39th, red ; 40th, blue) was granted in 1918.

The Territorial battalions mobilised at the outbreak of war and first acted as guard to the London and South Western Railway main lines. On September 4th they embarked for Malta, and after a period of service there left for France on January 2nd, 1915. Second line battalions were formed when the first line battalions left England, and these later became the units of the 173rd Brigade of the 58th Division, as the first line units joined the 56th Division. Third line battalions were formed when the second line left England for Malta in December, 1914 ; and fourth line battalions were raised as draft-forming units. These battalions were telescoped towards the end of the war as a consequence of severe losses and the drain of supporting three battalions per unit, i.e., twelve battalions in all. The third lines generally became the second line battalions, and at least one second line battalion disappeared as a distinct entity. The draft-forming units were also turned into one. The battalions of the London Regiment distinguished themselves in many battles of the war, and, like the new service, labour and training battalions, were proud of being Royal Fusiliers. At times, it was said that the war was mechanical, but no one can study the expansion of the Royal Fusiliers without being more conscious of the spiritual side. It was largely the old leaven of a famous regiment which turned these strangely assorted units into splendid righting battalions who left their mark on the history of the war.

* * * *

Such in brief outline is the field covered by this book. The sources are the battalion diaries, personal diaries of officers, special accounts of particular incidents contributed by soldiers actually engaged in them, a considerable number of letters and numerous conversations with officers of various battalions.

A very interesting chapter could be made of the official diaries. A certain high officer drew attention to the low standard attained by the units of his command in this matter ; but the suggestions made for improvement are not always beyond criticism. The weather is " never " a necessary entry, it is stated. This is obviously unsound. The weather is a deciding factor in many operations ; and when of two battalions in the same area, one attacks and the other desists on account of the weather — an actual case of two Fusilier battalions — it becomes absolutely necessary to know the circumstances in detail. There is also a presumably sarcastic remark that the regimental historian will shrink from the statement that " the battalion played the Brigade H.Q. at baseball and beat them." On the contrary. When the men play their football matches there is a clear indication of the morale of the unit ; and when, as in a particular case, a battalion is stated to have been too tired to carry out its fixtures it is reasonably certain that the unit was too weary to be of much use in active operations. A final statement that " it is certainly not necessary to state when officers went on and returned from leave " is clearly absurd.

It is frequently most difficult to discover who was actually in charge of a given operation ; and unless the command is stated in detail before every engagement, the only indication of the sort of force that went into action is provided by the notes about leave.

But the actual diaries are singularly instructive. Those  of the Regular battalions are almost invariably restrained and bald to an irritating degree. The new battalions, on
the contrary, give much information, some of it naive to an almost incredible extent, some of it most interesting to the historian, all of it useful in forming a picture of the unit. All the mechanism of posting sentries, carrying out reliefs, standing-to, etc., is described by one tireless diarist. Everything is put down coldly and carefully, with machine-like detachment, until the battalion goes to Murrumbidgee Camp. Nothing hitherto had disturbed the perfection of this officer's self-possession. But there was something about this camp that stirred him to his depths ; and, in place of the usual carefully dispassionate description, he states that the camp is " a filthy hole with a debauched and frozen bath-house which battalion is supposed to work."

Another diarist ventures the callow remark " One of our Lewis guns claimed to have hit a German who exposed himself." A little later we find him slaughtering whole
units without any tentative claims. Another diarist is perpetually reporting the remains of dead soldiers. Either he was morbidly interested in this or the battalion had an unusually gruesome experience. There is a certain humour in the description of a shelling of billets which concludes: " One man hit on pay parade." And surely, as the full description of an early spring day, the following can hardly be beaten : " Snowed heavily. Men rested and bathed. Football match." A man who could write in that vein was certainly innocent of shell-shock ! One  diarist kills three men on two different occasions, with full details. But as a tour deforce the description by a diarist of a certain battalion which went through the great retreat in March, 1918, stands supreme. On March 25th every unit appears to be retiring about him. The provisional line is crumbling. There is amazing confusion. Then comes the statement " 4 p.m. Artillery falling short on X (a neighbouring division). Brigade informed. Quiet evening." This from a " K " battalion is suggestive.
One wonders what a disturbed evening would have been like. 
But the diaries are not always complete. One battalion diary gives no map references for the first seventeen months, and the first map reference does not give the number of the sheet. Frequently, perhaps invariably, the diaries give the position of battalion headquarters, though part of the battalion may have billeted some miles
away. In most cases this would be of little importance. But in the case of the 4th Battalion at Mons on the night of the battle in 1914, it is of the first importance to know that part of the battalion slept north of the fine which von Kluck appears to have reported held by one of his corps ! The battalion diary gives the locus of the battalion that night as Ciply. Captain Harding notes that they slept that night in a field " at Mons Hospital." *

* Lieutenant Longman, of the same company, says " Nimy Hospital." This is clearly a slip for Mons.

At times, where detail is most desirable, incidents have had to be slurred over because of a complete conflict of evidence. The time for anonymous heroes would seem to have passed ; but, with the perversity of the Regular battalions impelling them to cover up their deeds and the conflict of evidence where the broad outlines are given,
it will still require years of research before the full flower of the British soldiers' achievement can be known.