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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 nth 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 ioth battalion,
which had given the name to the nth, was transferred to
the nth Brigade ; and the nth battalion was left to


represent the Royal Fusiliers in the brigade. The nth
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 com-
pleteness 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 com-
mand, 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. Fortu-
nately 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 rein-
forcements 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 dis-
cussion 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 nth 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.,

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.

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 com-

* 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.


missions. 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

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


schools, and the remainder as drafts to other Royal
Fusilier battalions.

Before disappearing as a unit, however, the 18 th 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 com-


mission for an act which not only called for pronounced
personal bravery, but also for no little foresight and

By a strange turn of fortune it devolved upon General
R. Barnett Barker, the former and best-beloved command-
ing 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' Associa-
tion, 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.

c 2


sent to a recruiting office to be medically examined and

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 Sports-
man'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 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

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


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 reorganisa-
tion 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 distin-
guished 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

To many it will seem that the field from which the 25th
(Service) Battalion was chosen resembled that which pro-
vided 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 out-
break 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
from all quarters of the globe. Among them were F. C.
Selous, the famous big-game hunter, explorer and natura-
list, 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
colonels. 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, com-
manded 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 —

Online LibraryH. C. (Herbert Charles) O'NeillThe Royal fusiliers in the great war → online text (page 2 of 38)