May 2013 - Issue No. 146
It was the biggest volunteer army the world
had ever seen or will ever see – the British New Army which drew in almost 2.5
million men from August 1914 until conscription took force from March 1916. The
driving force behind it was Field Marshall Kitchener, the Secretary of State
for War. He realised that the First World War would not be over by Christmas and
that there was a vital need to raise and train a large force of men quickly to
support the regular Army.
was a small professional force of just under 250,000 regular troops, all
volunteers but almost half of whom were stationed overseas. To their number
could be added several hundred thousand reservists and Territorial Army
Events proved Kitchener right and his New Army
played a crucial role in the British war effort. Those recruited into it went
into complete battalions under existing British Army Regiments but each also
with the designation (Service).
of those patriotic young men who joined it was my Great Uncle Wal. At sixteen,
and under age, he had tried unsuccessfully to join the Coldstream Guards at
Curzon Hall in Birmingham. Undaunted Great Uncle Wal then went for the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment and was accepted. However, my Granddad, who had been
wounded in 1915 and invalided out of the War, found out and turned up at the
barracks with his younger brother’s birth certificate.
Great Uncle Wal was then put into a
Provisional Battalion with other under age volunteers and ‘old sweats’ and
eventually went on to join the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers. He served on
the Western Front in Flanders and saw a lot of action, especially in the
month’s Brummagem, his son and my cousin, Walter, recounts memories of his
father and of his mother’s people – the Davies family of Studley Street. As
ever there is much more to stir memories – from thoughts of Ashted and Sheldon
to an investigation into King’s Heath and from recollections of the Bournville
Youth Silver Band to John Tocker’s moving tribute to ‘Our Kid: Bernard Tocker’.
Have a bostin read.
Tara a bit