The 1st Battalion

Below this page, there will be several subgroups of the men of the 1st Battalion who were awarded the 1914 Star.

Prior to the outbreak of war, men were serving under a Regular army contract, or they served under a Special Reserve contract. If a soldier’s service records have survived, they will state whether he was in the Special Reserve or not. Confusingly, there were two sets of army service numbers in use. In many cases, to differentiate, the men of the SR had a “3/” prefix at the start of the war.

For a better understanding of the Special Reserve, the following website will be of interest:

British army reserves and reservists

A regular army contract would see a man spent several years of active service “with the Colours”, and the remainder of the 12 year period in the Army Reserve. From September 1906, recruits were signing up for seven years with the colours, and five with the reserve. Prior to this, it had been nine and three (Army Order 117 dated May 1902 refers), and prior to November 1904, short service was three and nine (Army Order 189 dated November 1904 refers). Given that an overseas posting was typical, a soldier could serve for just over three years. This was dependent upon the timing of the “trooping season”, and when the troopships would be arriving back in the UK with time-expired soldiers.

Postings of the 1st Battalion from 1897

The 1st Battalion had been in India since 1897, but returned to Chatham in December 1910. The Battalion was stationed here until September 1913 when it redeployed to Bordon Camp, an offshoot of the army’s presence at Aldershot. It was here that the battalion was mobilised upon the outbreak of war. The 1st Battalion was taken by rail – presumably following the Watercress Line – to Southampton, arriving at Le Havre on 13 August 1914.

Its first major baptism of fire was the Battle of the Aisne. It was deployed near the village of Vendresse from 18-20 September, and suffered further casualties during this battle at the neighbouring village of Chivy on 26 September 1914.

Along with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force it redeployed to Belgium at the end of October 1914, and took part in the First Battle of Ypres. Casualties were suffered at the fighting at Langemarck from 21-24 October. Large losses were suffered by both the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers and the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Gheluvelt on 31 October 1914.

Any men present during these actions were eligible to be awarded the 1914 Star campaign medal, which was inaugurated in April 1917. A further adornment was the “clasp and roses”, instituted in October 1919. This clasp was awarded to those who had served under fire or who had operated within range of enemy mobile artillery in France or Belgium during the period between 5 August and 22 November 1914. Not all soldiers or next of kin applied for the clasp.