chapter  1
13 Pages

Over by Christmas

On the evening of the third day of mobilisation, i.e., the 7th August, the whole Battalion, at full war strength, paraded at 5 pm, complete with mobilised transport. It was a marvellous sight, and a truly wonderful piece of organisation accomplished in three days. Imagine it-between 500 and 6oo reservists collected from all over the country (though chiefly, of course, from the county of Northamptonshire), clothed, fully equipped, transported to. Blackdown Camp, with clothing and equipment properly fitted, the transport brought up to war strength with new vehicles, harness and horses (most of which last-named had to be practically rebroken to do their work in a military style); in addition, the peace-time establishment of the Battalion reclothed and served out with their mobilisation kit. And all this had been carried out in three days. 2

When first we got the pay-books and identity-discs, about two years before the War, we smiled at the idea of ever having to use them. Behind the Commanding Officer's table in the Orderly Room was the mobilisation chart - another smile. What an awful bore it was to listen to the King's Rules and Regulations relating to Active Service being read out each quarter! And when we had to make out family allotment forms the smile changed to a broad grin. 3

Being a Reservist, I was naturally called to the colours at the outbreak of war between England and Germany on August 4th 1914, so I downed tools; and although a married man with two children, I was only too pleased to be able to leave a more or less monotonous existence for something more exciting and adventurous. Being an old soldier, war was of course more or less ingrained into my nature, and during those few days before the final declaration I was at fever heat and longing to be away. 4

Events outside the army hardly concerned us at all. International Affairs were beyond the professional soldier. We were ignorant and uninterested until, at the end of the summer, the war-clouds gathered over Europe. Then there was no reasoning. Our job was to fight. We were well trained and willing to fight any foreigner, and we were delighted at the prospect of war and glory. 5

The younger officers were wild with enthusiasm and their only fear was that they might be left behind at the depot. Some of the older officers and non-commissioned officers were less enthusiastic because they remembered the less attractive side to active service from the South African War-dirt, lice and dysentery. Captain]. Jack 1st Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was one such officer:

Many ambitious officers feared that if they were left behind on the Home Establishment they would miss the war which everyone seemed to agree would be over by Christmas. The need to find sufficient numbers of trained staff officers for the BEF and the rush to go on active service saw the closure of the Staff College and the emptying of the War Office, which left the Army Council with few experienced officers once the BEF had left for France.