Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Journey to France November 1st 1914

Figure 1. Machine Gun Section, Queen's Westminster Rifles, October 1914.
This photograph appears to be one of a number taken at various locations in
Leverstock Green immediately before embarkation.
This photo was probably taken at Wells Farm outside the barn
where the men were billetted.

The Queen's Westminster Rifles had not expected to be sent to France until the Spring of 1915. Indeed as recently as the 17th of October John Baber and his fellow officers had been regretting that they would miss out on the events in France.

However during October 1914 the British Expeditionary Force fought the Battle of La Bassée, [1] which had started on the 10th of October and would continue until the 2nd of November 1914  suffering yet more serious casualties to those already sustained by the rapidly diminishing regular army since the outbreak of the war. 

Having blocked the German armies assault on Paris on the Marne, the French and British armies were having to deploy towards the Channel Coast to cover a rapidly widening front, as the German's had moved their forces towards the north in an attempt to outflank the French & British Army.

Fighting rapidly spread to the north with the 1st Battle of Ypres starting on the 19th of October. Armentières had fallen initially into German hands, however counter attacks forced them back through Houplines.

Figure 2. Map Showing the approximate position of the front line in October 1914
during the Battles of La Bassée and 1st Ypres. [2]

Faced with very heavy casualties, and rapidly diminishing reserves of regular troops, the British Expeditionary Force needed to find additional forces to fill the rapidly extending front line trenches.

British casualties in the fighting between 14 October and 30 November were 58,155 (7,960 dead, 29,562 wounded and 17,873 missing). The army had arrived in France with 84,000 infantry. By the end of the First Battle of Ypres, the BEF had suffered 86,237 casualties, most of whom were infantry.  The French suffered around 50,000 casualties during the battle.[3]

The Queen's Westminster Rifles were to be amongst the very first Territorials to enter the line.

John Baber's pocket diary records the start of the journey to France.

"Sunday Nov 1st

Left Well Farm
Entrained Watford
in 2 parts.
Long stop Addison Rd
Embarked 5.30 pm
Sailed 9.30
Smooth Crossing
Warm night
Liverpool Scottish on own
Boat. Very good cot
No escort, lights out. Where
is the submarine which
Sank that old union."

At Southampton Docks the battalion found itself in company with the Liverpool Scottish, who travelled on the Maidan, an 8,000 ton steamship of the Anchor-Brocklebank Line. The Maidan was one of nine vessels in convoy who left Southampton at 6.30pm on the night of the 1st of November. The men felt very exposed as they passed the Isle of Wight as the ships were lit up by searchlights from the shore intended to stop German naval raids on the Solent anchorage.

Figure 3.  Men of the Queens Westminster Rifles arriving at Le Havre
on S S Maidan on the morning of 2nd November 1914.

John Baber recorded the arrival at Havre.

"Mon Nov 2nd
arrived off Havre
8 o clock
entered harbour
no we didn't
we missed the
tide. Splendid
Entered harbour 11 PM.
More transports
Belgian refugees

In a letter written to his mother he wrote..

Nov 3 Tuesday
Dear Mother,
    Marching to Watford we entrained to Southampton: from here I must omit names, as expected.  However, we sailed in the Maidan, on Sunday evening & arrived at our destination in France early next morning.
We are now under canvas on a high hill overlooking the sea, for all the World like Dover.  It is called a rest camp & we hope to revisit it again.  Rays [4] cousins were on board our transport.  Riding from the harbour to our camp, I could not help over hearing many embarrassing critisms.  However they were all very good natured.
1st Female. C'est un jolie officier.
2nd Female.  Oui, mais un bébé.
It is really quite hot here & beautifully sunny.
Tell Dad to examine my pass-book fairly regularly, as in the possible event of us being engaged & of myself being captured, I might convey the information by giving a cheque to the German Red Cross.
Please send my spare of boots at once & add Plasmon & one Times a week to my weekly list.
I have changed my pony & am now riding quite a nice little nag, by the name of Belinda.  Although the Censor of course is under the seal of the confessional, it is rather embarrassing to know that ones letters will all be read & therefore mine will probably leave much to be desired, both in quality & in quality.  I have received Dad's letter & the receipted bill.  I can still manage the latter business.  We had a calm crossing with all the lights out & no escort.  I don't think anybody felt quite confident that there was not a submarine awaiting us.

Your loving son
John Baber.

Bob Brookes, a Private in the QWR also wrote an excellent account of the crossing, he however had experienced a considerably less comfortable journey. An extract from a much longer account is set out below.


On board the S.S. ‘MAIDAN’ the Liverpool Scottish were also proceeding to France, and we rapidly intermixed, related various incidents to one another, and discussed War, at the same time wondering to where we were going.

I stayed on deck as we went out of the Solent, and had an opportunity to exercise my knowledge of Morse Code by reading the messages to our vessel as to her name and other particulars.  Under the protection of a couple of destroyers we left the Isle of White behind after coming under the glare of the search lights several times.  It was a beautiful night, and the sea calm, looking very fine with the reflection of the search lights on the water.  After a time it became chilly and I went below to be served with some ‘Bully Beef’ (for the first time) and biscuits.  Tea was also provided, but like many others, I could not touch it.  It was not tea as we know it, but oil and tea leaves - by no means a pleasant combination.  The ‘Dixie’ ( a big pot - not of a kind one sees in the City) was filled with cold water and a pipe from the engine room blew steam into the water in the pot, and in this way the water was boiled.  Unfortunately the oil from the engines had made it’s acquaintance with the steam and every time tea was issued only a few men had any.  Fortunately I had filled my water bottle at Southampton, but this did not last very long as one gets very thirsty through eating ‘Bully’ and others, who had not filled their bottles had a ‘nip’ of mine." [5]

The battalion had had sing-song on the deck to pass the time before they could disembark.

John Baber remembered the first days in France in an account he wrote during the 1960's.

"We landed at Havre, and after we had off loaded gear and horses I found myself leading my little section to the Camp.  Sitting on my pony, all tied up with swords, holsters, revolvers, hay net, picketing peg and whatnot, I cocked a rather conceited eye at the interested passers by. Seeing remarkably good looking young women approaching, I prepared to receive a smile, but all that happened was that one said to the other "Ah, quel bebe!"

[1] See for a good introduction to this battle.
[2] From"A Soldier's Sketches Under Fire" by Harold Harvey. Available from Harvey served in Houplines during October 1914, stablising the front line the Queen's Westminster Rifles would enter a month later.
[3] From
[4] Ray, R.S. Dickinson.
[5] From This diary gives a very vivid picture of what life was like for the other ranks in the QWR, and is fascinating to compare with John Baber's account of life as an officer.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Battle of Bricket Wood

Figure 1. The Queen's Westminster Rifles marching through Leverstock Green, autumn 1914.

The following account of the final weeks of the mobilisation of the Queen's Westminster Rifles comes from a pair of small black diaries glued together, which were carried by John Baber of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles during 1914 and into 1915.

These diary entries are very brief and often hard to decipher, but they capture the rush, excitement and muddle of setting off to war.

Diary Part II Wed Oct to..

Wed Oct 7th

Got home 6 AM
Slept on from 7-8.
Parade 10 AM
Every one d-d sleepy.

Thursday Oct 8

Hold your hand out Brigadier
Hold your hand out Brigadier
On Tuesday night
In the bright moonlight
We saw you, we saw you,
You led us a bloody dance
We thought we were off to France.
We’ve ne’er been sold
Such a pup before
Hold your hand out, Brigadier.
Friday Oct 9
Tests of elementary training, to d.d bad.
Barter’s 1st lecture on the attack.
(Followed by night Ops,
a beastly scramble).

Sat Oct 10

Leave. Gpg.
Capt Hall’s visit.
Shewed him gun & tripods.  He took photographs.

Sunday Oct 11

A lazy day by my own fireside,
by jove it was good.
Pat got his orders hurrah! [1]

Figure 2.  Page from John Baber's diary describing the "Battle of Bricket Wood."

Monday Oct 12

Battn attack on Bricket Wood & R Colne.  Mg’s had rather a good time, & were praised by the Brigadier.

Tuesday Oct 12

Barter’s 2nd Lecture
Met Chas Bell, who has just taken a Commission.
Is Webb for the Scots Guards?

Wed Oct 13

The rain has started,
Immediate action tests.
13th (Kensington’s)
367 points
QWR. 356 points
Quite good.

Thursday Oct 14

Brigade march
Deployment & fight
MG’s in reserve,
No instructions.
Pony hated wet but showed spirit.
Figure 3. Leverstock Green from 1919 Edition of the Ordnance Survey showing
the location of Well Farm and the other billets used by the Queens Westminster Rifles.
Friday Oct 15th

MG’s + E Coy & Scouts defended transport wagon agst F Coy.  Latter were mostly scuppered but probably got the wagons.
Night op!!!
Lazy days.

Sat Oct 16th

A,B Coys & MG Section captured wagon guarded by scout limbers to left flank & guns to right.  Everyone saw limbers, nobody saw guns.

Sunday Oct 17th.

Slack day here.
4pm [We played?] game of hockey with Swainson & “Tripe”.
Am quite convinced that they will not send us out this year, & am afraid we shall get no scrapping in England.

Monday Oct 19.

Brigade staff ride. Very difficult country, so did not learn much.
Kick from Cherub.  We back on Wednesday for 3 weeks course at Welwyn.
6 PM p’Volcano from Cherub, can you leave at 8 AM tomorrow?

Tuesday Oct 20th

Not going today after all.
Belgium fort in
New Hotel


Col Shoolbred
Major Cohen
  “     Tyrwhitt
Capt. Lambert
  “  Low
  “  Henriques
  “  Whitmore
  “  Cox
  “  HR Townsend Green
  “  Hoskins
  “  Shattock
Lt James
  “  Waby
  “  Glasier
  “  Saville
  “  Harding
  “  Townsend Green
  “  Collett
2 Lt Baber M Guns
  “  JA Green
  “  Henderson Scott
  “  Williamson
  “  Swainson
  “  Trollope
  “  Bramble
Transport 2 Lt Bradley
QMaster St Kelly.

The War

Tuesday Oct 27

Battn will sail
to Continent on Friday.
D.A.Do.S. inspects kit
& limbers.

Wed Oct 28th

Viewers from Enfield
for M guns
new rifles
viewer says M guns
in excellent condition

 Figure 4. Maxim Gun, with Lance Corporal Fulton at the trigger.

This machine gun was a "Converted Mark II" Maxim, which had originally fired .45 inch ammunition, which been converted to fire .303 inch ammunition.  A muzzle booster was found necessary for the smaller .303 cartridge to operate the heavy .45 inch mechanism. This was known as the "Ball Firing Attachment." [2]

Writing in the 1960's John Baber said of these guns.

"I was battalion machine gun officer.  I knew nothing about machine guns when the job was wished on to me in August, but, by sitting over my textbooks at night, I managed to learn the lesson which I had to teach my section the next day.  We became pretty good and I was able to take the role of any number in a gun team.  The maxims themselves first saw active service in Egypt when Sir Winston Churchill was a young man, or perhaps earlier.  They were heavy but they were good guns which did not let us down."

Thursday Oct 29

Fulton Roche
Say rifles excellent
Better than short rifle
Ammunition comes
Family arrive for 15 minutes with

Friday Oct 30

No start
Transport going
To be changed

Sat Oct 31

New transport
Water carts
New gs limbered
Mk IV Tripods
Belt filling machines
Tested guns
At [secretary?]
Result V good

The last night before the battalion left for France must have been a tense one for all concerned. What was it going to be like?

[1] John Baber’s uncle, Major Patterson Barton of the Royal Artillery stationed in India, and who was mobilised in the first Indian Army contingent to come to France.

There are some other excellent photographs of the Queen's Westminster Rifles at Leverstock Green from Jon Spence's family album here

[2] Information from Alan E, on the Great War Forum.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Colonel.

Lt. Col. Shoolbred behind the barricade at Houplines Spring 1915.

Lt. Col. Shoolbred was not a professional soldier.  Before the war he had run and was the owner of James Shoolbred & Co. Limited, a furniture manufacturer and repository located at Tottenham House, Tottenham Court Road. 

The store had been established in the 1820's at 155 Tottenham Court Road selling textiles for home furnishing.  During the 1870's Shoolbred began manufacturing high quality furniture, and became Royal Warrant holders from the middle of 1880's.

One of the stores most popular items was it's jigsaw puzzles.

Sadly during the Depression and financial crisis of 1929 the store ran into difficultly and eventually closed its doors in 1931.

Lt. Col. Shoolbred had first joined the regiment in 1888 and was to rise up through the ranks until he took command from Lieut. Colonel C.A. Gordon Clarke in February 1911.

It appears that joining the Queen's Westminster Rifles may have been a family tradition. In the Bulletins and other state intelligence for the year 1863,

Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Middlesex.
Queen's ( Westminster) Rifle Volunteer Corps.

Ensign Frederick Thomas Shoolbred to be Lieutenant.  Dated 25th April, 1863.
Walter Shoolbred to be Ensign, vice F. T. Shoolbred, promoted. Dated 25th April, 1863.[1]

The Colonel's company ran a large number of furniture delivery horse drawn drays, and these vehicles together with the drivers and horses joined the regiment at mobilisation,and many remained in the regiment throughout the war.

John Baber (who himself became Lt. Colonel in regiment between the wars) wrote of Shoolbred.

"Our Commanding Officer was at the head of a big London store.  He knew a lot about a few things and particularly horses, stalking and old brandy.  Those were the days when you still saw as many horses as motors in London and this store were rightly very proud of theirs, and in August 1914 we mobilised their horses with their peace time drivers."[2]

John Baber experienced the Colonel's generosity with old brandy when on the 11th August 1914 he made the following entry in his diary.

"11 Tues. Colonel’s speech.  Battalion Volunteers complete Told that whole of 4th 5th & 6th Brigades has done so, Officer of Lond Scots told me of 5% had been obtained with difficulty. 10 c Marriage of Geoffrey Cox and Miss Pitcher in Bath Chapel of the Abbey. Sword Posse by officers & B Coy.

10 o’c route march Trafalgar Square Regents Park Marylebone Road.  Tuesday evening CO gave Veuve Cliquot (04) Slept in full kit & boots ready to start at once. 150 rounds issued for each man.

Dinner in Sergeants mess. Phil & mother. (illegible) has gone."[3]

The Colonel  led the regiment throughout the first two years of the war, until eventually in October 1916 following the Battles on the Somme he was invalided home for two months sick leave on the 18th October 1916.After regaining his health he returned to the front, and went on to lead the regiment through the battles in 1917, until August 3rd, when he handed over command to Major P.M. Glasier.

His departure was a sad one, and the battalion and it's band turned out on August 4th 1917 to see him off.

[1] Bulletins and other state intelligence for the year 1863, by T.L. Behan, page 916.
[2] John Baber, Text of article written in the late 1960's.
[3] John Baber Pocket Diary for 1914.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Mobilisation and the march to Leverstock Green

Figure 1. Crowds cheering long queues of recruits outside
the Headquarters of the Queen's Westminster Rifles. 

As soon as war was declared large numbers of volunteers and former members of the battalion reported to the regiment. The regiment had numbered 511, and within less than forty eight hours it had reached its full compliment of over 800 men. Many volunteers had had to be turned away. Something of the rush and confusion of these days can be seen in John Baber's pocket diary below.

Figure 2. John Baber's Letts Diary 1914.
(Please click on image for larger version.)

"4 Tues Ray enlisted.  Mobilized.
British ultimatum to germany expires at midnight.

5 Wed Battalion mobilisation Endowed Schools at 8AM.  Recruits poured in.
Drew nearly 220,000 rounds of ball SMA
Liege.  Went to Tower for Major, slept at home.
'London' sinks german minelayer

6 Thur More recruits....... Div Transport
Officers say 6th Brg on Monday, 5th on Tuesday
4th on Wednesday,
Ampion sunk by mine (135 lost)

7 Fri Battalion reached full strength, &
men turned away freely.
10.30 Route march.  3.30 pm Bayonet fighting
germans leave Liege. ? north sea Battle
Cerub in form
8 Sat Route march morning & afternoon

9 Sun 9aft Trin Church Parade.  Archdeacon
Wilberforce 'fire & sentiments not broadminded
disappointing address.  Home for afternoon.
French have invaded Alsace."

The regimental history mentions the route marches and says "but chiefly to be remembered by the route marches along tarred roads which reflected from the ground all the heat of a broiling August sun."

It also gives the Archdeacon a more favourable review than John Baber, saying of the service

"August 9th.  The Battalion attended a special service in Westminster Abbey.  The very impressive and stirring sermon preached by Archdeacon Wilberforce brought home to all, more than anything else had done up to that time, what was before them." [1]

Figure 3. A printed form of service from the 9th of August left
at Leverstock Green with Olive Seabrook.[2]

As a special privilege to the Queen's Westminster Regiment, the Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey allowed Lieutenant E.G.H. Cox commander of B Company get married in King Henry VII's Chapel inside the Abbey. It was the first wedding celebrated there in more than three hundred years.

London officer worker, Bernard Brookes was amongst the hundreds of men who arrived at the Queen's Westminster Rifles depot hoping to enlist. Here's his account of his successful attempt to join up.


I immediately took steps to join a regiment and on Friday 7th August 1914, with Frank Croxford and George Steptoe (two colleagues from the Office) I went to the Headquarters of the 16th Battalion of the County of London Regiment, the Queens Westminster Rifles and after waiting outside 58, Buckingham Gate for two or three hours we struggled and pushed our way inside as soon as the door was opened - we were all so eager to join the Army.  Strange to say, that men I have met since who have returned from the Front are even more eager to get out of it now, but although one had to wait a long time to get into the Army at the beginning of the War, one has to wait a sight longer to get out once in the Army.

After much swearing outside the building, we were ‘sworn in’ and then waited in turn to see the doctor.  I passed the Doctor as ‘Fit’ and was posted to ‘E’ company.  We then paid our entrance fee (rather a good idea - pay to serve one’s country) and the receipt for this money permitted free travelling on Motor Omnibuses and other conveyances, although in civilian clothes.  Unfortunately this practice was not continued long enough to make up the entrance fee, but I honestly did my best."[3]

On the 15th of August the entire 2nd London Division was inspected before it was moved off out of London on the following day.

John Baber records this inspection as follows

"15 Sat Brigade inspection in Hyde Park by Gen: Morland some casualities.  Reserves oust RSD, bad luck."

Presumably these casualties were men who fainted in the heat.

"16 Sun - 10 aft Trin Brigade assembled
Hyde Park.  11 O'clock Brigade left
Hyde Park.  Bivouacked at Edgware.
march short but roads trying. "

[1] Major J.Q. Henriques. The War History of the First Battalion Queen's Westminster Rifles 1914-1918. Page 4 & 5.
[2] From the the Queen's Westminster Rifles in Leverstock Green website at  this excellent website has a great deal of information on the time the battalion spent training in the area. It is well worth visiting.
[3] Bernand Brookes Diary is available on line at and gives an excellent view of what it was like to become a member of the QWR at this time.

The Fulton family and volunteer rifle tradition in the Queen's Westminster Rifles

Figure 1. Sergeant A. G. Fulton. Photo taken by Lt. Edmead's Farm
near Houplines, probably taken in May 1915. [1]

Sergeant Arthur Fulton was one of the stalwarts of the Queen's Westminster Rifles. An extremely able marksman, Fulton had been the King's Cup winner at Bisley in 1912, and would go on not only to survive the war, but also to win the Kings Cup for a second time in 1924.

Marksmanship was a family tradition.  Fulton's father, Sergeant G. E. Fulton had won the Queen's Cup in 1888 when serving with the Wimbledon Volunteers.

Figure 2. Sergeant Fulton from Middlesex.

George Fulton had started his shooting career in the Wimbledon Rifle Volunteers by 1881 and had won the Queen's  Prize in 1888, and the Grand Aggregate in 1890 and the St. George's in 1896 and 1900.  He went on to found his  own gun smithing company in about 1895.  At first this business operated out of Wandsworth before moving to Staines where there was a large range at the time. 

The National Rifle Association had moved its headquarters to Bisley Camp in 1890, and Staines was conveniently placed in relation to the ranges there and at Bisley. Fulton set up his business in a sectional wooden building equipped with verandas that was moved to the Bisley ranges from Wimbledon and which survives today [2]

Figure 3. Rifle Volunteers at Wimbledon 
(Please click on picture for larger image.)

George Fulton must have been one of the many young men who joined the Volunteer Rifles in the 1870's. The rise of Napoleon III's France and steam ships had made many in Britain concerned least an invasion be mounted on our shores. Any potential enemy could now arrive regardless of the wind.
The 1870 Franco Prussian War had shown just how vulnerable we had become with the advent of large European conscript armies just a few hours steaming from our coast.

Figure 4. South London Rifle Club at Nunhead Ranges 1879.
(Please click on image for larger version.) 
Private Low and Major Starkey of the QWR
are amongst the competitors.

This Volunteer movement has particularly popular in the Wimbledon, Peckham and Rye area and was open both to gentlemen volunteers and well as tradesmen like Fulton.  As can be seen from the photo above both gentlemen and ordinary men were able to mix at these events, which was not the case at most other times.  For many young men it represented the best way to get a holiday. The camps became great social events.

George Fulton's great ability in shooting must have attracted the attention of the Queen's Westminster Rifles, who were one of the keenest of these Volunteer Regiments, and they appear to have managed to lure George Fulton away by 1889 to join the unit. He was then enabled to set up his own business working to modify and improve rifles for competition.

"Staines, Dec.29.
15 November 1889

"It was yesterday officially announced that Sergeant G.E. Fulton, of the Queen's Westminster Volunteers, the winner of the Queen's prize of £250 and the gold medal and gold badge of the National Rifle Association at Wimbledon last year, has carried off the championship and gold jewel of the North London Rifle Club this season with the best score ever recorded in the annals of rifle shooting under the same conditions. His aggregate of eight "shoots" at 200, 500, and 600 yards and of four at 800 and 900 yards with the Government Martini-Henry rifle totals exactly 1,100 points. Captain Cowan, of the Royal Engineers, is second with 1,088, and Corporal Leghorn, of the London Scottish, third with 1,073."[3]

George Fulton was a widely respected authority on rifles. In 1905 he wrote the following letter to the Times newspaper criticising the new service rifle then coming into service. 

"The Times
5 January 1905

Sir, In your issues of the 19th and 22nd there appeared some correspondence respecting the new short rifle. I am very sorry not to have been aware of this at the time, but hope that you will allow me, though late, a little space for a few remarks.
I have tried several of these rifles up to 600 yards, and one at 800, and cannot understand how the Hythe School find that it shoots closer than the long rifle. My experience is rather the reverse.
For so short a weapon it is ill-balanced and top heavy, and so is ill adapted for swift alignment of sights necessary in quick but accurate shooting at short range, which, I believe, the rifle, strangely enough, is supposed to be designed for.
They have bored holes in the butt, under heel plate, to reduce weight a trifle. This only makes balance worse, and a badly-balanced rifle or gun always handles heavily. The small shallow open notch of backsight and the large projections of the open topped hood on either side of foresight also hinder quick off-hand shooting. A large deep notch is the best for quick sighting, especially in an indifferent light, and a foresight then stands conspicuously alone, as on the long rifle.
I make these remarks as quick shooting at short range has lately been so strongly recommended by the military authorities.
Your correspondents consider the sights of the new rifle superior. In finish they undoubtedly are; but a traversing wind-gauge sight is fanciful, not practical. All very well for making minute alterations of the sight scale, when the wind is being judged by the state of the flags on a range; but I have often asked those who have seen service of what use such sights would be, and the answer is what I expected.
A good, well-finished tangent sight, with a large sight notch in leaf-cap for short ranges, and a very small narrow one on sliding bar, just sufficient to take in a moderate amount of foresight, for more deliberate shooting and medium and long ranges, the tip of sight level, with shoulders of notch working the ground line of objects aimed at, on the old approved method, would be more to the purpose than the new sight, with only one notch, which neither suits one purpose nor the other. Another objection to the short rifle is the greater flash it makes in the dusk.
The safety catch is not so handy, or so readily moved, as another form that has long been adapted to this action by a large firm of rifle manufacturers.
In conclusion, the authorities would have acted wisely in issuing a few hundred of these short rifles for trial by the best known all-round shots in the Volunteer Forces.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

The rifle George Fulton was referring to became the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I, and was to become one of the most important rifles in military history, serving throughout the First World War and on into the Second World War.  Some remain in service in 2010 in India with the police force.

The Fulton's would go on to convert many of these rifles for target shooting. The main areas for improving were the screws that held the barrel to the wooden housing. With time and if maintenance was not regularly undertaken the screws would come loose and the wood would shrink, causing the barrel to move in relation to the wooden forward parts. This caused the rifle to loose accuracy. The Fulton's work on making it more accurate caused the Rifle Association to make the Bull's in targets smaller twice during the inter war period.

George Fulton was not unsurprisingly appointed the QWR's Armourer Sergeant. 

During 1905 he was part of a team lead by Captain Montagu De Mancha Shattock who beat an American team from the Seventh National Guard on July 6th and 7th at Bisley by 10 points.  Corporal Short, a National Guardsman hit the bulls eye with one of his shots, only to discover that it was on the adjacent target. This lost them the competition.

Between September 24th and October 7th 1906 a return match set up by Sir Howard Vincent, a wealthy former commander of the QWR was shot for at the Sir Howard Vincent Anglo-American Challenge Shield at Creedmoor near New York. An article in the New York Times contains the following paragraphs

"The make up of the English team this year is nearly the same as it was last.  Armourer Sergt. Fulton who has been in the regiment since 1881, is the crack shot.  His son A.G. Fulton, is nearly as good, having scored 261, against his father's 262 in the contest with the Seventh.  The father has the great distinction of having won the King's Cup twice.  His son missed it once only by a very narrow margin."

"From the accounts of the contest brought home by the Seventh's representatives, Armorer Sergt. Fulton is a most picturesque character. He is a gunsmith by trade, and is exceedingly quiet and unassuming.  At any sort of social gathering he never says a word unless it is tricked out of him.  Though he is a gunsmith and some of his fellows in the regiment come from the most aristocratic sires in Britain, the old Sergeant is much sought after." [5]

In the return match George Fulton does not appear to have taken place. Corporal Arthur Fulton, was one of the six in the team, and Rifleman Roche also shot in the match as one of two reserves. Sadly, on this occasion they were beaten by the American team. [6]

The importance to the Regiment of the Fulton's is hard to overstate. As soon as the Regiment mobilised in August 1914 they set to work to bring the rifles and marksmen skills to as high a level as possible.

The regiment had not been equipped with the Short Lee Enfield used by the Regular Army in 1914. These were in short supply, and reserved for Kitchener's new army.

The QWR were not expected to be sent overseas as early as they were.  As late as 29th September 1914 Lord Kitchener who inspected the unit at Gorhambury Park had told them "Not a man will leave until your second battalions are fully equipped and ready to take your place." [7]

Figure 5. Long Charger-Loading Magazine Lee-Enfield.[8]

On the 31st of October 1914, having been quite unexpectedly informed that the regiment was being sent to France, on the previous day, the 30th of October, it was then issued with an entirely new type of rifle, that they had not previously had any experience on. The rifle was one of the alternatives to the Short Lee-Enfield that had been rejected for regular service.

This was necessary because the one they had been training could not take the Mark VII cartridge being issued in France, which the Longer Charger rifle fortunately could.

Sergeant Arthur Fulton and his father George had suddenly to test and adjust approximately 800 new issued  rifles, working along with the other best regimental shots. 

The men themselves had no opportunity to test or familiarise themselves with the new rifles before they set off for France. Fortunately the main difference to the ones they had trained on, was in the sights and breach. These rifles remained in use until after the actions at Bellewaarde in 1915 when so many rifles were recovered from casualties in other units that it was possible to provide the battalion with the standard rifle used by the Regular units.

Figure 6. Private of the QWR equipped with the Long Charger
Lee Enfield during the winter of 1914-15 at Houplines. [photo by Lt J B Baber] 

Possibly because 2nd Lt Baber was one of the least experienced, and probably also the youngest officer, he was appointed as Machine-Gun Section commander, with Sergeant Arthur Fulton as his second in command. I expect that it was a great relief to Baber to have such an able man in day to day command of his unit.

The Lance Corporal was R. de R. Roche, another very experienced soldier who had served in South Africa during the Boer War as also in the machine gun section. He was George Fulton's brother in law, and a very fine rifle and pistol shot.

Sergeant Arthur Fulton displayed his skills as a marksman when he made a very remarkable shot. Spotting a German officer sitting in a window of a house in the village of Frelinghein well behind the lines, he estimated the range at 800 yards, and was able to pick the officer off with his first round. [9]

During November 1914 and into 1915 the Regiment suffered from having very little artillery support due to the shell shortage, and were suffering from German observation and snipers, so this success must have been a great morale booster.

Arthur Fulton went on to become well known in the 1918 to 1939 period for the unique distinction of being the only man to win the Sovereign's Prize three times, he has also won the King's Silver Medal three times and holds the record number of King's and Queen's Final Badges.

For many years' from 1920 until the advent of the P14 rifle in 1935, the S.M.L.E. was the only weapon permitted for the S.R. shooting under the N.R.A. Rules, and in the early days of that rifle's history the continuance of rifle shooting as a competitive sport undoubtedly hung in the balance. It was at this time that the pioneering work done by Arthur Fulton at Woolwich and in his spare time on privately-owned rifles which resulted in the process known as "packing" which did a great deal to bring about some sort of "levelling-up" of the standard of shooting obtained from these otherwise extremely inaccurate weapons.
By careful controlling the barrel vibrations, and skilfully adjusting the "packing" material so as to stiffen the otherwise weak barrel and action without restricting the expansion of the former, an extremely high degree of accuracy was obtained which enabled the size of the bullseye at all ranges to be reduced twice during this period.

Arthur Fulton who had a son, who became a noted shot in the 1950's, and a daughter was awarded the M.B.E. in the 1959 New Year Honours List for his services to rifle shooting.

A film from 1926 is held by British Pathe which shows the family of Sergeant Fulton called"Camera Interviews - Sgt. Fulton - The Famous Rifle Shot." which contains the following stills.

Figure 7. Sergeant George Fulton in 1926 (From British Pathe)

If you are connected to the Fulton family, or are able to provide any additional information on their activities with the QWR, I would be very interested to hear from you.

Figure 8. Sergeant Arthur Fulton with his dog Sailor in 1926
(From British Pathe)

[1] Edmead's Farm north east of Houplines village.  The farm formed part of the front line, but was totally destroyed by later battles in the area. It's location was at approximately 50 degrees 41' 52.09" N 2 degrees 55' 34.67"E. The site is just to the south west of the roundabout where the N58 from Belgium comes into France and joins the D945.
[2] G. E. Fulton & Son, registered gunsmiths.  See
[3] from
[4] from  See also for a very good article on the technical aspect of Fulton's work.

[5] The full article about this competition in New York can be found in the New York Times archive at
[6] Report from New York Times, 6th October 1906, available at[6] Major J.Q, Henriques, "The War History of the First Battalion Queen's Westminster Rifles, 1914-1918." page 10.
[7] Photo copied from Arundel Militaria website, which has several other pictures of a surviving example.
[8] Henriques, "The War History" page 28.