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.

No comments: