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.

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