Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Lance-Corporal Charley Brown

Introduction
Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Shields,P
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K
Acknowledgements
Dardanelles

12765
10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Died, Saturday 1st July 1916

Cemetery: Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, Somme

C.Brownwebsite.JPG

Son of Joseph and Sarah Brown of Victoria Street, Wetherby; husband of Eliza Brown of 7, Exchange Street, Hunslet, Leeds.

Charley Brown was born at Wetherby in 1885, the son of Joseph, occupation, a Horse Breaker/Groom, and Sarah Brown. The 1901 Census details record that at this juncture, Charley had found employment as an Errand Boy (Post), his father's occupation now being described as that of a Domestic Groom.

Moving to the City of Leeds at some point between the years 1901-1905, Charley entered a union of marriage in the latter year with one Florence Mary Savage, the couple eventually setting up their marital home at Number 7, Exchange Street, off Wilson Street, Hunslet. The couple were blessed with the birth of two children, Florence in 1914, however the name and birth year of the other child is unknown at present. (Authors note: The area of Hunslet that contained Exchange Street has now long since vanished in the slum clearances of the City. The position of the street however now equates to an area off Low Road and Church Street close to the modern day Penny Hill Shopping Centre).

Enlistment

Charley enlisted into the British Army in late August or in the early days of September 1914 at Leeds. It was estimated that over 100 recruits per day were enlisting in Leeds as a consequence of the first proclamation of Kitchener's 'Call to Arms,' a request for 100,000 men to join the Colours issued on the 11th August but this number was increasing rapidly. Such was the influx of men willing to enlist, the Recruiting Depot located in Hanover Square was proving to be far from adequate for the purpose, so to expedite the recruitment process, a 'new' Recruiting Depot was opened on the 3rd September at the Tramway Depot located in Swinegate. Attesting for military service and after undergoing a preliminary medical examination, Charley Brown was now deemed to have enlisted. Assigned the serial number 12765, he would ultimately be posted to the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.

The 'New Armies'

After a dramatic response to the first 'Call to Arms,' a second proclamation was made on the 28th August requesting a further 100,000 men to join the Colours. Once again men flocked to their local recruitment offices across the country but amongst the patriotic crowds of men now joining the 'New Armies,' there was an emphasis placed on the recruitment of those who had previous military service such as non-commissioned officers and drill instructors to train these new units. This shortfall of trained military personnel would prove to be problematic across the whole formation of the Kitchener's 'New Armies' but still men continued to enlist.

The Leeds Mercury reported on the 11th September that the Prime Minister, in a statement made to the House of Commons, declared that the number of recruits enlisting into the army since war had been declared now numbered about 439,000 men, exclusive of those in the Territorial Force. In Leeds, the number of men who passed through the Swinegate Depot the day previously now brought the City of Leeds contribution to Lord Kitchener's 'Army' up to about 5,000 men. In addition, Leeds had also commenced to raise its own "Pals" Battalion, the Leeds City Battalion, recruitment moving apace at both the Town Hall and the Hanover Square Recruitment Office to find 1,200 men, this being completed and exceeded by the 8th September.

After the first 'Call to Arms,' Army Order 324 was issued on the 21st August, this authorising the creation of six new divisions comprising purely of the Kitchener's Volunteers. Designated K1, and with each battalion designated as a 'Service' Battalion, i.e. formed for the duration of the war, these six divisions comprised of the 9th (Scottish) Division, 10th (Irish) Division, 11th (Northern) Division, 12th (Eastern) Division, 13th (Western) Division and the 14th (Light) Division. Similarly, the second 'Call to Arms' resulted in the issuing of Army Order 382 on the 11th September authorising another six new divisions. Designated K2, these six divisions comprised of the 15th (Scottish) Division, 16th (Irish) Division, 17th (Northern) Division, 18th (Eastern) Division, 19th (Western Division) and the 20th (Light) Division. In addition to K1 & K2, Army Order 388 was issued on the 13th September authorising the formation of another six divisions. Designated K3, these divisions were not issued titles and were more diverse in composition but it is now that we will turn our attentions to the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, contained in the 17th (Northern) Division.

17th (Northern) Division

The 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 3rd September 1914 as part of K2 of the New Armies. The battalion was contained in the 50th Infantry Brigade that also consisted of the following units:-

7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment

7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)

6th (Service) Battalion, Dorset Regiment

Recruits for the 10th West Yorkshire's were drawn not only from Yorkshire but from the numerous counties of both England and Wales and from a variety of trades and professions. Men such as Thomas George Burtoft, a Miner and a native of Usworth, County Durham. Robert Porter, a Rubber Worker from Aston, Birmingham, born at Meerut, India, and Wilfred Ball, a native of Newport, Monmouthshire and an adopted child who had in fact enlisted aged 16 years at Bath.

Command & Staff

On the 6th September 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Walker was appointed to command the fledgling battalion. A Scotsman by birth, Walker had already witnessed a varied and illustrious military career. Serving in Afghanistan and west Africa with the 14th Foot, Second Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, he retired from the service in 1899 upon attaining the rank of Major. Serving in various capacities at home, he was then appointed to command the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment with which he served in South Africa. Appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, it was no doubt due to his experience, that he was recalled to command a battalion of the New Army.

On the 24th September 1914 (London Gazette dated the 22nd), Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Tom Reay C.B. was appointed the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General and placed in command of the 50th Infantry Brigade. Commissioned into the 63rd Foot Regiment in 1875, Reay would initially serve as a Probationer on the Indian Staff Corps and in 1882 serve as a Captain in the Manchester Regiment in the Anglo-Egyptian War. Posted to the 1st Battalion of the Regiment as Adjutant in 1884, he would eventually rise to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1899 and command the 2nd Battalion, Manchesters throughout the course of the Boer War. Upon completion of his service, Reay would be placed on 'half pay' on the 6th October 1903 and serve on the Commands and Staff until February 1911 whereupon he was officially placed on Retired Pay in March of the following year.

On the 18th September (London Gazette dated 6th October 1914), Major-General Walter Rupert Kenyon-Slaney C.B. was appointed to command the 17th (Northern) Division. Joining the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) in 1869 as an Ensign by purchase, Slaney was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1871 after conducting service in both India and Aden. Rising to the rank of Captain and promoted to Adjutant in 1881, this appointment expired in 1886 whereupon he was seconded for service as an Adjutant of Auxiliary Forces. Attaining the rank of Major after service in Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1897 before being placed on 'half pay' in 1901. Serving on the Staff in South Africa as a Special Service Officer and then a Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel (Local Brigadier-General commanding the Middelburg District, Transvaal), it was in 1907 that Kenyon- Slaney was awarded the C.B. and promoted to the rank of Major-General in the following year. Confirmed in the rank of a Brigade Commander in 1909, in September 1913 and after a colourful military career spent on many continents, Slaney was then placed on retired pay. 

Training: The Camp

With the respective battalions of the division concentrating at their Home Stations, it soon became apparent for the need to find more suitable areas for the men of the New Armies to commence their training. In early September 1914 and to this end, the units that comprised the 17th (Northern) Division had received orders to move southwards to Dorset. Arriving at Wareham, the allocated camp being located at Worgret to the west of the town, the camp consisted of tented accommodation but few in number for the substantial amounts of men arriving in the town. Initially men were billeted in various local establishments such as church and chapel schools as at the camp there was very little else in the shape of beds, tables and established cooking facilities. Luxuries afforded to the men such as tobacco and a decent cooked meal were non existent, one soldier of the 7th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment reporting that "Last night our tea consisted of hard biscuits and jam, and sweet tea with no milk in it." Privations even extended to the lack of blankets as well as the essential necessities of life such as boots and clothing. Local organisations however provided many comforts for the men, the people of Bournemouth for example collecting camp blankets, wool shirts, books and periodicals which were delivered to the camps located at Wareham and Wool. A large tent was also established by the Y.M.C.A. by the Finchley Association under the control of the Secretary, Mr. T.D. Johnston, the latter having previously administered the St. Albans establishment for the London Irish Rifles.

Despite woeful organisation on the part of the military, the camp slowly began to establish itself. Discipline in the initial stages of training had proved to be rather problematic but this was more due to the transition being made from civilian to soldier. Order had to be created and to this end, those with previous military service came to the fore in the form of both officers and N.C.O.'s. The 7th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, 51st Infantry Brigade of the 17th Division had one particular distinguished veteran amongst their number, one Lance-Sergeant George Henry Wetherall. Enlisting into the Special Reserve on the 9th September 1914 aged 69 years, this veteran had originally served in the Militia and had volunteered his services as a Drill Instructor with the 7th Battalion located at Wool. Assigned a squad and noted as "exceptionally smart," George would be discharged after completing one years service with the Colours in February 1916, an incredible man no doubt who, like old soldiers do, 'faded away' in 1918.

There was an absence of uniformity amongst the men as uniforms were virtually non-existent. Parades were conducted with the men dressed in a variety of clothing and as regards rifle training, a few 'Drill Purpose' rifles had been acquired but not sufficient in number. Uniforms of a sort however did begin to arrive in October but these were an eclectic mix comprising of old pe-war regular and militia uniforms, the men truly resembling soldiers of "Fred Karno's Army" no doubt much to everyone's amusement. Route marches and various drills were now introduced to the training programme as their development from civilian to soldier progressed apace. A fascinating insight into life in the camp is provided by Private Ernest George Hopkinson, 13692, 10th West Yorkshire's and a native of Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd. Serving previously with the Todmorden Volunteer Corps and completing his terms of enlistment, Ernest enlisted at Halifax on the 7th September 1914. Writing to his brother, William, who would also serve in the war with the Royal Engineers, the letter was published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 16th October 1914, a lengthy extract of which is as follows:-

"From Monday morning to Saturday they had to turn out of bed at 5-30 in the morning, wash in cold water in buckets outside, clean out tents, shake their blankets, of which they had at least two each, and put them out into the open air and sun until afternoon. The tents had to be swept out and all the bits of paper picked up and burnt with the other rubbish. This has to be followed by dressing for the first parade at 7 o'clock, which continues for an hour. The parade consists of Swedish drill, arm swinging, body bending, hopping, jumping, running, leap frog, and other forms of exercises, which makes them have good appetites for their breakfast, which is served at eight o'clock. The meal consists of bread and cheese, jam, marmalade, boiled ham and tea. Of course those things were not all served at one meal, but alternated. The next parade was with the rifles and drill for army training, of which their is plenty; this occupied from nine until 12.30. Dinner consists of stewed meat, mixed with all kinds of vegetables, boiled in egg-shaped buckets, one being sufficient for two tents, containing 28 men. Each battalion has its own cook house and there are about 1,200 men in a battalion. About 700 troops belonging to different regiments are in camp. The next drill extends from 2 until 5 o'clock and is for rifle training, company and battalion drills. Tea consists of jam, cheese and bread, and once they had salmon. The margarine is eaten to the accompaniment of all kinds of language known, but he would not say any more about the delicious substance. After tea they were "on their own" until nine o'clock and they spent the time walking into the village and getting a little supper, and he was sure the shopkeepers and others were making fortunes, as they had not had such a busy time in all their lives. All lights have to be out in camp 10-15, but most of the men are in bed by nine o'clock. During the night search-lights played all around the camp and sea, but they could not tell where the lights came from, but they are a few miles away. It has been lovely during the moonlight nights; it was so bright that they could see to read the newspaper. They had route marches varying from eight to seventeen miles a day. After the long walks they had no drill, but feet inspections and lectures, two or three of the latter being given each week on discipline etc. The people in the district appear to be easy going and do not appear to do much work. The chief occupation is farming, fruit and vegetable growing. Fruit was very cheap, and blackberries most plentiful, and the people did not know what to do with them. They had lots of pets in camp, of which the men were very fond. He wished they could see the men washing their towels, shirts, socks etc., and ends up by declaring that they will be "full-blown washerwomen" some day.

Writing later on behalf of himself and Harold Barker (Authors note, 13693), he says the Young Men's Christian Association is doing a very good work among the troops. They have erected a large marquee for the comfort and pleasure of the troops in the evenings. There is singing and games, accommodation for writing, and various kinds of amusements, which all go to make the evenings happy for those who attend. On Saturday evening they had a concert given by ladies and gentlemen from Bournemouth, who willingly gave their services for the good of the troops. There were present the Brigadier-General, and several other officers, and the General said he hoped to see them all march to Berlin, to which there were loud cries of "hear, hear." The officer promised to purchase footballs in order that the company matches might take place for a cup which he would present. Lots of generous people visit the camp and send various gifts, consisting of overcoats, socks, shirts, towels, cigarettes and other articles. The trees and plants, said the writer, were in full bloom, but he supposed all the leaves would have fallen at Mytholmroyd. In the early hours of the day it was very cold, and the mist from the sea was heavy, but the men soon got warmed up with exercise. After the mist had cleared away the sun came out in all its glory and the heat was almost unbearable; indeed, at times numbers of men had to be carried away. The letter concludes with a wish to be remembered to all at Mytholmroyd Church Institute."

Autumn & Winter 1914: Industrial Disputes, Rain & Vaccination 

Towards the end of the month of September, a suitable number of tents had arrived to establish the camp as a more 'permanent' facility. This was all well and fine as the month had been one of glorious weather but as autumn approached, there was a pressing need to turn the camp into one consisting of hutted accommodation. In October, men who had been exposed to the vagaries of a wet autumn now began to fall ill and to compound matters further, a workers dispute over the erection of huts arose. Carpenters engaged in construction and employed as 'day workers' were alarmed at the fact that those assigned 'piece work' were able to work more hours during the day. After consultation, delegates of those employed on a daily rate approached the contractor for an extra penny an hour, double pay also being a requisite if required to work on a Sunday. The number of hours to be worked was also discussed with the contractor, and, if terms were not met, it was suggested that they performed a strike action which was ultimately initiated. After prolonged discussion, the matter was only resolved by the intervention of Lord Kitchener himself by adopting a rather 'tactical' approach. Kitchener intimated that he fully recognised that there were others such as munitions workers who were doing their duty for the King, this tactful statement eventually led to more productive dialogue and the dispute was settled between the strikers and the contractors.

Discipline however was still proving to be problematic. A soldier of the 6th Dorsets appeared before Mr Stephen White Bennett at the Police Court, Wareham, on the 14th October charged with attempting to steal money from a till at the Lord Nelson Public House, North Bridge, Wareham. After formal evidence was taken, on the following day the soldier was bound over. Appearing before Mr Bennett on the same day was a  Private of the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment. The charges laid before the Court were that between the 1st - 9th October, the accused was charged with "feloniously stealing certain post letters, the property of the officer commanding the Regiment." Lieutenant and Quarter-master Green (Authors note: John James Green), gave evidence that the prisoner was employed as a regimental postman and included in his duties was to fetch the mail from the Post Office at Wareham and carry them back to camp. Suspected of theft, the Quarter-master ordered the Private to be searched and upon doing so, in his pockets were found to be letters addressed to the men of the 10th West Yorkshire's. The letters had been opened and the accused handed over to the civil authorities. It transpired that he had been witnessed opening letters in his tent, a bundle of nine letters being found on his person. His duties involved the sorting of the letters upon which he would hand them over to a Corporal of the various companies for distribution. The Private denied the charges and was subsequently placed on remand for a period of three months whereupon in January 1915, the prisoner was sentenced to three months hard labour.

It was not just military personnel that transgressed the rule of law. A young lady of just nineteen years was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment at Shepton Mallet Jail for having solicited from soldiers in the town of Wareham. Having a previous record for similar offences, her 'activities' were witnessed by a constable on plain clothes duty and she was subsequently arrested.

At the beginning of the month of November, the weather began to take a turn for the worse with the men still occupying tented accommodation. The battalion had also been vacinated, possibly against T.B. by the camp Medical Officer, Lieutenant Douglas William Hunter M.B., so as one can imagine, they possibly felt slightly unwell and in low spirits not only due to the weather but also of the effects of the inoculation. An extract of a further letter from Private Ernest Hopkinson of Mytholmroyd to his brother published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 13th November describes the chaos that ensued due to the adverse weather conditions but the letter also contained a rather poignant statement as regards the character of the men in general:-

"Writing to his brother says they were having some awful weather. For the last ten or twelve days they had nothing but rain or fog, which came over the hill from the channel, "and it did not half come down either." Trenches had to be dug around the tents, but these were quickly filled up. Some of the tents had been blown down and the fellows washed out. To make things more exciting all had been vacinated and they had to fight all those difficulties with one arm. They were like a lot of wounded soldiers. Some of the fellows' arms were the size of two and very stiff. The war cry at present was "Mind my arm." It was quite amusing to see them, some with their arm in a sling and others with them strung down and as stiff as a poker, while others could not get their arms into the sleeves of their coat. They had only light duty to do. Many had lost nights of sleep, but after all they would be "all there" if they were needed for anything more exciting than the life of training. There were men from all stations of life, but they were all on a level when in the ranks, and he was sure that after what they had heard of the cruelty of the enemy every man of them would sacrifice his little bit in order to adjust matters."

There was a transition during the month at last to hutted accommodation for some, various Mess Halls for both officers and men now being established on a more permanent basis at the camp but there was however a question of the water supply. A special meeting of Wareham Town Council in Committee, was held on the 14th November in response to a letter being received from the War Office to address the situation. The exact details of the request by the military powers is unknown, possibly a matter of water extraction, but a resolution was arrived and as a consequence duly agreed and carried. This was indeed timely as on the day previously, a detachment of the Army Service Corps numbering about 350 men under the command of Captain William M.C. de Quesne Caillard had arrived at the camp, this detachment forming the nucleus of the 17th Divisional Train, A.S.C.

A Musical Interlude: The "Blue Knuts."

On Tuesday the 1st December, a concert was held in order to assist the work of Dr. Banardo's Homes. The Western Gazette published on the following Friday recorded the event held at Wareham:-

"On Tuesday evening the Oddfellows' Hall was crowded at a concert given by officers of the West Yorkshire and Dorset Regiments now in camp. The hall is in use every night as a club for non-commissioned officers who gave it up that evening to the "Blue Knuts," in order to assist the work of Dr. Barnardo's Homes. When the curtain drew up the four "Knuts," clad in blue pyjamas, were seen comfortably seated in armchairs, from which they lazily emerged, advanced to the footlights, and began to sing to the accompaniment of a piano played by another of the company. The officers thus disguised were Capain Gartside, and Messrs. Stammers, Cutler, Aspinwall and Dutson (sic), assisted behind the scenes by Mr. Burgess. The songs and dialogues showed much talent, both in music and acting, Captain Gartside especially proving himself to be an actor of versatile gifts. The programme included the grave and gay judiciously mingled. Amogst many good pieces the old man's song, "Memory, oh! memory" was the best. At the request of Mrs. Courtenay, president of the Wareham Habitation of the Young Helpers' Leaugue of Dr. Barnardo's Homes, Canon Blackett, in the interval, made a brief and earnest appeal for support to the Homes, which have already supplied 400 old "Barnardo boys" to the Canadian contingent for the war, besides recruits and buglers to Kitchener's Army, and more than 200 trained boys to the Navy. Some of these last have already been engaged in active service, and several have given up their lives for the defence of our shores. The concert resulted in a sum of £8 being added to the income of the Homes."

(Authors Note: The Cast of this evening of fund raising and jovial entertainment consisted of Captain (Temporary) Lionel Gartside and Temporary Second-Lieutenants Seymour Bernard Egerton Cutler, Guy Aspinwall and Sidney Robert Stammers, all 10th West Yorkshire Regiment, and Temporary Second-Lieutenant Courtenay Duttson, 6th Dorsets).

December

The month of December witnessed the delivery and distribution of a large quantity of Old Pattern Lee-Enfield Rifles. With a substantial supply of ammunition available a programme of musketry was initiated under the command of Major Sir Charles Roderick Hunter, Bart., Musketry Staff Officer, 17th Division. A rifle range had been constructed on Hyde Heath near Bovington but as Christmas approached, the men's thoughts turned to home and the possibility of some leave. The prolific letter writing Ernest Hopkinson writing home to his parents stated that he believed that they would be at home either at Christmas or in the New Year. An extract of two letters published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 4th of December recorded:-

"It would feel a treat to be in the old village again. They were having some frosty weather and it felt nice to wash in ice-cold water first thing in the morning. They were still under canvas, but as he had nine blankets and a warm overcoat to wrap himself at nights he did not feel much of the cold. He had been transferred to the military police force for the camp. His duty was to keep all suspicious people out of the camp and prevent their own fellows from leaving camp before five o'clock. They had to see that all lights were out at 10-15 and take the fellows who made any bother prisoners. One man had been confined to camp for six weeks for striking a sergeant, and had to report himself every half-hour. He was in the pink of health and getting fat, especially with being a "bobby." In another letter he tenders his greatest thanks to all who contributed to the excellent parcel of comforts. He had a few pairs of socks on hand, so he passed them on to those who were less fortunate than himself."

For one soldier of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, there was to be no festive celebrations but unfortunately an untimely death. Private James Palmer, 11240, had enlisted at Middlesbrough in late August 1914. A married man of South Bank and employed at a Steel Works, the outbreak of the war empowered James to escape the vagaries of his work and join Kitchener's Army. James would die of causes not known at present on the 22nd of December 1915 and was subsequently laid to rest in Wareham Cemetery on the 29th of the month, the Reverend Thomas George Brierley Kay officiating, Chaplain to the Forces. (Authors note: Believed to be James Oscar Palmer, husband of Ethel Palmer. Ethel would remarry in June 1918 to one John Henry McSorley).

Information as to how the 10th West Yorkshire's spent their Christmas at Wareham is scarce, but for some, the lucky few, there was no doubt leave granted to return home to their loved ones. The Leeds press records that various 'comfort funds' were sending out numerous parcels to the battalions of the Regiment both at home and abroad however the History of the Green Howards In The Great War by H.C. Wylly records that the men of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, had to partake of their Christmas repast, "with the floor for a table and a folded blanket for a tablecloth."

The New Year

Training continued as per programme but it was in January 1915 that there was to be a change in command of the 17th (Northern) Division, Major-General Thomas David Pilcher C.B. now assuming command due to resignation of Colonel Kenyon-Slaney. Pilcher had also experienced a colourful military career. Educated at Harrow, Pilcher received a commission as a Second-Lieutenant into the Dublin City Militia Artillery in August 1878 (Authors note: London Gazette dated 27th September 1878, Hart's Army List of 1896 however states June 1879). Transferring to the 22nd Regiment of Foot in July 1879, shortly after his appointment Pilcher transferred once again to the 5th Regiment of Foot, later designated the 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) in 1881. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in that year, in February 1886 the rank of Captain was attained whereupon in November 1895 he was granted the rank of Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General, Dublin, (Army List 1896). Granted the rank of Major in November 1897, Pilcher was then promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel and placed in the command of the recently formed 1st Battalion, West African Frontier Force serving on the Niger between 1897 -1898. Promoted to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in July 1899 and assuming a position as Second-in-Command of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in that year, the full rank of Colonel was granted in October 1900 after the termination of the services of Lieutenant-Colonel Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh. Employed on 'Special Service' and serving in the South African War in command of the 3rd Mounted Infantry Regiment, Pilcher would witness numerous important engagements including the Relief of Kimberley in February 1900. In April of the following year he was made an Aides-de-Camp (Extra) to the King with the Brevet rank of Colonel and awarded the C.B. (Authors note: Awarded for services in South Africa up to the 29th November 1900). Upon his return to England, Pilcher assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps at Aldershot and was promoted to the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General in April 1904. Promoted to the rank of Major-General in 1907, his tenure of this appointment ceased in this year that is until he was appointed a Brigade Commander in India in December of that year. Finally, Pilcher was appointed to command the Burma Division in 1913 and made Colonel of the Bedfordshire Regiment in April 1914. A published author, his private life was somewhat turbulent leading to two marriages however his pre-war military concepts advocated the use of the machine-gun in heavier numbers, much against military doctrines of the time.

January had also witnessed the formation of a Divisional Pioneer Battalion, the 7th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment being selected for this purpose, Officer Commanding, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Nicholl Byass. As the war had progressed, it was soon recognised that there was a specific need for an organised labour force contained within a division to carry out field engineering tasks such as the construction of trenches etc. and to assist in the duties performed by the Field Companies of the Royal Engineers attached to the division. Before the formation of the Pioneers, it was often the case that infantry at 'rest' were seconded to perform these duties, a far from ideal scenario. The 7th Yorks & Lancs were a suitable choice for conversion to this role, the men of the battalion comprising of a vast majority of miners from South Yorkshire, men such as Private Aaron Priest, a native of Wombwell, enlisted in August 1914 aged 21 years, Private Thomas Froggatt of Rawmarsh, also enlisted in August 1914 aged 22, and Private Herbert Blower of Grimethorpe, Barnsley, who had enlisted in September 1914 aged 29 years. Froggatt would succumb to wounds received during the closing stages of the Somme offensive in 1916, Priest would be killed in action at Arras in April 1917 whilst Blower would die of the effects of gas poisoning at a Casualty Clearing Station near Arras in the same month.   

March

As training still continued with drill, route marches and tactical schemes being initiated, a limited number of service rifles was issued in addition to the new 1914 leather type infantry equipment. There was however unfortunately still instances of theft, one man from the 6th Dorsets who could not be identified, selling provisions destined for the Officers Mess to a Potato Merchant from Wareham, this 'peculation' it soon became apparent, being prevalent in all of the camps.

The month of March would also witness yet another unfortunate death of a man belonging to the Division, one Provost Sergeant Charles Ernest Stevens, 3/9231, of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, who died on the 7th of the month. Originally a resident of Leeds, the Leeds Mercury dated Friday, 12th March 1915, recorded the following:-

"The funeral took place at Wareham Parish Church, Dorset, with full military honours, on Wednesday, of the late Sergt. C.E. Stevens, of the 10th (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. The scene was a very impressive one. The drums and fifes of the battalion and the regimental band of the 6th Battalion Dorsets played en route to the church. The deceased sergeant was an old pensioner having served twenty-one years with the Oxfordshires, now the Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry. Before the war broke out he was employed as a postman at Wakefield, having been transferred from Leeds to Morley and from there to Wakefield. The late sergeant's parents live in St. Jame's-square (sic) and a married sister in the Stoney Rock district. Up to the time of his death, which took place on Sunday, he was Provost Sergeant of the battalion."

At Number 18, Saint James Square and at Stoney Rock in Burmantofts, news of the death of a son and brother was received with a heavy heart. After 18 years service with the Colours with both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Oxford and Bucks in far flung continents of the world, Charles had died aged just 44 years.

April

There was still instances of ill discipline amongst the ranks. One soldier it was reported in the Lichfield Mercury had deserted the 10th West Yorkshire's at Wareham in March but had been apprehended. It was no wonder however that discipline was hard to maintain as the soldiers in training at Wareham were still very much reliant on the generosity of various public bodies. One request to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Headquarters located at Hull from the 7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment at Wareham stated that they required "1000 pairs of socks, 200 shirts, 200 pants and 50 Cardigan jackets." There is no doubt that this 'reliance' on the generosity of the public must have had a certain effect on morale. In some circles this may have been viewed by the men as a rather 'unmindful' attitude adopted by the War Office to attend to the men's needs. Suffice to say, the needs of those fighting at the front were of paramount importance but this indifferent approach to the men who had volunteered for the New Armies, specifically the 10th West Yorkshire's, must have been a bitter pill for those who had enlisted at Leeds. News in the form of letters and the local press must have reached Wareham that on the 28th April, the Leeds "Pals" were to march to Ripon from their camp at Colsterdale and receive a civic 'welcome' complete with bunting, the Leeds Mercury reporting "that they had had a rough time during the winter." Had not the men of the 17th (Northern) Division? A 'poem' of sorts appeared in the Harrogate Herald dated the 16th June 1915 and summed up the mood of those men who had volunteered to join the 50th Infantry Brigade. Entitled "THE FORGOTTEN BRIGADE" (A Tragedy), the 'poem' is lengthy but the Author will include some verses that are particularly relevant to these men of Kitchener's Army:-

"The hist'ry of war is full of brave acts, Of men who have shone in retreats and attacks, We all know the story, that never can fade, Of the gallant charge of the "Light Brigade." And with pride we remember the glorious day, When we held fifty thousand Germans at bay, But the grandest stand a brigade ever made, Was the long weary stand of the "Forgotten Brigade."

This famous Brigade was composed of the best, "The Dorsets," "Yorks-Lancs.," the Yorks. East and West." If the Huns only saw them - my word; it would scare 'em; But alas! this Brigade was forgotten, at Wareham. They joined in their youth and trained night and day, But now some are dead, and some old and grey, Some are still training and some in graves laid, Out of Wareham "None" came of the "Forgotten Brigade."  

 

May/June: The Division Moves And Assembles

Little of note transpired during the early days of the month of May but during the last quarter, orders were issued to strike camp at a moments notice. On the 27th and after feverish activity to assemble equipment stores etc., the division was ordered to proceed by route of march to various camps and billets located in the area of Winchester. The History Of The 17th (Northern) Division by A. Hilliard Atteridge records that the columns of infantry set forth on the afternoon of the 27th before bivouacking on the first leg of their journey at Cranford Park near Wimbourne. On the second day of their route march, Somerley Park on the borders of Hampshire and Dorset was reached and on the third day, the men marched through the New Forest to Lyndhurst whereupon on Tuesday, 1st June (Atteridge states Sunday), the division were distributed in camps and billets to the south and west of Winchester.

The infantry now resumed their training, the latter now including visits to Fovant Camp on Salisbury Plain where musketry courses were conducted on the ranges. The infantry of the division was also to be joined in the early days of the month of June by their respective Divisional Artillery, the 78th, 79th and 80th Brigades, R.F.A., in addition to the 81st Brigade (Howitzers), their commanders being Lieutenant-Colonels Edward Henry Willis, Harrison, George Ambrose Cardew and Reginald Stanley Hardman.