Chapter 2

Sheffield City Battalion:

Chapter Two. Days of Auld Lang Syne

.

 

Redmires: The hardening process: A great sports meeting: Rugeley and Ripon: The famous Marching Song: Forming the reserves; On Salisbury Plain: The last days in England.


THE day of the move to Redmires was wild and stormy. A steady fall of snow
and rain did not make a very pleasant introduction to a camp which still needed
a vast amount of attention to be made at all desirable. For a long time the
weather continued bad. The regiment had every chance to make itself wonderfully
fit physically by a considerable experience of quarrying, roadmaking, and so on.

	As might be expected, this was not an aspect of military life which created
any great joy at the time among the softhanded men who made up the regiment. It
has also to be admitted that the regimental cooks had to learn their business,
and one never knew when a catastrophe was going to happen to the breakfast.
Between one thing and another there were some rather exciting times until
matters settled down. But later on the men came to look back upon the Redmires
days as some of the happiest of their lives.

	It was here that they really laid the foundation of their military training.
And there is no doubt that Redmires served them magnificently with a
case-hardening process which was of the greatest value in their training. The
result of their hard graft, in all weathers, on the surrounding hills and moors
was seen very clearly later on, when they could outmarch the other regiments
with which they were associated, and triumph over rivals in athletic events.

	For just over five months the regiment remained at Redmires Camp, and the
period witnessed a great deal of progress in training and various notable
events.

	A week or two before Christmas the regiment was placed in the 115th Infantry
Brigade, together with the 10th (S.) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Grimsby)
and the 13th and 14th (S.) Battalions York and Lancaster Regiment (Ist and 2nd
Barnsleys), under the command of BrigadierGeneral H. Bowles, C.B., who had his
headquarters first in Bank Street, Sheffield, and later in Brunswick Street,
Sheffield. The 115th Infantry Brigade formed part of the 5th New Army. On April
10th the Reserve Company, E " Company, moved into camp.

	On April 29th the parade ground at Redmires was the scene of a great
Regimental Sports meeting. Despite the distance from Sheffield, there were
probably 10,000 spectators, and the exhibition of the Sheffield Battalion's
sporting prowess was favourably commented upon. A day later the Battalion was
inspected for the second time by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
Northern Command. In the long interval between this inspection and the first,
Field-Marshal Plumer had left to fight in France, and had handed over the
Northern Command to Major-General H. Lawson. General Lawson was very
complimentary indeed, regarding the smart appearance of the Battalion and the
cleanliness of the camp..

	On Sunday, May 9th, Colonel Mainwaring received directions to prepare for
the removal of the regiment from Redmires to Cannock Chase on May 13th. This was
great news, and flew round the camp like wildfire. Everybody worked with a will.
The stores, kits, &c., were early packed and dispatched. While, this was going
on intimation was received that the 115th Brigade had been renumbered as the
94th and placed in the Fourth Army, while there was a change in its
constitution, the Ilth (S.) East Lancashire Battalion being introduced vice the
10th (S.) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

	The unfortunate thing about the change of quarters was that it meant the
departure of " Sheffield's Own " without Sheffield being given a fair
opportunity of seeing the men off.  The railway authorities fixed a very early
hour for the move, and the Battalion had to parade at 5 a.m. to get to the
station in time.

	This notwithstanding, a great number of people turned out to see them. The
Hallamshires' and R.E. bands played them through the city. From a platform
erected on the Surrey Street side of the Town Hall they were addressed by the
Lord Mayor (Councillor 0. C. Wilson), Colonel Branson, and others, then marched
on to the station through crowds of relatives and friends. For miles after
leaving the city the men were responding to the cheers of folk who had taken up
positions near the railway line.

	The strength of the Battalion (excluding the reserve company, " E," which
was left at Redmires) was at this time as follows: 34 officers, 6 warrant
officers, 41 sergeants, 40 corporals and other ranks, making up a total of
1,104.

	The move to Cannock Chase, with the consequent concentration of the 94th
Brigade-which formed a part of the 31st Division, Fourth New Army-meant, of
course, an advance in the stage of training of all its Battalions; though owing
to the amount of fatigue work which was found necessary, the advance was not so
great as it might have been. The brigade was encamped at Penkridge Bank Camp, on
a high part of the Chase, near the little market town of Rugeley. The 94th
Brigade was the first to move into this camp, which grew marvellously all the
time it was there. The surrounding Moorland, where the deer still roamed wild,
formed a useful training sphere. The men of the Sheffield Battalion soon made
themselves popular in the neighbouring towns of Stafford, Rugeley, Cannock, &c.,
and the records prove that they were entitied to their full share of the credit
for a resolution which was passed by the Rugeley Urban District Council, on the
Brigade's departure for a new field of action, conveying compliments as to the
behaviour of its members.

	A good deal of route marching was done here, and combined brigade operations
became a regular feature of the work done. On 13th July, 1915, there was a full
parade of the Sheffield Battalion for inspection prior to the formal taking over
of the regiment by the War Office from the care of its original raisers.

	Towards the end of the month came the long-expected order to move to the
Divisional Headquarters at Ripon. Colonel Mainwaring was on sick leave at this
time, and the regiment moved, with Major T. Carter Clough in command, on the
night 30-31 July, leaving its huts and lines in a state which elicited the
highest praise from those concerned. There in little need to dwell at length
upon the trying march to Stafford, which exhausted almost every member of the
Battalion and led to much heart-burning; suffice it to say, it will never be
forgotten. The town of Rugeley gave the Battalion a great send-off.

	The very fine camp at Ripon, on the Harrogate Road, was, naturally, with the
headquarters of the 4th Army Training Centre close at hand, the scene of
important fresh work for the Battalion. New courses of instruction for all ranks
were entered upon, and, beginning on August 17th, the Battalion fired its
preliminary Musketry Course, using the eighty short M.L.E. rifles which had been
issued for the purpose.

	General Sir Bruce Hamilton, commanding the 4th A.T.C., carried out an
inspection of the Battalion, with its transport, &c., on August 4th; while it
was also inspected by Major-General Sir A. J. Murray, Deputy C.I.G.S., on the
Ilth of the same month.

	Major-General R. Wanless O'Gowan, C.B., who took over command of the 31st
Division on 24th August from Major-General E. A. Fanshawe, C. B., inspected the
Battalion on September 8th, and expressed himself as extremely pleased with the
physique and turn-out of the regiment and the smartness with which they handled
their arms.

	It was now known that the Brigade was about to make probably its last move
before leaving England-that was, to Salisbury Plain-and all ranks were granted
four clear days' leave prior to leaving Yorkshire; a privilege which was very
welcome. While the first half of the Battalion were enjoying this spell of
holiday, the rest were celebrating in camp the anniversary of the raising of the
Battalion, September 10th.

	About this time the following officers were transferred from the Service
Companies to the Depot: 2nd Lieut. W. A. Tyzack, 2nd Lieut. H. D. Reeve, 2nd
Lieut. D. A. L. Derry. 2nd Lieut. F. A. Beal joined the Service Companies on
transfer from the Manchester Regiment.

	The Regimental March was that of the 2nd Battalion of the York and Lancaster
Regiment, to which many of the chief ex-Regular N.C.O.'s of the City Battalion
had belonged-" Jock o' York."

	Prime favourite among the many songs that were sung upon the march was a
strange folk-song of which no one seemed to know the origin. The honour of
introducing it was generally given to the men from the Penistone district, and
it first became well known at the Cannock Chase Camp. It had a fine swinging
melody, said to be that of an oldfashioned hymn. The words were:

	ON ILKLEY MOOR BAR'T'AT.

	(1) Wheer has't a been sin' I saw thee? Wheer has't a been sin' 1 saw thee?
Wheer has't a been sin' I saw thee? (Chorus) On Ilkley Moor bar't'at! On Ilkley
Moor bar't'at! On Ilkley Moor bar't'at!

	(2)	Tha's been a coortine' our Sar' Ann; Tha's been, &c.

	(3)	That's wheer thee'll ketch thee death o' cold; That's wheer, &c.

	(4)	Then we shall have to bury thee; Then we, &c.

	(5)	Then worms will come an' ate thee up; &c.

	(6)	Then ducks will come an' ate them worms; &c.

	(7)	Then we shall come an' ate ducks up; &c.

	(8)	(Fortissimo) That's wheer we gets us own back! &c.

	As most of the Battalion themselves needed information as to the meaning of
the chief phrase in the song, one would add that it is " On Ilkley Moor without
a hat 1 "

	The Battalion's first rifles consisted of twenty-three, which were kindly
lent by Messrs. Vickers, Ltd., shortly after the formation. These proved
invaluable for early instructional work. Another favour done by Messrs. Vickers,
Ltd., through the kindness of Mr. Clark, was the loan of a machine gun, which
enabled machine-gun training to be commenced months before this would have
otherwise been the case.

	Rifles of the M.L.M. pattern were received as under:

22nd October, 1914 … 200 27th October, 1914 … 200 31st October, 1914 … 200 21st June, 1915…1,000 1,600

	Through various causes 1,000 of these rifles had to be returned between the
9th of May, 1915, and June 10th, 1915, but on June 21st, 1915, 500 of those
given up were returned, making the complement of rifies up to 1,100. Many of
these were in bad condition, but fit to fire from and for drill purposes. On the
17th June, 1915, eighty M.L.E. (short) rifles were received for instructional
purposes and were issued to N.C.O.'s.

	All the 1914 pattern accoutrements were obtained from Messrs. Hepburn, Gale
and Ross, Bermondsey, and the regiment was fully equipped by the end of
February.

	The undermentioned gentlemen of Sheffield presented the battalion drums:
Colonel Hughes, C.B., C.M.G., big drum; Messrs. A. J. Hobson, W. Hobson, A.
Wightman, and S. J. Robinson, side drums.

	Sir Charles Allen presented fifes and cardholders. Sir Samuel Roberts, M.P.,
presented the Union jack to fly over Redmires Camp, and renewed it when the
first one had been destroyed by the winter gales.

	As to equipment in general, the Battalion was deeply indebted to the late
Sir George Franklin and Colonel Branson for their untiring energy and assistance
in providing everything that was needed.

	Hardly coming under the heading of equipment, but at the same time assisting
a great deal in the training of the Battalion at Redmires, was the loan by Mr.
Wilson, of Beauchief Hall, of a portion of his land near the camp for the
purpose of trench digging.

	The question of providing reinforcements for local battalions was dealt with
by the War Office within three months of the Battalion's formation, authority
for the raising of a Fifth Company being received early in December.

	The new company was placed under the command of Captain G. Beley, and
recruiting was carried on at the Town Hall, Sheffield, beginning in the third
week of December. The men were billeted at their own homes, as the original
members of the Battalion had been, while fresh accommodation was provided at
Redmires. Drilling on fine days was carried out in Norfolk Park, and on wet days
in a building called " The jungle," previously a skating rink, in. Hawley
Street.

	On April 10th, 1915, the Fifth, or " E " Company, moved into Redmires Camp.
The company on that date was 224 strong, apart from officers. It did not reach
its establishment of 250 until towards the end of May. When the Service
companies left Redmires for Staffordshire the Fifth Company remained behind,
under the command of Captain Beley, who had the following officers: Captain J.
Kenner, 2nd Lieut. N. 0. Lucas, 2nd Lieut. J. S. Cooper, and 2nd Lieut. V. S.
Simpson.

	Directly after the Service companies' change of station authority was
received for raising the Sixth Company.

	Arrangements were put in hand accordingly, and at the end of June Captain W.
J. Jarrard left Penkridge Bank to take command of " E " and " F " Companies,
with Captain C. F. Ellwood as second-in-command; while Captain Beley returned to
the Service Companies. 2nd Lieut. E. H. P. Pitt left for the Depot about the
same time.

	On 9th July a Northern Command Order (No. 1228) was published stating that
on a locally-raised Battalion moving to its Brigade in the Fourth New Army it
would leave its Depot Company or Companies behind, and that the Commanding
Officer would cease to have any control over them. The latter clause was
subsequently modified to give Commanding Officers the right of approval of
suggestions for promotion. Order No. 1228 further specified that Depot Companies
of the same regiment would be grouped together, companies of each Battalion,
however, remaining separate. For the time being the senior officer was to be
placed in command.

	In accordance with this Order, the Sheffield Battalion's Depot Companies
moved out from Redmires to Silkstone on July 23rd, leaving behind at Redmires
only a " recruiting party " of twenty-five, under Captain Ellwood. Captain
Jarrard took command of the Sheffield and Barnsley reserve companies at
Silkstone for the time being, under circumstances of no little difficulty. The
last link, as it were, with Redmires was broken on September 6th, when the
little " recruiting party " also proceeded to Silkstone.

	In the meantime Lieut.-Colonel W. G. Raley, lately in command of the 14th
(S.) Battalion Y. and L. Regiment (2nd Barnsleys) had been appointed to command
the 15th (R.) Battalion Y. and L. Regiment, which was formed of the Depot
Companies grouped at Silkstone.

	Several N.C.O.'s and men of the Battalion were transferred to the Reserves,
not by choice, I may state, and some record of the work done by them should be
given. " F " Company was wholly formed after the departure of the Battalion from
Redmires, and for some considerable time recruits were enlisted for the 12th
Battalion, even, in fact, after the Reserves were amalgamated with the 15th
(Reserve) Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.

	At the end of December, 1915, Hyde Park Barracks were taken over and used as
a recruiting depot for the 12th Battalion, and remained open until April, 1916.
The recruits now enlisted afterwards formed the drafts which fed the 12th
Battalion in the field. Many of the officers who fought with the Battalion had
their training with the Reserves.

	On the night of the 25th September, 1915, marching through Ripon in
drenching rain, the regiment entrained for the long journey to the South of
England, and the following day took over new hutments at Hurdcott Camp, near
Wilton, Salisbury.

	A few days before, Brigadier-General Bowles had handed over the command of
the 94th Brigade to BrigadierGeneral G. Carter Campbell, D.S.O., late Scottish
Rifles, and directly after the arrival in the new camp came a change which
affected the Battalion more directly. Colonel C. V. Mainwaring, the Commanding
Officer, had for some time been in indifferent health-the result of long service
in Eastern climes. The work he did would have been severe for a much younger
man, since he always took the very highest view of duty. No one in the Battalion
took so little leave.

	just prior to leaving Ripon Camp Colonel Mainwaring was certified unfit for
foreign service. Hence it came that on September 28th he gave up the command of
the Battalion. It was with sincere regret that the men, returning that day from
a route march, learnt that as they had passed him on the road he was leaving
them.

	The regiment was fortunate to have appointed as Colonel Mainwaring's
successor another Regular officer in Lieut-Colonel J. A. Crosthwaite, late
Durham Light Infantry. Colonel Crosthwaite at the time was home on leave from
the Front, and brought to the training of the Battalion the latest experiences
in the War.

	The whole of the time spent on Salisbury Plains was given to rapid
preparation for active service. There was a succession of courses of instruction
for all ranks. Equipment for all the new-fangled devices of war came to hand in
due course, and was put to good use. Leave was cut down to the minimum, and the
men worked as perhaps never before.

	The only fly in the amber was a sudden descent of the Munitions of War
Department upon the regimental preserves with demands for skilled workmen who
could make shells and guns, &c. At one time it appeared as though a serious blow
would be dealt at the efficiency of the Battalion. But eventually the demands of
the Munitions Department lessened and only about fifty men were marked to be
taken. Later on it proved possible to excuse a number of these on the ground
that they were trained " specialists "-i.e., machine-gunners, transport men,
grenadiers, &c.

	The Battalion was inspected by Sir A. H. Paget, G.O.C., Salisbury Training
Centre; by Major-General Wanless O'Gowan, G.O.C., 31st Division, and by
BrigadierGeneral T. Carter Campbell, D.S.O.

	After a certain amount of training in manoeuvres the Battalion marched
across the Downs one sunny winter's day to Canada Lines, Lark Hill Camp, just
vacated by the 91st Brigade. Here they remained from November 16th to November
30th. They received the long-looked-for short rifles, and with each man at last
in possession of his own, it was as though a tonic had been administered to the
whole regiment. Parts Ill. and IV. of the General Musketry Course wore smartly
and keenly completed, and the machine men completed their training in very good
style, incidentlly taking four of the five prizes put up for inter-brigade
competition. In Parts I. and II. the Battalion had made the best record In the
94th Brigade, and in Parts 111. and IV. they came out on top.

.

[/premium_content]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *