Chapter One. Answering the Call
EVEN for remarkable times, it was a remarkable scene which presented itself at the Norfolk Barracks, Sheffield, one sultry afternoon in the September of 1914. Six weeks earlier, Europe had been plunged into war. There were still vast numbers of people in this country who failed to understand what it meant for England. But in this hall were a thousand men of Sheffield who understood, and who had given up their homes, their professions and their businesses, to form an entirely new regiment within a few days-ready to take their share in the battle. "You are a crowd; a good-looking crowd, but a CROWD," their Commanding Officer told them, as he leaned over the balcony and gave them for their motto the word " Work." Sans uniform, formed up anyhow, the Sheffield Battalion looked a crowd. But they were an unusual crowd, one such as had not been seen in England before the Great War. Their ages ranged from 19 to 35. Standing there as privates were many men whom no other conceivable circumstances would have brought into the Army; £500 a year business men, stockbrokers, engineers, chemists, metallurgical experts, University and public school men, medical students, journalists, schoolmasters, craftsmen, shop assistants, secretaries, and all sorts of clerks. They were a strange mixture from the trained soldier's point of view. And yet a: well-set-up, strapping lot for the most part, who might.perhaps have pleased an old recruiting sergeant's eye. They represented ore of which it might be hoped that the fire of military training would make welltempered stuff. The men who took part in that first parade are not likely to forget it. Memorable speeches were made by wellknown Sheffield citizens who had worked to raise the battalion. Moreover, the place seemed only just big enough to hold the " crowd." For two and a half hours they moved about under the orders of first one, and then another, while attempts were made to create some little order out of a vast amount of chaos. Each man stuck to his particular friends, and of the making of lists there was no end. Finally a number of temporary squads were arranged. The leaders were selected by the late Colonel Hughes, from the Sheffield University men who had had O.T.C. training, and the ex-Regulars, Territorials and Volunteers who had joined. Then the men were dismissed for the day. Having thus given a rough idea of the first parade, which took place on Monday, September 14th, 1914, let us see how it was that the Battalion came to be formed. About the Ist September, 1914, the late Duke of Norfolk, E.M., K.G., and the late Sir George Franklin, Litt.D., J.P., representing the University of Sheffield, attended at the War Office, and suggested the formation of a local battalion in Sheffield on the lines already adopted in certain other Cities, the general idea being that a Unit should he provided in which Sheffield University and commercial men could enlist together, and have some special connection with their own city. They were received favourably at the War Office, and Sir G. Franklin communicated the result of their interview to the then Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Lieut-Colonel G. E. Branson, J.P., with a view to obtaining official municipal recognition and assistance in the formation of the Battalion. The Lord Mayor called a meeting which was held at the Town Hall, on the lst September, 1914, and was attended by the Duke of Norfolk, Sir G. Franklin, Sir Williarn Clegg, Col. H. H ughes, C. B., C. M. G., and Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, at which it was arranged that a Battalion-whose first official title should be " The Sheffield University and City Special Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment "-should forthwith be raised. Colonel Hughes offered his services as Commanding Officer, and was requested to take the position of Acting Commandant until a Commanding Officer should be appointed by the War Office. Captain E. A. Marples, late of the 4th (Hallamshire) Battalion, Y. and L. Regiment (T.F.), who had had South African war experience, was requested to act as temporary Adjutant. Surgeon-Captain W. S. Kerr, of the same Battalion, consented to act as temporary Medical Officer. A little later Major T. Carter Clough, V.D., also of the same Battalion, was invited to accept a temporary Cornmission. Recruiting began in the first instance by a process of enrolment. This took place in one of the Reception Rooms at the Town Hall. Fifteen hundred forms of declaration of willingness to serve were prepared, and within a few days some 1,400 names were handed in to the Lord Mayor and the officers who assisted him. Arrangements were then made for the formal enlistment at the Corn Exchange, the men who had enrolled being asked to attend there. Enlistment began on the 10th September, and a very big but on.the whole well-handled task it proved. ---To Berlin-via Corn Exchange," said the placards, and the men came in their hundreds, to undergo the long crossexamination of the manifold attestation clerks, fol)owed by the medical examination of the small army of doctors who very cheerily gave their valuable help. When a man came from behind the doctor's screens smiling, you knew without asking that he had been passed fit for the service of his country. Rejections, chiefly on medical grounds, were, however, somewhat numerous, and during the two days on which it had been expected to recruit up to strength, between 900 and 1,000 men only were enlisted. But other men were soon forthcoming. The honour of being the first recruit to enrol at the Town Hall belonged to the late Captain V. S. Simpson, M.C., who, unfortunately, was killed in action at Vieux Berquin, in April, 1918, in the battle of the Lys, when the enemy was bent on forcing a passage to the Channel. Ports. The first home of the Battalion was Norfolk Barracks, Edmund Road, Sheffield, previously best known to the majority of the men, probably, as a favourite place for boxing contests. The loan of the place was kindly granted by the West Riding Territorial Force Association. A preliminary list of proposed officers was drawn up by Colonel Hughes and submitted to the Lord Mayor and Sir G. Franklin, who after making such changes as seemed necessary, arranged for the temporary employment of the gentlemen named, as officers of the Battalion. This list contained the following: Officer Commanding: Colonel H. Hughes, C.B., C.M.G. Second in Command: Major T. Carter Clough, V.D. Adjutant: Captain E. A. MarpIes. Captains: A. R. Hoette, A. Plackett, W. A. Colley, Captain and Hon. Major W. J. Armitage. Lieutenants: C. F. Ellwodd, W. J. jarrard, J. Kenner, A. N. Cousin, C. Elam, E. G. G. Woolhouse, J. L. Middleton, G. Beley. Second Lieutenants: N. L. Tunbridge, E. L. Moxey, R. E. J. Moore, G. J. H. Ingold, W. S. Clark. Quartermaster: Hon. Lieut. S. W. Maunder. Further offibers were appointed from time to time on the nomination of the Commanding Officer for the time being. The Lord Mayor and Sir G. Franklin were informed by the War Office that they were desired to be responsible for the organization, administration, and training of the Battalion until it was taken over by the War Office. The day after the " mobilization parade " already described, the Battalion got to work on squad drill. For this there was at first available a splendid level area in the shape of the Sheffield United Cricket and Football Club's famous home at Bramall Lane-a resort of sporting Sheffielders for decades past, and one which had witnessed many feats of physical prowess by sturdy Yorkshiremen. No one bed ever thought it would one day present such a night an now. During the first fortnight the Battalion employed a ewMin number of old soldiers as paid drill instructors, but It was moon found that the necessary. material could be found for Instruction within the ranks. The Battalion was, indeed, particularly fortunate in the possession of a number of ex-N.C.O.'s and men of the Regular Forces--pensioners, time-expired men, and others. Some had served in India with the York and Lancaster Regiment, and so were able to bring in something of the traditions of the old 65th and 84th Foot. Others had been in the Guards. One of these declared that the Battalion was as advanced in its work after three weeks' training as ordinary recruits would have been after three months, and thereby pleased them greatly besides raising wild hopes of an early appearance at " The Front," which were afterwards to be dashed. Even Bramall Lane was hardly big enough for the requirements of the Battalion. When it was found that drill was cutting short the career of the grass, the directors reduced the size of the space available for work. Other grounds were used-pieces in Edmund Road and Queen's Road-and the regiment received its first education in extended order drill and attack on days which were really rather jolly, among the trees of Norfolk Park. This will be a memorable place to many a man as being where he set his foot on the ladder of promotion, winning his first stripe by the ordeal of drilling a platoon before the C.O. For nearly three months the men lived at their own homes. Those who came from the outside districts were generously provided by Sheffield householders with lodgings either free or very cheaply. During this period the Battalion received its first uniform. This was of dark blue-grey cloth, khaki being unobtainable. The cap was small, of a modified F. S. or Glengarry pattern, and smartened by a thin red stripe. On November 9th the Battalion was inspected by Field-Marshal H. Plumer, General Officer Commanding-inChief, Northern Command. At this point one should refer to changes which took place during the early existence of the Battalion. It had barely been raised a month when Colonel C. V. Mainwaring, Indian Army, was appointed by the War Office to the command, the date of his taking over from Colonel Hughes being October 10th, 1914. Another change about this time occurred in the departure of the acting Adjutant, Captain Marples, who was gazetted to the 13th Service Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Captain and Hon. Major W. J. Armitage, who had been appointed to command what was called " No. 1 Double Company," left to take up a position in his old regiment, the Hallamshires. Lieutenant E. G. G. Woolhouse became Adjutant, a position which he held until January, 1915, and upon his resigning the appointment it was given to Lieutenant N. L. Tunbridge. The advisability of removing the men to camp was early considered. Authority was obtained from the War Office to put the Battalion into hutments, and in this connection it should be mentioned that during the whole period of the formation and equipment of the Battalion the late Sir G. Franklin, who was in London, greatly assisted the regiment by keeping in constant touch with the War Office and ascertaining the views of the authorities as to the housing, clothing, and training of the men. As the camp site, an extensive area of moorland at Redmires, five or six miles on the Derbyshire side of Sheffield, was chosen. This had previously formed an old racecourse, and was later used by the W.R. Divisional Artillery (T. F.). The rent was £100 per annum. It was a lofty spot--one of the highest camping grounds in England, in fact. Inclined to marshiness and swept by. all the winter storms, it presented its own difficulties in the preparation of a camp, and the move of the Battalion could not take place as early as had been anticipated. The con tracts for the erection of the hutments were entered into under directions from the War Office, and much able assistance was given in the work by the City Architect, Mr. F. E. P. Edwards. Meanwhile. contracts for the provision of clothing and nwuaariea, equipment, and barrack furniture were entered Into by the Lord Mayor with various tradesmen, and the goods were nupplied independently of the War Office. Prior to the departure of the Battalion from the city Ony were addressed at a special service in St. Mary's Church, by the vicar of the parish, the Rev. Canon W. J. Cob. The men marched through the city afterwards, and created a good impression. Another event in connection with the move, which was likewine a great success, was a supper given to the Battalion by Sir Samuel Roberts, M.P. 'It took place at Norfolk Barracks on 26th November. Saturday, December 5th, witnessed the departure for camp. The strength of the Battalion was then 1,131, including thirty officers, one warrant officer, and sixty-seven N.C.O.'s.