APRIL 2013

The Bulletin of the Birmingham Branch of the WFA

Compiled by Bob Butcher

 

A MICROISM OF THE ARMY
By Bob Butcher

Regular battalions†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) had four regular battalions instead of the usual two. The 1st landed in France in September 1914 with 6th Div (later 24th). The 2nd ex India was with 29th Div throughout the Gallipoli campaign and then France. The 3rd also ex India went to France in January 1915 with 28th Div. In December it went to Salonika but in July 1918 returned to France to join 50th Div. The 4th landed in France with 3rd Div and gained the first two VCs of the war during the British Army's first battle. By the end of 1914 it had suffered 200% casualties.

New Army

Included in the wartime Service (or New Army or Kitchener) battalions raised by the regiment were the 8th and 9th† which were formed within two weeks of the outbreak of war. They belonged to 12th (Eastern) Div and landed in France in May 1915; the 8th was disbanded in February 1918.

The 10th was raised in August 1914 by the Lord Mayor of the City of London from among the business staffs in the City, hence its unofficial title of `Stockbrokers'. Unlike an ordinary `Pals' battalion, it was maintained by the War Office from the outset and not by the Lord Mayor who acted as a recruiting agent for the War Office. In July 1915 it went to France with 37th Div. The 11th was formed in September 1914 and belonged to 18th (Eastern) Div. It landed in France in July 1915.

The 12th was also raised in September 1914† but as part of 24th Div. with which it landed† in France in September 1915 but was disbanded in February 1918. The 13th began life in September 1914 and joined 37th Div with whom it landed in France in July 1915.

In October 1914 the 14th 15th and 16th were formed as service battalions but in the following April became reserve battalions. The following Royal Fusiliers Pals battalions were raised in the early weeks of the war. 17th (Empire); 18th (1st Public Schools); 19th (2nd Public Schools); loth (3rd Public Schools); 21st (4th Public Schools); 22nd (Kensington); 23rd (1st Sportsman's); 24th ( 2nd Sportsman's). All belonged to 33rd Div and crossed to France in November 1915. The 17th and 24th later transferred to 2nd Div but the 22nd was disbanded in February 1918. The other Public Schools battalions were disbanded early in 1916 and most of their other ranks commissioned.

The 25th (Frontiersmen) was raised by the Legion of Frontiersmen in February 1915. About a third of its members belonged to the Legion and it numbered many explorers, big game hunters, adventurers and ex-soldiers in its ranks. It was immediately sent to East Africa without training and took part in the protracted campaign there. In 1915 the 26th (Bankers) and 32nd (East Ham) were formed as part of 41st Div. Served in France (May 1916) and Italy (November 1917óMarch 1918), then France where 32nd disbanded,

Special battalions

The l0th (Intelligence B) was formed for counter intelligence work in France and was therefore the forerunner of the Field Security Wing of the Intelligence Corps.

In 1916 the 33`d, 34th, 35th, 36th and 37th

(Labour) Battalions were formed. All went to France where, in 1917, they were formed into companies of the Labour Corps, forerunner of the Pioneer Corps.

In January 1918 the 38th, 39th and 4oth (Jewish) Battalions wece formed. All served in Palestine. They became the nucleus of the later Jewish Legion and the present Israeli Army can trace direct descent from them.

In 1918 the 43rd and 44th (Garrison) Battalions were formed in France from existing garrison guard companies. The former provided guards for the various Army HQs in France whilst the latter had an anti-aircraft role. Six months after the Armistice the 45th and 46th were raised for service in Russia. They consisted of volunteers from throughout the army and included many Australians. Served in Archangel until September 1919 and won the last two VCs of the war. In May 1919 the new 47th (Garrison) Battalion was raised.

Territorial battalions

Unlike most regiments the regiment had no integral TF battalions but the first four battalions of the purely TF London Regiment were City of London units affiliated to the Royal Fusiliers whose badge they wore and whose name was incorporated in their full titles.

Within a month of the start of the war the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions relieved the regular garrison in Malta. (Each had formed a duplicate or second line unit so they now became the 1/1st, 1/2nd, 1/3rd and 1/4th while the second line units had their numbers prefixed by `2/2) Early in 1915 they were themselves relieved by their duplicate battalions, the 2/1st, 2/2nd. 2/3rd and 2/4th, and rejoined the 56th Div in France.

The second line units landed at Gallipoli in August 1915 but were soon transferred to France where they were broken up. The third line, formed as part of the 58th, Div, now became the second line. They landed in France in July 1916 but all except the 2/2nd were disbanded in February 1918.

Reserve and training battalions

In peacetime the 5th and 6th (Reserve) and 7th (Extra Reserve) Battalions consisted of men who had received six months' full-time training and then were liable to a month's training each year and to serve overseas in the event of war. In wartime they were to provide trained reinforcements for the battalions overseas. However, in June 1916 the 7th became operational and joined the 63rd (Royal Naval) Div in France.

The 14th, 15th and 16th were raised in October 1914 as service battalions but were soon converted into 2nd Reserve battalions. The 27th, 28th, 29th, 3oth and

31st (Local Reserve) were created in August 1915 from the depot companies of the locally raised Pals battalions. 2nd and local reserve battalions were later renumbered as battalions of the newly created Training Reserve. In 1917 three became respectively the 51st and 52nd (Graduated) and 53rd (Young Soldiers) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. In 1918 the 41st and 42nd (Reserve) Battalions were formed in order to supply reinforcements for the Jewish battalions.

In 1916 the 4/1st, 4/2nd, 4/3rd and 4/4th (Fusilier) Battalions of the London Regiment who had been formed to provide reinforcements for the TF battalions overseas, were renumbered reserve battalions and dropped the prefix `4/' Later the 2nd and 4th were disbanded.

In January 1917 the 29th and 3oth (City of London) Battalions of the London Regiment were formed for Home Defence.

 

 

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