Camping in Yorkshire

Extract from Birmingham City Battalion Book of Honour, page 4

Up to this time the Battalions were handicapped by shortage of rifles, and they were a little disappointed at being kept back from Joining the expeditionary force because other battalions in the division were not sufficiently advanced to go with them. But as they afterwards realised, they were none the worse for the delay, and when the time came to be transferred to a camping ground in the wildest part of Yorkshire, in July, 1915, they found that there was still something for them to learn in the way of roughing in the open. Some city clerks found the hewing of wood and the drawing of water sufficiently strenuous to satisfy all their requirements in these directions, although water was rather scarce at the time.

Owing to the fact that the thousands of troops suddenly transferred to Wharfedale had to be provisioned by means of a single line of railway, the rations for the camps did not come through as well as at Sutton Coldfield, and therefore the Battalions had a foretaste of privations to come. After having their tents nearly washed away by thunderstorms they learned a good deal of the art of trenching, which served them in good stead when they had to occupy waterlogged trenches in France. When quartered near Richmond in the North Riding they were called out at night for divisional manoeuvres, and marched about twenty miles between 10.45 p.m. and 8 a.m. They returned quite cheerfully, and without undue signs of fatigue, so the General Officer reported them fit for France.

The first move in this direction was to Salisbury Plain. In the meantime a Reserve Battalion (the 17th) had been formed (in June), and the recruits occupied for some months the hutments vacated by the 1st City Battalion at Sutton. When they moved out their places were taken by convalescents from the military hospitals, and part of the encampment was used as a Command Depot for the Regiment. Colonel Bowhill raised the reserve Battalion, and the Depot was afterwards commanded by Colonel Driver, late of the 16th Battalion.

Before going on active service the battalions were visited at their camp near Codford St. Mary by the Lord Mayor (Mr. Neville Chamberlain), the Lord Bishop of Birmingham (Dr. Russell Wakefield), and the Deputy Mayor (Col. Bowater). The Hon. Colonel of the 14th Battalion entertained the officers to dinner, and words of encouragement were addressed to the men by the representatives of the city. Reference was made to the fact that about 500 men on the original strength of the battalions had gained commissions.

This compliment was not an unmixed blessing to the officers as it meant considerable changes in personnel and delays in training new men, but as Officers were much needed for even newer units the country had the benefit of the promotions.