Information for Veterans and their families

John Edwards

My father's eldest brother, 4198 PTE. J.L. Edwards. 7-LOND. R., was born in 1899 and was enlisted in the 7th London Regiment during WWI. So, a bit of a diversion from WWII here but I thought it may be of interest.

I have received the following information from Mr Jim Parker and have his permission to include it on this site.

4198 Private JL Edwards - 7th London Regiment

Private Edwards was a member of the Territorial Force, and enlisted in to one of the twenty-eight battalions of the London Regiment.

The Territorial Force formed in 1908 by the Minister of War from the “old” Volunteers. To enable this to go through parliament he had to say that the TF were for Home Defence only. A soldier might volunteer of active, overseas service but could not be forced to do so.

The new Territorial Force regiment were to form battalions most were affiliated to a Regular regiment, however the twenty-eight regiments in the London area were formed into The London Regiment”. Two of these units had friends in high places and thus the regiments intended to be the 26th and 27th Battalions, retained their old titles, these being The Honourable Artillery Company (an infantry regiment; don’t ask), and the Inns of Court Regiment which in fact was used as an officer training unit.

After the outbreak of war TF soldiers were invited to volunteer for overseas service and many men did so. However not all did, and, the Home Defence role was still to be filled. Thus each TF unit was split in two, the senior (the one ear marked for overseas service) was given the prefix “1/” and the one due to remain in UK “2/”. Many “Second Line” units and formations did go abroad. A third line (“3/”) was later formed.

Private Edwards enlisted in:

7th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment Territorial Force

1/7th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914 was at 24 Sun Street, Finsbury Square London East Central, par of the 2nd London Brigade,, 1st London Division. Mid August to Bisley. September to Crowborough. 5 November 1914 to the 4th London Brigade, 2nd London Division at Watford.

18 March 1915 disembarked at le Havre, France. 11 May 1915 the formation became the 140th Brigade, 47th (2nd London) Division.

2 February 1918 to the 174th Brigade, 58th (2/1st London) Division absorbing the 2/7th Battalion, (thus becoming, once again the 7th Battalion). The brigade was in Belgium at Gosage south of Ath when the Armistice brought hostilities to a close.

2/7th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment was formed in London in September 1914. November 1914 to Burgess Hill in 174th Brigade, 58th (2/1st London) Division. May 1915 to Norwich. June 1915 to to Ipswich. October 1915 to Stowmarket. January 1916 to Sudbury. April 1916 to Foxhall Heath. July 1916 to Sutton Veny.

25 January 1917 disembarked at le Havre.

Absorbed by the 1/7th Battalion at Domart on 6 February 1918, and became the 7th Battalion.

3/7th Battalion The London Regiment with the 3/6th and 3/8th formed in early 1915. April 1915 in Tadworth. October 1915 to Surbiton, Orpington and Blackheath in billets. January 1916 to Fovant. 8 April 1916 became Reserve Battalions. 1 September 1916 in the 1st London Reserve Brigade TF. In Autumn 1916 to Newton Abbot, Dartmouth and Paignton. April 1917 to Blackdown near Dartmouth where it remained.

About April 1917, all TF soldiers, in TF units were renumbered with six digit Regimental Numbers. In many LR battalions they very efficiently re-numbered all their men, and backdated this.

I can find no men, with the number 41** as casualties in the 7th LR for this reason.

Order of Battle 47th (2nd London) Division c June 1916 (France)

General Officer Commanding Major General C St L Barter
General Staff Officer Class I Lieutenant Colonel Hon WP Hore-Ruthven
Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster General Lieutenant Colonel SHJ Thunder
Commander Royal Artillery Brigadier General EW Spedding
Chief Royal Engineer Lieutenant Colonel S D’A Crookshank

140th Brigade Brigadier General GJ Cuthbert
1/6th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Rifles)
1/7th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment
1/8th (City of London ) Battalion The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)
1/15th (County of London) Bat’n The London Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles)
140th Brigade Machine Gun Company
140th Trench Mortar Battery

141st Brigade Brigadier General W Thwaites
1/17th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Poplar and Stepney)
1/18th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)
1/19th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (St Pancras)
1/20th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich)
141st Brigade Machine Gun Company
141st Trench Mortar Battery

142nd Brigade Brigadier General FG Lewis
1/21st (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles)
1/22nd (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (The Queen’s)
1/23rd (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment
1/24th (County of London Battalion The London Regiment (The Queen’s)
142nd Brigade Machine Gun Company
142nd Trench Mortar Battery

CCXXXV, CCXXXVI, CCXXXVII & CCXXXVIII Brigades, Royal Field Artillery
X.47, Y.47, Z.47 Medium and V.47 Heavy Trench Mortar Batteries
47th Divisional Ammunition Columns, Royal Garrison Artillery

3rd, 4th & 2/3rd London Field Companies, Royal Engineers
47th Divisional Signal Company, Royal Engineers
1/4th Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Pioneers)

4th, 5th & 6th London Field Ambulances, Royal Army Medical Corps
2nd London Mobile Veterinary Section

47th Divisional Train - 455th, 456th, 457th & 458th Companies Royal Army Service Corps

Order of Battle 58th (2nd/1st London) Division c March 1918 (France)

General Officer Commanding Major General ABE Cator
General Staff Officer Class I Lieutenant Colonel RH Mangles
Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster General Lieutenant Colonel AGP McNalty
Commander Royal Artillery Brigadier General J McC Maxwell
Chief Royal Engineer Lieutenant Colonel AJ Savage

173rd Brigade Brigadier General RB Worgan
2/2nd (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
3rd (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
2/4th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
173rd Trench Mortar Battery

174th Brigade Brigadier General CG Higgins
6th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Rifles)
7th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment
8th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)
174th Trench Mortar Battery

175th Brigade Brigadier General ME Richardson
9th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles)
2/10th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Hackney)
12th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (The Rangers)
175th Trench Mortar Battery

CCXC & CCXCI Brigades, Royal Field Artillery
X.58 & Y.58 Medium Trench Mortar Batteries
58th Divisional Ammunition Columns, Royal Garrison Artillery

503rd, 504th & 511th Field Companies, Royal Engineers
58th Divisional Signal Company, Royal Engineers
4th Battalion The Suffolk Regiment (Pioneers)

58th Battalion Machine Gun Corps

2/1st, 2/2nd & 2/3rd Home Counties Field Ambulances, Royal Army Medical Corps
58th Mobile Veterinary Section

249th Employment Company, Labour Corps

58th Divisional Train, Army Service Corp

ENLISTMENT & TERMS OF SERVICE - British Army c 1914/1918 (Other Ranks)

Britain retained a small pre-war standing army to guard the Empire and fight colonial wars. 50% of regular infantry battalions at full strength, served overseas. The probability of a European war was appreciated, thus half the infantry battalions remained in the UK, but under-strength.

Most nations conscripted young men, liable to serve c 2 years, followed by several on reserve with mandatory training. Older territorials in France formed a Home Guard. On mobilisation such countries had thousands under arms, plus reservists and annually men reaching enlistment age. Britain had never resorted to conscription.

Regular Army. A young man bursting with patriotic pride who wished to serve went to a Recruiting Office. To be eligible for adult enlistment in the Regular Army he had to be 19 years old (there were provisions for “Boys” who trained as musicians), and not serving an apprenticeship.

A recruit was subjected to a simple thorough medical examination, having passed; he completed the Attestation Paper, swore the Oath of Allegiance, and having taken the “Kings Shilling”, was subject to Military Law. A Regular soldier enlisted for a period of 12 years, partly “with the Colours”, followed by a period in Reserve, during which he was liable for re-call in an emergency. The period in Colour Service/Reserve depended in which branch an individual served:

Branch Colour/Reserve Service
Household Cavalry & RGA 8 - 4
Cavalry/Infantry & Mech Tpt 7 - 5
RHA/RFA, RE & AOC 6 - 6
Guards, RAMC & ASC 3 - 9
Drivers - RE & ASC 2 - 10

A recruit chose in which regiment he served, underwent 6 months training, after which he could be sent anywhere in the world. A Regular infantryman, who enlisted in 1914, went to the Reserve in 1921 and was discharged in 1926. A few were permitted to serve 12 years for a pension or 18 for a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

The four Classes of Reserve:

Class “A” Extra pay, but liable for minor emergencies.
Class “B” Liable for General Service call out.
Class “C” Men released early from Colour Service
Class “D” Extended Reserve liability by 4 years.
Ex-reservists were on a National Reserve List.

On mobilisation reservists went to a battalion of his regiment often that in which he previously served.

The Special Reserve formed in 1908. SR recruits received similar training to a Regular, then released to the Reserve, to attend 28 days annual training. Reserve battalions formed only for training, or mobilisation when it moved into vacant barracks to train regular recruits. From 1915 drafts also went to New Army battalions. Reserve battalions had a Home Defence role. Most regiments had two regular battalions, 1st and 2nd, with a 3rd (Reserve) Battalion; some had a 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion.

Territorial Force (“Army” in 1921) formed in 1908 by Richard Haldane the Liberal Secretary of State for War, from the local Volunteers. TF battalions were numbered in sequence after the Reserve battalion ie 4th, 5th etc. Yeomanry were TF cavalry.

Men aged 17 years could enlist for 4 years at their local Drill Hall and re-enlist for 1, 2 or 4 further years. In peace time 14 days notice was required to resign. Training took place in the Drill Hall at weekends, and on a 14-day annual camp.

For political reasons Haldane defined the TF role as Home Defence but intended on mobilisation it to be deployed overseas after 6 months training. He reasoned if the Army require expanding, it could do so through the TF County Associations. It is doubtful if he envisaged the huge expansion, which took place. At the outbreak of war a TF soldier could not be sent unwillingly overseas. The TF was under strength, but hostilities brought a rush of recruits and re-enlistments.

Volunteers were called to served overseas, when 80% had done so; the unit was marked for General Service. Those who volunteered prior to September 1914 received a metal “Imperial Service” badge worn (until lost) above the right breast pocket. Not all wished to serve overseas, many were under 19 or untrained, and, the Home Defence role remained.

Thus every TF unit duplicated its self, forming a 1st and 2nd Line, thus gaining the TF’s distinctive “fractional” numerical title ie

1/4th Battalion The East Yorkshire Regt
58th (2/1st) London Division, etc

Many 2nd Line units went abroad, 3rd Line became Training Reserve Battns (a recruit training system).

TF soldiers could claim their discharge, as Time Expired, at the end of the contract, even when overseas. Some regiments, notably the Guards & Irish had no TF, whilst the London Regt & Cyclist Battns, had no Regular Army connection.

Territorials were Embodied for war, & Disembodied on demobilisation. TF soldiers were given four or less digit number, until all those in TF units were renumbered in April 1917.

TF - able to enlist aged 17, but had to 19 to be legally eligible for active overseas service.

New Army (Kitchener’s Volunteers) Haldane who had reformed the Regulars and nurtured the TF refused the role of Minister of War in August 1914. However a national hero, who had once reformed the Egyptian, and the huge Indian Army, was in England. Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener (b 1850) about to leave for Egypt was called to London and made Minister of War, the first serving soldier to hold the post. He foresaw the war to be a protracted affair, requested an increase to the Army of 100,000 men - a New Army. Parliament agreed recruiting posters flooded the land, one depicted Kitchener pointing to the reader, proclaiming “YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU!”

Why Kitchener did not use the system to enlarge the Army planned by Haldane, we shall never know. One, simplistic answer is Kitchener who had as a young man served in France, thought Territorials were middle aged men engaged in Home Defence duties. Perhaps he thought TF County Associations civilians, were not under his control.

The Regular Army, most of which was fighting in Flanders found itself attempting to administer, house, cloth feed and train thousands of eager volunteers. These technically regular soldiers, enlisted for “3 years or the duration of the war”. New Army “Service” battalions were numbered immediately after TF battalion ie

6th (Service) Battalion The Leicestershire Regt
10th (Service) Battalion The Durham Light Infantry

The infantry divisions of the First New Army “K1” were the 9th to 14th. The Second NA - “K2” - 15th to 20th. The Third NA “K3” - 21st to 26th. The Fourth NA was disbanded for re-enforcements. Fifth NA became the Fourth in April 1915.

Locally raised battalions by local dignitaries & organisations later taken over by the War Office, include Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham Pals, Tyneside Scottish etc. Tradesman Labourer &, Pioneer units were raised and Reserve battalions to train recruits.

After November 1918, these men were not discharged on demobilisation, but Transferred to the “Z” Reserve, their “contract” was for 3 years or the duration of the war. Britain was at war, until 1920.

Conscription As the flood of volunteers subsided, several methods were tried to induce men to enlist. Height/medical standards were lowered. Units were raised from men of short stature, so called “Bantams” - not an altogether successful venture.

The National Registration Act, July 1915 compelled those aged 15 & 65 years to register, by September the Government had data on he population by sex, age and occupation.

The Derby Scheme formulated by Lord Derby, Minister of Recruiting in which men enlisted, and were then placed on Reserve, to be called forward, “as required”. Divided into married and single, in Groups between 18 and 41 years of age. Those willing but were unable to enlist earlier took advantage. Most “Derbymen” went to TF battalions, not NA units as they may have wished. The scheme closed 15 December 1915, the last Group called forward 28 March 1916.

The Military Service Act, 27 January 1916 introduced conscription for men aged 18 to 41 on 27 March 1916, who were single or widowed without dependents; unless their occupation exempted them, (married men became liable later in the year).

Conscripts were divided into Classes; the first started 3 March 1916. On attaining the age of 18 men were called forward for basic training, but men were not legally eligible for active overseas service until aged 19. By 1918 men aged 51 were liable. Many conscripts found themselves part of the Rhine Army. Conscription ended 1 April 1920.

Recruits, including Conscripts, undertook basic training in a “Reserve” battalion of their regiment, or in one of many Training Reserve Battalions, part of the nation wide system (the fore runner of the General Service Corps), or, the 51st (Young Soldiers), 52nd (Graduated) and/or 53rd (Graduated) Battalions of various regiment.

Demobilisation In 1916 a cabinet sub-committee sought to avoid mass unemployment, proposed to stagger discharge and progressively convert industry to peacetime production. They categorised men into groups:

1. Those involved administering demobilisation.
2. Pivotal men; trade/skills needed by industry.
3. Slip men, with letter/slip promising employment.
4/5 Less important worker groups.

Men received 28 days paid leave, clothing allowance, rail warrant, up to 20 weeks unemployment benefit & war gratuity based on rank/service. These conditions were accepted on 20 November 1918.

Dissatisfaction came from those who had enlisted first and not in categories 2 & 3. Churchill announced those enlisted before 31 December 1915, over 37 years old or with three or more wounds took priority. The Army required 900,000 men.

Between November 1918 and May 1920 - 186,207 Officers, and, 3,845,706 Other Ranks were “demobed” from the Army and Royal Air Force. 4,031,913 individuals