This year is one hundred years since the first world war ended. A brutal war in which millions of innocent people lost their lives due to a couple of upper class twats of the European royal family argument! Wars are futile, this one was horrendous. Young and old signed up to do their duty to protect their country, and their King.
What was unusual about Great Britain at the time was the fact that a small but powerful army existed due to the existence of the British Empire. This army was capable of sudden changes required in defence of the realm, with an amazing infrastructure in place to support this. This force was sent to France at the start of the war, and was known as the British Expeditionary force (B.E.F.); and also named the Old Contemptibles. Its primary aim was to defend the line against the oncoming German forces, numbering over two million, and between the French and Belgian forces. They were vastly outnumbered, but were a very disciplined army.
The German army had about 2.1 million soldiers and 1.7 million older reservists, the French 3.6 million; the Belgians ; and then there was the British army of about 200,000 spread around the Empire; plus 270,000 territorials! See my intro here :
I doubt this army ever expected to have to be placed in such an overwhelming minority again, after a handful of British soldiers protected Rorke’s drift in South Africa against massive odds, but this was again the case.
The rest is history, and I have reprinted an ex-copyright book on the history of the Royal Fusiliers to clarify some of the actions during this time.
If you are aware of the early World War One service medals, there existed a war medal, a victory medal and also a star. This star was eith the 1914 star, or the 1914-1915 star. The former could also have a Mons bar, this depicted service during 1914 and at Mons, the point at which the loyal armies of the French, Belgian and English made a stand before retreat.
Now, onto the London reference relating to this history – firstly, there were the First Sportsmans who were initially based at Hornchurch, and there is a rather excellent record of their time during the war written by Fred Ward. I was initially drawn to this book, due to its local interest.
Then there were the Artists Rifles, who started life as territorial regiments, and later became the main officer training corps, and enlisted men, and women, from the Universities. They included the famous war poet Wilfred Owen.
Lastly, and this is just a summary of the sites I built last Christmas, were the employees of the London County Council (LCC). At the end of the war, every previous LCC employee, or family member of the deceased, were sent an amazing ‘short’ history of the 10,000 (that’s ten thousand) former staff members and their brief life in that time.
That’s enough for now, I need to update those sites a bit more, very soon. Thanks for reading, I enjoyed this part of my former and ongoing research!