yeovil volunteers

yeovil volunteers

Recruits for the First World War

 

Created on the recommendation of Secretary of State for War, Horatio Kitchener, the New Army, often referred to as Kitchener's Army or, disparagingly, Kitchener's Mob was initially an all-volunteer army formed as a result of the outbreak of hostilities of the First World War in 1914.

Due to the huge numbers of men wishing to sign up, long queues often formed outside recruitment offices. Almost 2.5 million men volunteered for Kitchener's Army and, among them, the men of Yeovil were quick to volunteer as the following photographs show.

A recruit accepted into the army was first sent to his Regimental depot, where he received his kit and was introduced to army discipline and training.

For most Yeovil volunteers this was in Taunton. Next the recruit was sent to the main training camps to join his battalion. In practice, no Regiment had the required stocks of equipment, or the manpower to train the flood of recruits; men trained wearing their own clothes and shoes.

Of the Yeovil recruits, over 300 would die in the war and hundreds more would suffer from wounds and illness.

 

For a list of the 698 Yeovil men who were in service before 1 December 1914 - click here.
For a list of Yeovil men who fell in the Great War - click here.
 

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From my collection

As soon as men began enlisting they would have their photograph taken as a keepsake for their families. This postcard by John Chaffin & Sons of Hendford, (probably of two Yeovil brothers about to go off to war) is typical of the period and several more are towards the bottom of this page.

 

On 10 August 1914, just days before war was declared against Imperial Germany, 'D' Squadron of the West Somerset Yeomanry parade along High Street on their way to the Town Railway Station, en route to Winchester.

 

Volunteers parade through the Borough in 1914 preceded by a band and encouraged by large crowds of onlookers.

 

On Bank Holiday Monday, 4 August 1914, Yeovil men of the National Reservists line up in the Borough before marching to the Town Railway Station and travelling to Taunton. War was declared at midnight.

 

This is thought to be the Yeovil Reservists of the previous photograph marching off from the Borough to the Town Station.

 

War Horses. The day after war was declared against Germany a Government inspector travelled to Yeovil to commandeer horses for use by the army. It has been estimated that the number of horses that served in the First World War was around six million, with a large percentage of them dying due to war-related causes. In 1914, estimates put Britain's horse population at between 20,000 and 25,000 and as well as requisitioning from British civilians, in order to meet its need for horses, Britain imported them from Australia, Canada, the USA, and Argentina.

 

More volunteers for Kitchener's army march down Lower Middle Street in September 1914, accompanied by a local band and crowds of onlookers, on their way to the Town Railway Station.

 

With somewhat less celebration than the previous photograph, and led by their Recruiting Sergeant, more recruits march down Station Road to board a train at the Town Station. In the background, at extreme right, is the Railway Inn in Middle Street where the William Dampier stands today.

 

Yeovil recruits stand on the platform at the Town Station awaiting their train to Taunton in 1914. The sign on the roof of the railway carriage at centre rear states "Well done Yeovil, we are proud of you".

 

More volunteers, with their families, stand on the platform at the Town Station awaiting their train to Taunton in 1914.

 


Courtesy of Dinah Cheek

Two slightly different photographs by Witcomb & Son, Yeovil photographers, depicting men of the South Western Brigade Battalion, Territorial Force, photographed on 29 April 1915 on the forecourt of Pen Mill Station. This unit was raised in Yeovil from home service personnel, older or medically unfit men, classed as 'Category B'. In 1917 they became part of the 11th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, and saw action by August 1918 - fighting with such spirit that the Corps Commander ordered the 'B' category to be dropped.

 


Courtesy of Patricia Ann Smith

Another photograph of departing troops on Pen Mill Station forecourt. This must have been somewhat later in the war since the soldier holding the small child just left of centre is known to be Rochford Maunder who, although enlisting as a regular in 1913, had achieved the rank of Sergeant by the time of this photograph. He was killed in action during the First Battle of Arras on 28 March 1918, aged 23http://www.yeovilhistory.info/maunder-rochfordgeorge.htm
http://www.yeovilhistory.info/maunder-rochfordgeorge.htm
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Men of "Kitchener's Army" march down Middle Street on their way to the Western Front. Note Charles Hook's 'Golden Canister' shop at top centre and the entrance to Frederick Place at right. Photographed c1915.

 

Men of the Yeovil Cadet Corps march along Middle Street past the Railway Inn (at top left) around 1914.

 

Men of the Somerset Light Infantry in training with a wooden mock-up machine-gun based on a Maxim gun.

 


Courtesy of Steve Tucker

Gunners J Fulton of Cambuslang, Scotland, (seated) and Yeovil-born Alfred Tucker (1891-1965) of the Royal Field Artillery, c1914. After the war, Alfred lived in Seaton Road and worked at the WJ & EG Ricketts & Co glove factory in Addlewell Lane.

 


From my collection

A Corporal of the Royal Engineers, home on leave in Yeovil, called in to Witcomb & Son's studio in Middle Street to have his photograph taken.

 


Two unknown Yeovil volunteers. The soldier at right was in the Somerset Light Infantry.

 


From my collection

Off duty in a training camp, circa 1916.


From my collection

Not everyone came home to England immediately after the armistice - this photograph of British soldiers guarding a bridge in Germany was taken in 1919.