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1914 - 1918 The First World War

Key Dates
1914 - Mons, Marne, Ypres
1915 - Hill 60, Suvla
1916 - Somme
1917 - Arras, Cambrai
1918 - Lys, Piave

"In every respect the Expeditionary Force of 1914 was incomparably the best trained, best organised and best equipped British Army that ever went to war." - "Military Operations in France and Belgium 1914" by Brigadier Sir James Edmonds

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August, 1914, and immediately mobilised the British Expeditionary Force.  The 2nd Battalion, in 5 Division of II Corps, was fully operational in France by 18th August.  The plan of the French and British was to advance into Germany, but this was quickly frustrated by the Germans who were sweeping through neutral Belgium.  On 24th August six German divisions came up against the two divisions of II Corps at Mons.  Despite their overwhelming superiority the German attack crumbled in the face of the superb musketry of regiments of the 3rd and 5th Divisions.  Mons was followed by a retreat towards Paris but the tide was turned at the Marne and the Germans withdrew.  Now began 'the race to the sea' as each army tried to outflank the other.   At Ypres, during October and November, a desperate battle was fought as the Germans tried to break through to Calais.  They were stopped but the British battalions were, by then, down to a quarter of their strength.  The old regular army died at Ypres, but it had set a superb example for the new armies which were being raised in the UK at that time.

Hill 60 April-May 1915

The expansion of the army was achieved by doubling the Territorial Army (the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th battalions of the TA, formed in 1908 from the Volunteer battalions, each raised a second battalion and by the raising of 'service' battalions, which, in the Regiment's case were numbered the 8th, 9th and 10th.  All these battalions fought on the Western Front during the long hard slog of trench warfare and in the process helped the Regiment to gain the Battle Honours of Somme - Arras - Cambrai and Lys.  The only battalions to serve elsewhere were the 10th, which fought in Italy, where it gained the Battle Honour Piave and the 8th, which took part in the Gallipoli campaign and gained the Honour Landing at Suvla.

In addition to these battalions the 12th and 13th were raised as labour battalions.  The 11th remained in the UK and acted as reserve to the 8th, 9th and 10th.  In total 24 battalions were raised during the war, which finally ended on 11th November 1918.

At the outbreak of war the 1st Battalion was stationed in India and remained there for the duration.  At one stage, in 1914, it was one of only eight British battalions left to garrison the country.  Later this weak garrison was considerably augmented.  This was just as well, as in the aftermath of the war there was much civil disobedience, during which the 1st Battalion played its part in an internal security role.  In 1919 the Battalion took part in a short war in Afghanistan.  It returned to the UK in 1921.