Tag Archives: First World War centenary


On 4 August 1914 regular army units received a one word War Office telegram: “Mobilize” [sic]. Author Richard van Emden tweeted this image of one such telegram as logged by the orderly room of 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards at Tidworth Camp that day.

2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), stationed at Bordon Camp in Hampshire would have received something similar, their war diary notes that the mobilisation order was received at 5:30pm. Serving with them was Walter Markey of Burstow. In fact, from 29 July, units had been ordered on to a “precautionary period”, meaning that guards had to be placed on strategic points, and mobilisation preparations were begun. The Surrey History Centre posted this photo of the battalion on parade at Bordon in August 1914 – presumably Markey is somewhere in the ranks.

A military formation drawn up in ranks on a parade ground, a few barrack buildings visible in the background. At the front of the formation are five officers on horseback

1st Battalion, The Queen’s, on parade at Bordon, August 1914 (SHC ref QRWS/2/13/7)

You can read their full story here.

The London Gazette also published a special supplement with the King’s official notice calling up all army reservists and embodying the Territorial Force. This notice would have set Walter Hodges of Benhilton on the way to his regimental depot at Ayr in order to rejoin the Royal Scots Fusiliers. For pre-war Territorials like George Marriner of and George Naish of Kingston it would have caused them to report to their drill halls where their units were moving onto a war footing. Just a few days earlier they would have been anticipating the pleasures of the annual summer camp, but those were largely cancelled as the European situation worsened.

The Royal Navy had actually been mobilised the previous day (an ealier London Gazette supplement contained the notice). In fact, they had already carried out a test mobilisation in July, and many of the men, including Nutfield’s Alfred Bashford, were already back aboard their ships (HMS Good Hope in Bashford’s case). The interesting day-by-day republication of The Daily Telegraph showed how closely this was reported at the time, and the naval mobilisation is one fo the topics most picked out by their archives’ twitter account, which can be seen via the widget below:

For more on the mobilisation process, see today’s Operation War Diary blogpost. The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment are also tweeting the mobilisation process as undertaken by 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, beginning with this tweet:

Also, this blog post, and following ones described the mobilisation of 1st West Kents.


99th anniversaries, and new resources

Yesterday, 31 October, saw the 99th anniversary of the death of the first association member which was due to the war. Pte Walter Eric Markey, 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) of Burstow was killed during the Battle of Gheluvelt, part of the First Battle of Ypres. This desperate action prevented the fall of Ypres to the Germans. A good account of the actions of his battalion can be found on Andy Arnold’s blog. Walter’s body was never recovered and his name is among those on the Menin Gate.

Today is the 99th anniversary of the death of Alfred Bashford of Nutfield. He had served as a regular in the Royal Navy in the first years of the 20th century, but by the outbreak of war was a reservist. Following his call-up he was posted to HMS Good Hope, a rather elderly armoured cruiser, itself in the reserves. A large proportion of the crew were reservists like Alfred. The ship became the flagship of a small squadron of similar vessels sent to the Pacific to deal with German commerce raiders. On 1 November the Royal Navy squadron met its German counterpart off the Chilean port of Coronel. Completely out-classed they suffered a devastating defeat. Good Hope and her sister ship HMS Monmouth were sunk with the loss of approaching 1600 men. They would subsequently be avenged in the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

This all serves to remind us that we are now in November, and the run-up to Remembrance Day, the last which falls before the centenary period. This is likely to prompt some announcements of further details of centenary commemorations: the Welsh government officially launched Wales Remembers this week, and I understand there will be more details on the centrepiece Lives of the First World War project announced shortly.

Coincidentally this week has also brought news of a new bell ringing resource, with the delayed launch of digitised versions of the second thirty years issues of The Ringing World becoming available, this covers the years 1941-1970. This will extend the possibilities for research into the later lives of many of the men recorded on the roll. I’ve also ordered the newer version of the digitised version of Bell News, which has full OCR which should make research into their earlier lives easier too. In the version I currently have there is no full text search, so you have to use the index provided (which only tends to cover towers and the most “famous” ringing names), which means you have to rather guess where someone might have been ringing, and so you miss information on their ringing at unexpected places.

More news on centenary commemorations

On Monday there were further announcements about the official plans for centenary commemorations including the government website where all official details will be posted. Most prominent among the newly announced information was additional detail on a service for Commonwealth Heads of Government in Glasgow Cathedral on 4 August 2014, since they will be in Glasgow for the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games the previous day; and also a candlelit vigil in Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm, the moment the British declaration of war came into effect.

During the vigil the candles will gradually be extinguished, until the last is blown out at 11pm, based on the Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey’s, remark in 1914 “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our time”. (There is a subtle flaw in the plan as currently stated, British Summer Time was only introduced in 1916, so the service really needs to end at 11pm GMT, ie midnight BST). The hope has been expressed that churches around the country (and indeed the world, it was the whole British Empire that declared war at this time) will hold their own vigils at the same time.

There is an obvious analogue as to how ringing could join the vigil. Begin by ringing rounds on all the tower’s bells, and occasionally stand one of the bells, starting from the treble, until the tenor is tolling. Stand the tenor at 11pm.

Having been away for several days, I aim to resume publishing the stories of individual ringers named on the roll shortly.