4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 1915

By early 1915 the 27th and 28th Divisions had already joined the Armies in France by the time that the battalions destined for the 29th Division reached England. Those battalions were indeed the last stragglers of the "Old Army." They came from the ends of the earth; mostly they were from various stations in India, but to join them there arrived from China the 2nd South Wales Borderers, and from Burma the 4th Battalion Worcestershire.

The 4th Battalion landed in England on the 1st February 1915. The Battalion disembarked at Avonmouth and after a tedious train journey reached Banbury on February 2nd. There the 4th Battalion went into billets, and found near by the other units of their new formation, the 88th Brigade.

The 88th Brigade moved to the Warwick area a month later, and the 4th Battalion Worcestershire marched to fresh billets at Leamington on the 5th March 1915. As yet the Brigade had only three battalions, the other two being the 2nd Hampshire and 1st Essex. A further battalion was required to complete the Brigade, and, since no more Regular battalions were available, a Territorial battalion was selected, the 5th Royal Scots. The Royal Scots joined at Leamington when the Brigade had been there a week. They were destined to prove stout fighters, worthy of their place alongside the Regular battalions of the 29th Division.

How that last reserve should be employed had been a matter for anxious discussion by the British Cabinet. In the pages of the official histories are to be found the detail of those discussions and of the changes of plan, which ensued. Here we must be content to record that, after a long period of uncertainty, it was finally decided on March 10th that the 29th Division was to be used to support the operations already in progress at the Dardanelles.

Once the decision had been made the ensuing movements were swift. On March 12th the 29th Division was reviewed near Dunchurch by H.M. the King. Next day came secret orders for embarkation, and after a busy week of preparation the troops entrained.

The entrainment was a cheerful business. Thousands of the civil population turned out to see the troops off and "a whole army of relations from Birmingham" came down to Leamington to bid the 4th Battalion Worcestershire farewell. In three trains (9.0 p.m., March 21st. 1.0 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., March 22nd) the Worcestershire companies left Leamington, and by breakfast time on March 22nd the whole Battalion was reassembled at Avonmouth. There foreign-service helmets were issued and fitted. "It was a lovely morning, bright warm sun, so everyone was as cheerful as could be." At 11 a.m. the troopships came alongside and then for some hours all thoughts were taken up with the business of embarkation.

Lieut.-Col. D. E. Cayley
(commanded the 4th Battalion in 1915)

Troop ship H.M.T. Aragon (IWM Q62926)

Officially the destination of the force was a secret; and the orders issued at Avonmouth were only to proceed to Gibraltar; but actually the real objective was known and discussed (The A.S.C. had driven down to Avonmouth with their motor lorries labelled, "Cheap trip to the Dardanelles."), and no one was surprised when, on the 27th March 1915, the convoy steamed straight through the Straits of Gibraltar and on without a check into the Mediterranean.

Malta was reached on the last day of March. After coaling, the transports proceeded on their way in the afternoon on April 1st. Three days arrived at the harbour of Alexandria at daybreak on April 4th, Easter Sunday. By nightfall of April 8th the whole Battalion was once more on shipboard ship, accommodated, together with the 2nd Hampshire, in the big transport "Aragon."

The "Aragon" sailed from Alexandria on April 11th and, after passing safely through the Aegean Islands, reached on April 13th the rendezvous at Lemnos. There was found a great concourse of warships and transports, and there was much of interest to divert the attention of the troops during the ensuing week.
By that time all ranks were aware that the enterprise before them was to effect a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On 21st April 1915 definite orders were issued for the forthcoming operations.