7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

The change in dress accompanied wide changes in organisation. During the years which followed the South African War several schemes of  ‘Army Reform’ were launched in rapid succession; and "Army Corps", phantom or otherwise, were organised on paper, reorganised and later dissolved.  Successive schemes and experiments continued until 1906/1907, when the movement for reform finally bore fruit in the measures by which Lord Haldane framed the new military system.  The forces of the country were reorganised into three main groups—the forces overseas, the Expeditionary Force and the Territorial Force, the latter being enlisted for home defence and formed on the cadre of the old Yeomanry and Volunteers.

Originally it was intended that the Militia battalions—the old ‘Constitutional Force should be included in the organisation for Home Defence; but other counsels prevailed, and the Militia units were reorganised as a “Special Reserve” to the Expeditionary Force, training men for six months to fill the ranks of the Regular battalions in the event of war.

Responsibility for home defence was entrusted to the new Territorial Force, which was organised into permanent Brigades and Divisions on the pattern of the Regular Army, so as to provide a force able to take the field against an invasion.  That recognition of the value of the Volunteer units was marked by a new designation, and the two Volunteer Battalions of the County were entitled the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment.  Orders were given that the renumbered Territorial Battalions were in future to wear the same uniform and badges and to carry the same Colours (but it was not until after the World War 1 that the Territorial Battalions displayed on their Colours the Regimental Battle Honours) as the Regular Battalions.
 
At the time of the Haldane reorganization, the command of the 7th Worcestershire was held by Colonel E. V. V. Wheeler.  The success or failure of Lord Haldane’s scheme depended on transferring to the new Territorial units the enthusiastic support previously given to the freer organization of the Volunteers and it is no small tribute to the personality of the Commanding Officer that the great majority of those who were formerly enrolled in the Volunteer Corps undertook forthwith the more definite responsibilities of enlistment in the Territorial battalions.

Of necessity the efficiency of the 7th Worcestershire battalion was influenced by their Regular Adjutant.  In 1906 the Adjutancy of the 7th Battalion was held by Captain C. H. Palmer, one of the most efficient and hard working soldiers of the Regiment.

In 1910 the command of the 7th Battalion passed to Lieut. Colonel J. W. Garratt, V.D.  The Adjutancy of the Battalion had been taken over in 1909 by Captain C. Richardson, who was succeeded in 1912 by Captain G. M. C. Davidge.


The 7th (Territorial) Battalions of the Regiment was at their annual summer camp at Minehead when war was declared in 1914.  They returned to Worcester by train early next day and, after four days of busy preparations, the Battalion entrained on the 8th August 1914 for their War Stations.
 


Colonel E. V. V. Wheeler

The existing arrangements for the defence of the country included the concentration of the greater part of the Territorial forces in the Eastern Counties to guard against invasion from over the North Sea; and the 7th Worcestershire, then commanded by Lieut. -Colonel J. W. Garratt (succeeded subsequently by Lt.-Col. A. R. Harman), moved eastwards by stages to join the army which was gathering in Suffolk and Essex to defend the heart of England.
 
The Battalion moved first to Swindon and thence eastwards by way of Stony Stratford and Brentford to Danbury in Essex.  After a month at Danbury the Battalion shifted quarters (on 19th September 1914) to Maldon and remained there in billets throughout the winter.

During that move eastwards the Territorial soldiers were invited to volunteer for service overseas (actually on August 11th while at Swindon), and nearly all of the Battalion gladly accepted.  The spirit of patriotism was running very high; and the Battalion was soon filled to overflowing with eager recruits, mixed with a sprinkling of old hands who had completed their Territorial engagements but who had hastened to rejoin the Colours.

On the 31st August 1914  it was announced that those who could not at once accept the obligation for service overseas were to be withdrawn from the Territorial units to form "Second Line" Territorial formations intended for Home Defence (the formation of the "Second Line" battalions were authorised on 31st August 1914).  The "Second Line" personnel of the 7th Worcestershire Battalion was organised at Kidderminster into a new unit, the 2/7th Worcestershire, commanded by Colonel E. V. V. Wheeler V.D.; and an active campaign was opened to recruit the new unit up to the strength of a full battalion.

Thanks to the energy of the commanding officer and the enthusiasm of his helpers, the ranks of the new Territorial Battalion was filled within three weeks.
 


Lieut.-Colonel J. W. Garratt

The "Second-Line" battalion (2/7th) busily commenced their training; and later there arose behind it yet another formation, the "Third Line", intended to train reinforcements for the "First Line" unit when they should take the field.  Presently the efforts of the County Association developed that  "Third Line" into a complete battalion (the formation of the "Third Line" Territorial Battalions was authorised on the 13th January 1915), the 3/7th Worcestershire, commanded by Major W. J. Thompson.

Throughout the autumn of 1914 and the long first winter of the First World War, the Territorial and the New Army battalions worked increasingly to complete their training for battle; and in the spring months of 1915 they became ready to take the field.

The 1/7th Battalion remained in Essex throughout the winter months, quartered in good billets at Maldon (to which town the Battalion had moved on the 19th September 1914).  During that period the Territorial Battalions were reorganized, adopting the four company organization of the Regular Army instead of the old organisation in eight small companies which the Territorial battalions had hitherto retained.  Then they were inspected first by General Sir Ian Hamilton, then commanding the Home Defence Army, and later by His Majesty the King.  By the spring of 1915 the Territorial battalions of the 48th Division were fit in all respects to take the field, and on the last day of March (transport of the Battalion moved on the previous day, the 30th March 1915) the move to France began.  The 1/7th Worcestershire bade farewell to their billets of the winter, entrained at Maldon East station and entrained for the front.  The Battalion embarked at Folkestone on S.S. "Onward" after dark, reached Boulogne at midnight (31st March 1915) and then marched three miles to camp.
 
The officers who embarked with the Battalion were :— 
Lt.-Colonel A. H. Harman, Major A. S. W. Dore, Captain and Adjt. G. M. C. Davidge,
Captains E. F. Du Sautoy, W. Adam, F. M. Tomkinson, A. H. Butcher, N. P. Goodwin, F. G. Chamberlin, 
Lieuts. A. G. Rollason, H. Adshead, T. C. F. Harris, H. Homfray, R. G. Addenbrooke, H. A. Leighton. R. W. Hoare,
2/Lieuts. H. G. W. Wood, F. D. H. Burcher, G. G. Watson, C. E. W. Simes, W. R. Prescott, J. G. Dixon,
A. G. Gwilliam, F. J. Gore, G. S. Tomkinson, D. B. Drake, R. K. Armstrong, Lieut. and Qmr. R. W. Nield.

On the afternoon of the 1st April 1915 the Battalion entrained (3 p.m.) at Pont de Briques Station, meeting there the transport, which had been landed at Havre.  The troop train carried the the Battalion to Cassel, where the South Midland Division was being concentrated.  After detraining at Bavinchove Station at 3 a.m. on the 2nd April the Battalion marched to their allotted billets at Hardifort.

Next day (April 3rd) the Brigade was inspected by General Sir Horace Smith Dorrien, commanding the Second Army.  Then on April 5th the Division marched forward in soaking rain some twenty miles to billets by Bailleul. Five days of training and route marching followed, after which on April 10th the Territorial Battalions marched forward to the forward area near Armentières for practical instruction in trench warfare. The 1/7th Battalion was attached to the 18th Brigade.  The Battalion was billetted at Armentières, and the Territorial platoons were attached in succession to companies of the battalions then holding the line.

Platoon after platoon was initiated in the routine of trench warfare by the old soldiers who had endured the Winter months.  Apart from sniping and bombing there was but little activity around Armentières, and the only casualty suffered during that probationary period occurred on April 14th, when 2/Lieut. R. K. Armstrong was wounded.

Then the South Midland Division was entrusted with a definite section of the line, the front between the River Warnave and the Wulverghem-Messines road, covering Ploegsteert Wood.  On the 17th April 1915 the 144th Brigade took over the right hand sector of the new Divisional line.  The 1/7th Worcestershire went into the trenches for the first time as a complete unit, relieving the London Rifle Brigade.

On April 19th came the first fatal casualty, Private A. Boot being killed.  On the same day Lance-Corporal J. R. Beagin of the Battalion signallers showed great gallantry while laying a telephone wire across exposed ground. He came under heavy fire and was severely wounded ; but he pluckily completed the work.  His gallantry was rewarded with the D.C.M. (this was the first ‘immediate award’ given in the 48th Division. Unfortunately the brave corporal later died of his wounds on the 2nd June 1915).

On the 21st April 1915 the 1/7th Battalion was relieved by the 1/8th Worcestershire Battalion and the 1/7th Battalion went into billets at Pont de Nieppe.  The battalions changed over again a few days later on the 25th April with the 1/8th moving back to billets in Ploegsteert village.

Two days later orders were received for the Brigade to shift its position somewhat to the right.  The shift was effected by moving the 1/7th Worcestershire from the left to the right of the Brigade front, and on April 30th the Battalion took over (from the 2nd Monmouthshire of the 4th Division) the trenches immediately south of the River Warnave (left flank of the Battalion on the line of the river. The 1/4th Gloucestershire, hitherto on the right of the Battalion, were now on the left flank).  The 1/7th Worcestershire were relieved by its sister Battalion the 1/8th in those trenches on the last day of April 1915.  Thenceforward for some two months the two Battalions held alternately that same line of trenches. When out of the line the two Battalions were billetted either in Brigade reserve at Ploegsteert or in Divisional reserve at Pont de Nieppe.
 
The total casualties of the Battalion up to the end of May were 11 men killed, 5 officers (2/Lt. R. K. Armstrong on the 14th April, Major A. S. W. Dore on the 6th May, 2/Lieut. D. B. Drake on the 19th May and Capt. F. G. Chamberlin on the 25th May) and 42 men wounded.

At the end of the month the command of the 48th Division was taken over by Major-General R. Fanshawe,
C.B., D.S.O., afterwards Hon. Colonel of the 1/7th Battalion.

On June 15th a change in the Divisional dispositions resulted in the withdrawal of the whole 144th Brigade into Divisional Reserve.  Both the 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions moved back into billets near Romarin.  Four days later the Brigade moved to the left of the Divisional line, and took over the sector north of Ploegsteert Wood.  The 1/7th Worcestershire relieved the 1/4th Royal Berkshire in the trenches between St. Yves and the River Douve, with the 1/8th Worcestershire behind them in reserve trenches. Nothing of note occurred during the next four days, and on June 23rd the two Battalions exchanged positions. That day came warning that the 48th Division was about to leave the Ploegsteert area.  Their line would be taken over by the new 12th Division, and the 48th Division would move south to join the First Army.

On the night of the 24th/25th June, the very last night that the Territorial Battalions were to spend in the Ploegsteert trenches, occurred the sharpest fight they had yet seen.

On the 27th June 1915 , after a final inspection by Major-General Sir William Pulteney (commanding 3rd Corps.), the 144th Brigade marched to Vieux Berquin, the first stage on its route to the south.

The Brigades of the 48th Division marched southward independently on successive nights. On the evening of June 28th/29th the 144th Brigade marched to Robecq and on the following evening through Lillers to its destination in the IVth Corps area at Burbure.

There for a fortnight the 1/7th and 1/8th Worcestershire Battalions were in reserve resting and training. On July 11th orders came that the 48th Division would move up from reserve to relieve the 47th Division in the line about Grenay; and on the evening of July 12th the 144th Brigade moved forward from billets at Burbure to bivouac at Hesdigneul. Thence on the following night the Brigade marched through Noeux-les-Mines to Les Brebis. The 1/7th Worcestershire were detached from the Brigade and were sent on still further through Grenay to Maroc, an” unhealthy” spot, in which no lights or cooking were allowed.

The Territorial Battalions (1/7th and 1/8th) were now in that same unattractive mining area which the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire had known a month before, and for two days the battalions of the 144th Brigade were employed in constructing reserve lines of defence. Then came counter-orders.

The expansion of the British forces in France had by that date warranted their sub-division into three separate "Armies", and it had been decided that the new Third Army should be formed in a part of the battle-front which as yet was unfamiliar to the British troops—the open country of Picardy about the River Somme.  The 48th Division was to be one of the constituent units of the new Third Army and was ordered to move forthwith to the new area.  As a result orders came for the 144th Brigade to return to Burbure as preliminary to the move south, and consequently on the night of 16th/17th July 1915 all four battalions of 144th Brigade marched back in their tracks to their former billets.  The march was long and trying, along bad roads under heavy rain, but the 1/7th Worcestershire were able to record that in all the seventeen miles no man fell out.  After two days in billets at Burbure the 1/7th and 1/8th Worcestershire marched to Lillers Station early on the 19th July 1915  and entrained to join the VIIth Corps in the area north of the River Somme.

The railway journey of the two Territorial Battalions of the Regiment from the Flanders front came to an end late on July 19th.  The two Battalions detrained (7th Battalion 4 p.m., 8th Battalion 8.30 p.m.) at Mondicourt and marched to billets near Authie.  On the following day (July 20th) both Battalions moved forward and went into bivouac in the Bois de Warnimont (That period in the Bois de Warnimont was most uncomfortable, under very heavy rain, from which the troops had no shelter except such as they could construct from the brushwood. Many were invalided, and Captain A. G. Rollason died on July 30th from the effects of the exposure).  There the 144th Brigade lay in Divisional Reserve for a week, while the other two brigades of their Division took over the front line (from the French 21st Division).  Then on July 30th the 144th Brigade moved forward in its turn and all four of its battalions went into the line; each battalion being disposed in depth.  The 1/7th and 1/8th Worcestershire were now lying side by side, together holding the left half of the Brigade front.
Thus they remained until the 7th August 1915 when the 144th Brigade was relieved and moved back into Reserve, the 1/7th Battalion being billeted in St. Leger and the 1/8th Battalion in Bayencourt.  In that area, varied by shifts to billets in the neighbouring villages of Courcelles, Souastre and Bus the two Battalions remained throughout the Autumn.

At first the trenches at Hebuterne were very quiet, the opposing lines were far apart and, save for some desultory shelling there was little to cause loss.  Casualties were slight.

Casualties;
August 1st to 31st 1915 - 2/Lt. M. B. S. Spencer and 2 privates killed, 2 wounded.
September 1st to 30th 1915 - 3 wounded.

On the 11th August 1915 Captain G. M. C. Davidge, Adjutant of the 1/7th Battalion, was promoted Major, and Lieut. H. G. W. Wood became Adjutant.
The passing of the Military Service Act removed the previous distinction between the "First Line" and the " Second Line" of the Territorial Force—the personnel who had volunteered for service overseas and those who for one reason or another had been unable to volunteer—and the "Second Line" Territorial units thus became liable for service over-seas.  By the Spring of 1916 the " Second Line" Territorial unit had become efficient fighting formation, and it was decided to despatch them to reinforce the armies in France and Flanders.  The " Second Line" of the original South Midland Division had by then been designated as a distinct formation—the 61st Division—and during May 1916 that Division was placed under orders.  The 2/7th Worcestershire left Tidworth on the 22nd May 1916 for Southampton en route to France.

During the autumn of 1916 many changes took place.  The two "Third Line" Territorial battalions (3/7th and 3/8th) of the Regiment were amalgamated as the 3/7th Worcestershire.

MORE INFORMATION WILL BE ADDED LATER


Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Thomas
(commanding 3/7th Battalion)

 
 
Timeline of movements

1914 (August) 1/7th Battalion at Kidderminster, England (part of Gloucester and Worcester Brigade, South  Midland Division). Mobilised and moved to Swindon and then on to Maldon in Essex.
1914 (September) 2/7th Battalion formed at Kidderminster as a home service "second line" unit.
1915 (January) 2/7th Battalion attached to 2nd Gloucester and Worcester Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division, at Northampton.
1915 (April) 1/7th Battalion landed in France (Boulogne), landed at midnight on the 31st March.
1915 (April) 2/7th Battalion moved to Chelmsford.
1915 (April) 3/7th Battalion formed at Worcester as a Training/Depot. "third line" unit and moved to Weston-super-Mare (8th April 1916).
1915 (May) 1/7th Battalion became part of 144th Brigade, 48th Division.
1915 (August) 2/7th Battalion became part of 183rd Brigade, 61st Division.
1916 (February) 2/7th Battalion moved to Salisbury Plain.
1916 (April) 3/7th Battalion became 7th (Reserve) Battalion (8th April 1916) at Salisbury Plain.
1916 (May) 2/7th Battalion landed in France (24th May 1916).
1916 (September) 7th Reserve Battalion (3/7th) absorbed the 8th Reserve Battalion (3/8th) on 1st September.
1916 (October) 7th Reserve Battalion (3/7th and 3/8th) moved to Cheltenham.
1917 (March) 7th Reserve Battalion (3/7th and 3/8th) moved to Catterick.
1917 (November) Italy: 1/7th Battalion moved to Northern Italy (arrived 29th November at Pojana).
1918 (February) 2/7th Battalion disbanded in France (6th February 1918).
1918 (December) 7th Reserve Battalion (3/7th and 3/8th) was disbanded shortly after Armistice.
1919 (March) 1/7th Battalion left Italy for France.
1919 (March) 1/7th Battalion left France for England (31st March 1919).
1919 (April) Kidderminster: 1/7th Battalion was disembodied (2nd April 1919).