Thursday, 15 January 2015

Salford Pals Battalions

From the Manchester Courier, 16th January 1915.




Salford has done well for the Army, mindful of the prestige of the 20th Foot!  The record is interesting.  The 1st Salford Battalion (15th Service Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers) has now proceeded to camp at Conway, and the 2nd Battalion (16th Service Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers) will join the 1st there almost at once.  This, therefore, appears a convenient opportunity for a report on the work of the Battalions’ Committee.  Early in September a magnificent recruiting meeting was held in the Salford Hippodrome ...…Numerous appeals were made to Mr. Montague Barlow. M.P (who had been responsible for organising the meeting, acting under instructions from the War Office), by recruits after the meeting, that there should be a Salford “Pals” Battalion, which they could all join.

Mr. Barlow, after consultation with the Mayor, wired to Lord Kitchener for leave for a Salford Battalion, and, after some negotiations with the War Office as to questions of housing, pay, etc., for recruits, Mr. Barlow eventually, in the middle of September, undertook to make all arrangements “to raise, clothe, house, and feed” a battalion of 1,100 men, the War Office being responsible for eventual payments, and recruiting commenced at once. ...
The 1st Battalion was recruited steadily....   The arrangement with the War Office was that till a camp could be built and uniforms procured, recruits should be allowed to live at home, pay being 1s. a day, with 2s. a day allowance instead of rations, or 21s. in all a week.  This was eventually increased in the case of married men to 27s. 6d.  By the middle of November the 1st Battalion was up to full strength of 1,100, and it was decided to go on with a second Battalion, and leave was given accordingly to Mr. Barlow on the same terms as for the 1st Battalion.  The 2nd the complement of 1,100 rapidly by about the middle of December.  Since then the War Office have required two additional companies of 250 men to be raised, one for each battalion, and these are now completed.....
Though the War Office undertook the payment of necessary expenses for uniforms, equipment, etc., it was felt that many expenses would be likely to arise for which the War Office might make no adequate provision, such as for bands, medical appliances, dental outfits, etc., and it was decided to raise a guarantee fund.  The treasurer, Mr. Alderman Frankenburg, has worked most successfully and secured gifts or guarantees of over £1,100….

....The fitting out of the men has proceeded as rapidly as circumstances will allow.  The First Battalion have a complete set of blue uniform and also blue overcoats.  The cloth for their second uniform, which will be khaki, is now being delivered; and the overcoats and uniforms for the Second Battalion are now coming in rapidly.  At the present crisis delay is inevitable, as there is great pressure for Army clothing of all kinds, and the cloth and even the dyes are difficult to procure......  The contracts for the men's kit, including shirts, drawers, cardigan jackets, etc., have worked out very satisfactorily.  Owing to the enormous quantities of boots required at this time for the great forces of the new army, and also owing to the difficulty of obtaining seasoned leather, the deliveries of good boots have not been so rapid or complete as the committee could have desired.  Mr. Barlow has travelled to London and payed several personal visits to the boot authorities of the Army Clothing Department at Pimlico, and arrangements have now been made in co-operation with that department for a speedy delivery of the best boots procurable.

The Government authorised the construction of a camp of wooden huts at Conway for the two battalions, and the sub-committee arranged the huts should be covered with felt to secure warmth.  Conway is a well-known camping ground for troops, probably one of the finest in the North of England, with a railway siding at the camp, water laid on, a fine dry manoeuvring ground, spreading over hundreds of acres, and a range of twenty-two targets sighted up to 1,000 yards.

[I have included this one because it shows some of the difficulties involved in increasing the size of the Army so rapidly in late 1914.   There were severe bottlenecks in providing essential equipment for the new recruits, while at the same time keeping the Expeditionary Force supplied, and training the Territorials and Reserves to go out to the Front.  It is no wonder that new recruits like the Salford Pals still did not have khaki uniforms after several months, and not enough boots.

It also shows how the Pals battalions were raised.  The point was not just that men who knew each other could join up and stay together, but that they were initially organised and equipped locally, and not directly by the War Office.]    

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