Quite why Grandad ended up in the Cheshire Regiment when, from his Attestation Papers he was already in the Volunteer Battalion, Notts and Derby Regiment, is not known.
It could have been that as a child, growing up in the dirt and grime of late Victorian Derby, his interest was sparked by his grandfather (on his mother’s side).
John Newland had served 21 years with the 56th Regiment of Foot, mostly in India, where he met and married his wife, Mary Ann (Ashmole), herself the daughter of a soldier (Pte. 1307 John Ashmole). She was born in India and met John and married him there.
Grandad’s mother, Kate, had been born on a ship bringing her family back to Portsmouth from Indian service. John Newland retired to Derby and lived until 1906, so it is quite possible he filled his grandson with stories of service in the far corners of the Empire!
… Grandad’s family on our “About Grandad” page.
The Cheshire Regiment was created in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms by the linking of the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment of Foot and the militia and rifle volunteers of Cheshire.
Until very recently, however, the name “22nd (Cheshire) Regiment” continued to be used within the regiment.
The 22nd Regiment of Foot had been raised by the Duke of Norfolk in 1689 and was retitled 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment of Foot in 1782. It was not further affected by the Cardwell Reforms which established localised County based Regiments of two Battalions, but did confirm Cheshire as its home county for recruitment. The Regiment already had a 2nd Battalion, originally raised in 1814 for a short while and re-raised in 1858.
Until 1st September 2007, when the Regiment was merged with other regiments to form part of the Mercian Regiment, and became 1 (Cheshires) Mercian, it was able to boast an independent existence of over 325 years, being one of five line infantry regiments never to have been amalgamated in its history.
Under the Cardwell Reforms and in particular the Regularization of the Forces Act (1871) all line infantry regiments would now consist of two battalions, sharing a Depot and recruiting area. One battalion would serve overseas, while the other was stationed at home for training.
Cardwell had also introduced the “Army Enlistment (short service) Act (1870)“, which allowed a soldier to choose to spend time in the reserves rather than the regulars and be paid 4d (2p) a day, in return for a short period of training each year although there was also an obligation to serve when called up.
Men were now able to enlist for a maximum term of twelve years. The minimum length of service varied, but on discharge a soldier would now remain with the reserves for the remainder of the twelve-year term.
Quite what Grandad’s motives were in joining up we don’t know. Certainly he had shown an interest in the military by joining the Notts and Derby Volunteer Regiment, as can be seen on his Attestation Papers.
Coming from a large family – by 1904 he was the oldest of 8 children (two more were to follow by 1909!) – maybe he saw it as a way out of the undoubted poverty and cramped conditions of a cottage on John Street, Derby.
What is not in question is that on 11th July 1904 he went to Normanton Barracks, Derby (photo right before its demolition), and signed on for 12 years with the Cheshire Regiment.
Under the provisions of the 1870 Act, he elected to split the service as 3 years on Active Service and 9 years on Reserve.
The earliest photo we have of Grandad is the one below left. From the evidence of the photo it must have been taken between 1904 (when he joined up) and 1907.
The uniform tunic is scarlet with a buff collar (it was changed from white in 1904). The Regimental Colour is showing 5 Battle Honours – ‘Louisburg’, ‘Meanee’, ‘Hyderabad’, ‘Scinde’ and ‘South Africa 1900-02’. Two more Battle Honours – ‘Martinique 1762’ and ‘Havannah’ (also fought in 1762) were added to the Colour in 1908.
It is most likely that, proud of having joined the Regiment, he would have had his photograph taken and inserted into the postcard style background and sent home. This copy originally came from his eldest son, Albert.
The photo also shows that he had in fact joined the 2nd Battalion, not the 1st, with which he was to serve during the Great War period. The 2nd Battalion, in 1904, were the half of the Regiment based in England.
1904 – 1906:
Unlike during wartime there was no ‘War Diary‘ for this period of Grandad’s service. The extracts in this section are taken from the Regimental Digest of Services, History books, etc.
On the 20th September 1904 the 2nd Battalion left from Government Sidings at Aldershot and began the move to India, sailing from Southampton on the HMS Soudan (right). The Battalion was to replace the 1st Battalion which had been in India from 1893 and returned to Lichfield in November 1904.
There were, it seems, many transfers from Battalion to Battalion and 100 men of the 2nd had been sent to India to join the 1st as late as March 1904.
The officers embarking on the HMS Soudan included Lt. Col. W.C. Neville, DSO, Majors H.F. Kellie and R.J. Cooke; Captains C. Porcher, D.B. Thomas, A de C. Scott, W.V. Moul (who had a brevet as a major), A. Crookenden and A.S. Cooper; Lieutenants H.G. Turner, C.C. Redfern, H.R. Hill, J.A. Busfield. V.R. Tahourdin and M.F. Clarke; 2/Lts. R. Mallinson and G. Adshead.
Lt. (QM) M. Foley joined from his reserve battalion and Capt. W.L. Stretton had gone before with the March draft. Thirty-five women and twenty-four children embarked and the Regimental strength on board was 383. (Source: ‘Ever Glorious’ – Bernard Rigby)
- Lieutenant Colonel Arthur De Courcy SCOTT, later transferred to 1st Battalion, was killed in action on 5th May 1915, aged 49, at ‘Hill 60’, during the First Battle of Ypres. He is buried in Grave H. 3., Zillebeke Churchyard.
- Captain Herbert Guy TURNER was killed in action, aged 36, on 2nd or 3rd March 1915 whilst on reconnaissance near Ypres. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
- Major Richard MALLINSON was killed in action, aged 34, at Zonnebeke on 1st August 1917, whilst attached to 11th Battalion. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.
- Captain Victor Richard TAHOURDIN was captured on 24th August 1914 and remained a prisoner-of-war until he was repatriated on 14th June 1918.
- Captain John Atkinson BUSFIELD took over command of the 1st Battalion on 4th November 1914, just before the 1st Battle of Ypres. He was still in command at the end of December 1914.
- Captain Arthur CROOKENDEN would eventually become Colonel of the Regiment and wrote the a number of definitive histories of the Regiment, including his definitive work: “The History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War“. [cover picture, right, 2009 reprint]
The Clive then sailed almost immediately for disembarkation points in Southern India; and the Battalion was split into several detachments, which seemed to be the norm for service in southern India.
There is no knowing which Company Grandad joined, therefore no knowing where in Southern India he was based.
What the digest does tell us is that different Companies were deployed to various locations as shown below.
The digest also suggests that deployment to south of the sub-continent was considered less interesting and exciting than the central and northern regions.
The records show that the R.I.M.S. Clive dropped the different Companies off at various destinations, from where they marched to their new billets.
Major E.T. Taylor and Capt. W.L. Stretton transferred from the 1st Battalion and were joined on the 2nd Battalion’s strength by Major J.R.K. Birch and Capt. D.C. Boger, plus 40 NCOs and men. Lieutenants Forster, Adair, Berkeley, Savage and Liepmann together with a few NCOs and men joined in November 1904.
- Captain Lionel Archibald FORSTER joined the 1st Battalion from the reserve of Officers List on 24th September 1914 and was killed in action on 4th November 1914 during the action to take La Bassée. He was 35 years old and is buried in Grave B. 2., Douai Communal Cemetery.
- Captain (later Lt. Col.) Dudley BOGER took over command of the 1st Battalion shortly before it left Ireland in August 1914. He was wounded and captured at Audregnies on 24 August 1914.
- Major Henry S. ADAIR, D.S.O., M.i.D., was later appointed Brigade Major of the 58th Division during the Battle of Loos, 1915.
It is a struggle to guess how Grandad would react, fresh the backstreets of Derby, and just 18 years old, to his new ‘home’ for the next few years!
When the 1st Battalion had been stationed in India it had developed a considerable prowess for inter-Regimental football. The ‘Rovers Cup‘, the second oldest of the main tournaments in the country, was founded at Bombay in 1891. The 1st Cheshires had won the Cup three years in succession, from 1901 to 1904.
The 2nd Battalion Companies based at Wellington Barracks turned their attention to hockey, with some degree of success. Also, in 1905, Major J. F. Wyley gave the Officers a cup for an annual point-to-point race and it is fair to say that most of the digest records are reserved for the Battalion’s exploits at various sporting pursuits!
1906 – 1907 (Madras):
In November 1906 Grandad was on the move again. The 2nd Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment took over duties at Wellington, with Grandad’s Battalion moving to Madras.
At least some Companies and Headquarters did move into Fort St. George in Chennai, Madras (right), with four companies being sent to Bellary Fort in Karnataka state, India.
Captain Arthur Crookenden assumed the duties of adjutant with some newly-joined subalterns including E.A. Jackson and H.J. Huxford. The Sergeant Major at this time was Henry Grayston. After Grandad had left the Battalion, Henry was succeeded in August 1908 by James Keating. His brother was Colour-Sergeant George Keating of ‘G’ Company.
- Lieutenant John KEATING and 2nd Lieutenant George KEATING were both killed in action on the same day, 17th February 1915, during the Battle of First Ypres. They are buried side by side in Graves I. H. 3. and I. H. 4., Spoilbank Cemetery.
According to his Attestation Papers Grandad would have returned to Derby Midland Railway Station (right) from India after his 3 years of Active Service had been completed, i.e. about July 1907.
Obviously, he still had 9 years of his Service as a Reservist to go, having enlisted for a total of 12 years.
He became a Section B Reservist who could only be called upon in the event of general mobilisation. Pay was 3/6d (17½p) a week. He had to attend 12 training days per year.
(N.B. One shilling in 1914 is the equivalent of about £7.50 today; 3/6d then works out at about £25 now. At the time, the average wage of a working man was about £1 per week – £145 today – 2023.)
Grandad got married on 4th July 1908 to Emma Piggott at Holy Trinity Church, Derby, and set up his family firstly with his in-laws at 145 Siddalls Road, Derby, before moving into their own home at 134 Siddalls Road.
Their first son, Herbert, was born later in the year, but died aged just 4 months. ‘Uncle’ Albert, my father’s older brother, was born on 2nd April 1910. [Pt. 4122041 Albert Edward Conway also joined the Cheshire Regiment and served throughout World War 2.]
When my father, Ernest, was born in 1913 the family was living in Roe’s Cottages, Siddalls Road (see photo, left).
These cottages, attached to Roe and Sons, Timber Merchants were, according to my father, very “2 up, 2 down” with earth floors and an outside pump and privy.
Grandad was employed as a labourer and then an electric crane driver at Midland Railway Works, Derby.
[The youngest son, ‘Uncle’ Cyril, was not born until 1917, after Grandad’s WW1 Service. Cyril Conway served with the Grenadier Guards during World War 2.]
It was in early August 1914, however, whilst still within his 9 years service as an Army Reserve, that Grandad’s military service was to be resumed – and in a very big way!