T.E. Sandall, History of the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (1922)



The 5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment came into being on 1st April 1908, as the result of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907, according to the scheme which required two Infantry Battalions to be raised in the County of Lincolnshire, these two battalions with the 4th and 5th Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment forming the Lincoln and Leicester Brigade of the North Midland Division of the Territorial Force. The other Brigades in the Division were the Notts and Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Brigade, composed of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions of the Notts and Derby Regiment, and the Staffordshire Brigade, composed of the 5th and 6th Battalions of the South Staffordshire and North Staffordshire Regiments respectively.

It is desirable to trace very briefly the history of the Volunteer Force (the predecessor of the Territorial Force) in Lincolnshire. Under the Volunteer Act of 1859, numerous companies of Rifle Volunteers were raised in the county; these were subsequently formed into two "Administrative Battalions", which ultimately became the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions of the County Regiment. Apart from the question of their real value as a military force, upon which opinions were divided, there is no doubt that the Volunteers were most useful in promoting and encouraging the art of rifle shooting, and it is note­ worthy that the Queen's Prize at the National Rifle [p2] Association's meeting was won in successive years 1886 and 1887 by Sergeant Bulmer of the 2nd Battalion, and Sergeant Jackson of the 1st Battalion (subsequently Captain and Quartermaster of the 5th Battalion).

During the South African War, when two Volunteer Companies for Active Service were raised and sent out to South Africa from the Volunteer Battalions in Lincolnshire, recruiting for the whole force was greatly stimulated and in 1900 the 1st Volunteer Battalion composed of eleven Companies in the City of Lincoln and northern area of the County was greatly above its establishment, and was redistributed to form two 8 Company Battalions, the 1st V. Battalion with Headquarters at Lincoln, and the 3rd V. Battalion with Headquarters at Grimsby, while the 2nd V. Battalion was recruited from South Lincolnshire, Headquarters being at Grantham.

This organization continued until 1908, when only two Infantry Battalions of the Territorial Force were required in place of the three Volunteer Battalions. After much discussion it was decided by the County Association to raise the 4th Territorial Battalion from the City of Lincoln and Horncastle districts of the old 1st V. Battalion, together with the area in the south of the county from which the 2nd V. Battalion had been recruited, whilst the 5th Battalion should be raised from the area of the old 3rd V. Battalion, together with the Gainsborough district of the 1st, with the distribution of Companies as follows: Headquarters and two Companies with Machine Gun Section at Grimsby, and one Company each at Spilsby, Louth, Barton-on-Humber, Alford, Scunthorpe and Gainsborough.

It is interesting to note the widely different character of the population in the various districts. The Grimsby recruits were chiefly drawn from men [p3] employed in the fishing industry and in the docks; Louth, Spilsby, and Alford were purely agricultural centres; Gainsborough furnished chiefly mechanics employed in the Engineering works; Scunthorpe recruited from the sturdy workers in the iron-stone and smelting industries, and from agricultural workers in the Brigg district; Barton-on-Humber provided recruits chiefly from the mechanics in the cycle works, of a type similar to those of Gainsborough. This great diversity of civil occupation proved of immense advantage on mobilization, as the necessary skilled men were comparatively easily obtained for all the "specialist" duties required.

The Commanding Officer on the formation of the Battalion was Lieut.-Col. (Hon. Colonel) G. B. Walker, V.D., Major H. Stephenson, who had served with a Volunteer Company in the South African War, being second-in-command; whilst Captain S. C. Birch, Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been serving as Adjutant of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, was appointed Adjutant. In a country battalion, recruiting from a wide and comparatively sparsely populated area, as this battalion was, the raising and training of the various companies depended very largely on the local officers commanding them; the Battalion, as such, only assembled at the Annual Training in Camp, and much initiative and hard work was required and, to their great credit, usually obtained from the Company Officers during the years preceding mobilization.

In view of the more stringent regulations with regard to efficiency in the newly-constituted Territorial Force compared with those of the old Volunteers, and the consequent diminution in numbers which acceptance of the new conditions [p4] involved, it was thought desirable to attempt to popularize the new Service and stimulate recruiting by holding the annual camp for Battalion training at a seaside resort, if possible within the Battalion's recruiting area. Accordingly in 1908 the annual training took place at Skegness, the period of training being now fourteen days, in place of seven days formerly required of the Volunteers as a maximum. It was speedily found, however, that although in Companies like Gainsborough and Scunthorpe, where the great majority of the men were employed in works, which closed for a fourteen days' holiday, the greater proportion of the men could and did undergo the full period of training, in the Companies recruited from the agricultural areas it was not possible to get the majority of the men to perform more than seven days' continuous training in Camp. These conditions continued in subsequent years, and the efficiency of the Battalion suffered in consequence. During the drill season, recruit drills, company drills, musketry training, range practices and all work that could be performed at Company Headquarters, were carried out without much difficulty, and the results were satisfactory as far as they went, but the time for Battalion training, accustoming the Companies to work with each other, and above all for the inculcation of discipline, as understood in the Service, was far too short to allow of any really satisfactory result, although slow but steady improvement was attained year by year. The standard of conduct in the individual in the Battalion was high, very high; the keenness, the enthusiasm, the desire to learn their work, and the general willingness of the men to obey commands was noteworthy; but the unquestioning obedience, the automatic response to an order, the unbreakable chain of responsibility, [p5] the high morale, the sense of comradeship and esprit de corps, which exist as a matter of course in a highly disciplined Battalion, only existed, as in the Territorial Force generally, in outline. How that outline was worthily filled up in 1914 and the following years, will be seen in the subsequent history of the Battalion.

The Annual Training at Skegness in 1908 was not of a very arduous character, and every effort was made to render training in Camp attractive and popular. Much good work was done however, Company and Battalion drill were assiduously practised, the elements of manoeuvre were learnt, and the general standard of efficiency at the end of fourteen days was notably improved.

At the ceremony of the presentation of Colours to the units of the Territorial Force at Windsor Castle in the summer of 1909, a detachment of the Battalion was present, and the Colours were received from the hands of H.M. King Edward VII . by Lieut. H. G. Wilson and Lieut. H. W. Nicholson, and conveyed to Battalion Headquarters at Grimsby.

The Annual Training in 1909 took place at Garendon Park, Leicestershire, where the newly-formed Lincoln and Leicester Brigade was brought together for the first time under the command of the Brigadier, Col. A. M. Carthew-Yorstoun. The training was of the usual nature, chiefly Company and Battalion work, with two days of combined Brigade training. The weather was very fine, hot and dry, and a serious heath fire occurred in the neighbourhood, which the Battalion assisted to subdue; in recognition of their services, the owner of the property forwarded a cheque for £50 to Battalion Funds.

In 1910, the Annual Training was carried out at Buxton, where a Brigade Camp was again formed, and more extended Brigade and Battalion manoeuvre [p6] was practised than in the previous year, as a large stretch of open land was available. Unfortunately, the weather this year was very bad during the greater part of the time, and seriously interfered with the training programme.

In 1911 the Battalion again performed their Annual Training in a Brigade Camp at Garendon Park under favourable weather conditions. To the great regret of all ranks, the tenure of Captain S. C. Birch's appointment as Adjutant came to an end at the termination of this training. The Battalion owes much to him; an excellent instructor, he devoted himself most loyally to promote efficiency in every way, especially in musketry, and his efforts were rewarded by a steady yearly improvement. He was succeeded by Captain J. F. Richardson, Lincolnshire Regiment.

In May, 1912, Colonel G. B. Walker resigned the command, and in recognition of his valuable services to the Battalion, he was asked to accept the honour of becoming its Honorary Colonel. He was succeeded in the command by Major T. E. Sandall; the first assembly of the Battalion under the new Commanding Officer being at Grimsby, for the ceremony of the opening of the new docks at Immingham by H.M. King George V ., when the Battalion provided the Guard of Honour under Captain H. S. Scorer at Grimsby Station, and with the other Territorial County units lined the dock sides at Immingham.

In 1912 it was decided to assemble for the Annual Training the whole of the North Midland Division, under Major-General Hubert Hamilton, in one area, and Aberystwyth was selected as the site of the Camp. The actual Divisional Training was very elementary but extremely valuable, enabling units of different Arms to obtain a rough idea of how to [p7] work together, and affording an opportunity for Infantry to watch the work of other Arms, especially Artillery. Owing to the long marches necessary in Divisional operations the training was strenuous and exhausting, but all ranks worked well, and the Divisional Commander was very satisfied with the result.

Captain Richardson, having resigned his appointment as Adjutant in November, 1912, was succeeded by Captain V. de Hoghton, Lincolnshire Regiment, to whom the Battalion owes a deep debt of gratitude for his valuable instruction, and untiring efforts to promote a higher standard of efficiency and discipline from the date of his appointment to his lamented death in action at the Hohenzollern Redoubt in 1915.

In 1913, in contrast to Divisional training of the previous year, it was thought desirable to carry out the Annual Training of the Infantry in Battalion Camps, in order to give an opportunity of carefully supervising the elementary training of sections and companies, especially in musketry and fire control, together with Company and Battalion Drill, while manoeuvre was limited to inter-company schemes. The ground selected, Stoke Rochfort Park, near Grantham, was admirably suited for the purpose, the weather good, and the benefit of careful training of subordinate commanders at the Camp was clearly felt in the following year. With the exception of one day's inspection by the Divisional Commander, the training was entirely in the hands of the O.C. Battalion.

Major-General Hon. E. Stuart-Wortley having succeeded Major-General H. Hamilton in command of the Division, and Colonel H. Taylor having been appointed to the command of the Lincoln and Leices [p8] ter Brigade in succession to Col. Carthew-Yorstoun, the Annual Training for 1914 was planned as a Brigade Camp at Bridlington, but after the first week was rudely interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War.

The Battalion in the summer of 1914 was considerably below establishment both in officers and other ranks; recruiting then, as always, was slow and difficult; a large number of the old Volunteers, who joined the Territorial Force on its formation and served for four years, had not renewed their engagement, finding themselves unable to fulfil the required conditions for efficiency in the Territorial Force. On the other hand the standard of efficiency and military knowledge had been gradually and slowly raised during the past six years, although still falling far short of that at which we aimed. A good Machine Gun Section had been formed and trained by Lieut. O. Dixon, who was a thoroughly competent instructor and the Signalling Section under Lieut. F. J. M. Ingoldby, had made good progress.

On July 25th, 1914, the two Lincolnshire Battalions assembled at Bridlington, and carried out the usual training for a week, being joined on August 2nd (Sunday) by the Leicestershire Battalions to complete the Brigade. On that day, however, it became known that, owing to the threatening political situation and the imminent risk of war, the training would be interrupted and orders were subsequently received for all Battalions to return to their Headquarters next day. On Monday evening, August 3rd, the Battalion left camp and marched to Bridlington station, the first half Battalion leaving at once, and reaching their various stations next morning; the train for the second half, however, [p9] was many hours late, and did not leave till 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the 4th, the Companies not arriving at their respective destinations until late in the afternoon. Thus ended the Peace Training of 1914; next day, Wednesday, August 5th, the Battalion was mobilized for War.