The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
Home Service battalions
Records of these units are sparse but below are the best summaries I have been able to produce on them to date.
11th Battalion (TF)
These three battalions were raised specifically for the duration of the war, to find and train recruits.
The 9th (Service) Battalion was raised in October 1914 as a part of Lord Kitchener's K4 Army Group, and formed part of the 94th Brigade, within the 31st Division. It remained in England as a 'Reserve' battalion, providing drafts for the front line units. Initially stationed at Felixstowe, in February 1915 the battalion moved to Mill Hill and that April became the 2nd Reserve Battalion of the 6th Reserve Brigade. May 1915 saw another move to Colchester. With the formation of the Training Reserve in September 1916, the battalion was moved to Harwich and initially placed in the 6th (TR) Brigade, although it was disbanded and its personnel were absorbed into the 28th Battalion.
The 10th (Service) Battalion was raised in December 1914 as a part of Lord Kitchener's K4 Army Group, within the 106th Brigade, 35th Division. It remained in England as a 'Reserve' battalion, being based at Dovercourt from its formation and moving to White City in January 1915. In May 1915 they moved to Colchester , the to Dovercourt in March 1916. The battalion was redesignated as the 27th Battalion of the newy formed Training Reserve in September 1916.
The 11th Battalion (TF) was raised within the Territorial Force in December 1916 / January 1917 to replace the 68th Provisional Battalion, which had previously been part of the 5th Provisional Brigade and the 225th Brigade. The battalion was comprised mostly men over 'active service' age or unfit for overseas duties, and provided drafts for the front line units once the soldiers had regained their 'A1' fitness categorisation. As the war developed and the upper age limits were raised, more and more of the battalion's ranks found themselves eligible for overseas service although many NCOs and men were assigned to the battalion purely on paper, serving in POW Camp units and never physically joining the battalion at its station. The battalion was based entirely at Parkfield near Lowestoft, and was also tasked with providing general home defence on the Suffolk coast until disbanded 31 July 1919.
On 1 September 1916 the Training Reserve was formed following the introduction of the Military Service Act (1916) which had resulted in the traditional regimental reserve and training system being unable to cope with the influx of new recruits. At full capacity, the Training Reserve held 208,500 infantry.
All units designated as being within the Training Reserve lost any previous regimental discinction and once recruits 'graduated' from their training and were deemed fit for active service, they were liable to be posted wherever the army needed them the most, and not to their specific, local regiment.
Troops within these units lost their regimental badges and instead wore cap badges comprised a red disc with a General Service button in the middle. The initials 'TR' were worn as shoulder titles.
In May 1917 the 27th Battalion was designated the 27th (Young Soldiers) Battalion until redesignated as the 53rd (Young Soldiers) Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in a further reorganisation in October 1917.
53rd (Young Soldiers) Battalion
Following the introduction of conscription and the lowering of minimum service ages, a new structure was formed to accomodate the army's shifting requirements.
The 53rd (Young Soldiers) Battalion (formerly the 10th (Service) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and the 27th (Training Reserve) Battalion) was affiliated to the Regiment in October 1917, to provide three months of basic training for young recruits. After basic training they were transferred into the 51st and 52nd (Graduated) Battalions until deemed liable for active service abroad. Initially formed at Clipstone in October 1917, they moved to Cannock Chase in January 1918 and remained there until mobilised for overseas service within the Army of Occupation in 1919.
The 51st and 52nd (Graduated) Battalions were raised initially as Norfolk and Suffolk Battalions respectively that provided home defence from October 1914. With the organisational changes in October 1917, they became Graduated Battalions and remained as such until early 1919. Initially formed and based at Colchester from October 1917, in February 1918 both battalions moved to Norwich and formed part of the 193rd Brigade in the 64th Division. Although moving briefly to Taversham in May 1918, the battalion returned to Norwich and remained there until mobilised for overseas service within the Army of Occupation in 1919.
The Bedfordshire Brigade, Army of Occupation
In February 1919 the 51st, 52nd and 53rd Battalions became 'Service' battalions once more and formed the 2nd Eastern Brigade, Eastern Division (known as the 'Bedfordshire Brigade') within the British Army of the Rhine (the Army of Occupation). They served as a unit in the region around Cologne until returning home in August 1919, finally being disbanded in March 1920. .
The 12th and 13th (Transport Workers) Battalions were raised in December 1916 and March 1917 respectively and disbanded in August and September 1919 respectively. Their H.Q.'s were based in Croydon and, although dressed as infantry, they were never armed.
According to a War Cabinet, Port and Transit Executive Committee document from July 1917 (National Archives reference CAB 24/21), the 12th Battalion worked in the ports of Folkestone. Rochester (including Chatham and Sittingbourne) Weymouth and Newhaven, whereas the 13th Battalion worked at Boston, Ipswich, London, Harwich and King's Lynn.
The Bedfordshire (Ampthill) Training Depot
A full, independant section on this remarkable site can be seen here.
The 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions were units formed in November 1914 by patriotic citizens and were classed as being for 'non-specific home defence'. Between July and September 1918 they became a 'Special Service' unit that provided defence of the coastline around Hunstanton due to the acute manpower shortage in France, but otherwise drilled and trained within their local vicinity in preperation for the time when they may be requried for a specifc task.
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