The Biscuit Boys

Section 4000

Stories of serving Berkshiremen

This section provides a space for stories about the service of men (and a few women) from Berkshire who served in the forces during the Great War. If you click on the initial letter below you can see a list of names. Click on the name and you will find the page with his story. These are culled from Private papers and Diaries, from newspaper reports and from official reports.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Serving with other Regiments

Berkshiremen served with many regiments in WW1, not just the Royal Berks and the Berks Yeomanry. The choice of regiment which a man joined was, until 1914, almost entirely up to him and the actual selection up to the regiment, often based upon physical attributes or the possession of particular skills. For an inland county - a surprisingly large number of men from Berkshire, joined the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines.

When war broke out in August 1914, recruits were able to choose which regiment they joined, provided they met with the right qualifications. A large number did join one of the two local regiments, but many opted for other units, often being influenced by a friend who had already joined up. A great deal of recruiting was done by Recruiting Sergeants who were generally long retired former soldiers who often influenced men to join their old regiment.

As the centre of an essentially agricultural area many Berkshire men had a tendency to opt for the Yeomanry, Army Service Corps or Royal Horse Artillery as their capabilities to work with horses were particularly valued by those units. Similarly Reading had developed a large body of small engineering firms which originally had made agricultural equipment but were now turning their efforts to the bicycle or motor trades - again they tended towards the ASC. The county also had a strong railway tradition and railwaymen easily found a niche in the Royal Engineers. Policemen often favoured the military police.

However local regiments, particularly in large urban areas, became overwhelmed by the numbers volunteering and had to divert them to regiments from more rural counties, such as the Royal Berkshire Regiment which received large drafts of men from the London, Birmingham, Bristol and South Wales areas. So often Berkshiremen found themselves as a minority in their own county regiment.

For the first eighteen months or so of the war, when a man was injured and was fit enough to serve again, he almost always rejoined his old battalion, or at least a battalion of his own regiment. Berkshire did not have any Pals Battalions and so did not suffer the trauma that followed all the menfolk from one small village and town being killed or injured together. However the War Office took note and after July 1916 changed the system so that men on sick leave in the UK returned from injury to a Training Reserve Battalion from whence they were deployed where needed. This tended to be confined to UK Army Brigades but a man from the Royal Berkshires was highly likely to find himself returned to one of the other regiments of Southern Command. If he returned from a hospital in France to an Infantry Base Depot then he could finish up almost anywhere.

After the passing of the Derby Acts, men over 18 had to register for possible conscription but could be given a limited choice of regiment if they volunteered to serve immediately. As 1916 progressed however this choice disappeared and men who were conscripted would be told to report at a local army depot, then were sent to another regiment within Southern Command for training and then posted to serve with yet another regiment. As a result many Berkshiremen saw service with one or other of the regiments of Southern Comman, Namely The Royal Warwicks, The Worcesters, The Ox and Bucks, The Glosters, The Wiltshires, The Dorsets, the Somersets or the Duke of Cornwalls.

Once they were serving in a war theatre a regiment could be ordered to transfer a batch of men to another regiment which had just suffered heavy casualties and needed to be brought back to strength, so once again a Berkshireman could find himself serving almost anywhere in the British Army.

The Royal Navy on the other hand had an ample supply of men when war broke out and there were few opportunities to join it after that. In fact many sailors and marines were deployed as infantrymen in the Royal Navy Division. Again this affected some Berkshiremen.

The final reason why men served with another regiment was because certain parts of a regiment were taken away to form part of another Corps. The key such movements were:-

x4157 The Machine Gun Corps
x4146 The Labour Corps
n4086 The Camel Corps
n4154 The Royal Defence Corps
x4158 The Training Reserve

Click on the heading above to learn more about what happened to these units.

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