First World War: Territorial soldiers especially those from the Warwickshire Regiment, billeted in Witham.

First World War: Territorial soldiers especially those from the Warwickshire Regiment, billeted in Witham.

The following explanation was given by Ian Hook of the Essex Regiment Museum, on 30 December 2004 relating in particular to photos M2190 and M2191, with soldiers of the 2nd/7th Warwicks passing Freebornes, High House and Red Lion (also relevant to M452 and M1897-M1899 of the same occasion). The Warwicks were billeted in Witham.

They really are a lovely detailed set of troops in “Field Service Marching Order” or FSMO as it was known.

I think the only comment I can make is that I think that the timing is probably early in the Witham tour of the 2/7th evidenced by M2190- The soldier 2 from L has an Imperial Service badge on is chest. This was a white metal badge worn above the pocket consisting of a crown over a tablet inscribed “Imperial Service”. These were worn by Territorial soldiers who, voluntarily, had agreed to take on the extra Imperial Service obligation, that is to serve anywhere in the Empire if the King required it. The standard terms and conditions for the Territorial Force (TF) from 1908 were for Home Service only, for the Defence of the UK, but, from 1911, the extra obligation was offered. Soldiers who took this up and signed form E.624 got their badge and considered themselves a cut above the rest.

Until 03/1915 recruits for the TF were able to enlist for Home Service rather as this was possibly an attractive option for new recruits to avoid the usual white feathers etc..

Under the Military Service Act 16/01/1916 which, inter alia, introduced conscription.

  1. All TF soldiers under 41 had until 02/03/1916 to take Imperial Service obligation or:

Officers: Be forced to resign

Men: Be discharged and therefore made liable to conscription.

  1. Eliminated pre-war TF soldiers right to discharge at end of engagement.
  2. Four year term extended by one year in war. Option of taking 1 month furlough and bounty on re-engagement for another 4 years or duration.

It was theoretically illegal to transfer Territorial soldiers or amalgamate or disband units. This was a nonsense in an increasingly conscript Army where men were conscripted by age and later occupation cohorts (that is men who could be spared or were “combed out” from industry).

I suspect I have given you too much detail, but to cut along story short the once proud bearers of the Imperial Service badge threw them away as a nonsense once conscription was a reality from early 1916 and circumstances demanded there could only be one class of soldier.

Judging by the trees I suspect it is spring 1915 rather then winter 1916!

The soldiers also have the 1908 Web Equipment and it might be possible to establish when the 2nd Line Warwicks got theirs from their War Diaries. The Essex Territorials (Witham men amongst them!) got the 1914 leather equipment prior to leaving for Gallipoli in July 1915 and did not get webbing until they reached Egypt in 1916.

The officers still have the old Sam Browne equipment which most discarded on being warmed for overseas.

Were it not for the fact that I have had a disappointing experience with the R.Warwicks Museum I would suggest you might send them copies! I sent them a lovely 1920’s photo of “The Antelope Lodge”, clearly a Regimental Institution as it had 25 Warwicks and 2 Essex men on it, but they returned it with a compliments slip saying they had no evidence of it being a Regimental connection. The 6th Foot and Royal Warwicks wore an antelope as their badge from at least 1742!


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