The Inside Story of the First Pals Battalion - 10th “Stockbrokers” Battalion, Royal
Reflecting a pencilled note by Siegfried Sassoon when he was writing Memoirs of an
Infantry Officer ‘anyone can find out photographic details of the war. What they
can’t find out is the secret drama inside a soldier’s head’ this book takes the words
of members of the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers from when it was formed in London
in August 1914 until the end of the War. Many comments come from personal diaries
and letters written at the time but the author also uses the War Diary of the Battalion
and accounts of events written by participants after the War.
The battalion at first recruited young men from the Stock Exchange and City firms
who were keen to join up and get into action. Many could have applied for commissions
but were reluctant to spend the time necessary for training. Members of the Stock
Exchange from well-known families, like Rothschild and Rubens, served in the ranks
alongside clerks from insurance, shipping and banks. The City connection was strengthened
when the Lord Mayor, Sir Vansittart Bowater, was made Honorary Colonel in 1914 and
held the position throughout the War. City Livery companies gave money to provide
weapons, and the instruments for the Band.
The battalion served in France from July 1915 until March 1919. They were in action
on the Somme, at Ypres and faced the German Spring Offensive. They participated in
the pursuit of the German Army back through France and ended the war at Charleroi.
Outline of the Battalion’s story:
Volunteers from the City of London many employed in the Stock Exchange and other
City firms gathered to sign on from 21August 1914. They marched to Tower Ditch and
were sworn in by the Lord Mayor of London, who later became their Honorary Colonel.
Leaving Liverpool Street Station on 3 September they went to begin training at Colchester,
moving the following year to Andover. Crossing to France on 31 July 1915 they went
first to Armentieres and spent time becoming familiar with trench life and warfare.
For the remainder of the war they travelled between the major battle area of the
1916:Bailleulval: Mezerolles: Berles au Bois: Somme Fighting: Boiselles Attacks on
Poiziers: Bazentin, Mametz Wood, High Wood, Loos, Ham. 1917:Hulloch: Buneville: Arras
Push Attacks on Monchy le Preux and Gavrelle: Messines OperationsAttack North of
Wytchaete, Attack in Tower Hamlets sector of Ypres Salient: Menin Road 1918: Wardreques:
Dickebusch: Polderhoek: Counter Attack on Joppa, Foncquevillers: Rossignol Wood:
Hebuterne: Ablainzeville: Bucquoy: Foncquevillers (Gas Bombardment): Villers Bretonneux:
German Retreat: Attack and capture of Ablainzeville: Bihucourt: Logeast Wood and
Havrincourt Wood: Counter Attack on Favreuil: Canal de Lescaut: Attack on Belaise
and Hindenberg Line: Ligny Attack on Beaurain and Louvignes: ArmisticeCaudry.
From the time of the Armistice until the battalion was disbanded in March 1919 they
were based in Charleroi.
A number of notable individuals were members of the battalion. Colonel White had
been involved in the Jameson Raid in South Africa and had spent time in prison as
a result. Major Keppel joined in 1915, he was the husband of Alice Keppel who had
been the mistress of Edward VII. William Babington Maxwell, an author of some note
in the period helped White in recruiting and establishing the battalion. Sons of
City families, like the Rothschilds and Rubens volunteered and brought wealth and
influence. Oswald Birley R.A. was a Private in the ranks, but was later commissioned
as were Raymond Bevir, onetime President of the Oxford Union and Vivian Delbos,
son of a French Professor who, with Birley, joined the Intelligence Branch known
as 10(IB) Royal Fusiliers. Maggie Teyte and other notable performers entertained
the battalion at concerts.
The City of London provided support, the Corporation offered to buy two machine guns,
the Musicians Company of the City of London provided instruments for the band. An
individual, friend of Private George Rothschild, offered £3000 (worth nearly £200,000
today) as a fund to provide equipment and comforts for the men.