East Surreys 5th Aug 1914 L 355 38 R

4th August 1914: war breaks out! This memorable image is the 6th Battalion East Surrey Regiment was taken on 5th August, 1914, just one day after war was declared between Great Britain and Germany.

At a glance, we can see the preparations that were taking place locally. Volunteers were enlisting whilst soldiers were checking their kit for a mobile war using bicycles. The Sergeant in the doorway is assembling his men for a departure (potentially a final one for some) and we can see they have no doubt already performed their drills as their rifles and kit bags are ready and on display.

At this time the Richmond & Twickenham Times (8th August 1914) published a letter from Colonel J.L.G. Powell of the 6th East Surrey Regiment, appealing for more men to serve in their force. Men from Richmond who were serving with the East Surreys at Strood were guarding important centres. The officers from Richmond were: Captains Whitehouse, Johnston B.M.C and Marston. (Other names and ranks also feature in the newspaper).

Barracks were in Kingston and the Fairfax was the departure point. The men were involved in hard route marches from Bordon to Salisbury. Drill and keep-fit were carried out in tough physical conditions such as wet dawns, with sparse rations and carrying full kit. After a full day they would parade again at 8 pm on Richmond Green for medical inspection. The horses were also examined there to be passed as fit for service. The men had already passed medical tests, but standards at this point were so stringent that one man was rejected even though was an experienced crack shot, just because he had a varicose vein (considered a defect).

Discover more about the early days of the Great War in the Local Studies search room, Old Town Hall. Read older posts from Follow the drum.