Organisation of recruit training camps in 1914

At the start of the Great War the British Army was overwhelmed with new recruits that has to be moulded into soldiers ready for the front line in under 6 months.

The army was used to a high percentage of its Battalions being based overseas to police the Empire and so space at barracks in the UK was very limited.

When a new Battalion was formed a Commanding Officer was usually appointed together with 2 or 3 junior officers to make the arrangements. In 1914 these Officers tended to be taken from retired Officers who may have seen action in the Boer war and from young trainees direct from the Officer Training Corps.

A space was allocated for the new Battalion on a village green, gardens of a large mansion, public park or other open space and 40 to 50 tents were delivered and erected.  Most were bell tents for living quarters and official duties with a few larger tents for catering, entertainment etc.

Recruits, at recruiting centres, were given a travel warrant and a date and time at which they should report to a destination , usually their Battalion Depot although sometimes the training camp. Men gathering at the depot would then be marches to taken by train to their training camp.

Over a short period about 1,000 men in civilian clothes would arrive at their camp and would then be identified and allocated to tents at about 20 a time. There was usually a conscious decision to split up friends and relatives.

The men would be divided into 4 companies each of which would have about 250 men. Within teach company there would be 4 platoon each of which would have about 60 men. Within each platoon would be 4 sections each of which would have about 15 men.

The army had to cater for recruits that had performed manual jobs and so were fit but may have had little experience of team work and obeying orders as well as factory and office workers that were not at all fit but used to team work.

The training started with a parade and Uniform checking and of course drill to help instill instant obeying of orders plus PT and long marches in full kit to build up fitness and then sessions building skills such as bayonet use, trench building and maintenance, field manouvres. rifle shooting etc. Days were very busy with only a little free time in the evenings  although many of the men were allowed weekend leave during which they either went home or visited a nearby town with some of their new friends.

There was surprisingly little desertion amongst the recruits with most reports of men being on a charge of being Absent Without Leave more due to drunken oversleeping or delayed trains than a deliberate attempt to be absent.

Rations were provided by the Quartermaster and although not generous were better then that enjoyed by most civilians.

Meals were cooked on ranges in camp and in big iron pots over a fire when marching.

Each Section was allowed to send a man to collect the sections meals from the cookhouse in a pot  and then issue them individually to the men

Naturally a relationship often grew up between the men at camp and the local people to the extent that marriages and babies often followed that training and great interest was shown by the progress of that Battalion as the war progressed.

After about 6 months the Battalion was inspected in simulated action and if deemed fit by the Senior Officers was passed fit for service and then saw action.

Similar camps were run later in the war for recruits who were then posted to join existing Battalions to replace casualties lost during the war.