The Manchester Regiment 1758 - 1958

The New army Battalions 1914-1918


The New army Battalions

When war broke out on 4th Aug 1914 the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, was also acting as Secretary of State for War. On 6th Aug Lord Kitchener, on leave from Egypt where he was British agent, was appointed to this post. Immediately on assuming office he said that we must be prepared for a three years war and that we would require an army of seventy divisions.

On 7th Aug a poster and notices in the newspapers called for an addition of 100,000 men, between 19 and 30, to the Army, serving for three years or the duration of the war. The response was overwhelming and within a few days the First Hundred Thousand had joined up and by the middle of September half a million men had enlisted. They included the best of their generation, eager to serve their country. Many gave their lives in the Somme battles of 1916 where the New Army battalions suffered grievous losses.

Lord Kitchener decided that the massive expansion must be achieved by the creation of new armies separate from the Regulars and Territorials so he did not make use of the framework of the Territorial Force as envisaged in the Haldane plans.

The new army consisted of over 500 battalions (including the reserve units) and was popularly known at the time as Kitchener’s Army. It was organised in thirty divisions formed in groups of six. The new battalions were raised as additional battalions of the regiments of Infantry of the Line sharing their traditions and regimental spirit. They were numbered consecutively after the existing battalions of their regiments and were distinguished by the word “Service” in brackets after the number, e.g.:-

“11th (Service) Bn. The Manchester Regiment.”

Later Second Reserve and Local Reserve battalions were formed as explained below.

A large number of new units were also raised for the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and other arms for the thirty new divisions. They did not, however, have the word “Service” in their titles.

There are five categories of New Army Battalions:-

1. The service battalions raised in Aug-Sept 1914 formed the eighteen divisions of the three new armies.
First Army (9th-14th Divisions).
Second Army (15th -20th Divisions).
Third Army (21st -26th Divisions).

The three new service battalions of the Manchester were:-

11th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment: 34th Infantry Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division. Stations, Belton Park, Grantham, Leeds, Sheffield.

12th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment: 52nd Infantry Brigade, 17th Division. Stations, Wool, Lulworth, Wareham.

13th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment: 66th Infantry Brigade, 22nd Division.

The three new armies were sometimes abbreviated to K.1, K.2 and K.3.

2. In addition to the twelve battalions for each division a number of Army Troops units were raised and attached to divisions for training. All these Army Troops battalions eventually went to regular or new army divisions. The 37th Division was formed in 1915 with thirteen Army Troops battalions.

3. Another series of service battalions was formed in the autumn of 1914 with men from the reserve and extra reserve battalions, which were now, well over establishment, to form the original Fourth Army (30th-35th Divisions) known as K.4. Later in order to provide reinforcement for the first eighteen divisions it was decided in April 1915 to break up the divisions of the Fourth New Army and reconstitute the infantry as reserve battalions to train recruits and send drafts to the first three new armies. (The battalions became second reserve battalions and were organized in eighteen reserve infantry brigades. On 1st Sept 1916 all these second reserve battalions were absorbed in the Training Reserve.

4. At the same time as the units of the first four armies were being formed a Number of service battalions were being raised by committees from cities towns, organizations and individuals. These battalions were clothed, housed and fed by these committees until the War Office took them over in 1915 and refunded the raisers’ expenditure. These battalions supplied most of the infantry for the 30th-41st Division. The new Fourth New army divisions took over their numbers, 30th-35th, from the original Fourth Army. The Fifth New Army 36th-41st Divisions, included 36th (Ulster) and 38th (Welsh) Divisions which were raised in Northern Ireland and Wales. The locally raised battalions had an additional title in brackets showing their connection with the district or organization which helped to form them.

The 1-9 (City Service) Battalions Manchester Regiment.

Became the:-

16th (1st City) Service Battalion.
17th (2nd City) Service Battalion.
18th (3rd City) Service Battalion.
19th (4th City) Service Battalion.

90th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division.

20th (5th City) Service Battalion.
21st (6th City) Service Battalion.
22nd (7th City) Service Battalion.

91st Infantry Brigade, 30th Division.

23rd (8th City) Service Bantam Battalion.

104th Infantry Brigade, 35th Division.

24th (Oldham Town) Service Pioneers Battalion.

91st Infantry Brigade, 30th Division.

The locally raised service battalions formed depot companies and in 1915 these companies were grouped to form local reserve battalions, with numbers following the parent battalions, to supply reinforcements to their service battalions. On 1st Sept 1916 these battalions were absorbed in the Training Reserve.

Reserve Battalions:-

25th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regt.
26th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regt.
27th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regt.

A few more service and reserve battalions were formed in 1915 and 1916 in addition to those in the above four categories.

All info for this as come from:-
1. British Regiments, 1914-1918 Brig E.A. James.
2. (A.O.) Army Order.
3. (A.C.I.) Army Council Instruction.
4. Kitchener’s Army, Ray Westlake.