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Campaigns of the First World War

On Saturday, 1st August 1914, the London Irish paraded at Chelsea to go for their annual camp on Persham Down. They en-trained at Paddington but spent less than one day in camp as orders for general mobilisation were received the same night and the Battalion was ordered to return to Chelsea. On mobilisation, every man received five pounds in gold. The only absentees were one one officer, who was in Canada and one soldier, who was visiting India. This rapid mobilisation reflected great credit on the Commanding Officer and his officers.

Many recruits joined at this period and their selection and engagement stretched the capabilities of all the officers and NCOs. When all was ready, the London Irish set out to march to St Albans, where they were billeted. This took two days, with a night stop in bivouacs at Edgware and was a trying experience in the hot sun with the newly acquired transport and vehicles.

Rigorous training began and continued in mud, rain, snow and east winds until the Battalion received orders to go overseas in March 1915.

In September 1914, a reserve battalion of the London Irish, 30 officers and 990 other ranks, were raised in four days under the command of Lt Col Walter J Mathews. This became the 2nd Battalion and in November 1914, provided a large draft for the 1st Battalion in order to replace a number of older soldiers and others not physically equal to the tasks ahead. At St Albans, the circus like cavalcade of tradesman’s vans and municipal water carts were replaced by army limbers, field cookers and ammunition wagons.

On March 9th 1915, the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles, left St Albans by train for Southampton Docks. The strength of the Battalion comprised 29 officers and 1,048 other ranks, who were accommodated in three transports. On disembarkation, the London Irish marched five miles to a tented camp. The Battalion entrained for Cassel on the 11th March and marched to billets at Winnezeele. St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in the proper manner but orders were received the next day to move by motor bus, followed by a march through the snow to Berbure.

Follow the links below to read personal narratives of some of the men, who were serving with the London Irish Rifles during the First World War.

Memories of Sydney Stadler.

Patrick MacGill remembers arriving in France.

Diary and Letters of Corporal Sydney Speed.

  • Diary entries from March to October 1915.

  • Letters home written from March to August 1915.

  • Letters home written during September/October 1915.

  • Last two letters home written on 20th and 23rd October 1915.

The ‘Wartime History’ of 1/18th Battalion, London Regiment.

  • Festubert, May 1915.

  • Loos, September 1915.

  • Hohenzollern Redoubt, December 1915.

  • German assaults on Vimy Ridge, May 1916.

  • The Battle of High Wood, September 1916.

  • Raid on Hill 60, April 1917.

  • Bourlon Wood, November 1917.

  • Defensive actions at the Somme, March 1918.

  • Happy Valley, August 1918.

An account of 2/18th London Regiment’s wartime history.

Official History of 47th (London) Division in France.

War Diaries

Movements of the 1st Battalion from March to September 1915.