BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM “CITIZEN SOLDIERS OF BUCKS” BY JC SWANN.
The Bucks Reserve Battalion, afterwards designated 2/1st Bucks Battalion and commonly known as the 2nd Bucks, was raised at Aylesbury by Lieut.Colonel H. M. Williams, T.D., and received official recognition on the 26th September, 1914. Headquarters were established in Temple Square, the men being billeted in the town.
Recruiting proceeded rapidly, and the men were nearly all from the County, and of a very good stamp. Leave was granted to N.C.O.’s and men to visit their homes and bring back recruits, and this was found to have very good results. In December the Band of the 1st Battalion joined, under Sergeant Brooks, from Wolverton, and proved a great asset to the Corps.
By the end of December the clothing and equipment of the Battalion was completed and, as a considerable number of D.P. rifles had been obtained on loan from the Eton O.T.C., their turn-out both on parade and in the streets of Aylesbury compared very favourably with the appearance of the Battalions of Kitchener’s Army in the vicinity, still in plain clothes or blue service uniforms and drilling with dummy rifles.
Lieut.-Colonel Williams showed great discrimination in his selection of officers to complete the establishment from the large number of applicants for commissions in the Battalion, and from the first there existed a spirit of camaraderie and good fellowship amongst the officers which was reflected in the esprit de corps and the excellent feeling that grew up amongst all ranks and became so marked a feature throughout the Corps, contributing in no small measure to that reputation for smartness and discipline which was borne by the Battalion in the 61st Division.
On the 1st February the 2nd Bucks moved to Northampton and joined the South Midland Reserve Brigade, afterwards called the 184th Infantry Brigade, under Command of Colonel Walter Ludlow, C.B., the other Battalions being the 2/4th the Royal Berks Regiment, the 2/4th Oxford and Bucks L.I., and the 2/5th Gloucester Regiment. This Brigade, with the Warwick Infantry Brigade, afterwards the 182nd and the Gloucester and Worcester Infantry Brigade, afterwards the 183rd, formed the Infantry of the 2nd South Midland Division, afterwards the 61st Division, under the Command of Brigadier-General the Marquis of Salisbury, K.G., G.C.V.O.
Here the Battalion was armed with Japanese rifles, and with 100 S.M.L.E. rifles for training purposes,
Battalion Headquarters were in Billing Road, the Officers’ Mess in the cricket pavilion of the Asylum, and the cricket field was used as the parade ground. The Brigade training area comprised Great and Little Billing and Overstone Park. Platoon training was carried on, and a musketry course fired with Japanese rifles; movements in Brigade were confined to route marching, occasionally by night, to Overstone Park.
Early in April 1915 the Division moved to Chelmsford, where it formed part of the Third Army under General Sir Alfred Codrington, and took an active part in Home Defence.
The Battalion took over the billets in Springfield which had been occupied by the 1st Battalion before leaving for France. The parade ground and alarm post were in Queen’s Park. Officers and men, who for various reasons were unfit for foreign service, were transferred to the 83rd Provisional Battalion.
Towards the end of April the 184th Brigade was detailed to work on the London Defences, and was allotted to the section Montnessing—Billericay, Brigade Headquarters being located at Epping. The Battalion was employed in digging trenches, and their work was specially commended. About three weeks were spent in this occupation, broken only by a sudden call to picket all the roads in the direction of London between Montnessing, Billericay, Pitsea and the coast near Southend, at an hour’s notice.
Shortly afterwards the Battalion returned to Chelmsford, where they were again put through a musketry course and Lewis gun training under Lieutenant Chadwick, and signalling under Lieutenant Wells was commenced. Large working-parties for Ordnance Stores and Range repairs had to be found in addition to the guard duties, made heavier by the provision of anti-aircraft pickets, and Aerodrome guards. The number of men available for training was thus much reduced and progress retarded.
It was therefore a welcome change when in June 1915 the Brigade moved to Epping for a camp of instruction for six weeks.
Entrenching ground was secured for the Brigade near Boreham, and on the Chelmsford—Chignall Smealy Road, trenches were dug and occupied, and Battalions exercised in trench warfare, though timber, wire, lights, flares, and other paraphernalia were not as yet available for training purposes.
On the 6th August the division was inspected by Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener at Hylands Park. It was generally believed at the time that the employment of Second Line formations as such with the B.E.F. was finally decided upon by the authorities as the result of this inspection.
In September, in order to meet the pressing demands for drafts to replace casualties in France, the establishment of all Second Line Infantry units was reduced to 22 officers and 600 other ranks, the surplus being drafted overseas, or, if unfit, sent to Third Line units.
In November Brigadier-General Lord Salisbury relinquished the Command of the 61st Division. Major-General John Mackenzie was appointed to the Command of the 61st Division shortly before they moved to Salisbury Plain in February.
Here the Battalion was quartered in huts at Parkhouse Camp. Intensive training was carried out in preparation for overseas, and units were brought up to war strength again by drafts mostly found by Provisional Battalions, and composed chiefly of men from the Liverpool, Herts, Suffolk, and Cambridge Regiments.
In April the Division had the honour of being inspected by H.M. King George, in anticipation of their departure to join the B .E.F. in the following month.
Major Chadwick left the Battalion about this time, Captain G. Christie-Miller was promoted Major, and succeeded him as Second-in-Command, and Captain G. E. W. Bowyer became Adjutant vice Major Christie-Miller.
On the 25th May, 1916, the Battalion left Parkhouse Camp and entrained for Southampton, where it embarked for Havre.
Before leaving for France distinctive symbols were allotted to all units of the Division, and a Divisional mark adopted, formed of the number of the Division in Roman. numerals which were allowed to touch LXI. The Brigades were distinguished by the shape, the units by the colour of the patches, an inch in diameter, worn on the upper sleeve of both arms. The 182nd Brigade had squares, the 183rd triangles, the 184th circles, and in the Brigades the Senior Battalion wore scarlet, 2nd Senior bright blue, 3rd Senior yellow, and the Junior black, Machine Gun Companies apple green, and Light Trench Mortar Batteries purple or brown. These marks were painted on all vehicles, together with the Divisional symbol, and on sign-boards for Headquarters. They were also generally placed on the steel helmets of the men.