RECORD OF THE 8th (SERVICE) BATTALION FOR 1914-1915.
BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM THE REGIMENTAL CHRONICLE
The 8th Battalion was formed at Cowley Barracks, Oxford, early in October 1914, and Brevet-Colonel C. Le G. Justice (Indian Army) was appointed to the command.
On the 14th October 480 men, under the command of Captain F. Llewellyn, proceeded from Oxford to Boyton Park Camp, Codford, Wilts, where the Battalion assembled, and went under canvas to commence training, for which purpose a few old N.C.O.'s and privates had been supplied from the Depot.
The majority of the recruits came from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, as well as from Birmingham, and turned out to be a very superior lot of men, respectable and well behaved, many having given up good situations in civil life in order to serve their country in this great crisis.
During the next few weeks parties of recruits arrived from the Depot almost daily, and the numbers gradually swelled; but, on the other hand, discharges were numerous, since apparently the Recruiting Medical Officers had passed men who were quite unfit for service. Officers also were appointed and joined in quick succession.
These officers were posted to platoons as they arrived, and by the 19th October 7 platoons had received officers. There were now 16 platoons for the first time, with an officer in command of each.
The Battalion remained in camp for a month, during which time little or no training was possible, owing to the continuous torrential rain, which made the whole country ankle deep in mud. The men had no change of clothing or of boots, and they began their soldiering under the most adverse circumstances possible; yet they maintained their keenness and cheerfulness, and their conduct was exemplary.
On the 16th November the Battalion moved into billets at Oxford, much to every one's joy, and the men were located in the area south of Magdalen Bridge, while the officers were billeted in Magdalen College, whose President, Sir Herbert Warren, and the College officials went out of their way to make every one comfortable. (On leaving at the end of the billeting season, the Officers of the Battalion were invited to consider themselves permanent honorary members of Magdalen College.) The billeting being "with subsistence" obviated the necessity of having men on regimental employ, and, consequently, every man turned out on parade each day, which enabled the training to progress rapidly. Moreover, the Battalion now received 690 rifles (D.P.), which, though insufficient in number, were a great help in teaching the men to handle their arms,
During the following week large drafts were sent down from the Depot, and by the 23rd November the Battalion was at war strength.
1915. Early in 1915 the authorities decided to form a Pioneer Battalion for each Division of the new armies, and the 8th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was selected to become the Pioneer Battalion of the 26th Division, and as far as equipment and material allowed, it commenced its special training as such forthwith.
One hundred service rifles and 16 miniature rifles were now issued, and the Battalion proceeded to make its own miniature range in Headington Hill Park, thrown open for training purposes by Mrs. Herbert Morrell, who also generously lent cottages for regimental offices and stables for the officers' horses. Major L. B. Scott looked after the musketry, and the men became very keen about miniature range shooting, and won many prizes in competitions with other units.
In February various classes for Signallers, Scouts, Machine-gunners, etc., were formed, and specialist training began in earnest.
With the spring came the move to less restricted training ground, and on the 29th March Major Llewellyn, with D Company, 233 strong, left Oxford for Fovant Camp, where for some weeks they were engaged on pioneer work, such as building ranges, sheds, huts and cisterns, making roads, sinking wells, etc.
On the 19th April the remainder of the Battalion, which had now reached a total strength of 1,114, and was clothed in khaki for the first time, entrained for Sutton Veny (Salisbury Plain), where No. 1 Camp was occupied, and training was taken up with fresh vigour. At Sutton Veny the Battalion remained in training until its embarkation for overseas in September 1915.