The Gun Battery

War broke out on August 4th 1914 and the country was called to arms. On the 6th Parliament assented to a proposed increase in the size of the army by an extra 500,000 men (the standing pre-war army was 250,000). On 10th September the PM, Asquith, asked Parliament to sanction a further 500,000 and on the 16th November he requested an additional increase of 1 million more – thus the army had grown by a potential of 2 million in a matter of weeks.

Despite the long queues at the recruiting stations, the actual number of men who took the King’s shilling lagged somewhat behind the War Office targets and by the end of November the number of volunteers had reached only 1 million towards the 2 million required.

The shortfall was met in part by the success of the Pals movement where men from communities, workplaces, churches etc were allowed to sign up together on the understanding that they would serve together. This impetus caused the War Office to encourage additional locally raised units to join the colours and direct appeals were made to MPs, Mayors and others where there a reservoir of able-bodied men appeared not to have been exhausted. Particular attention was directed on the London boroughs which had not matched the industrial areas of the north.

As a result, between November 1914 and July 1915 infantry battalions were formed in 9 boroughs. The new locally raised units were not only infantry men. Towns also provided artillery brigades for the New Armies and Camberwell, Deptford, East Ham, Fulham, Hackney, Hampstead, Tottenham, West Ham and Wimbledon all enlisted local men to fight with the Royal Garrison Artillery. 11 areas raised Royal Field Engineers field companies.

The battery went to war with four 60 pounder guns. The guns were supported by a variety of wagons and dozens of draught horses. Late in 1916 the battery was increased to six guns and in 1917 Holts tractors replace the horses (which were becoming increasingly hard to buy).