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Wiltshire History

During the First World War, most of Wiltshire’s Community based Cadet Detachments were formed by an organisation called the ‘Church Lads Brigade’

Wiltshire History

19 October 2023

  • Wiltshire ACF
Backk to Wilts ACF

With Remembrance Sunday rapidly approaching our thoughts turns towards those who have given their lives in war and those ex-servicemen and woman who need continuing support from organisations such as the Royal British Legion.

During the First World War, most of Wiltshire’s Community based Cadet Detachments were formed by an organisation called the ‘Church Lads Brigade’ (CLB).

The CLB was, and still is, an Anglican youth organisation founded by Walter Mallock Gee in 1891. Prior to WW1, it was as large as the Scouts are today with detachments in church parishes throughout the Country and in some Commonwealth Countries. In common with many youth organisations of the period, they were very patriotic and militaristic in their outlook including drill and Weapons Training in their syllabus.

With international tensions rising in Europe at the start of the 20th Century Lord Haldane, Minister for War, saw the various existing youth organisations as a recruiting ground for the Armed Forces and wanted to incorporate them into a national Cadet Force administered by the Territorial Army. In August 1909, provisional regulations were issued by the Army Council outlining a scheme for Cadet recognition. Under this scheme, youth organisations could bridge into the Army Cadet Force following their syllabus and receiving uniforms and equipment and a subsidy of £5.00 per cadet per annum. After much debate within the Church Lads' Brigade and after negotiation with the War Office to allow the Brigade to retain all its privileges and organisation intact, the CLB joined the Cadet Scheme in 1911.

The Church Lads' Brigade became the largest component part of the Cadet scheme at one point forming 114 Battalions of the 165 in the scheme (80,000 cadets in 1917). The organisation maintained close links with the ‘Kings Royal Rifle Corps’ and under Army Order 128 in 1917 the brigade became affiliated to the Regiment wearing a version of their cap badge. The 16th Service Battalion of the K.R.R.C. was formed by ex-members of the CLB and suffered heavy casualties during the war including 220 killed during the battle of the Somme in 1916. Some 250,000 ex-members of the brigade enlisted in the armed forces during the war with approximately 20,000 killed in action and over 1000 medals for bravery, including 21 Victoria Crosses being awarded.

Current Brigade members still wear a Rifle Green band or insert on their caps in memory of those who fell on the battlefields of the Great War. A Processional banner depicting St Martin was presented to Westminster Abbey in 1921 as a memorial to those members of the Brigade who died during the war. The inscription on the Banner refers to St Martin's life; “I have become the soldier of Christ” and was in use during the wedding of the current Prince and Princess of Wales.

Attached are newspaper articles from the First World War recording the deaths of three ex-cadet members of the CLB in Wiltshire.

Pte. A. J Hayter 21, Son of Mrs. A. Hayter, of 15, Drynham Rd., Trowbridge, Wilts.

Pte. W. Humphries 19, Son of Frank and Ellen Louise Humphries, of 8, Pound St., Warminster, Wilts.

Pte. G. Prince 19. Son of Oliver and Martha Prince, of 23A, Marsh St., Warminster, Wilts.

Sadly the First World War known as the war to end all wars has failed to live up to its name.

SSI Neil Ashley

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