The Lonsdale Battalion Border Regiment, September 1914 to June 1915
Through the Border Regiment the sister counties of Cumberland and Westmorland have been honourably associated with British military history for more than two hundred years. During the progress of the tremendous fight which is now being waged for the freedom of Europe and the security of modern civilization – both of which are at this moment threatened by a peril more deadly than any recorded in our history – this Regiment has already justified and enhanced a reputation of which the Border Counties may well be proud. Cumberland and Westmorland are fittingly represented in that most deadly of all the fighting lines the world has known; the line which gears our island home from the destroying hordes who have laid Belgium waste.
It was not to be supposed that after the momentous events of August, 1914, when every other county in Britain was stirring its utmost to augment its share in the national defences, the Border Counties, with their stirring and virile traditions, would hold back. They are not densely populated counties, but it can never be said that in this world war Cumberland and Westmorland made no effort to secure for themselves distinctive representation, quite apart from the men they have sent to regiments in other sections of the country.
Soon after the outbreak of war it became evident to those directing the Cumberland and Westmorland Territorial Force that, whilst a good proportion of Border Counties men were anxious to play an able-bodied man’s part in the struggle, many hesitated to offer themselves for general service without knowing where or with whom they might have to train and serve. The Earl of Lonsdale, quick to see and understand this, submitted to the War Office a proposal to recruit a special local Battalion of Cumberland and Westmorland men. The approval of the Army Council was given (War Office letter No. 20/Gen. No./3162 (A.G.1), dated 17th September, 1914), an Executive Committee was formed, and it decided to raise the “Lonsdale” Battalion, in three detachments, viz., at Blackhall Racecourse, Carlisle, at Workington, and at Kendal. The Earl of Lonsdale was appointed Chairman, with Colonel Weston, M.P., as Vice-Chairman, Major Binning, Mr. F. R. Hodgson, and Captain Wakefield were appointed Goveners of Local Committees, at Carlisle, Workington, and Kendal, respectively, and Mr. Gerald Spring-Rice became Hon. Secretary of the Executive Committee.
The camp at Blackhall, presently to become the Headquarters of the whole Battalion, was started on 25th September, 1914, by Major Binning and Captain Sale with 75 recruits, who formed the nucleus of “A” and “B” the North Cumberland Companies. At Workington, Messrs. Hodgson and Highton, assisted by Mr. J. McKay, together laid the foundations of “D”, the West Cumberland Company. At Kendal Captain Wakefield undertook the enrollment of recruits for “C”, the Westmorland Company, which included two platoons, and one each from Windermere and North Westmorland. When Captain Wakefield left to join the colours, he was succeeded by Colonel Haworth, who raised and commanded “C” Company until it proceeded to Battalion Headquarters.
On October 15th the West Cumberland recruits were transferred from Workington to Blackhall Camp. The Westmorland men remained at Kendal until January 5th, 1915, when (the hutments at Blackhall being completed) they were brought to Headquarters by Colonel Haworth, and handed over, 280 strong, as “C” Company.
The command of the Lonsdale Battalion was given to Mr. P. W. Machell, C.M.G., of Crackenthorpe, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel Machell in the Army from September 1st, 1914. On October 17th, 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel Machell proceeded, with the Orderly Room Staff and Lieutenant and Quartermaster Dawson, from Penrith to Blackhall. During October and November a great deal of hard spade work was done, and the foundations of the Battalion were well and truly laid in a spirit of practical patriotism, with every consideration for local feeling and good comradeship, and for the democratic ideals of the twentieth century worker. During these formative days of the Battalion’s earliest history it became clear to everyone in the Border Counties that this really was a Battalion of “Pals”, of comrades, and of Border men. From its Commanding Officer to the last joined recruit, all ranks worked together with a will, and in the friendliest spirit of unity, to make a Battalion which should eventually prove itself to be worthy of the best traditions of the British Army. There was here no suggestion of men working while the officers looked on. In the “Lonsdales” all realised that in this time of national emergency it behoved them to develop self-reliance to the utmost limit of their capacity. Lord Lonsdale’s unfailing generosity and watchful care were of the greatest possible value and assistance. The growing Battalion made its own non-commissioned officers; the Border Counties furnished its officers; and recruits, at the rate of some fourteen or fifteen a day, began to say that they would join the Lonsdales or nothing. The Battalion, in short, became an accomplished fact, a reality of Border Counties life.
Captain P. G. W. Diggle, Border Regiment, was appointed Adjutant from December 3rd, 1914; and R.Q.M.S. R. Stanley was Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant from October 27th, 1914, until his appointment to a commission on 22nd February, 1915. A noteworthy personality in the Battalion’s period of early development was Colour-Sergt. Cowie (Border Regiment), who acted as Battalion Sergeant-Major from 1st October, 1914, to 20th May, 1915.
On January 3rd, 1915, the Battalion attained a total strength of 1,152 non-commissioned officers and men.
By order of the War Office, conveyed in War Officer letter No.20/Infy./635 (A.G.1) dated 3rd December, 1914, the Lonsdale Battalion became the 11th (Service) Battalion, Border Regiment (Lonsdale). On the 10th December, 1914, the Battalion was attached to the 124th Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Collings. On the 16th March, 1915, the Battalion was transferred to the 112th Brigade, under Brigadier-General Mackenzie. On May 8th, 1915, the Battalion left Blackhall for Prees Heath Camp, Salop, where it joined the 97th Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General Hacket Thompson, C.B., the other Battalions being the 15th, 16th and 17th Highland Light Infantry (1st, 2nd and 3rd Glasgow). On June 22nd, 1915, the Battalion went under canvas at Wensley, in Yorkshire, where it was joined by the remainder of the Brigade.
The following is list of the officers of the Battalion at the present time:-
|Lieut. Colonel P. W. Machell, C.M.G.|
|Adjutant – Captain P. G. W. Diggle||Quartermaster – Lieut. J. F. Dawson|
|"A" Company||"B" Company|
|Captain R. Smith||Captain C. Clart|
|Captain L.B. Hogarth||Lieut. G.H. Lifton|
|Lieut. R.A.M. Harris||Lieut. C.H. Walker|
|Lieut. C.P. Moore||Lieut. B.C. Harrison|
|2nd Lieut. M. McKerrow||2nd Lieut. J.W. Moore|
|2nd Lieut. M. Gordon||2nd Lieut. R.R. Craig|
|2nd Lieut. K.C. Campbell||2nd Lieut. R.G. Pollock|
|2nd Lieut. G.S. Allan|
|"C" Company||"D" Company|
|Captain G.C. Rivington||Captain A.J. Dawson|
|Lieut. C.S. Brown||Lieut. W.A. Hobson|
|2nd Lieut. C.W. Margerison||Lieut. W.S. Barnes|
|2nd Lieut. J.B. Lowthian||2nd Lieut. T.H. Hodgkinson|
|2nd Lieut. C. Tudor Owen||2nd Lieut. A.G. Robinson|
|2nd Lieut. H.H. Watson||2nd Lieut. A.E. Corbett|
|2nd Lieut. J. Ross||2nd Lieut. H. Davidson|
|"E" (Depot) Company (at Blackhall Camp, Carlisle)|
|Major W.W.R. Binning||2nd Lieut. A.E. Monkhouse|
|Captain R. Stanley||2nd Lieut. J.C. Parker|
|2nd Lieut. W. Monkhouse||2nd Lieut. F. Parminter|
|2nd Lieut. G.D. Kirkbride||2nd Lieut. W.S. Paton|