Marching to War

After completing their training the soldiers were sent abroad for combat duties. In many cases the men were marched through their home county to give local people the opportunity to show their gratitude. As Tom MacDonald, a member of the Royal Sussex Regiment pointed out: "All the villages en route were out to welcome us and say farewell." There would often be receptions at places such as Southampton where soldiers were put on ships for France.

Primary Sources

(1) Tom MacDonald, Royal Sussex Regiment, interviewed (1978)

All the villages en route were out to welcome us and say farewell. Many relations of the men were crying. We happened to halt for ten minutes at crossroads near Bolney and a lot of villagers were collected there and among them was an old Aunt of mine, my Aunt Eliza, who I was very pleased to see.

(2) Henry Bolton, 1st East Surrey Regiment, wrote about his experiences after the war.

I left Devonport on 17th February 1915 by special train to Southampton via Exeter and here we were met with a great reception and were all given tea, also a bag containing a sandwich, orange, apple and cigarettes with the card of the Mayoress & Committee of Exeter with the words "Wishing you good luck".

(3) Private Thomas Bickerton, Royal Sussex Regiment, interviewed (1978)

The romance of it, the mystery and uncertainty of it, the glowing enthusiasm and lofty idealism of it: of our own free will we were embarked on this glorious enterprise, ready to endure any hardship and make any sacrifice, inspired by a patriotism newly awakened by the challenge of our country's honour. Nothing could have been more romantic than our passing out into the open sea.

(4) Private C. W. Mason was one of those soldiers who boarded his ship at Southampton.

Whilst waiting on the quayside to embark a huge hospital ship came in filled with wounded. From the upper deck a voice shouted, "Are you downhearted?" to which we replied to a man, 'No!' Back came the voice, "Then you bloody soon will be!"