• Welcome to this forum Guest. We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

The Birmingham Pals in the Great War

Steve R

master brummie
#1
When the first World War broke out it was obvious to the Military chiefs that whilst Britain almost certainly had the best professional army in the world made up entirely of volunteers it was far to small to fight a European War with many nations involved.


Many city's decided to raise a 1000 men to form a Battalion and offer it for service. Birmingham called for a 1000 volunteers in 1914 to offer such a Battalion, what happened surprised all, in little more that a week 4,500 men volunteered and the city was able to offer three complete Battalions in addition to a to a reserve battalion later in 1915. The were to be known locally as the 1st 2nd and 3rd Birmingham Pals which formed the 14th 15th and 16th Royal Warwickshire Battalions. Room was found for the 1st and 2nd Battalions to train at Sutton Park whilst the 3rd went to Spring Hill College in Mosely. over the next month or so I will put many of the post cards and picture in relation to the Pals that I have and tell their story.


They were so called Pals as these men were often from the same streets or week place and brothers also joined up together. It was thought that they would have better comradeship, fight hard and play hard together looking after one another but the reality was they endured hardship in the trenches and when the fighting was hard many died, streets and factory lost many of the sons and brothers at the same time.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#2
Scan1.jpg

When the Battalions first started training the 1st and 2nd Pals were training in Sutton Park but they had nowhere to live as there was no living accommodation for them. To start with the residents of Sutton Coldfield were paid to give soldiers lodgings which solved that problem until huts were built. What couldn't be solved so easily was not having equipment or uniforms as the rapid expansion of the British army resulted in a shortage, so soldiers trained initially in their own clothes. The rear of this card states these men were from the 2nd Pals.

To show the public they had enlisted each man was given a small circular (Mufti) badge. The two men seated front left are wearing theirs
 

Steve R

master brummie
#3
Scan2.jpg

This post card was written by Private 88 W Mc Millan of Platoon No 2 from A Company 2nd Pals. On the rear he apparently writes to his parents stating he will be going to the dental hospital and will 'slip away' to see them for a while. Unfortunately it is not shown which of the three men he is. This type of digging would have put them in good practice when they later went to the front.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#4
Scan3.jpg

This Post card was written by Pte 233 Richard Findon to his parents, he also mentions the post card is from his brother Frank as well so perhaps both are on the picture?

Sadly Richard was not to survive the war he was killed in the epic battle for High wood on the Somme on the 23rd July 1916. His brother Pte 68 Frank Leonard Findon was also killed in action later the same year on the 26/09/16. Both men served with the 1st Pals Battalion. Note they have their flat caps but all are made of blue material due to the shortage of Khaki

Two sons from one family what a tragedy.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#5
Scan4.jpg

Very nice posed picture of the 1st or 2nd Pals digging practice trenches . Some items of the blue tempory clothing is starting to appear due to the shortage of Khaki material, the Pals were to keep this colour of uniform for many months to come awaiting stocks of khaki to catch up with demand.


Note the young lad on the left that appears to have sneaked in the photograph I am sure he isn't one of the soldiers
 
Last edited:
#6
so nice that you've remembered these boys men here though steve, and in turn we too. our Battalion hero's - thank you.
 

mhemery

master brummie
#7
Great photo's Thanks for posting steve. Michael.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#8
Below is a photograph of a button hole badge or 'Mufti' badge that was issued to the three battalions, worn on the lapel. The badge was issued to the soldiers as they did not have a uniform to show they had enlisted. this was important as men who didn't were sometimes accused of cowardice and it wasn't unheard of for white feathers to be sent to the men. Birmingham was the City of a 1000 trades so these and other items I will show were made locally. I have these badge that were made by both H B Sale and Dingley both big established companies that supplied badges across the country.
001.JPG

Later in 1915 when the three battalion were issued with the khaki uniforms many girlfriends and wife were to adapt these (and buttons) into broaches and pendant, many examples of these are still around and very collectable. I will post a few example in the near future
 

Steve R

master brummie
#9
The Lapel badge were the same for all three Birmingham Pals Battalions, what distinguished the battalions were their cap badges, shoulder titles and buttons.

002.JPG 003.JPG 004.JPG 005.JPG 006.JPG

The cap badge were very similar to the standard Warwickshire Cap badge but had a distinctive second scroll added at the bottom to show which Birmingham battalion there were in. Again it was a local company 'Gaunt' who made the buttons and millions of other for the nation.

Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#10
Another picture post card of the Pals in Sutton Park.

Scan5.jpg

I have done a little research with the Birmingham battalions book. I have found one Platoon with a both Stait and Chatwin listed this being Platoon XVI of D Company the 2nd Pals.

It is difficult to be sure as in these early days of the Pals many men were offered commissions or transferred to other platoons to be with friends or family. I have only found one Stait and he was Private 890 who died on the 26th September 1916.There is also a Sjt 483 of the 1st Pals who died on the 3rd September 1916 who may be one in the same person. There are several men who served with the name Chatwin so a more common name but two died from the original Pals of 1914. There are too many Deakin's to narrow it down to one of the men in this picture.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#11
Another Post Card Picture of the Pals in training in Sutton Park but again difficult to narrow the Platoon down.

Scan6.jpg

On the back of this card it does say Riley recommended for the Distinguish Conduct Medal (DCM) in June 1916. I have found a Riley in the book written by Terry Carter stating that PTE 1005 J A Riley of the 2nd Pals was awarded the Military Medal in 1918 so probably doesn't relate to that recommendation but may be the same man.

Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#12
More Pals in training in Sutton Park and posing for the camera. Most of these proudly wear there blue flat caps, one of the few items of uniform they have had issued

Scan7.jpg

Note one man on the lower left has his arm around the others shoulder and another soldier is giving another water, there are clearly a close tight knit group these Pals.

Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#13
A larger group of soldier this time. There is a mixture of soldier wearing items of blue uniform dating it before mid 1915 and soldier in Khaki and some possibly I their own clothes. Perhaps the one in Khaki are older soldiers there for training purposes

Scan8.jpg

This is almost certainly XIII Platoon D Company 2nd Pals with their cooking facilities in the background. My research shows five names the same as listed as belonging to this platoon so on the balance of probabilities we can say:

Charles Pte 995 Survived
Knight Cpl 782 Killed in Action 23/07/16 buried Caterpillar Cemetery Somme
Braddock Sgt Survived
Perkins Cpl 768 Survived
Terry Pte 892 Survived

Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#14
Another group of Pals in Sutton park.

Scan9.jpg

On the back of the card is the name B Hancock which is probably BH? and also the name Willmott but not enough to identify any individuals. probably taken early 1915.

Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#15
Post Card Picture of the Birmingham Pals circa late 1914 or early 1915. Most wearing their Mufti badges and looking very smart.

Scan10.jpg

Note that the soldiers are all sporting a side cap. This picture may have been taken to celebrate this as I understand It was one the first Items to be issued. Again this would have been taken in Sutton Park. Soon the men were to move out of their lodgings and into purpose built wooden huts, those picture will follow.

Steve R
 
Last edited:

Steve R

master brummie
#16
A series of photographs of the Birmingham Pals in Sutton Park

Scan11.jpg Scan12.jpg

The Birmingham pals now in huts and beginning to get more uniform and equipment


Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#17
Birmingham Pals Post cards showing the soldiers settling down to living in the huts during 1915.

Scan14.jpg Scan15.jpg Scan16.jpg

The middle post card shows a good view of the inside of the huts whilst the last picture shows the troops were responsible for maintaining the condition of the huts. Perhaps a BHF member recognises a name as most of these soldiers were fairly local.


Steve R
 

jimbo

master brummie
#18
Steve R. Thank's for posting these very interesting post cards. I hope there's more to come, well done that man.
 

Steve R

master brummie
#19
Scan17.jpg Scan18.jpg Scan19.jpg

The first picture shows four soldiers during 1915 at an unknown location.
The man back left is Corporal 331 John Percy Dewberry of the 1st Birmingham Pals killed in action on the 21st July 1916.
The man back right is Corporal 223 Harry Elliot of the 1st Birmingham Pals killed in action on the 16th June 1916
The man front left is Private 530 Frederick Chare of the 1st Birmingham Pals. The second picture is Frederick and the third picture is typical of a message sent from the front lines back home where you were only allowed to cross lines out and put your name. This was to prevent information on battalion locations reaching the enemy that may assist them.
The man front right is almost certainly Private 507 T C Barton of the 1st Pals who also survived the war.
Steve R
 

Steve R

master brummie
#20
Scan20.jpg Scan21.jpg Scan22.jpg

Three pictures of the 3rd Birmingham Battalion in training at Moseley college. I hope to take some comparison picture at some point if I can get permission

Steve R
 
Top