The London Gunners Come to Town

A book by Bertha and Chris Reynolds

 

Lord Kitchener inspected the troops at Gorhambury, September 29th, 1914

 

Lord Kitchener inspecting the troop at St Albans, September 1914

click for larger image

 

 

Lord Kitchener inspecting the troops on the Gorhambury Estate, September 1914

 

When I was writing the book the best pictures I could find of the event were poor quality newspaper pictures from the Watford Illustrated newspaper (see below). Recently I purchased a very damaged photographic post card (torn almost in half!) on ebay. Fortunately the damage did not affect any of the figures and the above is a restored image.  There is no caption or indication of publisher but the back includes the words "Lord Kitchener reviewing the troops at St Albans." The view is very similar to the pictures from the Watford Illustrated and it could have been taken by the same photographer as the newspaper pictures.

From Section 4, The Soldier's Tale:

Chapter 18, Military Events and Excursions

On the afternoon of 28th September Lieutenant Colonel Collen "heard in afternoon that Lord Kitchener was coming here to inspect the Division. Busy till late making preparations." The following day his diary records that "The Division less Heavy Battery and Ammunition Columns was successfully drawn up in Gorhambury Park by 11.15 a.m. Lord Kitchener & staff. General Franklyn & staff. Sir Ian Hamilton & staff arrived about 11.50 a.m. and went down the line which was about a mile long."

There were many civilian spectators and The Gazette reported:

It was a perfect day. The sun shone brilliantly, its heat being tempered by the autumn crispness in the air. The troops were early astir and on their way, and many hundreds of spectators also made the journey to the review ground, some on foot, others on cycles, in motors, and in carriages. Those who came from Hemel Hempstead found the narrow roadway leading from the main St Albans-road to Gorhambury sadly cut up by the troops which had preceded them .... On reaching the park, they breasted the slope on the summit of which the mansion is situated, and saw in the distance battalion after battalion massed in solid squares on the opposite hillside, admirably set off by a background of noble trees, now assuming their beautiful autumn tints. It was a STIRRING SCENE. The men looked bronzed and fit, and the training which they have undergone has evidently agreed with them. Their khaki uniforms harmonised well with the brown turf. and from a distance it would have been somewhat difficult to have discerned with the naked eye that these squares were composed of masses of men.

Lord Kitchener inspecting the troops on the Gorhambury Estate, September 1914

Watford Illustrated , October 3rd, 1914

One of the privates lined up in the squares was Bemard Brookes, of the Queen's Westminster Rifles at Leverstock Green, who also described the scene:

Our Great day was on Monday 29th September when the Division was inspected by Lord Kitchener .... Instructions were received during the night and we had an early breakfast, parading on the Green at 7.0 a.m. We marched. accompanied by the Band, to a Park near St Albans .... We were by no means the first battalion on the scene, and it was a blazing hot day. The Division was drawn up the slope of a hill, and as we marched to our position we could see a dense mass of men with bayonets brightly shining and rifle barrels reflecting the rays of the sun. We took up our position, and at the appointed time Lord Kitchener put in his appearance. After inspecting the Infantry, the Artillery "marched past" and one wondered how the Germs could possibly think that they could win the War when there were so many men and guns. It took a long time for the guns to pass and we were at "Attention" all the time. No wonder such thoughts werein my mind.

After the artillery had marched past Lord Kitchener dismounted, and entering the waiting motor car, drove off through an avenue of cheering spectators. The troops then dispersed, and as each unit marched off its band played popular airs such as "A Life on the Ocean Wave", "Where are the Boys of the Old Brigade" and "It's a long, long way to Tipperary".

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