A record of the Sportsman's Battalions during the First World War, including a database of soldiers who enlisted in - or served with - the 23rd, 24th and 30th Royal Fusiliers, originally raised by Mrs. Emma Cunliffe-Owen in September 1914. If you have any questions or comments, please send to fmsketches@macbrem.com, thanks!

January 9, 1915

Daily Record


One of the recruits to the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion is “Professor” Ted Heaton, the well-known swimmer.

Devon and Exeter Gazette

Western Sportsmen



When the Sportsman’s Battalion in due course embarks for an unknown destination somewhere on the Continent there will be beyond all shadow of a doubt a full company – 250 strong – at least of men drawn from the West-country. Less than a month ago, the Battalion was hardly more than a name to many down here in the West, and extremely mistaken ideas were held about, even by those who had heard of it. For instance, the large majority looked upon it as more or less a corps formed with the vague ideas of, perhaps, at some future day being incorporated in the Army. Many thought it was an expensive matter to join the Battalion, and that only men with large purses could hope to obtain entrance within its ranks, and then only of they were cricketers, footballers, rowers, or followers of one or other branch of outdoor sport. But just over three weeks ago there arrived in the West, making his headquarters at Castle House, Castle-street, Exeter, Lieut. Dunn, well known in Devon and Cornwall, and his special mission it was to explain the aims and objects of the Sportsman’s Battalion, to clear up any misapprehensions which might have existed in regard to it, and to try and recruit a Company, to be termed the Western Counties Company of the Sportsman’s Battalion, which was, and is, making such wonderful progress away up in Hornchurch.

Lieut. Dunn lost but little time in explaining the real position in regard to the Sportsman’s Battalion. It was as much a part of the new armies as was the 11th Devons or other new Battalions, and its members received the same treatment , and would be accorded the same privileges as any Regular soldier. It was not composed of only those who could buy their own kits, and had private incomes, but every recruit, on joining, unless he preferred to buy his own outfit, was provided with the usual kit, and received the same scale of pay, and was entitled to the same separation allowance in respect to dependants as any other Tommy Atkins; while, of course, in case of disablement or death he would receive the same consideration as any other soldier. It was not necessary to be an ardent footballer or cricketer, a big game shooter, or, indeed, to be prominently associated with any branch of sport to join. Any fit man – who was a “sport” – and was between the ages of 19 and 45, could find a place within the ranks. Finally, it was made plain that the Sportsman’s Battalion, when complete, would be as much a unit of the Army as the Royal Fusiliers, to which distinguished regiment it is attached. In order to make known the objects of the movement, meetings were held, pamphlets and circulars were distributed, and the sympathy of the entire Western Press obtained. At the present juncture it is to be doubted whether there is a corner of Devon or Cornwall where the composition of the Sportsman’s Battalion is not known. Naturally, the work has entailed considerable trouble, but Lieutenant Dunn has the satisfaction of knowing that he is doing his King and country good service.

Perhaps one will ask, “Are the men of the West responding to the call? Are they desirous of seeing the West represented by a full Company in the Battalion?” Judging by the result of three weeks’ recruiting, especially when it is remembered that the Christmas holidays intervened,  Lieut. Dunn, Second-Lieut. Perkins, and Acting-Sergt. Finch, who are all working hard, have good reason to be satisfied with the progress made. Nearly 200 men have sent for application forms, and well nigh a hundred good men and true have passed the doctor, signed their attestation forms, and become enrolled in the Western Company of the Sportsman’s Battalion. Those who have enlisted have no desire, of course, to acclaim their loyalty to the world, and, consequently, we have been asked not to mention names, but we can assure our readers that men from diverse walks of life are at present drilling at Exeter as member of the “W.C.S.B.”. A well-known West-country Church of England clergyman has emulated the example of Bishops of olden days, and shouldered a musket in the cause of right; while a Wesleyan minister, well known in the West,
has given up his charge to fight for the honour of King and country. Local followers of sport who scan the ranks will have but little difficulty in recognising among those patriots the familiar figure of a member of the Exeter Football Club. Many who have come forward from the West are, however, no novices in the art of war. A Divisional Colonel, who fought in the South African War, a Captain and Adjutant, and many ex-N.C.O.’s can be found wearing the dress of a private soldier – and proud they are of the uniform. Indeed, when the Company marches away in full kit many war veterans will be found among its members.

The Three Towns1 have done extremely well, more than 50 applications for particulars, forms, etc., having been received from the Port, and a good half of the applicants are now on the Company’s roll. So eager have some of the Plymouth applicants been to enlist that many have demonstrated much self-sacrifice. One man, who was extremely eager to fight for King and country, was debarred owing to his failure to pass the medical examination. The defect from which he was suffering was not incurable, however, but before he could become eligible for membership it would be necessary, the doctor explained, for him to undergo a somewhat dangerous and painful operation, which, if successful, would mean a “royal cure”. Without hesitation, the man expressed his willingness to have the operation performed, despite the fact that he would have to spend three weeks in hospital. He is now making rapid progress towards convalescence, and eagerly awaiting the day when he can take his place in the ranks. Cornwall and Devon generally have done well, a bright feature being the number of farmers and their sons who have made inquiries concerning the Company, or who have joined. As regards Exeter itself, Lieut. Dunn found himself in a bit of a difficulty when he first began his campaign, for he arrived when the “Exeter’s Own” movement was being held. Anxious not to injure this in any way, he has practically left the city alone until the present. Now, however, he is making a special effort in Exeter, ad in the course of the next few days special posters will be displayed in prominent places and appeals made for recruits. A few from the city have already joined, including the sons of prominent citizens, but there is still room for more, and Lieut. Dunn is confident that when the Company marches out from Exeter there will be many Exeter men included within its ranks.

It is hoped to take the men who have joined by January 14th up to London to join the Battalion, but this will in no way interfere with recruiting in the West, which will continue, until the Company is 250 strong. It is anticipated when the detachment leaves on January 14th it will consist of 150 men. The new headquarters of the 2nd Battalion will be at Brentwood, where everything possible is being done to make the men comfortable. They will not be far from the 1st Battalion, who, it may be remembered, are training at Hornchurch, not very far away. Until the first week in February the headquarters will be at the Hotel Cecil, London, while Lieut. Dunn will be pleased to answer all inquiries which may be made, either personally or by letter, to Castle House, Castle-street, Exeter. Second-Lieut. Perkins is busy recruiting in Cornwall, while a well-known Exonian in Mr. C. T W. Finch is acting-sergeant to the Company. As soon as possible after joining the men are fitted out with khaki, and well-fitting suits are [?]are. By the way, men who join the Sportsman’s Battalion will have the distinction of belonging to the only unit in the British Army, with the exception of the Ghurkas of the Indian Army, who recruit men up to the age of 45.

1The Three Towns is a term used to refer to the neighbouring towns of Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse in the county of Devon, England. They were formally merged in 1914 to become the Borough of Plymouth.

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