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!

The First Sportsman’s Gazette – No. 5


The concert held by the above Society at the Drill Hall, Hornchurch, last Tuesday, was a distinct success. The Programme was given almost entirely by members of the Sportsman's Battalion. The Regimental Band, ably conducted by Sergt. Thompson, was a very welcome addition, and judging by the applause was much appreciated by the large audience, especially the Piccolo Solo. Miss Kathleen Laud looked very1 fetching as a Spanish Maiden, and danced in a very sprightly manner. Lance-CorpL Wharton provided the comic turns in his usual inimitable style. The Tango Tea was greeted by the audience with roars of laughter, and his “Potted Bacon" was considered by the Sportsmen immensely superior to “Bully beef." Lance-Corpl. Pearce described in the programme as a card manipulator produced cards from various parts of his anatomy in a most unexpected manner, and if he can extract money from an empty pocket in the same way Rockefeller must certainly look to his laurels. Sergt. Noyes related some amusing American stories with the correct accent. Corpl. Gille, Ptes. Davey, Moir, Howarth, Steele, Morris, all contributed towards making the evening a most enjoyable one.


Notes concerning members of the Sportsman’s Battalion.

Albany, W. (Private).—World-famous professional sculler. Since 1907 has been a member of the Britannia Rowing Club, which is affiliated to the National Amateur Rowing Association. Carried all before him during his first two years as an amateur, winning every event in connection with the N.A.R.A., and thus justifying his adopting sculling as a profession. Albany, as all the world knows, has rowed three great races against Barry, the present world’s champion, winning on two of these occasions. Albany has travelled round the continent training other men. Last year his pupils won 14 out of 15 events, including 4 championships. Is also something of a boxer, being a member of the Columbia Boxing Club. The war prevented another match for the world’s championship last autumn against Barry.

Anderson, J. W. (Private).—Was in Klondyke three years, at Dawson; started and worked a claim there but drew a blank. Has been sealing for two years in the Behring Sea, and relates many interesting stories of his varied experiences in British Columbia, Alaska, and the Arctic Seas. Is well qualified to stand the rigour and inconvenience of the trenches.

Battishill, J. H. (Private).—Educated at Blundell’s School, Taunton. Has travelled and worked in India and South America. Has also studied law, and been interested in land agency. Breeds horses. His sports include hunting, shooting, cricket, and tennis.

Bretherton, W. (Private).—Educated Rugby and Cirencester Agricultural College. Interested in competition motor cycling. His sports include golf, shooting and hockey.

Cooper, Wm. Freeman (Private).—Land Agent. Has travelled extensively in Europe, Africa and America, including cycling tours through the greater part of the country now comprising the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium. Motor cyclist, tennis player, and expert photographer. An authority and writer on Ecclesiastical architecture and history. Private Cooper, although not yet thirty years of age, has three nephews serving in the H.A.C. and Queen’s Westminster Rifles, one of whom has recently been wounded while in the first line of trenches.

Gaskell, C. E. (Private).—A cotton manufacturer of Manchester. Is one of the finest all-round Sportsmen in the North of England, having taken part in nearly every kind of sport—running, cricket, football, golf, lacrosse, hockey, lawn tennis, bowls, billiards, shooting, and hunting. He won the championship of his club at Lawn Tennis, and was also three times champion of his Bowling Club. Has run against Scotland (10 miles) at Ayr and finished inside the hour, and also been close to winning the “Powderhall” at Edinburgh. Educated in Manchester. Has travelled in Germany and Russia. He is the “Baby” of Hut 25, “Unity Hall.”

Noyes, R. T. (Sergeant).—Born in Winnipeg and educated at Manitoba University. Was present with the Gordon Relief Expedition to Khartoum. Holds the Egyptian medal and the Khedivial Star, 1884-86. Travelled extensively and written for newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. His sports include hunting, fishing and rowing. Sergeant Noyes read about the Sportsman’s Battalion in a New York paper, arrived in England on September 29th last year, and joined on the following day. He was a member of the advance party. Is a brilliant raconteur and entertainer.

Richards, H. B. (Private).—Mining Engineer. Born in Truro in 1869. Educated at Tavistock Grammar School and Camborne School of Mining. Has lived in Rhodesia, on the Coast, British Columbia, and the Transvaal. Was instrumental in starting the Ivanhoe mines. When war broke out Private Richards returned from West Africa on a German finer, but was landed in Liberia, and from there came through on an Elder Dempster boat. Was one of the first to join the Sportsman’s Battalion. Was attached to the Intelligence Department during the Boer War. Is a good shot, has done a great deal of big game shooting, and plays golf. Private Richards has a brother who is a fleet-surgeon at Chatham in charge of the Royal Naval Hospital.


Breakfast at seven, was the new order. It might have been the middle of the night. Blinking and shivering, we sat down to our first meal of the/ day, wondering what was in store for us. Certainly, this first morning was anything but inviting for “grave-digging.” Still, having regard to the humorous scribe who styled us the ‘Hard-as-Nails’ corps, we had to live up to our much-vaunted reputation. So we grimly set our teeth to face the worst. There was to be no shirking that day, for the sportsmen engaged on ‘special duties’ had the choice between a novel experience or squad drill at 9.30. Needless to say, the majority preferred the former, the ranks being thereby considerably augmented.

By the time the “Fall in” was sounded, the grey light of dawn had spread over the camp, and the roll having been called, there marched out of the gates a body of men who could not have failed to excite profound admiration from “Kaiser Bill” himself. Led by the band to the stirring tunes of “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” and “Who’s your Lady Friend,” our blood began to tingle through our veins as the inhabitants who were not yet astir greeted us from their bedroom windows.

At Hornchurch Station, unfortunately, we were obliged to leave the band behind. As we waited on the platform, in exceptionally good time for most of us when we generally set out to catch a train, an express dashed through the station, the passengers of which, judging from the cheering and handkerchief waving, were under the impression that we were off to the front.

While some of us were wondering how the whole battalion was to be crammed into one train, the problem was immediately solved by the appearance of a long line of third-class coaches, including one first-class coach. Into the latter, probably through force of habit, jumped some of the men. They were speedily informed that they had made a mistake by a corporal standing near, who will assuredly earn another stripe for his presence of mind. We are pleased to record that not a hitch occurred in the arrangements, not a single man was left behind (no, nor married one either), and there was seating accommodation for all.

Eventually we pulled up at— (passage deleted by Censor) from where we had to march about two miles to our destination, a place called —— (passage deleted by Censor). Here we halted, then left the road to climb a slight eminence, which we negotiated rather gingerly for fear of making our boots muddy. We at length established ourselves on the summit, and having discovered that no enemy was in sight, waited for tools to be served out.

Though splendid discipline was maintained, it was noticeable that every man was consumed with a burning desire to possess a tool—one would have thought that they had neither seen nor used a pick or spade in their lives before.

With the necessary implements slung across their shoulders in pioneer fashion, sons of peers, great land-owners, company directors, well-known men in every profession and every branch of sport trooped to a fresh field of labour.

Work began in real earnest. “Every man to his trade,” or “Back to the Land,” were remarks often heard. Picks were soon found to be of little use in soft sticky clay, the result being spades were trumps. The wind was cold, and the men worked furiously.

Enviously watching their subordinates beginning to steam with the strenuous exertion, some of the officers who could not resist the temptation, threw off their jackets and directed the men by practical demonstrations. Prominent among these were Captain de Bourbel and Lieutenant Hayes. The former officer commenced by showing us a method of making facines. Stakes were driven into the ground to form cradles wherewith to lay branches cut from the bushes nearby, which were to be wired up in bundles of about a yard long and nine inches in diameter. In this manner some first-class facines were made, the men becoming so proficient in this work that Captain de Bourbel was enabled to direct in a like practical manner the digging operations.

Lord Maitland, Lt.-Col. Gibbons, and the Adjutant, took a lively interest in the work, encouraging the men by words of praise and helpful advice.

As illustrating the extraordinary vim displayed by certain sportsmen, a few spades were returned broken in half.

When the bugle sounded the joyful notes of “Come to the Cook-house Door,” it was with some difficulty the workers were persuaded to leave their tasks. Although only two hours had elapsed since the commencement of work, in many instances the trenches had been dug to the required depth of—— (passage deleted by Censor).

To the student of natural history trench digging must be most fascinating. Worms of various species were found in large numbers. One sportsman discovered a nest of hibernating newts on the bank of a pool, which another declared were either lizards or tadpoles, and a lively argument ensued as to what genus these little creatures belonged. A petrified frog, in an excellent state of preservation, was unearthed by another digger. And so we proceeded until the time came to roll home. Back into the train, sleepy but fit. The band met us at Hornchurch Station and played us to the camp. The Sports had spent their first day in the trenches, the pi elude of many days to come, and—tell it not in Gath—a prominent War Office engineer has expressed the opinion that the trenches dug by the Sportsman’s Battalion are among the finest in the country.

H. R. MAY.


By (Private) Campbell Rae-Brown.

When at home he resides in a Castle—
Does Percy de Willoughby Cust;
The name (see Debrett for all details),
Is so old 'twas beginning to rust.
Still Percy—he always kept going;
Did everything—everyone—BUT
When war broke out Percy broke with it,
And now—he's a man in a hut.

He's simply a private is Percy,
His puttees he coils with the rest;
On parade spick and span lie's the plain soldier man,
Just a “Tommy" a-doing his best.
He tells you squad drill's beastly rotten,
It bores him no end, he says, BUT
A de Willoughby Cust is no slacker and MUST
Do his bit as a man in a hut.

On muck-parade Percy is splendid,
His “shorts" are the talk of the place;
But the girls can't see too much of Percy,
That's why early “birds " join in the chase.
He's a wonder at wobbling and sprinting,
Get him going he just seems to fly;
Yes, you bet Percy's always in training
For doing an opportune “guy."

Oh yes, Percy has always kept going;
He'll go for the Germans all right;
He has his own ways, and perhaps he wears stays,
What’s that if he stays in a fight?
He hates “forming fours" like the devil;
He can’t do “ saluting " for nuts.
“But damme," says Percy, “it might be much worse,"
“And so might the men in the huts."

As hut-orderly Percy's impressive,
His “special" yarns sparkle with fun;
His chum keeps on laughing—and working;
And the chum somehow gets the work done:
Then Percy drawls quite absent-minded
“We've done jolly well, I say—what?
I must go and wash my hands, really,—
This orderly work's filthy rot! "

And so, you see, Percy keeps going,
He gets a bit fed-up—who don't?
But lie's not a bad chap, and once in a scrap
Whoever gives in, Percy won't.
At the “White Hart" he’s seen fairly often;
And he's careless of time, but—Tut-tut!
When a “pot's "on the spree its so easy you see,
To forget he's a man in a hut.

But when Percy's on leave, that's the time!
His pass in his pocket—oh my!
His kit's his own special, his boots
And his spirals are dernier cri.
He swanks in the West like a lord,
He's a Tommy no doubt, and he’s proud,
But a gentleman private, he lets you know that,
And he looks it, it must be allowed.

While on leave you bet Percy keeps going,
His week-end's a wonderful time,
He looks up old friends; how he borrows and spends,
And plays h-ll without reason or rhyme;
He is dined, he is wined—and caressed,
His best girl’s all over him—
BUT Poor Percy wakes up just to find
He's simply a man in a hut.


A hearty invitation and a cordial welcome awaits you at the Baptist Schoolroom, North Street, which is opened every evening from 6 o'clock for your exclusive use for homely comforts. There is convenience for reading, writing, games, music, &c., light refreshments (non-alcoholic) at lowest charges. General public not admitted to the Social Room.




The Misses Taylor of Havering-atte-Bower have kindly offered to give a theatrical entertainment in Hornchurch, the proceeds of which it is proposed to devote to the Battalion Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund. This should prove an interesting evening, and the promoters are hoping for a large attendance. Further details will be given in our next issue.

We regret to note the demise of our lively and popular contemporary The Pow-wow, late the journal of the University and Public Schools Brigade, in training at Epsom. The Editor writes in his final issue that he is “fed up.”

It affords us much pleasure to acknowledge the generosity and kindness of a number of ladies and gentlemen in the locality who have put in a great deal of unselfish work in connection with The Rest Room in North Street, Hornchurch. That their efforts are appreciated in the Battalion is evidenced by the popularity of the Institution in question, and we sincerely trust that its promoters will receive their reward in still larger attendances.

In an early issue we hope to include an article on our Regimental Band, which by its spirited playing has added a new zest to our marching, and thoroughly merited the gratitude of the Battalion. Bandmaster Thompson has secured material for his band which should make it if not the, at any rate, one of the finest bands in Kitchener’s Army.

At the invitation of Mr. G. F. Vincent, a party from the camp visited the Gidea Park Club on the evening of the 16th inst., when a most enjoyable programme of music was rendered by various local artistes, including Miss Ida Cooper, Miss Rita V. Frost, Miss W. Humphrey Davies, who recited “ The Old Trooper’s Story ” from our third number; Miss Hilda Richardson, who sang “ Hunters for the Hun,” from our second number; Mr. George Tinney, and Mr. G. F. Vincent, who is a well-known pianist and composer. He is the composer of, among other songs, “The Flag that flew at Trafalgar.” Mr. Vincent hopes to bring over a concert party to Grey Towers some time during the next few weeks.

There is to be a dance at Gidea Park Club tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 23rd. The tickets are 2/3 each; and the Committee would welcome as many of the Sportsman’s Battalion as care to come. Dancing 8—12. Tickets can be obtained at the Editor’s office.

Will the member of the Sportsman’s Battalion who travelled to Emerson Park Station by the 8.30 train from Romford on Sunday evening, Jan. 17th, and left his stick in the rack, communicate with T. A. Capron, Esq., Solicitor, Grays, who will be pleased to return same to the owner.




To the Editor.

May I beg the hospitality of your columns in order to convey on behalf of the Hornchurch Branch of the Y.H.L. (in connection with Dr. Barnardo’s Homes), our grateful thanks to those members of the Battalion who individually and collectively made so great a success of the concert on Tuesday last, and also to the Battalion generally for purchasing so large a number of tickets. At the moment we have not been able to complete our accounts, but from the figures we have at our disposal it is quite clear that a substantial sum amounting to not less than £30 will be left in the Treasurer’s hands to send to the excellent Institution for which we work.

          Yours faithfully,
                    SARAH E. VARCO-WILLIAMS,


Dear Sir,
I am extremely delighted with No. 1 of the First Sportsman’s Battalion Gazette, and congratulate you on its bulk and varied features. I am reviewing it in our column “ Things Military,” in “ Brighton Society.” Could you favour me with the loan of one of your photo blocks to accompany the review as we have several Brightonians members of the Battalion, and Mr. Rokeby Hallen, whose article you will see in the enclosed copy was the Hon. Recruiting Officer for this district. If you are able to grant me the request, and I may make a suggestion, I should most appreciate the loan of the photo block on page 4 of the Officers of the 1st Sportsman’s Battalion, but failing this should be well pleased to accept the loan of any, and to return it to you as soon as it has been taken off our machines.

I may mention incidentally that I have been giving paragraphs and notices of the Sportsman’s Battalion for many weeks past (from the moment the idea was first mooted).

          I am, dear sir,
                    Yours faithfully,
                              CAYLEY CALVERT,


Leytonstone v. Sportsman’s Battalion.

On Saturday, January 16th, Leytonstone’s visitors were a strong combination, especially in defence, Higgins and Rawlings as a pair being the finest backs seen on the ground this season. The home side was not fully representative of even this season’s available men. The result—victory for the Sportsmen by 3 goals to 2—provided a fair index of the exchanges. The visitors’ defence continually checked efforts by the Stones’ forwards, whose efforts in this half were very disjointed, and Owers—the Leytonstone player of a few years ago, and until recently with a prominent league club—Bates and Hendren, the last-named the finest forward on the field, were always threatening danger. One particularly fine movement saw Sandham strike the upright, and McKee the next instant save a return shot by Bates from eight yards range in brilliant manner. Corners to either side followed, and then, after Owers and Bates had each narrowly missed, Hendren put the ball into the goal-mouth where Owers’ head steered it into the net. One of Hendren’s best efforts produced his side’s second goal, for he obtained nearly on the half-way line and finished a clever run by giving McKee no chance with his shot. Just before the interval Monaghan got in several good centres from the home left. Pearce and Stoodley each got possession once, but their elevation was at fault. Jones was too unwell to turn out for Leytonstone in the second half, but the visitors allowed a substitute. The opening movement favoured the soldiers, Owers shooting over in the first minute, but their opponents quickly turned the tables. A passing run by Monaghan and Stoodley gave Holloway a capital opportunity, and he had the opposing custodian completely beaten. Interest in the game was greatly increased by this success, and the next minute Pearce nearly succeeded in levelling the scores. He beat the opposing back and shot, the ball striking the goal-keeper’s legs and flying away to the wing. The home side would not be denied, however, and showing capital combination, had the opposing defence in a tangle on several occasions. Corners were conceded, and from one of these Holloway again put the ball into the net. From this point the game was of a very even character. Both goals 'were repeatedly assaulted, Kirtain once saving on his knees a low drive by Pearce, and McKee cleverly repelled a hot shot by Bates. Hendren and Clunas brought about the winning goal, forcing a corner to which Owers put on the finishing touch, and although Leytonstone strove hard to get on terms again they failed to do so.

Leytonstone—W. 'McKee, F. P. Teskey, P. R. Ward, C. Jones, F. Mills, C. A. Morrison, W. Felton, R. Holloway, C. H. Pearce, H. H. Stoodley, J. C. Monaghan.

Sportsman’s Battalion—Pte. Kirtain, Pte. Higgins, Pte. Rawlings, Pte. Lewis, Pte. Littlewort, Lieut. Hayes, Pte. Sandharn, Pte. Bates, Pte. Owers, Pte. Clunas, Pte. E. Hendren, Referee, Mr. H. G. Tyler.

The Battalion team travels next Saturday to play Brentford Southern League at Brentford.

A scratch game between recruits was played on Sunday last, Captain Inglis acting as referee, and although it was rather of the rough and tumble description, it gave the committee a chance of seeing the form of aspirants to the Battalion team.


Great disappointment was caused in the Rugby circles of the camp when, last Thursday, we received a telegram from the 17th Empire Battalion Royal Fusiliers postponing the match until Saturday, the 23rd instant.

Of late several good players have come to light, and this fact gives us good reason to believe that we shall prove a formidable combination. The following will represent the Battalion on the date mentioned: —

Back—Pte. J. P. Farr. Three-Quarters—Ptes. L. Williams, H. F. Wadham (capt.), G. H. Salvesen, G. T. Franey. Half-Backs—Pte. P. R. Henri, 2nd Lt. H. E. Taylor.

Forwards—Ptes. L. J. Sharland, W. J. Stretton, H. L. Lyster, G. V. Spurway, Capt. A. B. de Bourbel, Ptes. D. L. Clemetson, S. Thompson, J. M. Gilmour. Reserves—Pte. Currie, Pte. Scott-Tucker. Trainer—Pte. F. G. Harris.


The band was playing right merrily on the drive. The boys were lined up in readiness for their departure to Pitsea, and the sun shone fitfully in a January sky.

Just as the amiable, though sardonic, Bandmaster was getting warmed up to his work, one of our most zealous Sergeants stepped behind him, and tapping him impatiently on the shoulder, shouted “Stop playing, I say—“Stop playing.” But still the stick wagged on. “Stop playing, do you hear? How the blazes do you think I can call my roll while your infernal band is making such a d——d row.”

Utter collapse of the Bandmaster, who has our deepest sympathy.


As we were going to press we received the programme of the Ilford Hippodrome for week commencing January 25th, 1915. Mr. J. Bannister Howard presents JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, with full West End Company.


(The charge for insertion in this column is at the rate of 6d. per line. Minimum 5 lines, 2/6). Mayfield, Parkstone Avenue, Hornchurch.—To be let furnished. Three sitting-rooms and three bedrooms, bath h. & c., every convenience. Rent 50/- weekly, without plate and linen. Can be seen at any time.

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