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!

February 2, 1915

Daily Express




Colonel Viscount Maitland, commanding the 1st Sportsman’s Battalion, sends the following letter to the “Daily Express” in connection with Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen’s remarkable statement that men joining the Sportsman’s Battalion in future will be expected to pay a minimum of three guineas and be of the upper and middle classes : –

Grey Towers, Hornchurch, Essex.
To the Editor of the “ Daily Express.”
     Sir,—In justice to the battalion under my command, permit me to state that no “entrance fee ” is, or ever will be, imposed on recruits joining the 1st Sportsman’s Battalion, as you infer by applying the plural in your criticism of the “Sportsman’s Battalions in your issue of January 30.
     All men offering their services to the King through my orderly-room are welcomed to our ranks, the sole qualifications being a good record and compliance with our somewhat high physical standard.
     MAITLAND, Col. Commanding 23rd (Service) Bn., Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman’s).


It was not the “Daily Express,” but Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen, that was responsible for the words “Sportsman’s Battalions” — in the plural. In proof of this we append Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen’s original letter on the subject of the three-guinea fee and the exclusion of any but “the upper and middle classes.”

Officers Commanding—
1st Batt.: Colonel Viscount Maitland.
2nd Batt.: Colonel A. de B. V. Paget.
     Hotel Cecil, Strand, London,
          January 29, 1915.
To the Editor of the “Daily Express.”
     Sir,—I have to thank you for your valuable help in making the Sportsman's Battalions, which my husband and I are raising, known throughout Great Britain, and to ask if you will add to our indebtedness by letting the public know that men joining this battalion in future will be expected to pay a minimum of three guineas and be of the upper and middle classes. There are no other financial obligations whatever.
     I would also like to remind the public that these battalions are the only ones permitted to recruit up to forty-five years, thus giving them seven years' extension over every other corps. Camp, food, and equipment are of the very best. Thanking yon in anticipation for making these facts known,
          E. CUNLIFFE-OWEN,
Chief Recruiting Officer.

The italics are ours.


Colonel A. de B. V. Paget, the officer commanding the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion, of which Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen is the “chief recruiting officer,” in an interview with a “ Daily Express ” representative at the Hotel Cecil yesterday, said : —

     “I cordially agree with the views expressed by Lord Maitland in his letter which you have just read to me, and personally I strongly deprecate any announcement that recruits are expected to pay a three-guinea fee and be of the upper and middle classes.’
     “At the same time I am powerless in the matter, inasmuch as until the men have actually enlisted they are not under my command. ’’

The colonel added that the “ three-guinea’’ announcement has caused great indignation among both officers and men of his battalion.

The “Daily Express” has asked four questions:—
     (1) Why pay at all?
     (2) Why this snobbery?
     (3) What has Lord Kitchener to say to this form of recruiting?
     (4) Are the Sportsman’s Battalions not intended for the front?

We now supplement this by the further question: —
     Why Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen?


In an interview with a “Daily Express” representative last night Mrs. Ounliffe-Owen stoutly defended her action.

    “The reason for asking a minimum entrance-fee of three guineas,” she said, may be found in the fact that the cost pe man, over and above what the War Office allows us, is from £8 to £10, and this cost is still rising.

“The money, in the first instance, has been expended in clothing, boots, etc., of superior cut and quality.

“The cost of advertising, stationery, hire of drill hall, office expenses, and a host of other things too numerous to mention, has also been very heavy.

“This payment of three guineas is being asked with the full knowledge and consent of the War Office.

“The Sportsman’s Battalions are certainly going to the front. They will be among the first.

“The only other outstanding question, so far as I am able to gather, is: Why say that men who wish to join this battalion will be expected to be of the upper and middle classes?

“Well, for the simple reason that by confining the battalion to gentlemen, and also by giving them the best that is procurable in the way of equipment, food, bed, and so on, we induce a number men to enlist who would not otherwise do so.

“Are we to allow men who are not clean who do not wash, men who would not be welcomed as associates by those already in the battalions, to come in and make discord?

“We had two would-be recruits – postmen I believe they were – in here a short time ago, real, grimy, horny-handed sons of toil.

“I told them as tactfully as I could that I was sure they would not be at home in our battalion, which was composed of gentlemen, and I referred them, as I have referred many others previously, to the recruiting office at New Scotland-yard.

“At the same time, it is true we have admitted gamekeepers and fish market employees to our battalions, and fine fellows they are.

“As to Lord Maitland’s letter, he has no practical concern with recruiting in his battalion. I appointed him, and I raised both battalions.”

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