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 3, 1915

Daily Express




     War Office, Feb. 2,1915.
To the Editor of the “ Daily Express.”
     Sir,—In reply to your letter of to-day, Sir Reginald Brade desires me to say that the War Office have no information officially of the levying of a three-guinea entrance fee from recruits enlisting in the Sportsman's Battalion, and it has not received the sanction of the Army Council.
     H. C. GORDON, Private Secretary.

The “Daily Express” yesterday received the above letter with regard to the three-guinea-entrance-fee for Sportsman’s Battalions.

A “Daily Express” representative afterwards saw Mr. and Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen at the recruiting office of the Sportsman's Battalions in the spacious Indian Room of the Hotel Cecil, and asked for an answer to the five questions in yesterday’s “Daily Express” about the battalions, recruits for which are “expected to pay a minimum of three guineas and to be of the upper and middle classes.”

First of all as to the mystery of Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen being “Chief Recruiting Officer” of the battalions.

It is a curious circumstance that both Mr. and Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen have the one initial “E.” Mr. Edward Cunliffe-Owen, C.M.G., is the secretary to the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company. Mrs. Emma Cunliffe-Owen is the daughter of the late Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen, K.C.B.


“We wrote to the War Office and offered to raise a Sportsman’s Battalion,'’ Mrs. .Cunliffe-Owen said to the “Daily Express” representative, “and they authorised us to do so. Mr. Cunliffe-Owen is the responsible person—it has to be a man, but,-’ added Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen with a smile, “I really am Mr. Cunliffe-Owen.

“ Mr. Cunliffe-Owen cannot be here all day, so I am here, and for five months I have sat here from morning until night, acting as chief recruiting officer.

“ Please don’t imagine we have made any money out of it,” she said, “for we have not made a single farthing out of it.”

“The fact is,” said Mr. Edward Cunliffe-Owen, “that the expenses in connection with the first battalion amount to a sum which we are afraid will be over £7,000 more than we shall get repaid by the War Office. Then there is the second battalion.

“ We are responsible for the money. We have to pay for this recruiting office and the recruiting staff and the drill hall and advertising—printing and advertising have cost about £2,300 already —and other things.

“ What we wanted,” Mr. Cunliffe-Owen added, “was something special—men who would not enlist in other battalions—a better class of men.

" Me have men with their own butlers and footmen and three motor-cars!” Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen said, with much pride. “Men like that would not care to come down to sleeping on sacking!”

“ What about stipulating that men must be ‘of the upper and middle classes’?” the “Daily Express” representative asked.

“What else could we say?” Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen replied; " we could not say ‘Only clean men wanted; dirty men need not apply’!”


“ How do you decide whether an applicant belongs to the upper or the middle class, or some other class?” she was asked.

“ Oh,’ said the “chief recruiting officer” with a laugh, “I see them all myself here, and I size them up.

“ If a man comes in whom I think unsuitable,” she added, “I tell him as kindly as I can that the battalion is only for gentlemen. He sees at once that he would not feel comfortable in the battalion, and says. ‘Oh, it’s no place for me, lady,’ and we send him to another recruiting office.’’

“ You know how uncomfortable your servants are if they have to sit down with you.” Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen said, sympathetically.

Asked if the War Office approved of men being expected to pay not less than three guineas each, Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen said, “ So long as we comply with the War Office requirements we can do what we like. It is a private enterprise, done for King and country out of pure patriotism,” she added proudly.

Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen showed the “Daily Express ” representative a copy of the form which applicants for the three-guinea battalions have to sign. One of the questions is: “How much are you prepared to pay towards the extra cost (£8 to £10) of your outfit? ”

“Does the outfit cost £8 to £10 more than the War Office allows?” the “Daily Express” representative asked.

“No,” Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen replied, but there are all the other expenses, and we estimate it all works out at £8 to £10 a man, but you could not print it like that, so we put it down as kit.”


To the Editor of the “Daily Express.”
     Sir,—Referring to my interview with your representative which you published in your issue of to-day, I am reported to have said that I appointed Lord Maitland to the position as Commanding Officer to the 1st Battalion.
     Your representative must have misunderstood me—what I did say was that Lord Maitland’s name was suggested to me by the military authorities, and his appointment was made by them after an interview with me.
          E. CUNLIFFE-OWEN.
               Chief Recruiting Officer.
     Hotel Cecil, Strand, Feb. 2.

[Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen used the words, “I appointed Viscount Maitland.” This statement seemed so incredible that the “Daily Express” representative challenged it twice, urging on the second occasion—“But surely, Mrs. Cunliffe- Owen, it must have been the King or the War Office authorities who made the appointment?” Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen was insistent, however, repeating: “I appointed him. I selected his name from a number of others before me.” She made no mention of his name having been suggested to her by the War Office authorities, or his appointment having been made by them after an interview with her.]

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