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 6, 1915

Daily Express




Mrs. E. Cunliffe-Owen, the chief recruiting officer of the Sportsman's Battalions—who stipulates that recruits shall belong to the “upper and middle classes,” and pay not less than three guineas each on enlistment—has not yet obliged the “Daily Express” with any reply to the questions that were asked on Thursday and Friday :—

     1. How much money has been received?
     2. How has the money been spent?
     3. What is the present balance or deficit?

The point is : Why does Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen ask men enlisting in the King's Army to pay her, as chief recruiting officer, three or more guineas?

The exact words of the question in a form which recruits have been asked to fill up is :—

How much can yon pay towards the extra cost (£8 to £10) of your own kit?

This question would probably convey to the mind of the average recruit of the “upper and middle classes” two ideas : —

1. That his own kit would cost from £8 to £10 “extra,” or above War Office allowance.

2. That if he paid up to £8 or £10 to Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen she would spend his money on his “own kit.”

When a “Daily Express” representative asked if the outfit costs from £8 to £10 above the War Office allowance, however, Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen said : “ No, but there are all the other expenses, and we estimate it all works out at £8 to £10 a man, but you can’t print it like that, so we put it down as kit.”

Your own kit!


It does not seem an extravagant suggestion that Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen should state how the money has been spent, if it has not, as she says, all been spent on the men’s “own kits.” Her explanation would enable other men to judge whether they were likely to get good value for their “own kit” money.

The public would also be interested if Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen would say how many men have been rejected by her because they would not, or could not, pay three or more guineas.

In October she issued a leaflet on which it was expressly stated “Donations towards the cost of raising and equipping the battalion will be gratefully received; but this is not a condition of enlistment. Everything will be found free of charge.”

Then why charge three guineas now? One man who was rejected told a “Daily Express” representative his experience yesterday.

    “I served in the South African war for two and a half years,” he said, “and, being a tailor by trade, became sergeant- tailor. I am now a married man with children, but I thought I would offer my services for this war, and I went to join the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion.
     “ I saw several officers and was then passed in to Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen. She asked me about my service, and I told her I served four years in the old Volunteers and two and a half years in South Africa. She then asked me where I had been working since, and I told her the names of the firms I had worked for.
     “ ‘Oh,’ she exclaimed, ‘you had better go to some other regiment.’
     “ I was surprised, and as I was going out I spoke to an officer and told him what had happened. He said: ‘ That’s all nonsense, and went in to see Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen. I was called in again, and she said: ‘Well, are you prepared to pay eight or ten guineas?’
     “I drew myself up and answered: ‘Madam, an old soldier does not expect to pay for giving his services to the King. He expects the country to pay him for his services.’
     “ Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen threw my papers down and said: ‘Well, at your age you had better go and join some other regiment! ’ That ended the interview.
     “What Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen meant by ‘your age ’ I don’t know, as I am thirty- eight, and her battalion is open to men up to forty-five.”


As Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen states that she has spent about £7,000 more than the War Office will refund, she may be glad to avail herself of the following generous offer:—

To the Editor of the “Daily Express.”
     Sir,—With reference to your comments in connection with the accounts of the recruiting fund for the Sportsman’s Battalions, we take the opportunity of saying

that we shall be pleased to undertake the work of honorary auditors to the fund, if those in authority would care for us to act in that capacity.—Yours faithfully,
     Hanover-buildings, Maddox-street, W.


A member of the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion, in a letter to the “Daily Express,” states that it is superfluous for Mrs. Cunliffe-Owen to say that the battalion is composed only of “gentlemen.”

    “We are all gentlemen,” he adds, “who have realised our duty at a time like this, and donned the King’s uniform. Possibly the polish is not quite so brilliant in some battalions as the Sportsman's, but then every recruiting officer is not such a competent judge of a gentleman as the chief recruiting officer of the Sportsman’s!
     “Unfortunately, some of the best gentlemen have not the necessary three guineas to put down, and also prefer to show their sporting spirit by embracing the society of the rough diamonds one always finds in the majority of Kitchener’s battalions.
     “If gentlemen with their own butlers and three motor-cars are not prepared to sleep on a mat or board if necessary, then Heaven help them when they get into the fighting line; they’ll possibly be glad of a square yard of dry earth. It really is ridiculous to read some of the remarks made concerning the welfare of the Sportsman’s.
     “I do not suppose the Germans will take the trouble, or they may in their absolute ignorance and stupidity not be able to distinguish the social difference between the Sportsman’s and the rest of Kitchener’s Army.
    “ However, from personal acquaintance and continual contact with a number of the Sportsmen, I can safely say that, should we be so fortunate as to get to the front, social distinction will be forgotten, and the Sportsmen will know how to do their duty, and put up with the inconvenience of muddy trenches and damp blankets, etc., the same as any others of ‘Kitchener's Fighting Gentlemen.’ ”

No comments :

Post a Comment