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!









4 Sep

On or around this date, Mrs. E Cunliffe-Owen is given permission by Lord Kitchener to form the First Sportsman’s Battalion, and sets up the recruiting headquarters at the Hotel Cecil, London.


8 Sep

Recruiting commences at the Hotel Cecil. The Yorkshire Evening Post reports of “a letter stating that a private battalion is being formed of 1,000 strong, hardy, sporting gentlemen between 40 and 45.”



12 Sep

First article on the Sportsman’s Battalion appears in the London Evening News. By now, “a dozen men at a dozen tables are kept busy registering names and addresses”.


15 Sep

First article appears in an overseas newspaper (Springfield Missouri Republican).


18 Sep

First recruiting advert appears in a newspaper (Daily Express).


19 Sep

“600 applications have been received, including doctors, consulting engineers, and stockbrokers, in addition to many sporting men of leisure.”


22 Sep

First use of the description “Hard As Nails”.


28 Sep

On or around this date, the battalion is assigned to the Royal Fusiliers (City of London) regiment.


29 Sep

Local recruiting takes place in Exeter.




30 Sep

Local recruiting takes place in Bristol and Nottingham. The battalion’s relocation to Hornchurch is announced (later delayed). Notification of attestation dates are distributed.







1 Oct

Local recruiting takes place in Brighton and Birmingham. 1,000 men have joined the battalion by now, including 350 that have seen active service before.


6 Oct

Official medical examinations and attestations for the First Sportsman’s Battalion begin. At least 150 attest, including Ernie Hayes and Andy Sandham, the Surrey Cricketers. The first mention of a second battalion potentially being formed.


7 Oct

An advance (fatigue) party is formed to go to Hornchurch. The attestation process continues.


8 Oct

Rejections are reported to be less than 5%.


12 Oct

The advance (fatigue) party attends a social gathering at the White Hart hotel in Hornchurch. The first announced date for the battalion’s relocation to Hornchurch is not met.


13 Oct

Final Instructions in The Times direct London recruits to the Hotel Cecil for orders.


14 Oct

Recruits from the provinces are directed to the Hotel Cecil for orders.



15 Oct

The first recorded officer commissioned from the ranks is W Wilson (SPTS/1164). 16 more are commissioned in October, with four staying in the 23rd Royal Fusiliers.



16 Oct

Mrs Cunliffe-Owen files a patent for “Improvements in the Construction of Huts”. The first mention that Viscount Maitland will be the commanding officer.



20 Oct

Recruiting in Scotland starts at Inverness.



21 Oct

Trafalgar Day – the battalion marches past Nelson’s Column. The first recorded discharge of a soldier (SPTS/1178 on the same day as attestation). Recruiting in Scotland continues at Aberdeen.



22 Oct

First mention of the base hospital in Surrey donated by Mr. Geiger.



23 Oct

Mr and Mrs Cunliffe-Owen are At Home at Grey Towers, Hornchurch, Essex; recruiting continues in Scotland at Edinburgh.



26 Oct

Recruiting continues in Scotland at Glasgow for the whole week.








2 Nov

Recruiting continues in Scotland and returns to Edinburgh for the whole week. Westhead adds a total of 70 men from Scotland.



4 Nov

The battalion departs London for camp at Hornchurch, in Essex. The recruiting office remains at the Hotel Cecil.

Pte. E A Winter is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant; there are a total of 34 commissions in November, with 6 staying in the First Sportsman’s Battalion.



5 Nov

A storm topples a tree onto one of the huts at Hornchurch; no soldiers are injured.




21 Nov

The War Illustrated publishes an article on the First Sportsman’s Battalion.
The War Office sanctions the raising of a second Sportsman’s Battalion.



24 Nov

Attestations for the Second Sportsman’s Battalion commence.



25 Nov

According to the London Evening News, “two hundred men have already applied for enrolment” with the Second Sportsman’s Battalion.








7 Dec

Capt. A. E. Dunn, ex-Mayor of Exeter, kicks off a month’s recruiting in Devon and the SouthWest for the Second Sportsman’s Battalion.



12 Dec

Capt. Westhead returns to Scotland to recruit a further 2-300 soldiers for the First and Second Sportsman’s Battalions.

Colonel Paget will be the commander officer of the Second Sportsman’s.



22 Dec

The first issue of the weekly newspaper “The Sportsman’s Gazette” is published by the battalion.




25 Dec

The First Sportsman’s Battalion celebrates Christmas at Hornchurch camp. Mr and Mrs Cunliffe-Owen pay the soldiers a visit.



31 Dec

By the end of 1914, approximately 1300 men have been accepted into the First Battalion, and 500 in the Second.










1 Jan

The second issue of the weekly newspaper “The Sportsman’s Gazette” is published by the battalion.


2 Jan

Two more Scottish pipers are added to the battalion, which is seeking to recruit a full band.



15 Jan

The fourth issue of the weekly newspaper “The Sportsman’s Gazette” is published by the battalion.
Recruiting takes place in Devon and Exeter for the Second battalion, which expects to move to Romford in three weeks.


16 Jan

The First battalion’s soccer team plays Leytonstone, and wins by 3 goals to 2.



22 Jan

The fifth issue of the weekly newspaper “The Sportsman’s Gazette” is published by the battalion.
Mrs Cunliffe-Owen appeals publicly for donations to contribute towards the costs of raising the two battalions.


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