THIS photograph is a little over 100 years old and comes to us from the collection of John Taylor of Kidderminster. It shows Colonel Garratt leading the 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment on a parade through the streets of Dudley.
The picture was taken in Castle Street and the year was 1911, so it was quite likely that the parade was in honour of the coronation of George V on June 22 that year. We featured another coronation parade, in Stourbridge, in our June 19 edition (visit www.blackcountry bugle.co.uk).
These men marched proudly on that day of celebration in 1911 but three years later they marched off to war.
The 7th Worcesters were a territorial battalion formed in 1906 and Lieutenant-Colonel J.W. Garratt took over command in 1910. When war was declared on August 4, 1914, the battalion was at its annual summer camp at Minehead. They returned by train to Worcester the next day and after frantic preparations departed on August 8 for their war stations in Essex, to defend against any German invasion.
The battalion spent the winter in billets in Maldon. All territorials had been asked to volunteer for overseas service, and nearly all of them did. Those that couldn't where then formed into a second line battalion, the 2/7th Worcesters, which was established at Kidderminster under Colonel E.V.V. Wheeler.
The 1/7th Worcester where sent to the front as part of the South Midland Division, arriving in Boulogne on March 31, 1915. From there they moved to Bailleul for five days of route-march training. Then it moved to Armentières for training in trench warfare. On April 17 they went into the front line trenches for the first time, in the area of Ploegsteert Wood. Two days later, Private A. Boot of Blackheath became the first to be killed.
Over the next few weeks the 1/7th Worcester alternated with the 1/8th Worcesters in the front line trenches and by the end of May 1915 11 men and five officers had been killed.
The 1/7th Worcesters remained fighting in France and Flanders until November 1917, when they were transferred to northern Italy. In the meantime the 2/7th Worcester had become a fighting force and arrived in France in May 1916. A 3/7th battalion had been formed at Worcester in April 1915, as a training battalion, and remained in England throughout the war.
On February 6, 1918, the 2/7th Worcesters was disbanded in France. The 3/7th was disbanded shortly after the Armistice, while the 1/7th returned from Italy to France in March 1919. They landed in England on March 31, 1919, and were disbanded at Kidderminster on April 2.
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