Life in the University and Public Schools Men's Force

during the autumn of 1914
1st Battalion, No 1 Company, Section 4.

In The History of the Royal Fusiliers, " U. P S.", University and Public Schools Brigade (Formation and Training), 1917, the anonymous author explained: -
"... it was finally decided to mobilize on two dates, Friday, September 18, for men living in London and within easy train journey, and for a first contingent of from 200 to 300 from Manchester, and Thursday, September 24, for men enlisted in the provinces. Notices were sent to every man by post, telling him what to bring with him, the date, time, and place of mobilization, and also a label bearing a letter and number to be attached to his bag. The time decided on was 12 noon, and the place Hyde Park, opposite Knightsbridge Barracks. On the parade ground stakes were placed at intervals, each bearing a letter and number corresponding to those on the labels which had been issued to the recruits. Each man, as he arrived on the ground, deposited his bag at its corresponding letter and number on the stake, and then fell in on a marker bearing the same label. As a fixed number of labels with each letter had been issued, the whole of the contingent was in this way soon paraded in approximately equal companies. Roll-calls had been prepared previously to correspond, and the roll was called. Absentees were thus easily checked; the number was remarkably small. Motor-buses labelled with the same letters were lined up, and the correspondingly lettered bags were loaded up inside and on top. Thus the column started for Epsom…"
A writer in The Standard gave an interesting account, which is worth repeating, of the 'uniform' of the period: -
"The Public Schools Corps is a strange-looking lot of men. They are all at Epsom in 'their old things'. Some wear old public-school scarves and college sweaters. The popular fancy in head-covering is the golf-cap, usually worn well over the left ear. The rest of the raiment is nondescript, being mostly grey or brown shooting or riding outfit. But the boots - they were made heavy, and they clatter well on the pavements. Each 'man' of these boys is denoted by a cardboard badge which he wears in the lapel of his coat, bearing the letters in blue U.P.S. The officers are distinguished by a red sign. … The U.P.S. was in one sense the most democratic Brigade in the Army. Nearly all the men started level, and were promoted according to their ability. On October 11 the first lot of rifles were received - 200 to each battalion."

Woodcote Park Camp
Members of a platoon in 2nd UPS/19th Royal Fusiliers, in mufti,
assisting with construction of Woodcote Park Camp, Epsom, around October 1914.
Studio of John Woodland Fullwood (1875 - 1940) of Norwood.

A matter of class

One of the volunteers had been [Charles] Vernon Oldfield Bartlett (1894-1983) who became a British broadcaster and politician, In his autobiography, This is my life, Vernon remarked '... I joined up-for we were still such snobs that it was not done to fight by the side of men who were not of one's class-in an organisation called The University and Public Schools Battalion. We had no uniforms and only dummy rifles or old carbines, but our little cardboard badges showed that we were playing our part in the glorious struggle of civilisation against barbarism.' After scouting on Epsom Common he felt that 'war was rather good fun'. Being a 'gentleman' who had reached the exalted rank of Lance-Corporal in the school Officers Training Corps he was given a commission in the Dorsetshire Regiment but came to be invalided out of the army by 1916.

Captain Hubert Ernest Bowes Lyon, Officer in Charge of No 1 Coy., 1st UPS.

The officer in command of No. 1 Company, 1st Battalion University and Public Schools Mens Force was Captain H. E. Bowes Lyon, named 'Herbert' in the UPS History but apparently baptised Hubert Ernest Bowes Lyon, born at Glamis on 6 October 1883, grandson of the 13 th Earl of Strathmore and a first cousin of H. M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. He had been a 'Gentleman Cadet' at the Royal Military College who was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Black Watch on 18 January 1904. A daughter, Constance Mary, was born on 24 December 1904 from a relationship with Mary Agnes Smeaton whom he married on 14 January 1905. Nevertheless, their baby, 'Connie', was fostered out to a Mrs Collie and the daughter did not obtain a decree of legitimation from the Court of Session, Edinburgh, until June 1924. Having resigned his commission Bowes Lyon moved to London. A son, Hubert Ernest Malcolm Bowes Lyon, arrived on 17 May 1907, before a bankruptcy order was entered against 'Hubert Bowes Lyon' his father, trading as the St. Pancras Automobile Company, 16 December 1907. In 1911 the family were enumerated at Wembley with its head, 'Herbert', described as 'Engineer Motor Agent' [Euston and St. Pancras Automobile Company Ltd incorporated in 1912 came to be dissolved before 1916]. Mary Agnes, nee Smeaton, Bowes Lyon died on 5 March 1914. Having been gazetted temporary 2nd Lieutenant 22 September 1914, temporary Captain Herbert Ernest Bowes-Lyon was appointed to the Public Schools Battalions, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 1st Battalion, from 27 October 1914. He retained his commission until 16 April 1919 when it came to be relinquished on account of ill health caused by wounds although the rank of Lieutenant was retained.

A band of brothers - literally for two of its members

The War Diary of A A Laporte Payne presented online by The Bay Museum provides details of one platoon containing three alumni of Corpus Christi College Cambridge, with nicknames: -
1st Battalion, No 1 Company, Section 4, Epsom, September, 1914
  1. J.P.D. Clarke, Sergt., 'Long John', C.C.C. Camb.
  2. ? Williams, 'Bimph'.
  3. ? Osborne "Ossy".
  4. Harry Richards, 'Loose Lizzy'.
  5. Roland Richards, 'Rolly'.
  6. E.C. Collins, 'Lottie', C.C.C. Camb.
  7. P.D. Gilmour (sic) Ellis, 'Gil'.
  8. A.A. Laporte Payne, 'Algy', C.C.C. Camb.
Biographical notes on identifiable individuals
  • [1] John [Jack] Percy Dalzell Clarke, son of the Rev. Percy Carmichael Clarke, had attended St Edmund's School, Canterbury. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, ex Officers' Training Corps, 27 November 1914, initially with the Royal Fusiliers but assigned to the Worcestershire Regiment. Having died in an accident, 21 February 1915, he was buried at Brookwood Civilian Cemetery.
  • [4] Harry [Heaton] Richards was born in Streatham on the 12 February 1891, the son of Thomas Richards, a wine merchant, and Harriett Elizabeth Richards of Engadine, 42 Palace Road, Streatham Hill. He was christened at St. Giles Church, Camberwell, on 31May 1891. Educated at Dulwich College and at Chateau de Lancy in Geneva, he became an Underwriting member of Lloyd's and worked as a brewer and wine merchant. Following the outbreak of war, Harry enlisted at Westminster as Private PS/1989 in 1st Battalion University and Public Schools Corps on 15 September 1914. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, 12 May 1915, H.H. Richards was killed in action 2 April 1917 to be buried at Croiselles British Cemetery.
  • [5] Harry's brother, Roland Richards, was commissioned in 16th Royal Fusiliers, 20 February 1915. Killed in action at Salonika, 7th December 1915, attached to 7th Munster Fusiliers he has no known grave but is commemorated on Doiran Memorial, Greece. Roland's name appears on the Stock Exchange War Memorial and Roll of Honour listed under 'Clerks'.
    A memorial plaque within Christ Church, Streatham, commemorates both Roland Richards and Harry Heaton Richards.
  • [7] Patrick Douglas Gilmore Ellis, born 23 March 1891, attended West Downs School, Winchester. He was commissioned in Somerset Light Infantry, 15 February 1915, and survived thr Great War. Having become a Captain in the India Army on 15 November 1919, he married Dorothy Ranson during 1920. Patrick finally retired as a Major 17 May 1943 and was apparently awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
  • [8] Archibald Aldridge Laporte Payne, born at Strood, Kent, in 1888 to Rev. William Laporte Payne and Rachel, nee Aldridge, attended a boarding school in Cheltenham. During 1911 the family were enumerated at Herne Bay with Archibald described as a Student. He obtained a commission in the Royal Field Artillery with effect from 29 September 1914 and rose to the rank of Captain by 1917. On 29 May 1918, Captain A.A. Laporte Payne of 'A' battery, 175 Brigade, RFA, was wounded by a shell. After hospitalisation in England he returned to France during December 1918 to command a battery at No 13 Camp, RH and RFA Base Depot, Harfleur. Subsequently as a Major with the 155th Army Brigade RFA he moved to the Rhineland with the 3rd Division in March 1919 to be attached to 76th Army Brigade RFA at Cologne and Klein Vemich . Demobilised at Rhyl in September 1919, he embarked on work with the Ministry of Labour until 1920.
    At Finchley on 15 May 1929 Major Laporte Payne married Muriel Cross. Muriel passed away during 1963 at Yateley with a gross personal estate of 430,746. In 1973 Mr Archibald Aldridge Laporte Payne, solicitor of Carrick House, Yateley, Camberley, gave up practice as a solicitor in order to become a barrister. He died, 15 May 1980 aged 92 whilst on holiday, leaving 548, 374. [Reportedly, on the death of Archibald Laporte Payne, son of Rev William Laporte Payne, who served in the Royal Artillery in France during the First World War and subsequently became a London solicitor, family papers had been rescued after being dumped at a tip. Many of Archibald's letters written from the trenches were sent by the rescuer to the Imperial War Museum where they are catalogued as 'Documents.12930'. A few evidently found their way to the Bay Museum on Canvey Island.]

Billeting arrangements

A A Laporte Payne came to be billeted in the home of William Dawson Ainger. On Sunday 20 September 1914 he wrote from Alton, Links Road, Epsom: -
"I was first of all billeted in a public house with three other men. When in the town later I met a friend who said he was in a palace, so I got leave from a Special Constable to move there. On the next day, most unfortunately, we were re-billeted by companies, and we have landed up in a much smaller house and the food is not nearly as good. But eight of us all friends are billeted together in two adjacent houses. It is great fun. I have met several men I know. There are 3500 of us here now. I dined out this evening with Richards at the house of friends of his, named Mountain".
He added on 2 October: -
"We have actually been paid, 15 shillings each, a ten shilling note and a five shilling postal order. What a lot of work, drill, and being messed about, for those few shillings. It is drill all day long with long route marches thrown in, and it gets rather boring, for we have no arms or uniform yet."

'Preparing for the fray"

A recruit in the 4th UPS at Ashtead also wrote in October 1914 about the Battalion's regime : -
"I feel I must let you know how I am getting along in the army. I like the life immensely, although the work is fairly hard. We get up at 5:45 every morning, we are due on the parade ground at 6:30, from 6:30 until 8:30 we have some [Swedish?] drill etc., from 9:30 until 12:30 we have some more drill. In the afternoons we have the long route march & return about 5:30. We have to be in our rooms at 10 p.m. The King inspected our battalion last Monday & was very pleased with our progress. There is a rumour about that we are going to the South of France shortly to complete our training. They pay us 7/- a week & out of that we have to pay for our washing & many other incidental expenses. We are all billeted in private houses & I have been fortunate in having a very kind landlady. I shall write you again & report the progress we have made Please accept my most sincere thanks for your great kindness to me."
Others bewailed the shortage of weapons: during execises, policemen's rattles were pressed into service to simulate rifle or machine-gun fire. On guard duty, a piquet would be armed only with a stick - 'an Irish blackthorn, a constable's baton or a piece of iron piping'. Variety was provided in 'day-outposts', 'scouting' on Epsom Common or Headley Heath, musketry, entrenching and lectures. On alternate days the whole battalion paraded under the Adjutant 'with colours flying and band playing'. It was said that the training did not become irksome to a man who had his heart in the job and had set in his mind that he would go to the front and prove himself better than any German.

Generally these young men had discipline and a sense of duty instilled at school; they were deferential and ready to obey orders from their seniors. Their time around Epsom passed in youthful camaraderie much as if it had been a summer camp with a school Corps.

Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, K.B.E. , (of Alcock and Brown fame) harked back to the period in his book Flying the Atlantic in Sixteen Hours, published during 1920: -
"Although, of American parentage and possessing American citizenship, I had not the patience to wait for the entry into the war of the United States. With an English friend I enlisted in the British University and Public Schools battalion, when it was formed in September, 1914. And, although at the time I had no more notion of it than of becoming President of the League of Nations, that was my first step towards the transatlantic flight.
Those were wonderful days for all concerned in the early training of our battalion at Epsom. In knowledge of drill our officers started level with us. Several times I saw a private step from the ranks, produce from his pocket the Infantry Training Manual, and show a lieutenant where he had gone wrong. Doubtful discipline, perhaps-but excellent practice, for most of the original privates of the U.P.S. soon became officers of the New Army. I was gazetted a second lieutenant of the Manchester Regiment in January, 1915…"
Brian Bouchard © October 2017