11th Nov., 1918 - 28th June, 1919.
For the first few days after the signing of the Armistice we remained in Sains, the outpost line was maintained, roads to the East were reconnoitered, and everything was made ready for a resumption of hostilities. But it was soon obvious that the Germans had no more fight in them, and our only interest was in whether or no we should form part of the Army of Occupation. It was known that the 4th Army was going to Germany, and some of us hoped to go with it, but it was not to
be, and we were transferred to the 3rd Army, XIIIth. Corps. When we went, General Rawlinson, genuinely sorry to lose us from his Army, expressed his appreciation of our services during the past three months, in a farewell letter, copies of which were given to all ranks. Soon after our transfer, we moved to the Landrecies area, and went into billets in the dirty little town of Bousies.
Our duties were now threefold—to clean up France, to get demobilized, and to amuse ourselves in our spare time. Cleaning up was a gigantic and not very pleasant task, for it meant filling up shell holes, collecting empty bully-beef tins, and generally becoming scavengers. Demobilization, though more congenial, was at first inclined to be slow, and it was with considerable annoyance that we saw among the first to go, young men who had joined us since the Armistice, because
they were "pivotal." Coal-miners were soon called for, and under this heading we lost many of our oldest and best soldiers, so that by Christmas the Battalion was no longer the same. To amuse us, various sports meetings were arranged—all rather hampered by the weather, though we managed to gain much credit in football and running, while the Divisional Rugby football side won the Corps Championship. In these games we were lucky to have the assistance of a new Padre, the Rev.
H.P. Walton, who came to take the place of Padre Buck. Concert parties became more numerous, and, in addition to the "Whiz bangs," who worked very hard, the Brigade had a show of their own, known as the "138's."
While at Bousies we marched one Sunday to Landrecies, where H.M. the King paid a visit. It was an informal affair, no guard of honor and no lining the road, and none of us will ever forget the scene. The King of England followed by his officers, all on foot, walking down the little street of the old French town, while both pavements were packed with soldiers and French civilians, who cheered, shouted, sang and rushed into the road to gain a nearer view of His Majesty.
In January we moved to Pommereuil, a clean little village, where Mayor and people did their utmost to make us comfortable. Here, under the new scheme, demobilization became more rapid, and the older soldiers were sent home in consideration of their service. We also learnt for the first time that the Battalion was to be reduced to a Cadre, and all short service or retainable soldiers would be sent to the 11th Battalion on the Rhine. Before this last move could take place, we
moved again—to Solesmes, where we stayed for a fortnight and then moved to St. Hilaire. A new feature was now introduced in the "amusements" department, which was much appreciated by all of us. Once or twice a week we were given one or two motor lorries to take parties to Douai, Valenciennes or the recent battlefields. We had many pleasant trips, and saw several towns in France which we should never otherwise have seen.
At St. Hilaire the C.O. left us to rejoin the Connaught Rangers, and we were reduced to a Cadre, consisting of five officers, forty-six men and the Colours. A large draft of 200 all ranks, with Lieuts. Steel, Ashdowne, Todd, Dunlop, Argyle and other officers who volunteered for further service, went to the 11th Battalion, and the rest were demobilized. The Cadre was chosen so as to include as far as possible W.O.'s, N.C.O.'s, and men of long and distinguished service, who
would form a suitable guard for the Colors; at the same time we tried to have representatives of each of the larger towns in Leicestershire, and in this we were successful.
In April we moved to Inchy Beaumont, where we stayed until the Cadre finally went home in June. Wagons and all transport were sent to Caudry, and we settled down to a wearisome existence, having too little to do. Cricket succeeded football, and we beat the 4th Battalion at both, and had several other victories. Finally, on the 28th of June, leaving Capt. Nicholson, 2nd Lieut. Griffiths, R.Q.M.S. Gorse and 11 others with the stores, the remnant of the Battalion sailed for
England, landed at Dover, and reached Leicester the same night. The next day the Mayor (Ald. Coltman) and people of Loughborough turned out to give us welcome, and our long months of waiting in France were soon forgotten in the fervor and enthusiasm of the greeting we received, as we marched through the old town and placed our Colors in the Hall. Six weeks later the baggage guard returned, and the Battalion was finally disembodied.
The Fifth Leicestershire
The Fifth Leicestershire
A record of the 1/5th Battalion the Leicestershire Regiment, T.F., during the War, 1914-1919