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GENERAL BACKGROUND TO THE PHOTOGRAPH
Of all of those in the
photograph, only my great-grandfather (their Commanding Officer) was a
regular soldier at the outbreak of the war. The rest of them included
businessmen, students, and lawyers, as well as a vicar, a teacher, an
artist, and a poet and critic. Amongst them were the sons of an
explorer, a tobacconists’ traveller, the first Bishop in Persia, a
biscuit factory machinist, an egg merchant, a gardener’s labourer, and
a physics professor. Each was an individual who had entered the world
small and defenceless and had grown into someone with particular
feelings, values, and aspirations. Some had travelled from as far
afield as Malaya, Belgium, South Africa, Canada, Ceylon, and Argentina.
This group was brought together by a shared belief in the cause that
they were to fight for. They shared the intense experience of preparing
for and going to war. Only twenty-three out of the fifty officers
survived to have post-war lives.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 8th ROYAL BERKSHIRES
The Battalion was formed in Reading in September 1914.
Before they went to France, they undertook training on Salisbury Plain
and in the Reading area. The group photograph was taken at Sandhill
Camp, just south of Warminster, some time during June or July 1915.
NOTE: Not all of the men in the photograph went to France with the 8th Battalion. Some were held in reserve and joined later, and others were posted to other units. By the end of the war, none of the men in the photograph were serving in the field with the 8th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment - they had either been killed, relinquished their commissions (as a result of wounds, or, in one case, in response to an official request for pre-war medical students to return to their studies), or been posted to other units (including the Staff, Training Establishments, and departments of the War Office).