The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Three – The Guards Regiments

Grenadier Guards reservists await their medical examinations in August 1914. 

Meanwhile, their regular colleagues were already in France, or at least 2nd Bn. were, with 1st Bn following in October.

Whether any of these three men were there at that time I do not know, but all three served with the Grenadier Guards during the war.

Coldstream & Irish Guardsmen, 1917.  The three oldest guards regiments – Coldstream, the oldest, Grenadier & Scots – were all formed during the English Civil War in the mid-17th Century.  All three were among the first British regiments to cross over to France on the outbreak of war in August 1914, and all suffered shocking losses in the following months and in particular during the last days of October, week two of the First Battle of Ypres that would continue throughout November.  1st Bn. Coldstream Guards, for example, were virtually wiped out, only 150 fit guardsmen remaining, their only unwounded senior officer the quartermaster; 1st Bn. Grenadier Guards were relieved on the night of 29th October 1914, just four officers and a hundred men arriving at their billets at Hooge, although a further 150, not knowing of the order to retire, arrived in small groups the following day; 2nd Bn. Scots Guards lost four men out of five, and 1st Bn., despite the arrival of reinforcements of both officers and men during the battle, only had one senior officer, yet again the quartermaster, and seventy three fit men going into November.  At full strength, a battalion would have consisted of some thirty five officers and a thousand men.

These two old soldiers were both Coldstream Guardsmen, the man on the left serving a total of over sixteen years before his discharge in December 1918; he would have been forty at the time the war broke out, and presumably re-enlisted at that time, having fought in the Boer War and been awarded eight clasps to his Queen’s South Africa Medal.

The Irish Guards (above, in 1914) were not formed until 1900, when Queen Victoria rewarded the actions of the various Irish regiments in South Africa (I believe the majority of the men fighting under the Union Flag in the Boer War were Irish) by forming a regiment of Irish Guards.  The Welsh Guards, incidentally, would only be formed in 1915, because it was only fair, and the Guards regiments would come together as the Guards Division in August 1915, and fight in all the major battles on the Western Front until the end of the war.

Two Irish Guardsmen and two Scots Guardsmen.  The man centre left, based on his service record, may well have been conscripted; he joined the Irish Guards in March 1916, and served for two years as a private until a gunshot wound to the head during fighting at Arras in June 1918 ended his war.  The man centre right wears his ‘Mons Star’, featuring a bronze clasp inscribed with ‘5th AUG.–22nd NOV. 1914’, with the Scots Guards regimental badge above it.  A drummer of twelve years service with 2nd Bn, he would receive a gunshot wound to the spine at Festubert in May 1915 to which his death, twenty eight years later, would be directly attributed.  And the man on the far right was another who would likely have participated in those terrible early battles, enlisting in May 1914 and serving nearly five years with the colours, and seven in reserve, before his discharge in 1926.

These are the men who came home.

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11 Responses to The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Three – The Guards Regiments

  1. Hello
    Our museum has a strong interest in the Gallipoli campaign and represents, primarily with their original medals, many officer casualties, soldiers receiving gallantry awards and commanding officers. One of the senior officers we represent is General Sir HV COX GCB KCMG CSI, another is Brig-Gen HN MacLAURIN (original commander 1st Bde AIF and kia) and Brig-Gen Duncan GLASFURD, who was later commanding the 12th Bde AIF at the time of his death. We have been trying to identify all the senior officers who received knighthoods for the Gallipoli campaign and was hoping you might have their names at your fingertips. I have identified some of them but the list is not complete. Thanks for your assistance… Kind regards… John Meyers

  2. Jon T says:

    Haunting photographs MF and a fascinating subject – those who made it home are often forgotten and not just from the Great War unfortunately.

    This post is also an excellent reminder of the casualty levels the original BEF suffered in 1914 and into 1915. Those early battles are often forgotten too in the shadow of the Somme and 3rd Ypres but the courage shown and losses suffered in 1st and 2nd Ypres are staggering in themselves (not to mention Loos along with all the other clashes in the first year to 18 months of the war around Ypres and elsewhere).

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Jon. I agree with you – as usual, it seems – about those early battles and I think that is one of the reasons why I find the first year of the war so tragically fascinating.

      • Jon T says:

        Indeed that first year was astonishing in some many ways and with so much loss.

        My distant relative who joined 1 Rifles probably May/June 1914 must have fought at Le Cateau, “The Race to the Sea”, 1st Ypres, would have been at Plugstreet Wood for the famous Christmas truce there, fought again at 2nd Ypres and was killed by a random dawn artillery barrage at the northern most edge of the British salient just along from where Yorkshire trench now is. That was June 1915 – All that in just over a year and for it to end in that way and to have no known grave either…

        • Jon T says:

          Actually not sure 1 Rifles were at 1st Ypres but certainly were for the rest.

          • Magicfingers says:

            As you say, so many battles in such a short time, and yet when your relative is killed he’d seen action for less than a year, and there are still three and a half years to go……..

  3. nicholas Kilner says:

    staggering casualties! I had no idea the guards losses had been so incredibly high.
    Guards cemetery, (windy corner) is of course on the agenda for our Loos trip, when we finally get there

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