|Gunner Herbert Bayliss R.F.A.|
On 25th August 1915 in Tottenham, North London, Bert Bayliss took the following oath : "I, Herbert Bayliss swear to Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George V, his heirs and successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, his heirs and successors, in person, crown and dignity, against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors and the generals and officers set over me."
With those words Herbert became Gunner 48209 Bayliss, H. in the 185th (Tottenham) Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Why he made the decision to join up is uncertain. There was, as yet, no compulsory call up but young able bodied men who did not volunteer were often given a hard time. This, combined with the patriotic fervour that was still sweeping the country, and the fact that army recruiting drives often targeted local pubs where the drink was more likely to be the better part of valour, probably all played a part in it. Also, as we shall see later, Bert's older brother and his three sons had already volunteered.
What Bert's wife, Esther thought of the matter we can only surmise. She and Herbert already had six children - the youngest, Esther, was only about a year old. It is hard to believe that she was happy with the situation.
But she would not have been alone in this. All of Great Britain and the Empire Mothers, wives, sisters and girlfriends were watching their men go off to the killing fields of Europe. In many cases it was these very same women who were urging their men to go, to "do their bit."
|Royal Field Artillery Cap Badge|
Bert's oath was heard by Major E. Atkins, RFA. Bert gave his address as 23 Cotham Road, Hornsey Rise - the mispelling of Cottenham Road was corrected on a later page of the military records. On a still later page of the document the address has been amended to 113 Cottenham Road. One question on the form Bert filled out asks if he had ever served in the Army before and despite his previous service with The Royal Fusiliers during the Boer war he answered in the negative. Why, we'll never know for sure but a clue may be found in the fact that his stated age is given as twenty-three and two months when he was, in fact, thirty-two! This seems to indicate that Bert was eager to enlist and felt that his age, at that point in the war, may have caused him to have been rejected.
Bert's occupation was given as Carman. This had nothing to do with cars - a carman was a cart driver. We learn from the medical records that Bert stood 5' 7" and weighed 138 lbs, his expanded chest measurement was 38", his pulse-rate was 84. He was tattooed on both forearms. He was passed "Fit for service at home or abroad."
My mother used to speak of at least three occasions when her father came home on leave. She seemed to think that he was returning from the Western Front (remember she was a child at the time these events happened) but I believe any leave he mat have had happened while he was still stationed in England. The records do bear out her claim that at least one of these leave periods was without permission as his record shows he was given twenty-eight days detention at one point.
|The Army hospital and detention centre at Woking.|
I have read that the long delay was partly caused by the task of weeding out some recruits who, even after their medicals, had been found unfit for service. Another reason is that in 1916 the draft came in and Pirbeck and other camps were urgently needed for housing and training the thousands of new recruits.
On 3 June 1916 the 40th Division embarked from Southampton and the following day disembarked at Le Havre in France.
|British troops boarding trains at Le Havre to take them|
to the Front.
TO BE CONTINUED...