Page 114 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE EXPANSION OF THE ARMY
provided by the East Lancashire Territorial Force Association. As
regards anus, the battalion was at first provided with a Japanese
rifle, filled with mineral jelly, not intended to be fired and of so
complicated a mechanism that if any part of it was moved the whole
thing tended to fly to pieces and had to be sent to the Ordnance
Depot at Burscough. This was replaced by the long Lee-Enfield,
which was not replaced in turn by the short Lee-Enfield until
shortly before embarkation and
after
the men had fired their
course, so that they went overseas with a weapon they had never
used. Two machine guns were received for the first time at the
same period, and even they were of Maxim-Nordenfeldt type and
not the Regular Vickers Maxim.
The battalion was at first organized on the old eight-company
system, but on 2Ist January, 1915, adopted the four-company
organization. Its title at this time was 5th (Reserve) Battalion.
Training was carried out on the sands and on Birkdale Golf
Course, where astonished spectators would see an entire battalion
in little packets of eight-four men facing four men in close proximity
-right down the length of the course. This was the 2nd/5th
practising entraining, at which it became so expert that its rapidity
in entering or leaving a train earned it much praise later. Route
marches, of considerable length, took place at frequent intervals.
Musketry practices were fired at Altcar. Musketry training was
specialized under selected N.C.Os. as being a quicker way of putting
men through the syllabus than leaving the task to (necessarily)
partially trained company N.C.Os. The 2nd/5th claims to have
initiated the system and to have proved its value: it is certainly
true that the unit was selected for service overseas before others
which adhered to the conventional methods. But then, John Hall
was never conventional. He became famous in Southport for his
unusual sayings; he was indefatigable and he paid great attention
to detail.
Quite early the battalion, in common with the rest of the Home
Service battalions of the East Lancashire Division, acquired a home
defence role in addition to its draft-finding duties. In this capacity it
had to find an officer's guard at the seaward end of the 1,460 yard
long pier; as the sea approach to the pier was by a long, narrow and
very tortuous channel between sand banks with its opening near
Formby, it was never clear what useful purpose the guard served.
In March, 1915, a third role was added, that of preparation for
active service, with the rather natural result that the unit put this
role first and, when it had to find drafts for the 1st/Sth in Gallipoli,
was apt to put its own interests first. At about this time the title of
the unit was altered to "2nd/5th Battalion," the words "Home
Service" and "Reserve" being dropped.
After several rumours of moves to Malvern and elsewhere, the
battalion was selected to leave the 2nd/1st East Lancashire Division
and to join the Ist/3rd Highland Brigade of the 1st/1st Highland
Division. These were soon renamed 1S4th Infantry Brigade and