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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, 1914-1918
17TH AND 18TH (SERVICE) BATTALIONS
The 17th (1st South-East Lancashire) and 18th (2nd South-East
Lancashire) Battalions were originally composed of bantams, that is
men whose height was not less than 5 feet or more than
5
feet
3 inches. The raising of a bantam unit in the Regimental area was
suggested by Sir Ryland Adkin, M.P., who obtained the consent of
the War Office and formed a committee for this purpose, consisting
of Sir F. Cawley, M.P.; Sir G. Toulmin, M.P.; Mr. T. C. Taylor,
M.P.; the Mayors of Bury, Rochdale, Middleton and Heywood ;
the chairmen of the District Councils of Radcliffe, Ramsbottom,
Whitefield and Wardle; the Rector of Bury (Rev.
J.
C. Hill);
Colonels R. W. Deane, C. L. Robinson and G.
E.
Wike, D.L.; and
Major B. Smyth, M.V.O. The committee named Colonel Wike,
formerly Commanding Officer of the 5th Battalion and an in–
defatigable worker in all Regimental causes, as the official raiser;
and recruiting began on 2nd January, 1915. Within five days the
17th Battalion had reached its full strength of 1,350 and had a
surplus. War Office approval was given on 13th January for a
second bantam battalion, the 18th, to be raised.
It
recruited up to
establishment by 20th January.
.
The committee nominated Major W. ]. McWhinnie (late Royal
Irish Rifles) for the command of the 17th and Major
R.
A. Irvine,
C.M.G. (then serving with the 13th Battalion), for that of the 18th
Battalion.
As in the case of the Salford battalions, the administration of the
units had to be undertaken by the cbmmittee which raised them.
In this case, too, considerable savings were effected, thanks to the
skill of Colonel Wike. The War Office allowance for clothing was
£8 15s. a head, but he kept the cost below £8. Similarly the committee
provided entrenching tools at a cost of 2S. 9d. each, although the
War Office price was 3S. The duties of secretary to the committee
were undertaken by Major Smyth, then Recruiting Officer at Bury,
who also managed the whole of the financial business of the battalions
until they were taken over by the War Office at the end of 19I5.
At the outset both battalions were billeted in Bury, house–
holders receiving the statutory payment of 3s. 4id. a day. Eighty
men lived in the Church House. On I6th March, 1915, the I7th
Battalion moved to hutments at Chadderton, near Oldham. The
I8th moved to hutments at Garswood Park, Ashton-in-Makerfield,
on 8th April. They both took part in a review held by Lord
Kitchener in Manchester on 2Ist March, the cost of the journeys
(£75 17s. 7d .) being borne by the Manchester Recruiting Committee.
During the summer they moved to Masham in Yorkshire, where they
were brigaded with the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and the
23rd Battalion Manchester Regiment, in the I04th Infantry Brigade
of the 35th (Bantam) Division. In August, I9I5, the division moved
to Tidworth, whence the 17th and 18th Battalions, after a cancelled
order to prepare for Mesopotamia, crossed to France on 29th
January, I9I6.