One thing that comes through from the letters is how differently the brothers coped with the War, with the two already in the services (Ted in the army, Paul in the navy) fully engaged and understanding how it was being waged, and the younger two who signed up in 1914, Jim and Topher, finding it harder to adapt to. The eldest, Richard, is always veiled in what he writes to his mother and it is impossible to tell how he reacted to the horrors he must have dealt with as a medic.
I am grateful to Robert Clark of www.researchingww1.co.uk for the following information.
By October 1915 Jim had been in training for a year, first in the Public Schools Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and, once he had received a temporary commission, in the 18 (Service) Battalion (1 Public Works Pioneers). Pioneers battalions were a new idea in the British Army, intended to provide skilled labour which would relieve other infantry battalions from non-combat roles. In September 1915, the Battalion was training on Salisbury Plain. However, a medical board convened on 23 September decided that Jim was unfit for general service for a month. Shortly afterwards, he received an adverse report from his C.O. which would see him leave the Battalion a month before it was due to leave for France.
10 October 1915
In accordance with verbal instructions from the from the General Officer Commanding Division, I beg to forward a report on the undermentioned officer.
This officer’s state of health has been more or less unsatisfactory during his service with this Battalion. I do not consider him likely to do well on active service whilst this Battalion was stationed at Rayleigh he had a months sick leave. He has a curvature of the spine which gives him an excuse for avoiding anything he does not care for. I would strongly recommend his transfer to a Reserve Battalion. [Emphasis in the original].
This was followed by another letter on the 12 October sent to the War Office.
Headquarters Salisbury Training Camp
I recommend that this officer should be transferred to another formation, and his promotion should be delayed. I shall be glad if another officer may be appointed to take his place in the 18 Middlesex Pioneers at an early date.
Major-General Herman Landon
Commanding 33 Division
Ouch, just ouch. I am curious how much of this correspondence he himself saw, and what he told his mother Gertrude, that stickler for hard work and duty who took so much status from having five serving sons.
Jim was transferred to the 25 / Middlesex, a reserve battalion formed in October 1915 and he joined them on 23 October in Hornchuch in Essex. Life would have followed a mundane patter of training new recruits and it must have been hard for him to watch them depart for the front.