The Outbreak of War
Between 10th August and 2nd September, 1,220 men enlisted at Hertford with 1,000 men joining Kitchener's New Army and the rest going into the regular army or the special reserve. Hertford’s streets were filled with civilians and military men and the town buzzed with anticipation.
At the outbreak of war, 4th August 1914, the Hertfordshire Regiment was at its annual camp in Ashridge Park. The Regiment was part of the Territorial Force, meant for home defence, and so its officers and soldiers had to be asked to volunteer for overseas service. Sufficient men did volunteer for ‘Imperial Service’ and so the regiment was earmarked for service overseas when required, with those who had not volunteered being transferred to other units.
There was also an influx of volunteers from the Hertfordshire Yeomanry; 134 reported for duty straight away and several old Yeoman re-joined at the same time. All these volunteers were billeted across Hertford in buildings such as the Corn Exchange, Salvation Army Barracks and St. Andrew's and Cowbridge Schools, as well as private homes.
100,000 rounds of ammunition also arrived from the Hyde Park Magazine and very nearly caused a serious incident after the men had all been given their 150 rounds. The cardboard boxes in which the ammunition had arrived was piled up on Hartham Common and burned. Unfortunately there were a few cartridges left inside the boxes and towards evening as the heat of the fire increased, these cartridges exploded. Fortunately no injuries were sustained.
The 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment was one of the first territorial units to go to France in November 1914. It had been expected that the Territorial units would get at least six months training before being committed to battle but the Battalion had just three months before joining the British Expeditionary Force in France and they came under shell fire for the first time at the First Battle of Ypres on 11th November 1914, just five days after they had arrived.
Colonel Sir Charles Longmore
The Longmore family are one of the most prominent in the history of both Hertford and the Hertfordshire Regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles E. Longmore, K.C.B. played an important role in the early recruitment process in Hertford. At a meeting in August 1914 he said that “Loyalty to Crown and Country was demanded of the manhood of England and now was not the time for sport.”
Sir Charles was also placed in charge of the 2nd (Reserve) Battalion, which was authorized on the 1st September 1914 (later in 1914, 3rd and 4th Battalions were also raised which served entirely on home soil).