- 1st Battalion
- 2nd Battalion
- 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/4th Battalion
- 2/4th Battalion
- 3/4th and 3/5th Battalions
- 1/5th Battalion
- 2/5th Battalion
- 4/5th Battalion
- 5th Battalion
- 6th (Service) Battalion
- 7th (Service) Battalion
- 8th (Service) Battalion
- 9th (Service) Battalion
- 10th (Service) Battalion
- 11th (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/12th Battalion (Pioneers)
- 2/12th Battalion
- 13th (Home) Battalion
- 14th Battalion
- 15th (Service) Battalion
- Home Service Only
- Battalion not known
A guide to understanding the details of photos of Loyal North Lancashire Regiment soldiers.
by Roger Morlidge
Picture 1. This family went to a photographer’s studio in Tydlesley to have their portrait done. There is no information recorded on the card so who they are and whether he survived his military service will sadly probably never be known.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century the postcard occupied a role in society similar to that of emails or texts today – they were a simple, quick, affordable and convenient way of communicating with friends and family anywhere in the country or indeed around the world. Many of these postcards featured photos of the person or family sending them but they would have been taken at the local photographer’s studio as owning a camera was an unheard of luxury for most people in the UK. When in 1914 many of those family members joined the army, it was a natural thing to do to have a photo taken of the new recruit, resplendent in his new (and often badly fitting!) uniform as a keepsake. As time progressed, postcards showing these new soldiers were delivered all over the country as proud sons would be photographed with their new Lance corporals stripes, their new mates, their new rifle or at their new camp. More sombre photos would be taken when home on embarkation leave; handsome young men with their new wives or girlfriend or children that the soldiers would carry in their wallets while away at the front. Formal family groups would be treasured by the parents and siblings left behind.
Sadly, these visits to the studio might be the final time the soldiers ever went to have their “likeness” done; the backs of many cards have painful annotations such as “The last picture of our Billy before he was killed” or “Dad, died 26 Oct. 1917”. As the war progressed and casualties mounted, cards were produced like the one below of Private Cardwell (Pictures 2 & 3) announcing deaths of loved ones usually with a brief biography taken from articles published in the local papers. More happily, many men had photos done on their return safe in the bosom of their families once more they can be seen displaying the badges and medals earned during the 5 years of the war.
Pictures 2 & 3. The picture on the left is of Private Fred Cardwell of the 10th battalion not long after he had joined the army. The same photo was used for the Death Card that his family would have sent out to inform people that he had been killed in action in 1917.
Millions of postcards were made during the war and millions survive today. Many are still in the family and the faces, if not recognisable, have names. Sadly, many are no longer with the original families and have become anonymous. Sometimes the photographs are claimed by the sitter with a proud signature across the front or a careful family member has recorded the details of the soldier on the back. Some have an address that allows the soldier to be identified and some have messages that can be used to give clues to locations or units or times. However many cards, like that of the family in Tydlesley above (Picture 1), have no writing on at all and are unable to divulge any of their secrets. Or so it might seem! Many cards contain details that might help to narrow down identification and help us understand a little more about the service a soldier had with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
What follows then is a guide to the kind of things you might find on a photograph of a Loyal North Lancashire Regiment soldier that would allow you to add a little more detail to the man’s history. It is a list compiled from cards in my own collection and is as thorough as I can make it. However my understanding is growing with every photograph I study so I don’t claim that this guide is complete and authoritative and I’m sure others will have things to add or faults to find. If so, I’d love to hear from you.
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was formed in 1881 from the amalgamation of the old 47th and 81st Regiments of foot and it became one of 7 regiments who recruited in Lancashire. The County of Lancashire had more regiments than any other in the army and this was a reflection of how massively the population of the North West had expanded during the Industrial Revolution (Yorkshire similarly became home to 6 regiments) The population of the North West provided a huge pool of potential recruits for a peace time army and at the start of the war tens of thousands of men would leave their employment in the big industrial centres and flock to the colours. Finding out which of the Regiments’ battalion a soldier served in is the key to learning more about his service. A battalion is a unit of organisation within the army structure and it is important to understand what it is and how it works.
A typical Regiment of the British Army in 1914 comprised two regular battalions. In theory these were both approximately 1000 men strong and one battalion served overseas while the second stayed in the UK and was responsible for recruitment, training and home defence. The 1st Battalion of the regiment was in Aldershot in 1914 while the 2nd battalion were in Bangalore in Southern India. The battalion also had a 3rd (Reserve) battalion based on the Depot at Fulwood Barracks in Preston who were responsible for training the Regiments new recruits and reservists. In addition there were two Territorial Battalions of part time soldiers, the 4th Battalion based in Preston and the 5th Battalion based in Bolton.
On the outbreak of war the number of soldiers joining the army expanded enormously and the Regimental structure had to grow to accommodate them. Thus the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions were added to the Regiment. These were battalions of volunteers in the New Armies being raised by Lord Kitchener and, as they were only intended for war service they were known as “Service” battalions. In addition the Territorial Force also expanded but, because the battalion numbers after “5” had been allocated to Service battalions and the Territorial Force refused to number it’s battalions after the more junior Service battalions, they fractionalised their battalion numbers – thus the 4th Battalion expanded to 3 battalions, the 1/4th, 2/4th and 3/4th and the 5th Battalion became the 1/5th, 2/5th, 3/5th and 4/5th battalions. In 1916 a 1/12th and 2/12th (Territorial Force) battalions were formed and a 14th battalion existed for a time in 1917. A 13th (Home Service) battalion existed between December 1916 and March 1918 but never left the UK and the 15th Battalion was formed in 1918 after the disastrous losses in the German attacks of March and April that year and joined the 14th Division in July 1918.
At the beginning of the war 4 battalions would serve together in a brigade. Unlike in most armies however, these 4 battalions would not necessarily all be from the same regiment; 9th Battalion for example was in the 74th brigade with battalions from the Cheshire Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Rifles. 3 brigades would serve together in a Division. Territorial Divisions had a very strong regional allegiance: 4 Territorial divisions were composed specifically of Lancashire units. The Service divisions had a more general regional allegiance – 19th Western or 36th Welsh for example. The regular Divisions showed no regional allegiance but were very proud of their history as the “professional” members of the army. Two or more Divisions would serve together in a Corps and the highest formation was an Army containing two or more Corps. In 1918 in the face of severe manpower shortages, the number of battalions in a brigade was reduced to 3 and the men from the Service battalions that were removed went to reinforce other battalions. This process affected the North Lancashires very badly as the 4/5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th battalions were all disbanded during 1918 and their men posted to other battalions (and sometimes regiments) as reinforcements – scant reward for their unit’s previous service!
It was very rare for Regular or Service battalions of the same Regiment to serve together in the same brigade but this was more usual in the Territorial Force Divisions which had a far more “local” feel to them. Thus 3 battalions of the Regiment – 2/4th, 2/5th and 4/5th all attacked in the same brigade on the opening day of the Second Battle of Passchendaele on 26th October 1917. The 8th and 9th Battalions served in the same Division – 25th – but in different Brigades. Generally though individual battalions trained and fought in isolation from the rest of the Battalions of the Regiment and each battalion could boast a unique and individual war record from the 1st Battalion who spent all 5 years of the war on the Western Front to the 6th Battalion who collected a wealth of more exotic battle honours in their travels from the Mediterranean and the Near East.
Picture 4. This picture of the 1st Battalion was taken just after the end of the war but before the Regiment changed its name on 1st of January 1921. When the card was sent on the 13th of December 1921 the card was already at least a year old and the sender changed the caption of the picture to 1st Loyal (North Lancashire) Regt. They also describe the journey through Central Europe that they are going to have to take to join the Battalion in Constantinople where it was due to join the Army of Occupation in Turkey (presumably this was sent by a wife of a member of the battalion). The cadre of the 1st battalion had returned from France in April 1919 and the battalion was being reconstituted at Bordon Camp in Hampshire. By August the battalion numbered 20 Officers and 672 Other Ranks; there are approximately 350 men in the 4 companies on parade here so presumably the photo was taken before then. At full strength the battalion would parade nearly 3 times as many men.
Within the battalion itself there were four rifle companies and a headquarters and it numbered just over a thousand men at full strength. The Battalion Headquarters consisted of a Lieutenant Colonel who was in command with a Major as second in command, an Adjutant (usually a Captain or Lieutenant) responsible for the administration of the battalion, a Quartermaster responsible for the supplies (again a Captain or Lieutenant) and a Medical Officer attached from the Royal Army Medical Corps. Headquarters was also home to the Regimental Sergeant Major, the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant and a number of Sergeants who were responsible for the specialist units within the battalion – Sergeant Drummer (Picture 73 and 75), Pioneer Sergeant, Signaller Sergeant, Sergeant Cook (Picture 7) and a Transport Sergeant (Picture 6). There was also a Sergeant Shoemaker, a Sergeant Tailor, a Provost Sergeant and the Sergeant Orderly room clerk. There was a Machine Gun Sergeant till 1916 when machine guns were transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Picture 90). In addition 16 men served as signallers (Picture 71), 10 as pioneers, 11 as drivers (Pictures 35 and 79), 16 stretcher bearers (often the Bandsmen (Picture 75), 2 as orderlies for the Medical Officer and 6 men serving as officers batmen.
Picture 5. The Sergeants Mess of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion at Oswestry. Standing in the doorway is the Bandmaster and the Sergeant sitting on the floor on the left is wearing the crossed rifle and crown of the Sergeant-Instructor of Musketry. Both of these NCOs would be left behind when a battalion went overseas to help train the replacements coming through the Reserve Battalions.
Picture 6. The transport section of the 4/5th T.F. Battalion commanded here by a Lieutenant. There were 11 drivers at battalion headquarters and 3 at each company headquarters, 23 in all. This unit is therefore over strength but it’s interesting to see that 3 of these men are wearing the horseshoe badge of a farrier. In an army that was still so heavily reliant on the horse as its major form of motive power such trades were vital to the smooth running of the Battalion. Saddlers and wheelwrights were also important craftsmen that helped maintain every units transport. Such skills were concentrated at headquarters in order to ensure a Battalion was as self-sufficient as possible. When the 9th (Service) Battalion went overseas in 1915 they took with them76 horses and mules, 17 limbered wagons, 4 field kitchens, 4 carts and 9 bicycles.
The Rifle Companies
At full strength a battalion had 4 rifle companies (named A, B, C and D companies) each of which had 227 men and were commanded by a Major or Captain (Picture 67) with a Captain as second in command. Each company had a Company Sergeant Major (CSM) (Picture 43) and a Company Quartermaster Sergeant (Picture 8). 2 men served as batmen and there were 3 drivers for the company transport.
Picture 7. The Officers and NCOs of A Company of the 1/12th Battalion. The Officer in the centre is a Captain in command of the Company (3 pips on his cuff rank badge) and the Lieutenant (2 pips on his cuffs) to his left is his second in command but there are no Subalterns to command the company’s 4 Platoons. In addition to the CSM and the CQMS, a company should have 8 Sergeants and 10 Corporals; there are only 5 Sergeants and 7 Corporals here. There could also be up to 12 Lance Corporals but there are only 4 present for this photo. One of the men here (middle row, second right) is wearing the cap badge of the Royal Fusiliers and many have no cap badge at all. The battalion was deliberately raised as a Pioneer Battalion yet none of these men are yet wearing the crossed rifle and pick badge of the pioneers as is being worn by the officer in Picture 78. This shortage of numbers and lack of consistent badges suggests a very early date in the Battalions history for this photo – it was formed in August 1915 and 600 men left Bolton for Lytham the following month to continue their training and a date around that time would seem reasonable. By the time the Battalion left for overseas in June 1916 the battalion had over a thousand other ranks but was still short of officers; junior officers were still arriving from the Reserve Battalion in September. The Royal Fusiliers Corporal is wearing the flaming grenade of a Bomber above his chevrons.
Picture 8. The Orderly Room Staff of C Company of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion at Oswestry in April 1917. In the centre with a crown above his stripes is the Company Quartermaster Sergeant and the Company is lucky to also have its own Orderly Room Sergeant and a Lance Corporal as an additional clerk. The Company Quartermaster Sergeant was responsible for the stores, supplies, organisation and transport of the Company. The CSM (Company Sergeant Major) was responsible for the discipline and training of the Company.
A Company was divided into 4 platoons (A Company would have 1, 2, 3 and 4 platoon, B Company would have 5, 6, 7 and 8 platoon and so on) each of which was commanded by a Subaltern (a Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant (Picture 18)) In each platoon there would be 2 Sergeants, 2 or 3 Corporals, a Drummer, an Officers Servant and 47 Private soldiers.
Picture 9. The Platoon. The relative smartness and almost total lack of insignia suggests that this platoon are almost certainly from a Service Battalion prior to their leaving for France. They are wearing slip-on shoulder titles (see Pictures 61 & 62) and have Utility pattern tunics (see Picture 13) which adds to the feeling that this is a unit very early in its service life. Sitting centre of the front row is a soldier with two crowns on his forearms – before 1915 this would make him the Regimental Sergeant Major, after 1915 the Crowns would make him a CSM. 2 Lance Corporals are the only other NCOs; few promotions or appointments have been made in the Platoon so far. The rather basic drainage system also suggests that they are in a very new camp!
Each Platoon would then be divided into 4 sections of 12 men each commanded by an NCO (a Sergeant or a Corporal) By the end of the war the role of individual sections had developed and changed to reflect the increased tactical ability of Infantry units. The Commanding Officer of 170 (2/1st North Lancashire) Infantry Brigade of 57th (West Lancashire) Division (which contained 2/4th, 2/5th and 4/5th Battalions) produced notes about the roles of different sections within the platoon. 1 one section should be Riflemen, 1 Lewis Gunners, one Bombers and one Rifle Bombers. The Lewis Gun was a light machine gun introduced during the war to give the Infantry more mobile and immediate fire support. Bombers were men trained to use the grenade and Rifle Bombers had a special attachment on their rifle to fire rifle grenades. The notes stress that, rather than individual soldiers feeling they were specialists in one skill, all soldiers should be able to do any one of the jobs of the others but that primarily he was “a specialist in rifle and bayonet”. A platoon commander would therefore have under his personal command various different types of soldier who could be used almost immediately to overcome whatever obstacles the Platoon would encounter.
Picture 10. The man cleaning his boots on the right is Clement Walsh, a member of D Company, 5th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and his section was photographed just after war was declared in either Gloucestershire or Kent. When the photo was taken the sender still called the unit just the 5th Battalion – it had not yet had its number fractionalised to 1/5th Battalion. As a pre-war unit they are already relatively well equipped albeit with some obsolete kit. They are very much simply rifle and bayonet men at this early stage of the war but by the time Photo 43 was taken of men of the same battalion in 1919 this section of D Company would have become a much more modern and flexible unit that was part of what many people consider the best army that Britain has put into the field. The chances of any of these men making it to 1919 though were very slim. Private Walsh himself didn’t even make it abroad; for whatever reason, ill health perhaps or a reserved occupation, he never left the U.K.
At first glance the uniform worn by the British soldier of the First World War seems monotonously similar. However, a more detailed study can reveal all sorts of interesting detail which might help narrow down more details of a soldier’s career.
Picture 11. Uniforms in the early years of the war were in very short supply and many soldiers, like these new recruits to the 10th(Service) Battalion, began their army career in their own clothes.The soldiers in uniform are likely to be NCO’s from the reserves or retired soldiers who rejoined the colours. Experienced soldiers were in such short supply to train the New Armies that units were glad of any help they could get even if these old soldiers often came with ideas and training that were out of date. By the time the 10th Battalion was forming, there was an acute shortages of experienced soldiers to train the new recruits.
Picture 12. The British Soldier went to war in 1914 wearing the 1902 Service Dress, a rough khaki serge suit of tunic and trousers that changed little throughout the war. In this photo, a member of a Territorial battalion poses for a photographer in Bolton. However, due to the massive demand for new uniforms after the outbreak of war when hundreds of thousands of new soldiers joined up, steps were taken in late 1914 to simplify the manufacture of the tunic in order to save on materials and speed up production.
Picture 13. The result of the war time economy was the “Simplified” or “Utility” tunic. This soldier wears the utility pattern tunic without pocket pleats and “rifle” patches on the shoulder. The fact that he also wears a 1914 pattern leather waist belt with its distinctive snake clasp buckle and has no insignia on his tunic suggests he is an early war volunteer. Perhaps he had this photo taken to record receiving his first uniform? You can see the bar on his watch chain in the buttonhole on the top left breast pocket; this suggests he is still unused to the rigours of campaign life and has not realised how impractical a pocket watch could be whilst wearing uniform.
Picture 14. This picture has writing on the rear and identifies a soldier with a Territorial Force number who is responsible for “D Company’s Rations”. It’s possible therefore that this photo is pre-war. However the corporal on the left is wearing a Utility tunic. So it has to date to after late 1914 and is unlikely to be post war when production of the standard tunic was sufficient to meet the equipment needs of the much smaller army after the armistice.
Picture 15. In the very early months of the war, before the introduction of khaki service dress became widespread, an emergency pattern of uniform was introduced as a stop gap. Known as “Kitchener Blues” this was a very simple uniform made from existing stockpiles of blue serge material intended for police officers and postmen and was issued exclusively to Kitchener battalions many of whom were, like the 10th (Service) battalion men in Picture 4, training in their own clothes. Here, drummers of the 9th (Service) battalion pose for their photo in Christchurch; the picture is dated but, even had there been no date, this picture would have to date to late 1914 or early 1915 as these blue uniforms were quickly replaced once khaki uniforms became available. Also of note here are the white rectangles sewn to their arms with “9 LNL” stencilled on them. (So far I only have photos of members of the 8th & 9th (Service) battalion wearing “blues”).
Picture 16. Sadly many men would be wounded during the war and, whilst recuperating they would wear ”Hospital Blues” a baggy, ill-fitting blue coloured suit that was worn by soldiers who were fit enough to be out of bed whilst still in hospital. Private J Rogerson was the second member of B Coy, 9th (Service) battalion to be wounded and is pictured here in the centre of the photo. He had only been in France for a week when he was wounded on patrol near Armentieres on the First of October 1915. B Company was on its first tour of the front line and was attached to the 4th East Yorkshire Regiment to learn Trench Duties. He never re-joined the company. His tunic and trousers would be blue with a white shirt and red tie.
Picture 17. This photo shows another member of the regiment whose approach to uniform regulations was a little more unorthodox; a paisley neck tie was certainly not standard issue! The contrast between the blue colour of his tunic and the Khaki of his hat is obvious even in a black and white photo. His jacket is unlined unlike those in the previous photo – this may be an economy measure introduced later in the war; if that’s so, it suggests a date later in the war for this photo.
Picture 18. This photo tells a rather sombre story; the soldier here has replaced the second button down on his tunic with a black one. This became quite a common sight as the war progressed and was worn as a tribute to a close friend or relative who has been killed in action. He is also carrying a cane which quickly became a fashionable military accessory.
Picture 19. Three battalions of the Regiment were also issued with Tropical uniforms for overseas service so soldiers photographed in tropical uniform are almost certainly from the 2nd, 6th or 1/12th battalions. The 2nd Battalion started the war in Bangalore in Southern India before sailing to East Africa. They had spells in South Africa and Egypt before finishing the war on the Western Front. Here, the scouts of the 2nd Battalion pose for a photo in Poona in 1913 just before they moved to Bangalore. By the time they went to East Africa they had been reequipped with 1908 pattern Webbing.
Picture 20. The 6th (Service) battalion went to Gallipoli and then fought throughout the campaign in Mesopotamia. Private Fuller on the left was initially issued with Khaki Serge before being reissued with a tropical uniform. Here he appears quite smartly turned out in a photo that dates to two specific periods – either just before their landing in Gallipoli or just after their evacuation and journey to Mesopotamia. The Battalion went to Gallipoli as reinforcements landing at Suvla Bay on the 6th of July 1915 and moving further south to ANZAC Cove on 4 August. Less than a week later they were attacked by an entire Turkish Division on the Summit of Chunnuk Bair and overwhelmed; at least 220 men were killed including the battalion commander. Private Fuller survived only to be killed in the attack at Sanniyat, Mesopotamia in April the following year.
Picture 21. By contrast to Private Fuller, these 6th Battalion men, photographed in Bangalore in 1918, are wearing tropical uniforms that look rather more lived in and practical ( The Corporal wears Boer War medals so has fought through two wars over nearly 20 years). Several 6th Battalion men are buried in Bangalore which acted as a rest centre and hospital centre for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Possibly the 2nd battalion still had a presence there as well?
Picture 22. Private 19601 George Crook serving with the 11th (Reserve) battalion in Felixstowe displaying all the uniform and kit issued to the New Army soldier. Even without knowing his number which is stenciled on various pieces of his kit, his utility tunic and 1914 pattern equipment would identify him as a wartime volunteer.
Picture 23. This photo is dated 1940 and illustrates the difference between Service Dress and the Battledress that began to be introduced in 1939. Sergeant Fisher in the centre still wears the much smarter Service Dress with its collar badges and his first war medal ribbons. In a picture from the First World War, a soldier will always be wearing some form of Service Dress – soldiers from the Second World War will be wearing Battledress unless, like Sergeant Fisher here, they are trying to impress on their recruits their own history of service with the regiment – (see also the Post War section below!).
Picture 24. Private Jim Brimelow of the 5th (Reserve) battalion in Blackpool in early 1916. He is wearing the standard British Army Great coat. The Reserve battalions of the 4th and 5th Territorial Battalions existed to train new recruits and supply reinforcements to the Territorial Force (T.F.) battalions serving overseas. The 1/4th and 1/5th or First line Territorials and went overseas in early 1915. The 2/4th and 2/5th or second line battalions were also created from the massive numbers of men arriving at the depots. 3/4th and 3/5th battalions were the reserve battalions. The Territorial Force barracks in Bolton was the only significant infantry building in the town and the numbers turning up were so high that a 4/5th battalion was also formed and became one of only a handful of Fourth line battalions to serve overseas. The Regimental depot at Fulwood was the obvious place to go if you lived in Preston and many of the Service or New Army battalions were formed there. The 3/4th and 3/5th were amalgamated in September 1916 to form the 4th (Reserve) Battalion which spent the bulk of the war near Oswestry in Shropshire.
Picture 25. This Second Lieutenant is wearing the officers badges photographed below. His uniform is conspicuously different from the men he would be commanding. This became a problem in the front line when German snipers would target officers first and, as the war progressed, it became common for officers to dress more like their men. This officer’s rank insignia are very obvious on his cuffs and the badges of rank were officially allowed to be moved onto the epaulette from 1917. Out of the trenches, and especially at home, officers were expected to present the idealised image of the young soldier about to go abroad and this photo, taken in Liverpool, shows none of the battlefield adaptations that had become common by the end of the war.
Picture 26. Pictures of soldiers near the front line are rare as the use of cameras in or near the Front Line was banned. Officially this was for security reasons but there was almost certainly a realisation that the civilians at home should be spared the “horrors” of the front in case the realisation of the conditions which the men were serving in affected morale. This photo of these three officers is therefore quite rare. They are all much less obviously officers than in the previous photo. All are wearing webbing equipment and helmets with gas masks on their chests. Two of them have no visible insignia unlike the Second Lieutenant on the left. Shirts and ties though are still obligatory as a sign of rank! (These officers are probably Royal Engineers – I don’t have any photos of North Lancs officers that are near the front line!).
Picture 27. This photo is almost certainly taken in France on active service. We can tell this because the Lance Corporal is wearing a gas mask bag. The bag itself is behind him but you can see the strap on his left shoulder and passing under his right arm. Soldiers on service would carry their gas masks with them anywhere there was a danger of being hit by gas shells. Notice also that the brass buttons on his tunic have been allowed to become tarnished so they are less reflective – compare them with the tunic buttons in Pictures 5 & 6. Also, unlike the smart, tailored appearance of most of the soldiers in the other photos, this soldiers’ pockets are all full!
Picture 28. This chap has just come back from the Front Line and is still covered in mud. He is wearing a steel helmet and a leather jerkin over his tunic. He has a later version of gas mask in the “alert” position on his chest. This image of the fighting soldier is far removed from the smart and soldierly appearance he would have presented to his friends and family back home! The gas mask is the Small Box Respirator which began to be introduced just before the Battle of The Somme in 1916 and was standard issue by the beginning of 1917. The helmet made its introduction about the same time so this photo can be no earlier than mid-1916.
The soldier on the left here is a member of the 5th (TF ) battalion photographed in 1914 and wears the 1905 pattern Service Dress Cap for Other Ranks. The man in the middle wears the same cap but it is deliberately less military and formal looking. It was common practice for soldiers who had been in service some time to remove the stiffening wire in the crown to suggest or confirm that the wearer had seen action and was not, unlike the chap on the left, a new recruit. (Notice also his wrist watch – pocket watches were the norm pre-war but the wrist watch was much more practical on active service and their use became widespread during and after the war) To try and improve the usefulness of the issued headgear, the 1915 Winter Trench Cap was introduced which had neck and ear flaps that could be let down in cold weather. The chap on the right here is wearing one and you can see the ear flap folded up onto the top of the cap; this photo must date to 1915 or later. A further improved cap was introduced in 1917 which had a soft rather than rigid peak – identified in the picture bottom left by the rows of stitching across the peak. This was intended to be easily folded up when not worn and was bent into a wide variety of shapes like that in the centre. Both these photos can only be from 1917 or later. Finally, the shrapnel helmet was introduced in early 1916 and its use was widespread by the middle of that year so if your soldier is wearing a helmet, the photo is from 1916 at the earliest.
Picture 35. In 1914 the regular Army was equipped with the 1908 Pattern webbing equipment being worn by the men above. This was a complicated collection of pouches and straps that allowed the soldier to carry everything he needed on his person. It was a very clever and advanced design and served with the army until 1937. The equipment that replaced it was considered by many to be inferior to the 1908 pattern. During the war it was realised that when the ammunition pouches on the left side of the body came into contact with the trench wall when a soldier was firing over the parapet, the press studs that held them closed could be opened accidentally and ammunition lost. Later patterns of the equipment have additional closing straps on the left hand pouches to prevent ammunition clips falling out. The man standing on the right of the photo clearly doesn’t have these extra straps on his pouches so is wearing the first pattern of the equipment and the photo probably therefore dates from early in the war.
Picture 36. The 1908 Pattern equipment is usually seen in photos being worn in walking out dress – i.e. just the waist belt. This soldier in this rather damaged postcard is also wearing the bayonet frog and scabbard. There is a message on the rear of this photo which reads “Billy, Dad’s friend who he carried a long way injured. Unfortunately he died.” With Billy or William being such a common Christian name it is impossible to identify who this soldier is. The wall behind with its massive stone blocks appears in many North Lancashire Regiment photos and is almost certainly a wall at the Regimental Depot at Fulwood Barracks in Preston.
Picture 37. An interesting version of the equipment is being worn; the pouches here have only three pockets not the normal five. This is a variant privately purchased to equip Territorial battalions – in this case the 5th (TF) battalion. The 5th TF Battalion went to war wearing the standard issue equipment with 5 pouches so this equipment was obsolete during the war. This photo then is either just pre-war or of a member of one of the second, third or fourth line battalions that the 5th Battalion raised during the war who would, in the early days of their training be grateful for any equipment, obsolete or not, that they could get their hands on. Any soldier wearing these pouches is almost certainly from a TF Battalion.
Picture 38. The start of the war found the army short of many things and many recruits to the New Armies in 1914 found themselves having to wear old fashioned equipment until production of the 1908 pattern equipment caught up with demand. This soldier wears the belt from the Slade Wallace equipment which became obsolete in 1903. He also wears ribbons for two Boer War medals so he will feel at home in this belt as it was standard issue in South Africa! These belts were reissued as a stop gap and never saw overseas service and were replaced once supplies of the more up to date equipment became available.
Picture 39. This soldier too is having to make do with obsolete equipment. He is wearing a brown leather version of the Slade Wallace equipment as issued to volunteer units. This again dates the photo to the very early days of the war and places him very definitely in the UK. The elaborate backdrop in the photographer’s studio and the prop balustrade are typical of the types of settings used by many photographers.
Picture 40. In 1914 there was a massive industry supplying leather products and the country relied on the leather industry far more than we do today. The British Army was almost unique in using equipment not made of leather but, in the early days of the war when there was a massive new army to equip, there was a serious shortage of webbing equipment and machinery to make new sets. The leather industry however was able to quickly adapt their production to make a leather version of the 1908 pattern equipment and the manufacturers of leather goods in both the U.K. and North America rushed the 1914 (Emergency) Pattern Equipment into production to try and meet the shortfall in supply. This equipment was neither as well designed nor as popular as the webbing version but was supplied by the thousands to New Army and second line Territorial battalions. The men above are from the 10th (Service) battalion in the winter of 1914 and appear, from the evidence on the wall behind them, to have just survived a snowball fight! They are wearing just the waist belt, pouches, braces and bayonet frog (bayonets themselves don’t appear to have been issued yet – the frog of the man on the right is empty!) Later in the war a version of the pouch was made with 2 closing straps rather than just one like the pouches here. This was to rectify a similar problem to the one the 1908 pattern equipment suffered from; it was found that the pouches didn’t close properly and ammunition was being lost. If you have a photo were there are two closing straps on the pouches, it is from later in the war. The Lusitania, torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915 on its way across the Atlantic from America, was allegedly carrying thousands of sets of this equipment in her hold!
Picture 41. Soldiers are more commonly seen in photographs wearing just the waist belt from the 1914 equipment in walking out order like Private Walssley of the 2/4th T.F. battalion. A soldier wearing 1914 pattern equipment is almost certainly a wartime recruit; it was never issued to Regular or First Line Territorial battalions who already had webbing equipment and the equipment was phased out during the war as new sets of the 1908 pattern equipment became available. Soldiers disliked it and often swapped it for scrounged sets of the 1908 pattern webbing. The 1914 pattern equipment became obsolete at the end of the war and was scrapped as soon as the war finished so photos showing a soldier wearing any part of the 1914 leather equipment can only date to the years 1914 – 1919.
Picture 42. Leather was also the material used to make the equipment of this soldier. He is wearing the bandolier of the 1903 pattern equipment. This equipment was replaced by the 1908 webbing (although only slowly as the 2nd Battalion in India were still wearing it in 1913 – see Picture 12! ) and was obsolete for the Infantry during the war. However the cavalry version was still in use by mounted troops until the beginning of the Second World War. Other mounted troops – artillery and engineers for example – also continued to wear the infantry version of the bandolier. The fact that this soldier of the North Lancs is wearing a bandolier indicates that he is serving in a mounted role and must be serving with the Transport section responsible for driving and maintaining the horse drawn vehicles of his battalion. During the First World War, there were 11 drivers at a battalion headquarters and 3 with each company. He is also wearing the 1914 pattern waistbelt which suggests he is a driver in a Service or second line TF battalion. (See also Pte Birtles in Picture 93 who is wearing spurs as part of his drivers equipment).
Picture 43. The last troops of the 1/5th TF battalion in France before they left for home; the battalion had fallen to the size of a company by the time it came back to the UK on the 2nd June 1919. Unusually there is a mix of waist belts on show here – a unit would usually be equipped with either the 1908 or 1914 equipment. The 1914 belts could possibly be being worn by former members of the 4/5th TF battalion which was merged with the 1/5th battalion in early 1918. The men in bandoliers are drivers of the transport section. In his novel “Other Ranks” published in 1930, the author W.V.Tilsley drew heavily on his experiences with the 1/4th battalion. When he joined the battalion in August 1916 from (probably!) a third line battalion of The Manchester Regiment, he was equipped with the 1914 pattern equipment and was anxious to scrounge a set of webbing equipment. So, annoyingly, although logic tells us that both the first line Territorial battalions – 1/4th and 1/5th – should have webbing equipment, both had reinforcements from junior and younger battalions that introduced the 1914 pattern kit into the ranks. Thus our attempts to draw hard and fast rules becomes about who wears what becomes slightly harder!!
Picture 44. Clarence Duckworth was killed in action with the 2nd battalion in September 1918. The photo of him here shows the standard Loyal North Lancashire cap badge and shoulder title that would be seen on the khaki serge uniform in 1914.
All regiments of Infantry in the British army had their own unique cap badge and this badge is the most obvious and easiest way of identifying what unit the soldier belongs to. The distinctive badge of the Loyal North Lancashire regiment badge was introduced in 1882 when the old 47th and 81st regiments were amalgamated. The original badge would have had a Queens crown but, on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 the crown became a kings crown as is seen on wartime badges. The Loyal North Lancashire’s badge has 4 component elements. From the top down these are a lion over a King’s Crown over a Rose of Lancashire over a scroll bearing the Words “Loyal North Lancashire”. Unlike many other regiments, there were no distinctive badge issued to Territorial battalions and no special badges worn by ‘Pals’ battalions. The standard badge as worn by Private Duckworth above is the only badge you’ll ever see on a North Lancs. soldier.
Picture 45, 46, 47 & 48. This soldier above wears the standard Loyal North Lancashire cap badge introduced in 1881. On the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 the crown changed from a Queens Crown to a Kings Crown seen here. The “arms” of the badge in the photo below seem to be bent backwards: this was done to make the rather flat cap badge conform to the curve of the front of the Service Dress cap and might suggest a soldier who has been in service a little longer and learned the “tricks of the trade”!
Picture 49, 50, 51 & 52. This soldier is identified as being a member of the 6th (Service) battalion and the ‘narrow’ appearance of the badge may be because it is a war time manufacture. Below are two examples of badges on the Solar Topee. The badge on the left is from a pre-war photo of the 2nd battalion in Bangalore. The photo on the right shows a cap badge in the fastened into the pagri on the right side of the helmet. This latter photo is also from Bangalore but is of a 6th (Service) battalion soldier in 1918.
Picture 53. Officers cap badges are the same as the ones worn by the men but they were in a blackened metal. The bottom badge was worn on the collar of the officer’s tunic. Officers of the Territorial force would also wear a metal “T” underneath the scroll of the collar badge – (see Picture 56).
Picture 54. This Company Sergeant Major of the Regiment wears the standard “N.Lancashire” shoulder title on his greatcoat and the single crown denoting his rank on his sleeve.
Picture 55 & 56. In addition to the Regimental cap badge, private soldiers would wear a curved brass shoulder title on their tunic epaulette like those at the top. The two Territorial battalions both had different shoulder titles; they had their battalion numeral (4 or 5) above the title with a ‘T’ above the numeral. The bottom picture shows the title of the 5th TF battalion.
Picture 57. This soldier is a member of the 1/4th TF battalion and was photographed in Swindon in 1914 just after the battalion had been mobilised. The shape of his shoulder title is clear; often the numeral is difficult to read but the distinctive shape is enough to identify him as belonging to one of the TF battalions.
Picture 58, 59, 60 & 61. On the left here is a title for the 4th TF battalion as is worn in Picture 57. Top right is the title worn by territorial battalions on the greatcoat. Bottom left are other examples of Regimental titles worn during the war. Top two are variations on the normal title while the bottom two may well be war time economy versions of the standard titles. Bottom right is a variant of the slip on shoulder title.
Picture 62. Another response to the lack of materials and production capacity at the beginning of the war was the introduction of cloth ‘slip on’ titles. These were a khaki coloured tube that was worn over the shoulder epaulette with the words ‘N LANCASHIRE’ printed on them. I have not been able to find (yet!) any specific details about what units were issued with these titles but photos exist of 10th (Service) and 11th (Reserve) battalion men wearing them. This soldier here was photographed in Felixstowe where both the 3rd and 11th (Reserve) battalions were based – it’s possible that 3rd battalion was also issued with them. A different version of the slip on title is shown in Picture 61. Note the bar on the chain for his pocket watch in his breast pocket buttonhole again!
Picture 63. This soldier has cut down a slip on title and sewn it to his upper arm. This is a good example of the sort of insignia chaos that must have been rife at the beginning of the war when central control and supply of the standard insignia was difficult. No such modifications would be allowed in the Regular battalions and it’s almost certain he belongs to a Service Battalion. Note also his wristwatch and the hobnails on the bottom of his marching boots!
Picture 64. Once again a totally non-standard war time modification; this man has cut the “N LANCASHIRE” from a slip on title and sewn it directly to his epaulette. He, like the man in Picture 63, almost certainly belongs to one of the war raised Kitchener battalions.
Picture 65 & 66. This soldier wears brass shoulder titles like the ones below. These are non-standard titles and I so far haven’t identified which battalion wore them; almost certainly it would have been a War raised Service battalion.
Picture 67. Medal ribbons were worn above the left breast pocket and denoted two types of medal. Gallantry medals were awarded for acts of bravery and campaign medals for periods of service. This officer is Captain Henry Lindsay of the 1/4th TF battalion who was killed in action on 8th August 1916. He is wearing the purple and white ribbon of the Military Cross above his pocket. His bravery award was gazetted in January 1916. If you look closely you can see that the ribbon has been drawn on to the photo – presumably this photo was taken before he won the medal and he never got the chance to have a photo done with his medal before he was killed. A proud family member must have had the medal drawn in after his death. He also wears a metal “T” under his collar badge to denote he is an officer of the Territorial Force.
Picture 68. This lance corporal is wearing the ribbon of the 1914 star. This medal was awarded to members of the armed forces who served in France or Belgium before 22nd November 1914. This medal was authorised in late 1917 and is unlikely to be found being worn on uniforms till early 1918: this photo almost certainly dates to the last year of the war. Only men with the 1st battalion qualified for the 1914 star so this chap must have served with them early in the war – the unusual shoulder title suggests he is now serving with a New Army battalion (Picture 65 & 66). This ribbon is the only First World War campaign ribbon that is seen on photos during the war. A photo that shows the ribbons of the War and Victory medals dates to after the end of the war. (see Post War section below)
Picture 69. This rather damaged photo shows a soldier wearing both the Kings and The Queens South Africa medal and marks him out as a veteran of the Boer War. A photo of officers and men who served with the 2nd Battalion in the Boer War and were still serving with the battalion was taken in Poona in 1913: there were 42 veterans still with the colours. Most, like this chap, would have retired to civilian life and settled down with his family in the UK. If he was still on the reserve (most soldiers were in the Army Reserve for 5 years after their service ended) he is likely to have been called up on the outbreak of war to make up numbers in the 1st Battalion. It was typical for the Home service battalion of a regiment – in this case the 1st Battalion – to be understrength as the regiment would send new recruits and reinforcements to the 2nd Battalion In India to keep that unit up to fighting strength. Men not needed to fill the ranks of the 1st Battalion would have gone to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion to await call up as reinforcements.
Picture 70. Seated in the centre is Corporal Fred Taylor of the 1/5th Battalion. He wears the ribbon of the Belgian Croix De Guerre. The awards of all gallantry medals are listed in supplements to the London Gazette. Using their website ( https://www.thegazette.co.uk ) it is possible find the details of when he was awarded this medal: it was gazetted on the 12 July 1918. This picture has to date to after this date.
British soldiers wore a variety of other badges that can help identify more information about their trades, units and areas of service. They can also be useful in dating photos.
Picture 71. This soldier belongs to one of the TF battalions in the early years of the war. The Territorial Force was created to defend the mainland while the Regular Army went overseas to fight .However, it very quickly became apparent that the Regular Army was not going to be big enough to fight the war on its own and, whilst the New Army was still training, the Territorial battalions were asked to volunteer to fight overseas. Those soldiers who did volunteer were issued the Imperial Service brooch; the presence of this brooch let people know that the wearer had made that commitment to go overseas and fight and this chap is wearing the Imperial Service brooch above his right breast pocket. The 1/5th TF Battalion went first on the 13th February 1915 followed by the 1/4th TF Battalion on 4th May 1915. This chap is wearing a 1914 pattern belt so is very unlikely to be one of the first line Territorial Battalions who wore webbing equipment. He’s more likely to belong to one of the other war raised TF battalions. If he was a member of the 4/5th TF battalion he would have a long wait to honour his commitment as that battalion didn’t go overseas till February 1917.
Picture 72. On the bottom of his left sleeve this soldier wears a good conduct badge in the form of a chevron with the point uppermost. These were awarded after 2,6, 12 and 18 years’ service. As they were awarded for good conduct they could also be lost for bad conduct and had to be re –earned! They were only awarded to NCO’s and men below the rank of sergeant – if a man was promoted to sergeant they had to be removed. This soldier then has served at least two years in the army.
Picture 73. This soldier is wearing 2 chevrons and is therefore in at least his 6th year of service. He is must be a pre-war regular as he has a service as long as the war itself; the well-tailored uniform, the elaborate moustache and the stick which give the impression of a professional military dandy, support this idea. If he is a regular, he is most likely to belong to the 1st Battalion as the 2nd spent most of the war abroad in tropical uniform, only returning to the western Front and serge uniform like this one in May 1918.
Picture 74. This chap has 3 chevrons so has served at least 12 years. He is wearing a 1914 pattern waist belt which is still quite light in colour. This is because it hasn’t been polished much and is still very new. So, this chap is probably an experienced old soldier who has re-enlisted in one of the New Army battalions at the very beginning of the war. His experience in the new, largely civilian army would be invaluable. Given the shortage of trained Non Commissioned Officers at the start of the war, he would almost certainly have been given his old rank back upon re-enlistment; the fact that he has served at least 12 years but never apparently made it beyond a private soldier might make you think about the quality of his experience!
Picture 75. Here’s Corporal Fred Taylor again standing in the centre. The soldier on the left and the one sitting both wear a different kind of chevron on their right sleeve. These are overseas service chevrons and one chevron was awarded for every year a soldier had served overseas. A maximum of 5 were issued and if the wearer had served abroad before 31st December 1914 then the first (or bottom) chevron would be red. The others were light blue. Their use was authorised in December 1917 but it would be the early months of 1918 before they started to appear; on that basis this photo is certainly in 1918. Corporal Taylor has no chevrons – he came out with the 4/5th battalion in February 1917 so will only just be entitled to one chevron. No soldier serving with the 4/5th battalion could have earned more than one overseas chevron. The fact that there are two men here with two chevrons suggests that they are members of the 1/5th battalion and have been overseas since 1916. The photo must therefore date to after the 4/5th battalion (with whom Corporal Taylor started his service) was amalgamated with the 1/5th; this happened in February 1918.
Picture 76. This Private wears a thin vertical stripe on his left cuff. This is a wound stripe and a soldier was entitled to wear one stripe for every wound that he had received. Their use was authorised in July 1916 so this photo must date to after that time but the stripes themselves were awarded for any wound received since the beginning of the war. It may be significant that they were introduced in 1916, the same year as conscription; wound stripes (and overseas service chevrons later in the war) were a way of marking the service and contribution of soldiers who had volunteered and been serving the war effort on a voluntary basis a lot longer than the new conscripts who had been forced to join up.
Picture 77. There’s a lot we can get out of this photo!! It’s a very informal photo– at least 3 are smoking, 2 with no hats and 2 with no tunic, not all of them are wearing puttees and they’ve named themselves “The Scroungers” – and it feels like an “off duty” moment. They are all in a hutted camp and the man standing on the right is wearing a Slade Wallace belt. It is highly unlikely this belt would have gone to France with him and it places the location in the UK. Look at the hats – there’s a 1915 winter trench cap (3rd from left, back row) so it dates after 1915. There is a mix of rather smart and rather dishevelled caps which suggests a mix of new and veteran soldiers. There are indeed signs that several of these men have seen a lot of service; at least 4 of these men have a good conduct stripe which suggests that some of them have been in the army at least two years. At least four of them have been wounded (3 of them twice); they are wearing their wound stripes which pushes the date of the photo back to after July 1916 when these were introduced. We can’t see all the sleeves of all of these men but it’s interesting to note that the 4 who’ve been wounded are the four sitting at the front – does that imply a status for a wounded and therefore more experienced soldier amongst this group? Where we can see shoulder titles, they are simple one-line titles and not TF titles which suggests that this is a Regular or New army battalion. By 1916 all Regular and New Army Battalions were overseas except the 3rd and 11th (Reserve) battalions. Men recuperating from wounds would eventually end up in one of the Regiments reserve battalions until they were fit enough to be sent back overseas to join one of the front line battalions. The 11th Battalion became part of the training reserve in 1916 and ceased to be badged to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment: so, if the uniform detail dates this to a Reserve battalion in mid/late 1916 at the earliest, it will very likely be a group from the 3rd battalion in Felixstowe.
Picture 78. Many British units had distinctive badges to identify the division to which the soldiers belonged and the presence of these badges can help you identify which battalion the soldiers belonged to. The man sitting on the left is wearing the chequerboard insignia of the 34th Division on his upper right arm. The only battalion of the Loyals that served with the 34th division was the 2nd Battalion. They joined the division in June 1918 after service in Africa and the Middle East. A 1918 date is strengthened by the overseas service stripes of the man sitting behind him which were only began to appear in that year. The man on the right has a good service chevron; if he had indeed served 2 years with the 2nd battalion he would have seen little action with them. After their service in East Africa in the early years of the war the battalions’ health had been so badly affected that they moved to South Africa in May 1916 and spent 9 months recuperating before moving to Suez; they were still so medically unfit that they only worked on the Lines of Communications until moving to France in May 1918.
Picture 79. This man wears the circular badge of the 55th (1st West Lancashire) Division on his upper arm. This was a red and green rose of Lancashire on a drab cloth background. The 55th Division was a Territorial Division made up of pre-war territorial battalions from the Kings, South Lancashire, Kings Own and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments. The only Loyals battalions serving with the division were the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions so this man must belong to one of these. Most of the battalions of the division went to France independently as reinforcements in 1915 (1/5th in February and 1/4th in April) to be attached to other divisions and the division wasn’t reconstituted until January 1916. The photo is therefore unlikely to be from 1915. From March 1916 all battalions of the division were issued with coloured patches to denote battalions within the division in addition to the Divisional sign; Dick Bradshaw, the hero of W V Tilsley’s novel “Other Ranks” looked on these patches with envy as the mark of a veteran soldier and was relieved when he was issued with one. Unfortunately these patches were on the back just under the collar so this knowledge is of little use unless you have a picture of a soldier from behind!
Picture 80. Fred Taylor again! This time we need to look at the top of their arms. This photo dates to the last few months of the war and is of the 1/5th TF battalion in the 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division. In 1918, in the face of severe manpower shortages, divisions were reduced from 12 battalions to 9 and 3 battalions, including the 1/5th battalion, left the 55th Division and went to the 57th Division. This was also a West Lancashire division but made up of the 2nd line battalions – 2/4th, 2/5th and 4/5th battalions. The 1/5th battalion only numbered 14 officers and 301 men at the end of January 1918 when it moved; it absorbed the 4/5th battalion and the combined strength had risen to 40 officers and 994 other ranks by March.
I have found no information on the badges of this division other than they should have the divisional insignia on the left arm and battalion and company indicators on the right. These men clearly do not have the 57th Div. badge on their arms but do appear to have a dark coloured circle with a smaller circle below. There appears to be no record of these “Battle patches” but presumably they indicate the 1/5th Battalion. (See also the 1/5th Cadre in photo 43.)
As yet these pictures (Pictures 43, 67, 68 and 69) are the only examples of Divisional insignia or battle patches I know of. Other battalions of the regiment served with other divisions who did also wear badges so any unusual badges on the top of a soldiers arm could be one of these. The divisions within which the different battalions of the regiment served are as follows-
1st Battalion – 1st Division
2nd Battalion – 34th Division (Picture 67)
1/4th Battalion – 51st, 55th Division (Picture 68)
2/4th Battalion 57th Division
1/5th Battalion –6th, 50th, 9th, 55th, (Picture 68) 57th Division (Picture 43, 69)
2/5th Battalion – 57th Division
4/5th Battalion – 57th Division
6th Battalion – 13th Division
7th Battalion – 19th Division
8thBattalion – 25th Division
9th Battalion – 25th Division
10th Battalion – 37th Division
11th Battalion – 31st Division
1/12th Battalion – 60th, 32nd, 74th Divisions
15th Battalion – 14th Division
Picture 81. This Sergeant is wearing the crossed rifles badge of a Marksman. These could be in worsted cloth as here or in gilded metal (Picture 61). In order to qualify for this badge he had to be one of the best shots in his unit. If they are worn on the upper right arm then they denote a Qualified Instructor. During the Boer War the standard of the Boer marksmanship was found to be much superior to that of the British soldier and great emphasis was placed on improving the skills of every soldier. In addition, there was an increasing realisation just before the First World War of the power of the machine gun and, until such time as the Military establishments decided to issue machine guns in sufficient quantities, it was hoped the British soldier could become his own machine gun. It became standard practice for soldiers to be trained to fire 15 aimed shots a minute and German soldiers attacking the British army were convinced they were indeed facing machine guns so heavy was the concentration of rifle fire that an infantry unit could bring to bear. Standards of marksmanship would fall during the war as new recruits would have far less training than their pre-war counterparts but this Sergeant is still a very fine shot indeed.
Picture 82. This soldier is wearing the crossed flags of a signaller. Every battalion headquarters had a Corporal and 15 men who served as signallers for the battalion. They would be based at the Battalion headquarters and would be responsible for maintaining communications with the companies in the front line and with the higher formations to the rear. Signallers were specialists that had received training in laying and manning telephones, signalling with flags and, towards the end of the war, the use of primitive radio equipment. Theirs was a very dangerous job as they were responsible for maintaining the telephone cables that linked all these different units and they would have to find where wires had been cut due to enemy shelling and repair them. Frequently this would have to be done when shelling was still happening; the nerve needed to leave the security of their shelter and go out into a bombardment to repair phone lines must have been extraordinary.
Picture 83. This soldier has a metal badge on his arm which is a metal wreath enclosing the letters “M.G.”. This marks him out as one of the Battalions Machine Gun section. This comprised a Sergeant, a Corporal, 2 drivers and twelve Private soldiers under the command of a Lieutenant who were responsible for the battalions two Vickers Machine Guns. Later in the war the number of guns was doubled to 4 and in February 1916 the guns were removed from the control of the battalion and they and all their personal were transferred to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps. So, if this soldier is still a Machine Gunner with a Loyal North Lancashire cap badge, this photo must date to before he was transferred to the MGC in February 1916.
Picture 84. This card was sent from Preston to Bolton in July 1915 and one of these men is identified on the rear as Drummer Southern – unfortunately there is no way of knowing which one he is! The corporal standing centre and the man lying front left both have a drummers badge on their upper right arm. In 1914 there were 16 drummers in a battalion under the command of a Sergeant drummer. There are 16 men here if (you count the head poking through the tent flap at the back!) and a corporal rather than a sergeant. All the drummers had to learn to play the bugle which was more commonly used for sounding calls than the drum and about half of them would learn to play the fife. (see also Picture 75) As specialists within the battalion they were entitled to an additional one penny a day pay. In battle the drummers would act as runners carrying messages between different units of the battalion and would be responsible for ensuring the ammunition supply to the front line troops. The only units of the Loyals in Preston in July 1915 apart from the depot were the 2 second line TF battalions, 2/4th and 2/5th and the 4/5th battalion: these drummers are likely from one of these battalions.
Picture 85. The Sergeant seated on the left of the middle row is wearing the Fleur De Lys badge of a Scout on his upper right arm. This badge was supposed to look like the North arrow on a compass and suggested that scouts were always able to find their way about. They were specially trained in intelligence gathering duties and were the eyes and ears of the Scout or intelligence officer of a battalion; in the trenches this was usually involved patrolling at night, sniping and observation. Each company was supposed to have 4 scouts based at the company headquarters. These chaps are all wearing a Utility pattern tunic which suggests a date of late 1914 or later and a war raised Battalion. 5 of the men in civilian clothes are wearing a white metal disc on their left lapel; similar tin discs can be seen being worn by the 9th Battalion men in Picture 8 in place of cap badges. Such stop gap badges seem to have been used by several battalions of the 25th Division; the wording on these tin discs is indistinct but could well be either “8LNL” or “9 LNL”. It is also possible however that the badges are not military but are one of many different kinds produced to be issued to male staff of a company who could not join up because they were in a reserved occupation – perhaps all these chaps worked together before the war?? The chap standing second from left in the straw hat is also wearing a L N Lancs badge on his lapel. This might be a sweetheart badge (see below) but it’s unusual to see a man (rather than a child or a sweetheart) wearing one. It’s possible that this is a photo from very early 1914 and this chap has joined up and is wearing the badge to prove he is in the army!
Picture 86. Most regular battalions had a band and newly raised battalions were quick to follow suit. Here the 10th Battalion has put together a band and recruited a mascot! There is a mix here of Bandsmen and drummers; the man seated second from left with a trombone is wearing a bandsman badge on his upper right arm as opposed to the drummers –2 of whom are standing at the left of both the back rows who wear the drum badge. The bandsmen often acted as the Battalion stretcher bearers in action; there were 16 stretcher bearers attached to battalion headquarters (this was later doubled to 32 as the numbers of wounded grew). The drummers have dark cords over their shoulders from which hang their bugles. The battalion went to join the 37th Division at Lugdershall I April 1915 so this photo, taken in Eastbourne must date from before then. The soldier in the front row holding the dog wears four chevrons, point upward, with a star above; this is the insignia of the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant prior to 1915 when it changed to a crown within a wreath.
Picture 87. It would be difficult to find a picture that could tell you more of a soldier’s history than this one! We know he’s from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment from the cap badge and shoulder title. “Reading” his right arm downwards – he belongs to the 55th West Lancashire Division, the “LG” badge tells us he is a Lewis gunner and he’s wearing the badge on his upper right arm not his lower left arm because he is a Lewis Gun instructor. The chevron tells us he is a Lance Corporal. The overseas service chevrons tell us he has been at least 4 years on active service and their appearance on his uniform tells us that the picture dates to the first months of 1918 at the earliest. The stripe on the other arm tells us he’s been wounded. The only Loyals battalion with the 55th division after February 1918 was the 1/4th and the only way he can have got 4 overseas service chevrons is if he was serving in France with the battalion in 1915. So he’s a Lance Corporal and Lewis Gun Instructor in the 1/4th Battalion, a veteran who’s survived 4 years on the Western Front and only been wounded once. The photo was taken in the UK so he’s either on leave, recuperating from his wound, serving as an instructor with the 4th (Reserve) Battalion or, possibly, he’s home after the end of the war. Everything but his name – and I’m working on that!
Picture 88. The unfortunate Billy again. He has been lucky to be issued with the Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle which was the standard rifle in the British army in the First World War. It had a 25 inch barrel and a 10 round magazine which was filled using 2, 5 round chargers. It is widely regarded as the quickest firing and most effective bolt action rifle of the 20th century. The bayonet had a 17 inch blade and was the focus of much intensive and aggressive training. It was however rarely used in combat as soldiers seldom came close enough to each other to use it. In late 1915 several features of the rifle were dispensed with to make it easier and cheaper to mass produce; this rifle has long range volley sights and a magazine cut-off so it is an earlier version of this iconic rifle.
Picture 89. These men are carrying the Long Lee-Enfield rifle. This rifle had been standard issue during the Boer War where it was constantly out performed by the German Mauser rifle. Improvements to its design led to the introduction of the SMLE in 1904. It is a “long” Lee Enfield as the barrel is 5 inches longer (30 inches) than the SMLE and the bayonet is much shorter than the SMLE bayonet. No doubt these second line Territorials were glad to get their hands on any sort of weapon but, had they taken this rifle to France with them, they would have been at a serious disadvantage when facing a Mauser armed German soldier. We know this photo was taken in 1916 but the fact that these men are effectively so poorly armed would suggest an early war, pre Foreign Service date.
Each of their 1914 pattern pouches would contain a cotton bandolier of 50 rounds in each pouch with an additional clip of 5 rounds for immediate use. In total they’d carry 110 rounds; a man with 1908 equipment would be able to carry 150 rounds – another reason the 1914 pattern was comparatively unpopular.
Picture 90. At the outbreak of the war every battalion had two machine guns but the importance of the weapon became apparent so quickly that that number was increased to four. In February 1916 all the machine guns were taken over by the newly formed Machine Gun Corps: this photo must date to before then. Several men here wear the Machine gunners badge on their left forearm. The gun is a Maxim which was increasingly replaced by the Vickers machine gun as the war progressed. This, and the fact that these men are only showing off one gun suggests an early war date when this machine gun unit had not been fully equipped. Territorial shoulder titles and the 1914 pattern belts suggest a 2nd Line Territorial battalion so this lot are probably a newly formed MG section of the 2/4th, 2/5th or 4/5th battalions.
The vast majority of cards of soldiers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment are, not surprisingly, taken in the areas where the regiment recruited. Thus a majority come from Preston, home of the regimental depot and of the 4th T.F. battalion. A large number come from the Bolton area, home to the 5th T.F. battalion and many more come from other towns and villages in Lancashire.
However, many other cards have photographer’s details from towns across the country whose contact with the regiment seems at first glance rather more obscure. Why would someone in a Lancashire regiment have a photograph taken in Kent or Shropshire or Hampshire? It is of course probable that soldiers from all over the country joined the regiment and had photos taken in their local photographer when they were home on leave. In addition, as the war wore on most units lost their local nature as men were sent as reinforcements to whatever unit needed them. The common recurrence of photographers details in certain areas however, suggest, not that people had left these areas to join the regiment but, that the regiment had come to them.
In the early years of the war, the massive increase in the size of the army meant there was a huge increase in the need for accommodation and training areas for the new troops that were being raised. Garrisons along the South and East coast had to be filled and troops concentrated in the areas of the country nearest the continent to repel invasion or to be close to ports of embarkation. The various battalions of the regiment were sent all over the country and presumably men would hunt out the nearest local photographers studio to have portraits taken which would be sent home to reassure loved ones left behind. Many of these cards have the details of the photographer’s studio on the back as shown in Picture 76 below and sometimes the photographers location on the backs of cards can be as informative as the picture on the front!
Picture 91. Typical photographer’s details on the rear of postcards. We can infer that, from left to right, the soldiers on the other side of the card will be from –
Eastbourne – 10th Battalion
Felixstowe – 3rd Battalion
Bangalore – 2nd or 6th Battalion,
Bolton – any battalion really but most likely to be one of the 5th Battalions
Preston – any battalion in the war really as it is the depot for the Regiment and home of the 4th Battalion!!,
Oswestry – 3/4th or 3/5th Battalions which were later amalgamated to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion TF
Boscombe – 8th Battalion December 1914 and between March and May 1915
Bournemouth – 8th Battalion between January and March 1915 – however the 9th Battalion were also in the wider Bournemouth area so it could be from that battalion also!
The card on the right shows the standard plain back of a British postcard of the period.
To get an idea how using the photographer’s details might work, let’s look at the early career of the 1/4th battalion. They left Preston in August 1914 to go to Swindon, they were in Sevenoaks from November 1914 to April 1915 before spending a month in Bedford prior to embarking for France. Photographs exist from each of these 3 locations all of which are attributable to the 1/4th battalion. So if you have a photograph of a Loyals soldier taken by a studio in Swindon, Sevenoaks or Bedford, does that mean you can also assume that the soldier in your photo is also a member of the 1/4th battalion? Not necessarily! The 1/4th were the only battalion that were stationed in Swindon and Bedford so the probability is high that he is. However, if you have a photograph taken in Sevenoaks, the 1/5th battalion were also stationed in Sevenoaks and all of the second line T.F. battalions were stationed in the Kent area so it is impossible in this case to identify a specific battalion just from the photographer’s location in Sevenoaks. Also, we must remember that there is the chance that the man in the photo is actually from that area. In addition, he could be on some form of detached duty, be passing through, be recuperating or simply visiting. Photographers details are therefore more of an indication of a possible battalion and, unless there is supporting evidence, the locations of the photographers studio shouldn’t be used as definitive evidence. They are though a good way to narrow your search down when you begin; so, if I had a card taken in Sevenoaks, I would assume that the soldier in the picture was most likely from the 1/4th, possibly from 1/5th or just maybe from a second line TF Battalion. Here are a few more examples to illustrate!
Picture 92. We can tell this is an officer of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment by looking at his collar badges – see Picture 42. He was photographed by a company that had branches in either Peterborough in Cambridgeshire or Hunstanton in Norfolk. Officers were much more mobile than enlisted men and were likely to be from areas outside Lancashire so this man could be from the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk area. However if we assume he was indeed with his unit when he was photographed what units could it have been? There is an additional clue in that he is wearing pioneer badges on his collar so we are looking for a pioneer battalion. There were 3 Battalions of the regiment converted to pioneer battalions; the 2/5th, the 1/12th and the 15th. The 2/5th was never stationed in this part of the country but the 1/12th was stationed in Thetford and the 15th was in Cromer both of which are in Norfolk. It is possible then that this photo is an officer from either 1/12th or 15th battalions.
Picture 93. This soldier had his photograph taken in Winchester. Winchester was, and is, the centre of a large number of army training establishments. 4 battalions of the regiment were stationed in the Winchester /Salisbury Plain area – the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th battalions. He is likely then to belong to one of those battalions and therefore is an early war Kitchener volunteer. We are lucky in this case to have an address on the rear of the card and know that this soldier is 16675 Lance Corporal Birtles from Farnworth and a check on his medal card does indeed confirm that he is from the 8th battalion. This battalion had moved from the Winchester area to the South Coast by December 1914 so this photo will likely date from late Autumn 1914. The Lance Corporal Is also wearing spurs which suggests that he is a driver.
Picture 94. This chap was photographed in Ashford in Kent. 3 battalions (2/4th, 2/5th and 4/5th) were all stationed in the Ashford area from spring 1915 to July 1916. The fact that he is in a second line battalion is also suggested by his wearing a 1914 pattern belt – (the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions, also stationed in the Kent area a year earlier, were both wearing 1908 pattern webbing from the start of the war) and his Utility pattern tunic. So, we can say this chap is probably in the 170th brigade of the 57th (West Lancashire) Division. Just over a year after they let Ashford, they would fight their first major action at Passchendaele.
Here is a list of where the various battalions of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were stationed during the First World War. As a general guide (and I stress that this is a general guide and not an exact science!) a card from a photographer’s studio in one of these cities or towns suggests that your soldier was serving with a battalion stationed in that place.
1st Battalion. Were in Aldershot at the start in the war and were in France less than a fortnight later. They stayed on the Western Front till the war ended. The battalions wounded would convalesce with, and reinforcements would come from, the 3rd Battalion in Felixstowe. Consequently it’s very difficult to identify a card specifically to the 1st Battalion.
2nd Battalion. Were in Bangalore in South India before moving to East Africa. From May to August they were in South Africa recovering from ill health. They spent 1917 in Egypt before leaving for France in May 1918. Photos exist of members of the battalion in Bangalore in 1914 were they were stationed in Baird Barracks but I have never seen a North Lancashire Regiment card from either East Africa or South Africa; if such a thing did exist, it would have to be from the 2nd Battalion as this was the only unit of the Regiment in either of those two countries. Most of the regiments battalions went to the Western Front; only 3 – 2nd, 6th and 1/12th – went anywhere else. All three went to Egypt at some point; so cards from Egypt must be one of these three Battalions.
3rd (Reserve) Battalion. Moved to Felixstowe in the first week of the war to become part of the Harwich garrison and remained there till after the armistice. Many cards exist from Felixstowe and must be of men who have come from or are going/returning to one of the Regular or Service Battalions.
1/4th (TF) Battalion. Preston, it moved to Swindon (Aug – Nov 1914. The only LNL Battalion stationed here!), Sevenoaks (Nov 1914 – April 1915), Bedford (April-May. The only LNL Battalion stationed here!) and France in May 1915.
2/4th (TF)Battalion. Preston (formed Oct 1914), it moved to Ashford, Kent (Spring 1915 – July 1916), Aldershot (July – Oct 1916) Blackdown, West Sussex (Oct 1916 – Feb 1917) before moving to France on 8 Feb 1917.
3/4th (TF) Battalion. Preston (formed May 1915). Kirkham, Lancashire (Jun – Oct 1915), Blackpool (Oct 1915 – Spring 1916), Park Hall Camp, Oswestry, Shropshire (Spring 1916 – April 1918), Dublin, Ireland( April 1918 – disbandment). The 3/4th Battalion became the 4TH (Reserve) Battalion in August 1916 and absorbed the 3/5th and 2/12th (Reserve) Battalions.
1/5th (TF) Battalion. Bolton. Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire (Aug 1915 – ?? The only LNL Battalion stationed here!)) Sevenoaks, Kent (sources are unclear about when the battalion went to Kent but they left Sevenoaks on 12 Feb 1915 for France)
2/5th (TF) Battalion. Bolton (formed October 1914) Ashford, Kent (Spring 1915 –July 1916), Aldershot (Jul – Oct 1916), Blackdown, West Sussex (Oct 1916 – Feb 1917) before moving to France on the 9th February 1917.
3/5th (TF) Battalion. Bolton (formed April 1915) Kirkham, Lancashire (Jun – Oct 1915), Blackpool (Oct 1915 – Spring 1916), Park Hall Camp, Oswestry, Shropshire. The battalion was absorbed by the 3/4th Battalion to form the 4th (Reserve) Battalion
4/5th (TF) Battalion. Sources are vague and contradictory about when the battalion was formed but it moved to Ashford with the rest of the 170th Brigade. Blackdown, West Sussex (Oct 1916 – Feb 1917) before moving to France on 12 Feb 1917.
6th (Service) Battalion. Preston (formed Aug 1914) Tidworth (Aug 14 – Feb 1915), Blackdown, West Sussex (Feb 15 – June 15) The Battalion left the UK on 17.6.15 for Mudros in the Mediterranean prior to landing at Gallipolli. The battalion never returned to the U.K. I have pictures of 6th battalion men in Bangalore in 1918 and a handful are buried there – presumably the city was used as a rest centre for the 13th Division. It is rather annoying that both 2nd and 6th Battalions have a link to the same city in India as it makes separating the pictures of the two rather more difficult! However the photos of the 2nd battalion are noticeably more regimental – more formal with more creases and waxed moustaches on parade!!
7th (Service) Battalion. Preston (formed Sep 1914) Tidworth, Wiltshire (Sep – Dec 1914), Whitchurch, Hampshire (Dec 14 – Mar 15), Tidworth, Wiltshire (Mar 15 – July 15) The Battalion left the UK on 17 July 1915. Only 6th and 7th Battalions were stationed in Tidworth and only 7th were in Whitchurch.
8th (Service) Battalion. Preston (formed Sep 14.) Salisbury Plain (Sep 14 – Dec 14), Boscombe (Dec 14-Jan 15) Bournemouth (Jan – Mar 15), Boscombe (Mar – May 15), Romsey, (May 15), Alsershot (Jun – Sep 15). The Battalion left the UK on 16 Sep 1915. Boscombe is a suburb of Bournemouth and this area of Hampshire was an area of guest houses and hotels ideal for billeting troops (see Picture 82). 8th and 9th Battalions were in the same division and were billeted close to each other in the Christchurch/Bournemouth area of Hampshire for most of the first half of 1915.
9th (Service) Battalion. Preston (formed Sep 1915). Salisbury Plain (Sep –Dec 14), Christchurch (Dec 14), Southbourne (suburb of Bournemouth), (Jan – May 15), Romsey , Hampshire (May 1915), Blenheim Barracks Aldershot (June-Sep15) The battalion left the UK on 26 Sep 1915.
10th (Service) Battalion. Preston (formed Oct 1914). Eastbourne, East Sussex (Oct 14-Apr. 15) Ludgershall, Wiltshire (Apr-Aug 15) The Battalion were the only Loyals battalion stationed in Eastbourne. The bulk of the battalion left their tented camp on Windmill Hill, Ludgershall on 31st July 1915 arriving in France the next day.
11th (Reserve) Battalion. Felixstowe (formed Oct 1914) Chichester (Mar-May 15), Billericay Essex (May-Sep 1915) Seaford, East Sussex (Sep 15-end of the war)
1/12th TF Battalion. Lytham.( formed Aug 1915). Thetford (May 16), Sutton Veny, Wiltshire (Jun 16) left the UK on 22.6.16
2/12th TF Battalion. Lytham (formed Mar 1916). Oswestry (Apr 1916 to end of war). Absorbed by 4th Reserve Batt. 01.09.16
13th (Home Service) Battalion. Blackpool (formed Dec 1916) Danbury, Essex (Jan-Oct 1917) Southend (Oct17 till disbandment on 29.3.18)
14th TF Battalion. Blackpool (formed 1.1.1917) Witham (Jan 1917 till disbandment in Dec 1917)
15th (Service) Battalion. Cromer (formed 1.6.18). Brookwood (Jun/Jul 18) To France 05 Jul 1918.
Picture 95. It might seem obvious, but if the card has been posted, the postmark can give vital details! The top card is the rear of card 73; the card is clearly sent from Preston on 15 July 1915 and Mr and Mrs Southern are likely to be parents of one of the men in the photo. The bottom card is of foreign manufacture and we can assume the photo on the other side has been taken abroad. Obviously the photographers’ details in Paris are a give-away but the French phrase “Carte Postale” and “message” and “address” in French all tell us that this is a French (or possibly Belgian) card.
Picture 96. Sometimes details can be offered in mysterious ways! According to the chalk message on the wall these chaps are from the 4th Battalion. However, there were 3, 4th Battalions by 1915; they are unlikely to be 1/4th as they are wearing 14 pattern belts so either 2/4th or 3/4th. The figure behind the hat of the man on the right is a “7” and has been made by a billeting officer to indicate that there are billets in this house for 7 members of the battalion. The line below the “7” ends with “C?Y” – this will be shorthand for “Company” but sadly we can’t read the company letter. The fact that these men are in a civilian house rather than a camp suggests an early war date before sufficient military accommodation had become available. Pictures like these of men and the families they have been billeted with are quite common and suggest an almost holiday like attitude to the whole business of being at war.
Picture 97. During the war it became common for female relatives of soldiers to wear jewellery, usually brooches, in the style of the cap badge of the unit their relatives were serving in. The Loyal North Lancashires were no exception and the lady in the picture above wears one of these so called “Sweetheart badges”, a L.N.Lancs badge on a rifle on her dress.
Picture 98. Sweetheart badges were of varying quality; it appears there is a social hierarchy even in these badges! In this photo there is a simple button on a brooch, a very plain cast brass badge on a pin. The others all have enamelling, the one top left being cheap base metal, the one on the top having a mother of pearl background and the one bottom right is enamelled silver. I have seen ones in solid gold that sell for hundreds of pounds!
Picture 99. Sometimes it is possible to infer the identity of a soldiers unit from the Sweetheart badge his female companion wears. In this picture the lady has a L. N. Lancs cap badge on her coat while the soldier has no visible insignia. The presence of this badge and the fact that the photo was taken in Felixstowe suggests this man may be a member of either the 3rd (Reserve) battalion which spent the entire war there or the 11th (Reserve) battalion which was formed here in late 1914 but moved away in March 1915.
Pictures 100 & 101. On the 1st January 1921 the Loyal North Lancashire regiment was renamed as the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). Both cap badges and shoulder titles were changed. A comparison of the badges here on the left shows the different lettering on the scroll and the simplified rose that has been turned so the crown sits on the gap between two petals not on a petal. It’d have to be quite a close up to notice this difference on most photos! On the right are the Loyals cap badge and the new shoulder titles both introduced in 1921. The collar badges, which are the arms of the City of Lincoln and commemorate the fact that the title of the 81st foot before 1882 had been “The Loyal Lincoln Volunteers”, were introduced in 1924.
Picture 102. A typical photo of North Lancashire soldiers during the First World War – except they’re not! If you look closely the soldier on the left is wearing ribbons for the War and Victory medals on his left breast. This pair of medals – by far the most commonly awarded combination of medals awarded for the First World War – were awarded after the end of hostilities so this photo cannot date between 1914 and 1919. So this photo has to be post-war. It’s probably pre- 1924 as they’re not wearing the collar badges pictured above (Picture 86).
Picture 103. This portrait too is indistinguishable at first glance from thousands of others taken during the war. It isn’t however from the period 1914 -1919. He is wearing collar badges which weren’t introduced until 1924. He is still wearing Service dress which was replaced in 1939/1940. So, this photo dates between 1924 and 1939/40.
Picture 104. By the same logic this portrait has to date to the period after 1939/40 as this soldier is wearing Battledress: most obvious here is the fact that the battledress had no exposed buttons but it is also much shorter (see Picture 23). Of interest here is the “Loyals” shoulder title which is very definitely shorter than the “N.Lancashire” one from the First War and the new style of badge can be seen on his cap. This photo is the Second World War equivalent of most of the photos reproduced here.
Picture 105. During the First World War the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment raised 21 battalions, 11 of which served overseas. According to the Regimental History, 357 officers and 7,232 men died serving in the Regiment including Private Holland above from the 7th Battalion whose death was remembered by his family with the card pictured here. Thousands of photos were taken during the war many of which are treasured possessions in the hands of the soldier’s families but sadly, many are not. Whether you know the name of the men in your photos or not, hopefully this guide might help you to understand more about their career in the army in the First World War.
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- Second Lieutenant James Albert Tinsley DCM MM
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