Extract from the diary of Pte B H Gregg, 5th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment
[Pte Gregg joined up in August 1914 in Chester. He survived the war and died aged 102 in Canada.]
After a period of being a junk custodian, and a novel but somewhat unguided & unorganised life in the battalion, I hear that some of us are to join the battalion in France. We have had some interesting map reading lectures from the Brigade Major, Captain (later Major) Crookenden, a regular officer whose very efficient presence can put the fear of God into T.F. officers from the Colonel downwards. When the Battalion has been parading on JESUS MEDOW, and the whisper has gone around that “Crookenden’s coming” the effect is like an autumn breeze over a field of ripe corn. Even the C.O. & adjutant’s changers become restive. However, having been summoned to the presence, on sundry occasions to report about transport equipment, a subaltern need be less worried in the presence of a regular staff officer, than in that of a T.F. Colonel, lately in civilian life. ( Apparently in those days “inferiority complex” was unknown, but looking backward there was plenty of it in the Territorial Force, which I think made our units less light hearted than those commanded by regular officers recently promoted to field rank.) Crookenden’s Map Reading lecture to the young officers of the brigade instilled something of interest, but remained very puzzling especially on compass bearings. It’s a curious fact, military map reading & double entry book- keeping, both simple in themselves, can mystify a crowd of average young men more easily than any other general subject.
In the second 5th I am the only officer who has had any military experience elsewhere so on Sat 27 March along with Morgan (who in 1914 had crashed a plane or two with the R.N.A.S. in training) & H.R. Leigh orders are received to proceed to France & obtain short leave to Chester & West Kirby. What did O.C. “A” Coy 12th Cheshires tell us? “Unless you make yourself efficient you will never get out to France”. Well, here I am first of them all by a long way. Admittedly I have never seen a rifle range nor fired a service rifle and for that matter there’s not even a revolver available for issue in the Q.M. stores or elsewhere. So without a weapon (swords had now become obsolete) but with experience of shooting rabbits and how to inspect the Lee Enfield D.P. I depart for the war.