A Social & Family History

P.T. & Bayonet Training at Aldershot

At the end of my leave in September 1916 I reported back to the base which was then at Catterick. This was a huge camp in North Command near Darlington and in it were all the bases of battalions of the various Northern Regiments from which the fighting battalions were fed as and when casualties occurred. Life was not very exciting and I remember forming a group called “The Catterick Follies” in which we performed skits and songs to give some sort of amusement to the troops other than the one cinema which was there. I remember amongst the group was W.A.Darlington who after the war became the dramatic critic of The Telegraph for many, many years.

The Adjutants of the various battalions were always looking around for someone to send to the innumerable courses that were run by Northern Command or other Commands, and one day in October I was told by the Adjutant that I was to go on a course of physical training and bayonet instruction at the Physical Training School at Aldershot. So off I went, for three weeks I think.  It was good fun and something which I had never been any good at, at school. We learnt a lot about bayonet fighting and I passed the exam with a “very good” certificate, and thought no more about it.

Towards the last weeks of November I was warned for draft. The procedure was that you were given a warning that you would be on the next draft to France, and then you were entitled to so much draft leave and when you returned you went on the draft after ten days or so. So off I went on the Friday to Brierly Close, Windermere with the news for Fay Bagnall (who was employed as a governess there and to whom I was engaged), that I was to go back to France.

(Ed: I hope to deal in full with the romance between my parents Leicester Scaife and Fay Bagnall in a further section. In brief on 25th November 1916 Fay sent a note “What about getting married?” “Not a bad idea.” Leicester replied. That very day they saw the vicar, drove to Carlisle Registry Office to get special licence before it closed at 1.00 p.m., bought ring, telegraphed  relations and friends, failed to get David Turner as best man, and were married the NEXT DAY Sunday 26th November 1916, at Troutbeck Church, near Windermere.)

Mr. Oswald Hedley, Fay’s employer let us stay at one of his houses in Windermere and I wired for two extra days leave, which I got. I also fixed up some rooms over the stables of the big house near Catterick Camp, and so on the Wednesday we returned to Catterick ready for me to wait for my draft to go overseas.

Marriage was the third great turning point in my life and going to Aldershot was the fourth although I did not realise it at the time because within a week or so of my return to Catterick I was posted to the staff of Harwich Garrison with a rank of Captain. Had this posting not come I would have undoubtedly have been in France and would probably not have survived the war. As it was this posting meant that I did not return to France until late in 1918.

Promoted to Captain at Harwich Garrison. Posted to Felixstowe, then Newcastle.

Well, I had six months at Harwich Garrison and then I was posted to Felixstowe Garrison which was the other side of the river. Then in December 1917 I was posted to Northern Command and stationed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne at the Northern Command Physical Training School. Fay and I set up house in Heaton in a flat and were there until July, 1918, when I received instructions to report to the Tower of London as I was to go to America with the Anglo-French Military Mission that had been sent over to the United States after America had come into the war in 1917 after the sinking of the Lusitania. We got our orders from the Tower of London to report to Southampton Dock Station.