Before August 1914 the role of the Territorial Army had been limited to Home Defence, but the alarming scale and rapidity of the German invasion of Belgium and Northern France, and the lengthening casualty lists, provoked drastic changes in the raising and deployment of manpower. Territorial soldiers were encouraged to volunteer for overseas service, the presumption being this would be garrison duties in Malta, Gibralta or India, relieving the regular forces to come back to the western front.
The 1/5 Somersets began their annual camp at Bulford, Salisbury Plain in July 1914. Harold and Stanley both attended, Harold was already commissioned as a Captain and Stanley was appointed Second Lieutenant on July 30th. He was ten years older than many of the other subalterns, who delighted in calling him ‘Uncle’, then and for the rest of their lives.
On August 30th, the commanding officer, Lt-Col EF Cooke-Hurle, paraded the battalion and conveyed the War Office request for overseas service. All the officers stepped forward and 650 of the 950 other ranks, but now there was an urgent need for new recruits to replace those going abroad. On September 1st, the officers were sent to their home regions of Somerset with instructions to return to Salisbury Plain on September 5th with the necessary number of recruits.
Stanley was sent to the Minehead area, and after a tour of local villages on September 2nd, Stanley followed Lord St. Audries’ introductory address by speaking to the ‘large attendance’ at the Auction Field, Williton. Twenty nine men enlisted that day, further rallies gained more recruits, so that when Stanley returned on September 5th to Salisbury Plain he had more than double the number of recruits he had been commissioned to find.
Over the next few weeks, Stanley’s letters tell of the intensive training the Territorial battalion required, the rumours about postings, and the 48 hour embarkation leave granted to all ranks when the destination of the 1/5 Somersets was known.