February 1919

The purpose of all the ceremonial parade practice became evident in February. There was a last dress rehearsal on 2 February in front of the CO (though another 15 men also left for demobilisation) before the Battalion was presented with its official colours the next day by Major General Douglas Smith, the 20th Division Commander. During the rest of the week there were days of Company Training, mixed with lectures from Major HC Boxer. Lt CC Page and 19 other ranks left for demobilisation on 6 February, followed on 8 February by Captain R Jee and Lt DJ Rees. During the second week the battalion was engaged in filling trenches around Mondicourt and both clearing up old camps while erecting new huts. Several more officers left, including Major Boxer (11 Feb) and Lt Myles Cooper (14 Feb). Lt AH Lewis and 5 other ranks left on 13 February. The same work continued during the third work, alongside salvage work.

Another feature of this period was the willingness of men to sign up for the Regular Army. On 27 February 163 men, with officers including Lt E Fleming, 2 Lts OG Day, WH Charnley, FE Upton, ER Harbron, BC Barrans, JH Dodds, MM Harrington, RE Forster and MA Latham, were transferred to join 20th Battalion the Durham Light Infantry in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. Others were not so keen and 31 other ranks left for demobilisation on 28 February. Although 9 other ranks had actually joined during the month, by the end the ration strength was down to 8 officers and 127 men. The scene was set for the gradual disembodiment of the battalion over the following four months. Meanwhile, men still on the nominal strength but on leave in England or detached to 3 DLI, were still dying, among them Private George Elsy in March, some like him from Spanish Flu. Also among their number was Lt DJ Rees mentioned above), in July 1919 having returned to the UK in the February.

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New Addition to Roll of Honour

Thanks to information from his great grandson, I have now added Private 15352 Joseph Henry Mawson to the Roll of Honour. A miner from Spennymoor, Joseph enlisted in August 1914 aged 30 and survived the war, although he was gassed in 1918 and finished his war service with the Northern Command Labour Corps, demobilised in 1919. See the page Ma-Mc.

January 1919

The final few months for 11 DLI on the Western Front were spent in the same area around Grenas. Though the battalion was being wound down, there was continuous coming and going of recruits and officers. Some attention was being paid to the idea of the men returning home and finding work, as was evident by the presence of an Education Officer giving training in clerical work such as shorthand and book-keeping. Otherwise it was mainly a mixture of work on detachment, constructing new stables or working at Hurtebise Farm under Royal Engineers (presumably clearing the land of expired ordnance and other war detritus). In between was a great deal of drill, parade ground work of a ceremonial nature and the like. There were plenty of classes, a recreation Nissen hut was built, and various platoons were sent off on ‘Divisional Wood Fatigues’ at Pas. The month ended with a battalion Ceremonial Parade. Activity and smartness seem to have been the watch words.

Among the ‘goings’ were Major JG Taylor (MC) and 4 other ranks (5 Jan), Captain A Floyd and 2nd Lt RH King (MC) and 23 other ranks (15 Jan), Major RLS Pemberton (MC), 2 Lt TT Firth and 25 other ranks (18 Jan), 2 Lt AH Ainsworth and 26 other ranks (20 Jan), 2 Lt (RE) C Smith and 24 other ranks (21 Jan), 2 Lt W Lazenby and 23 other ranks (22 Jan), 2 Lt J Martin and 26 other ranks (26 Jan), 2 Lt SH Davis and 40 other ranks (27 Jan), and Lt BH Wood and 24 other ranks (28 Jan). Ration strength at the end of the month was 25 officers and 294 other ranks, though 23 of the latter joined during the month!