Tuesday 14 April 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary part 3

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. During the First World War he was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our third instalment describes when the colours of the 3rd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment were deposited in the Cathedral.

August, Tuesday 18, 1914

A semi private meeting was held this evening at Mr. David Hughes office, old bank buildings to consider the matter of forming a civic guard for the city. A deputation waited upon the General (Brig. Gen. McKinnon) at Watergate House, yesterday. He informed the deputation (Mr Pelham Elphick, and Mr Owen Roberts) that he could give no official confirmation to the suggested Corp but if it was continued he would be glad to hear what was going on. It appears unfortunate that the military staff at Watergate House was approached especially so as Lord Kitchener, at the War Office, is against these guards being formed at the present time, as it may interfere with young men under 35 joining the Territorial force.

August, Saturday 22, 1914

At a special service held this afternoon in the south transept of the Cathedral. The colours of the 3rd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment were deposited in the Cathedral for safe keeping during its absence at the seat of war. As two young officers carried the colours, guarded by two colour Sergeants with fixed bayonets, up Bridge Street, the Welsh Border Brigade mounted on their horses came along on their way to the camp at Eaton; upon seeing the colours, they presented arms. On went the officers and Sergeants with their sacred emblems to deposit them in the house of God. They proceeded along Eastgate Street and St Werburgh Street to the south-west entrance of the Cathedral where they were received by the Dean, Canon Bethell Jones, the Presenter (Harold Weight) and Junior Canon Baxter, along with the choir. Headed by a youth carrying the cross, the choristers and clergy led the way to the military chapel dedicated to the Cheshire Regiment. The colours and their guard followed immediately behind was a military looking civilian and a lady, and the writer. Arriving at the Chapel, the two officers, Lieutenant H. W. Harrington, and Lieutenant H.G. Watkin; stood at attention, and the Dean (Darley) addressed them in a trembling voice- and tears welling down his cheeks – saying
“On behalf of this Cathedral church we receive the colours of your Battalion for safe custody during the period of your active service; we deem it an honour to be put in charge of these emblems which are so dear to you. Your Battalion will remember these are now placed for the present in the sanctuary of God and they will dearly remind us to pray to God to protect your Regiment. We trust that we may return them to your charge when you come back in peace and with a noble record of services willingly rendered to your King and Country”.

The officers then handed over the colours to the Dean (at 3:58 p.m.) he handed them to the presenter, and minor Canon Baxter; and they were placed in either corner of the military chapel. The Dean read a prayer in which he especially asked God’s blessing on the Cheshire Regiment. The national anthem was sung-in which the congregation joined- with many a trembling voice, and tears rolling down their cheeks; not from fear of this World War, the greatest war the world will ever see, all through the ambition of a despot, his heir, and the unbearable military spirit of the German nation, but the unnecessary sacrifice of thousands of human lives, their families, and dependants. After the service I, at the request of the presenter, accompanied him to the chapter house, where the colours were taken, for the time being, and where the Dean was resting for a few moments prior to the ordinary afternoon service, at 4:15. The Dean shook hands, and informed me that the colours would be placed in the slots for their reception in the Cheshire chapel and that they would remain in their cases as delivered to the Dean and Chapter. Colour-Sergeants Wilkie, and Jones, formed guard for the colours. The former introduced me to the two officers. I informed them I would follow, very carefully, the career of the Regiment throughout the war. And when it was over I felt sure, it would return with increased honour and glory equalling if possible that gained at Meeanee, and Hyderabad, feats which have never been excelled by any other Regiment of the line.
Colour-Sergeant Wilkes informed me that, the Sergeant Major, and all the colour Sergeants had been offered commissions. The Sergeant Major (Murphy) had accepted, but the Colour Sergeants had refused, as circumstances would not allow them to accept. He also informed me that Captain Clark, Captain of Quartermaster Ryan, some others officers, and hon: Commissioned officers were stationed at Birkenhead and would remain there for some time drilling recruits. They have turned Gamlin’s works into a barracks. He begged me to go over and see them and have a chat with the boys-which I promised to do before they leave for the front.

No comments:

Post a Comment