Herbert's Division

As mentioned in the page on disembarkation, the 27th Division was the only division that embarked in Britain for France during December 1914 and approximately half of its artillery landed on the date Herbert disembarked. The 27th Division spent a year on the Western Front before sailing for Salonika where it remained for the rest of the war. While on the Western Front the division fought at the Second Battle of Ypres. My grandfather spoke of both Salonika and Ypres. Did he serve with the 27th Division?

The 27th division was a regular army division formed in November 1914 from regular soldiers brought back from garrisons of the empire. At first sight, therefore, it appears an unlikely place to find one of Lord Kitchener's volunteers. However, a closer look reveals a possible route for a volunteer of 1914.

The three artillery brigades of the 27th Division came from Edinburgh (1st Brigade) and India (19th and 20th Brigades) but were extensively re-organised at Winchester in November 1914. The table below shows how the batteries were changed.

Battery
August
1914
Brigade
August
1914
Change
to
Battery
Battery
November
1914
Brigade
November
1914
13th Battery 1st Brigade Transferred 13th Battery 17th Brigade
67th Battery 1st Brigade Disbanded - -
96th Battery 1st Brigade Disbanded - -
95th Battery 19th Brigade Split 95th Battery 19th Brigade
131st Battery 19th Brigade
96th Battery 19th Brigade Split 96th Battery 19th Brigade
132nd Battery 1st Brigade
97th Battery 19th Brigade Transferred 97th Battery 147th Brigade
98th Battery 20th Brigade Split 98th Battery 1st Brigade
133rd Battery 1st Brigade
99th Battery 20th Brigade Split 99th Battery 20th Brigade
364th Battery 20th Brigade
100th Battery 20th Brigade Split 100th Battery 31st Brigade
67th Battery 20th Brigade


In August 1914 the batteries of the 1st, 19th and 20th brigades each contained six 18pdr guns. When they were re-formed in November 1914, many were split to form two, three gun batteries. These new batteries then received an extra gun at the end of November, making them four gun batteries.

The extra personnel required in the re-forming of these batteries can be seen, for example, from the war diary of the 67th Battery which states for the period 26th November to 18th December 1914:- "...Promotion among the non-commissioned ranks very rapid, consequently most of the non-commissioned officers young and somewhat inexperience in their duties. A large proportion of the personnel (about 65 per cent) consist of reservists, re-enlisted and specially enlisted men, drawn from various training centres. These men on the whole are willing and keen, but require a considerable amount of training before they can be considered thoroughly proficient in their duties...".

Herbert Halliday enlisted for six years in the colours, the standard period of service for regular artillery soldiers. He also received a "Small-Book" which was only issued to regular soldiers. This evidence suggests that the army considered him to be a regular soldier. It is perhaps not that surprising, therefore, to find him in one of the newly formed regular army divisions which required extra personnel from the training camps.


From the information above, not only do we have a division that served where Herbert served, disembarked in France when Herbert disembarked but was also formed in part from volunteers from the early days of the war (as Herbert was). No other division meets all these points.

The probability of Herbert disembarking as part of a draft is difficult to quantify since little information on the movement of drafts still exists. There were about 100 RFA batteries already on the Western Front at the end of November 1914, only four of which also served in Macedonia. Even if drafts did disembark on the date that Herbert did this would have given a probability of 1 in 25 of him going to Macedonia. In the unlikely event of this being the case, two of these batteries were transferred to the 27th division in February 1915 anyway. The other two, as part of the 28th Division fought at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. There is no recollection of him speaking of Loos amongst the family.

When so much of the original documentation compiled during the war has been destroyed, absolute proof of what happened can be difficult, if not impossible, to acquire. The circumstantial evidence that Herbert served with the 27th Division is overwhelming. It therefore seems very likely that Herbert served with the 27th Division from November 1914 until, at the very least, January 1916, when its artillery disembarked at Salonika.