Ellon Probus Club meeting on August 28 was chaired by deputy president Norman Davidson, who introduced fellow club member Charles Reid as speaker.
Charles is a volunteer researcher at the Gordon Highlanders Museum and his talk was on the British Army in August, 1914. Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, and so World War 1 started. Britain sent an Expeditionary Force to Belgium and it was immediately engaged in major battles, the first being at Mons on August 21.
Pre-1914 Britain’s main defence concern was to police its far-flung colonial territories, ranging from India and Burma to Bermuda and beyond.
The navy was the primary defence force, dedicated to maintain the flow of wealth from the colonies to Britain under the auspices of the First Sea Lord Winston Churchill.
In August, 1914, the British army consisted of 248,00 regular troops, of which one third was based in India, plus a reserve of ex-regular soldiers of 210,000 men.
The threat to peace for mainland European countries was from their neighbours, the armies of France and Germany each comprising of nearly one million men.
Having fought in the Boer War the British army was battle hardened whereas European armies had not been engaged in major conflict since Waterloo.
This was to be a major factor in ensuing battles and was demonstrated at Mons in August, 1914, when, by stiff resistance at odds of 4-1 against, it was able to prevent the German army from marching into Paris.
The Gordon Highlanders figured prominently in these battles, especially at the battle at Le Cateau.
As the war raged on the British army began to run short of regular and volunteer soldiers and in 1916 the British government was compelled to introduce conscription. To them all we owe deepest appreciation.
The vote of thanks was given by Brian Smith. The next meeting is today (Thursday) when the speaker will be Les Milne.