In Search of the Chums: The Surviving Legacy of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.


Chums of The Old Contemptibles’ Association supporting each other during the annual Church Parade, held at the Royal Garrison Church in Aldershot on 8 August 1971. Chum Basil Farrer (who died in 1993) is on the left of the group. (Authors’ Collection).

“I’m throwing a lot out, nobody’s interested in these things now. Gradually we’re destroying the papers; nobody will look after the papers when we all go. It’s the best way, really, to wipe it all out, the past.”

Chum James Preston, Former General Secretary to the National Council of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.[1]

Forty years ago, when Chum Preston was interviewed by Lindsay Mackie of The Guardian, the Charity Commission had concluded in their annual report for 1977/78, that The Old Contemptibles’ Association had disbanded. While it was certainly true that the National Council had closed in 1976, a few branches of Chums still tried to continue to meet and it was not until 1994, on the closure of the London and South-Eastern Area, that the Association and the Chums finally marched into history.

The purpose of this article is to explore some of the physical reminders of the Association and the Chums that remain, and resources that are available to researchers who wish to study the rich seam of social history and material culture to be found on aspects of the organisation during its existence. These notes are very much a “work in progress,” as the author regularly comes across new information on The Old Contemptibles’ Association, individual Branches and the Chums themselves, but it is hoped that what is presented is of interest.

“For God, King and Country” – A Brief History of The Old Contemptibles’ Association

The idea of creating an association of those who had served with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914, and who were holders of the 1914 Star with clasp, was instigated by Captain John Patrick Danny, formerly of the Royal Artillery. On 25 June 1925 he and six other “Old Contemptibles” met at the Hackney United Services Club, at the “Red House” on Powerscroft Road in Clapton, to discuss the formation of such a group. The first General Meeting of The Old Contemptibles Association took place on 28 July, and Captain Danny was elected as treasurer. Members of the new Association were to be known as “Chums,” irrespective of their rank, and only those who were holders of the 1914 Star with the clasp – in reality a bar to be sewn onto the ribbon of the medal – that indicated that individuals had “served under fire or who had operated within range of enemy mobile artillery in France or Belgium during the period between 5 August and 22 November 1914” would be eligible to join. The aims and objective of the Association were clearly stated from the beginning:

  • To foster the spirit of the Contemptible Little Army, without thought as to caste, creed, or politics.
  • To assist our less fortunate Chums.
  • To promote social intercourse.
  • To generally strengthen the bonds which held us together through adversity in 1914.[2]

In May 1926, The Old Contemptibles Association held its first parade, assembling on the Embankment before laying a wreath at the Cenotaph. The first Grand Council of the Association was formed in July 1926, with Captain Danny being elected as Chairman, and on 6 August the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir George F. Milne, who had been the Commander Royal Artillery of 4th Division in 1914, became the first President. An application for the Association to be granted the “Royal” prefix and to use the Royal Arms was, however, refused.[3]

The second Association parade to the Cenotaph was reported on by The Midland Evening Telegraph on 22 August 1927:


“There were some stirring scenes in London yesterday when some 1,500 men of the “Old Army” of 1914 paraded on the Thames Embankment and attended a service on the Horse Guards’ Parade, a wreath being afterwards laid on the Cenotaph. This was the second annual Cenotaph Parade of the “Old Contemptibles’” Association, an organisation which was founded in 1925, and it is satisfactory that there should be such a yearly commemoration of some of the most glorious deeds of the Great War. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those heroic veterans whose bravery did so much to stem the first rush of an aggressive foe whose aim was militarist domination. The marking of these anniversaries does not mean the keeping alive of bitter memories; it is simply honouring those who are worthy of all honour, both those who made the supreme sacrifice and those who survived.

The story of the Old Army and all its gallantry in the first period of the world conflict is an epic. It is good that the story should be pondered once a year, as a reminder of that from which we were all delivered, as an inspiration to work that there shall never again be such an outbreak of horror and carnage. These men, and all who followed them as the War increased in intensity, fought for world security and peace; it is the duty of those who were saved by such heroism to work for, and support, all movements for strengthening that peace. And so these commemorations should always have as their keynote a proud and grateful memory. They are not the outcome of any vaunting of militarist prowess, they are inspired by remembrance of comradeship in a common cause, a common sacrifice, for liberty and right.

That was the point on which the Rev. J. D. S. Parry-Evans laid stress in the course of his address at the service on the Horse Guards’ Parade yesterday, when he recalled that the day was memorable as the anniversary of the first British shot fired in the war – the signal, he said, that this country had taken her stand on the side of right and justice. He went on to remind his hearers that among the tributes which had been paid to the British Expeditionary Force was that of the German General von Kluck, who described that force as the “kernel of a great army,” and who said of them to Lord Bingham, of the Coldstream Guards: “Their retreat from Mons was remarkably well conducted. I did my best to outflank them, but could not do so.”

The commemoration of yesterday included a touching tribute by those taking part in the parade to their disabled comrades, who brought to the Mall in motor coaches by the “Not Forgotten Association,” and numbering about 60, stood in a line at the foot of the Duke of York’s Steps, most of them in hospital blue. The band played “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,” and the men in the procession on their return from the Cenotaph, taking off their hats and caps, marched past their disabled comrades, giving them the military salute. This indeed was a worthy and stirring demonstration.”

In November 1927 some 225 Chums made a pilgrimage to Mons for Armistice Day, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Old Contemptibles Mons 1928 Cemetery

Chums of The Old Contemptibles’ Association remembering their fallen comrades at Mons (Bergen) Communal Cemetery on 11 November 1927 (Authors’ Collection).

Captain John Patrick Danny died at his home at 68 Gunton Road in Clapton on 20 May 1928, and his premature death was attributed to the poor health that he suffered as a result of his war service. However, another factor that may have contributed was the strain he experienced while organising and trying to raise money for Chums of The Old Contemptibles Association to go on the Pilgrimage to Mons the previous November. The deficit, which amounted to near £500, was covered personally by Captain Danny who remortgaged his home in order to ensure that the debt was repaid.[4]

Following the death of Captain Danny, the Association did not fade but the number of Chums enrolling and Branches being formed increased significantly. Regional Area Councils were organised to administer the growing organisation; a Scottish Section had been formed on 5 April 1928, and in July the Association had secured registration under the provisions of the War Charities Act of 1916. The first Annual General Meeting of The Old Contemptibles’ Association was held on 19 January 1929 at Slaters Restaurant on Newgate Street in London.[5]

By the time of the 1930 Annual Conference, held in Birmingham, it was reported that the Association had 8,000 Chums in 60 Branches and that three overseas branches; one at Vancouver, an Australian Branch and a Branch formed at Ypres from Old Contemptibles living and working in Belgium, had been raised.[6] The first number of “The Old Contemptible” – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, was published in October 1930. Five years later there were over 100 Branches, including one formed at The Hague by Chums resident in the Netherlands.[7] At its peak, during the organisation’s Silver Jubilee Year of 1950, The Old Contemptibles’ Association had over 200 Branches in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, as well as in the Republic of Ireland (Dublin Central Branch, formed in October 1929), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and the United States.[8] On 31 December 1938 the Association ceased actively recruiting and Branches closed its ranks to further applications.[9]

During the early 1930s the London Area of the Association, together with contingents from other parts of the country, continued to observe the anniversary of the Battle of Mons by parading at Horse Guards, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph and service at St Martin-in-the-Fields which was broadcast live on the radio by the B.B.C., as well as being filmed by British Movietone and Pathe Gazette as part of their newsreels.[10] In 1934 the annual service at St Martin’s moved to April, and two years later took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in March. The parade and service at St Paul’s later moved to May and continued to be held until 1966.[11] In 1936, the National Executive of the Association decided against a full parade to the Cenotaph and decided that it would be replaced by a camp, to take place between 22 and 28 August at Shorncliffe, during which a drumhead service would be held on the anniversary of the Battle of Mons. However, in July the proposed camp was cancelled as a consequence of increased cost due to its popularity amongst the Chums. Some 2,000 men applied, including Chums from Scotland and the Dublin Central Branch, which was far more than the 500 anticipated by the Association.[12] Pilgrimages also continued to be made by Branches to the battlefields of France and Flanders, to Mons and Ypres in particular, and on 14 August 1939 a large contingent from the London Area, together with their families, made a short visit to the Britannia Memorial at Boulogne Harbour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the disembarkation of the British Expeditionary Force in France, an event that was also filmed by British Movietone.[13] The Branches also participated in the annual Armistice Day commemorations held in their own communities.


A ticket for the 1938 Parade Service held at St Paul’s Cathedral (Authors’ Collection)

The Branches of The Old Contemptibles’ Association placed great importance on organising social events for the Chums and their families, particularly during their early days. One such example was reported by The Hull Daily Mail on 19 November 1926:


“The first social evening of the Hull and District (1914) Old Contemptibles’ Association took place at the Raywell Hotel, Cumberland-street, on Friday evening last. There was an attendance of about forty members with their wives and friends. A most enjoyable programme of items gave pleasure to the gathering and the selections of a jazz band were highly enjoyed. It has been arranged to hold a social evening every Friday during the winter months and it is hoped that all members will make an effort to attend.”

Outings were organised during Bank Holidays to places of local interest, as well as Christmas parties for their children, an example of which was reported by The Taunton Courier on 25 December 1935:



“The annual Christmas party organised by Taunton branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association was held at the Corner House Cafe, Taunton, on Thursday, when a party of about 120 children and wives of the “Chums” of the branch spent a very happy and festive evening. Among the branch officials present were:- Major A. J. G. Hargreaves (president), Dr. A. J. Iles (vice-president), and Mr A. G. Rayson (chairman).

Excellent arrangements had been made by the Christmas Entertainment Committee, and there was plenty to delight the large party of children. After a bounteous tea, with crackers to add to the enjoyment, the festivities reached their height when the whole party adjourned to another room for a Christmas tree and games. Each child and parent received a gift from the tree, and with all good things that go to the making of a really successful and happy party, everybody spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The wives of several “Chums” assisted the cafe staff at the tea tables, and members of the Committee, with Mr T. G. Morey as hon. secretary, collected and provided all the gifts presented to the children and mothers.”

Another important element of the work of the Branches was to support unemployed Chums in their efforts to obtain work, and to provide material and financial assistance for those members and their families who, as a result of wounds suffered during the Great War or illness, were unable to support themselves. One initiative was to enlist the support of prominent civic and business figures in their local communities by appointing them as Patrons, issuing them with their own special Association badges. One such appeal, made on behalf of the Birmingham Branch in August 1930, was for individuals to contribute an annual subscription of one guinea, with the donors being invited to become Patrons.[14]

The Leeds and District Branch were particularly active in their efforts to assist unemployed Chums find work, regularly advertising in The Leeds Mercury for employers to contact them and providing a list of civilian skills that their members possessed. One such Chum who needed their help was James Robert Coyle. Born in 1896, he was an apprentice engineer when he attested for The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry) in May 1914, being issued with the regimental number 1446. Drafted to France on 11 November 1914, Coyle joined the 2nd Battalion near Ypres. He was transferred to The South Wales Borderers on 29 January 1916 and was issued with the regimental number 26932. Coyle was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 8 February 1921.

James married Eliza Lockwood at St Agnes’ Church at Burmantofts in Leeds on 29 April 1922 and at the time of his marriage he working as a moulder, but by 1928 he was unemployed. His plight had been reported by The Leeds Mercury on 16 March 1928, and he described to a journalist his search for work and the support given to him by the Leeds and District Branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association:

“When I heard of the Association through the ‘Mercury’” ex-Private Coyle told me, “I had come to the end of everything. I was getting pretty desperate. I got into touch with them and, although no employment has come yet, they have helped me, and cheered me, more than I can tell. I am hoping again now. It’s meant a lot to feel helped. Things were almost on top of me.”

He himself remains neatly dressed and well-groomed, and his home tidy and comfortably furnished, despite the last fifteen months of acute adversity. In that time he has worked only five days, yet he has walked 20 to 25 miles a day in search of employment, written at least 100 letters, when to muster a single three-halfpenny stamp is difficult, and has felt keenly the fact that the little his wife could earn was all there was coming into the house.

His wife is now within a month of bringing a child to share their sorrowful little world, a fact which has added the torture to his mind for some time. Neither of them can bear the thought of the Guardians. Last night he was writing another letter of application for a job when I saw him, but his eyes told his fear that it would share the same fate as the 100 that have preceded it.

“I want to work. It is not a question of money. It is a question of getting in – of getting a start. I will do anything. I am fit to do anything.”

The work he has taken in his peacetime battles, from labouring in snow and mud at Colsterdale to casual work wherever he could find it, proves this.”

Following the publication of the article, the Old Contemptibles’ Association received a parcel from a reader of “The Leeds Mercury” which was reported in the 26 March edition of the newspaper:

“The tale of ex-Private Coyle’s adversity we told some days ago, and it will be remembered that Mrs Coyle was then within a month of bringing them a child to share their sad world.

This parcel is the response from one of our readers, for the following note came with the tiny woolly garment it contained:-

“To the wife of ex-Private Coyle, this little present should be welcome for the little stranger who is shortly coming to your house. – From a reader of “The Leeds Mercury.”

James and Eliza expressed their gratitude to the reader in an acknowledgement printed in the next days’ edition. Their son, Kenneth, was born on 10 April.[15]

Another example was an appeal for donations of clothing was made to the Editor of The Sunderland Echo by the Sunderland Branch in 1935:

“Sir, – If one out of every ten Sunderland theatre-goers would send us one cast-off coat, shirt, pair of shoes, suit, blouse, blankets, dress, under-garment, anything, we could clothe all our needy in one week. Any of the above articles will be a godsend, and much appreciated. Please send parcel to Old Contemptibles’ Association, 25 John Street, Sunderland.

J. H. Laing,

Hon. Secretary.”[16]

From 1929 until the outbreak of the Second World War, and again from 1944, the Directors of Birmingham City Football Club allowed the Birmingham Branch to make an annual collection at a match played during late November and early December, and the proceeds were then used to buy food to put into hampers which were distributed to those Chums who were unemployed, so that they and their families had something to eat over Christmas.

A notice, which was published in The Birmingham Daily Gazette of 7 December 1929, requested the Chums to assemble at St Andrew’s to make the first collection:


“Will members please meet at one o’clock to-day at Birmingham Football Ground (Birmingham-Manchester City) Meeting place outside centre of grandstand, or just before half-time.

Medals and Badges to be worn. Demonstration at Half-Time.”

The need for the collection was recalled by the columnist of “The Clubman’s Diary” of The Birmingham Daily Gazette, which was printed on Christmas Eve 1935:

“In 1928, I recall, the association was a very small affair. At that Christmas season only two cases of distress came to the notice of the “chums.”

One was that of a fine “old sweat” who ate his Christmas dinner, consisting of bread and cheese, in Cannon Hill Park, with swans begging the crusts; the other, an ex-artilleryman, who managed to “scrounge” a rabbit for the Christmas dinner of himself and wife and four children.”

In 1934, as a gesture of gratitude to the club for their support in allowing the collections to take place, the Chums presented Birmingham City Football Club with a photograph of the members of the branch. The original was destroyed when the Main Stand was burned down during the Second World War, but on 19 April 1954 the Birmingham Branch of The Old Contemptibles Association presented the club with a replacement photograph.[17]

The outbreak of the Second World War saw the activities of branches of The Old Contemptibles’ Association curtailed to some extent, and Chums were involved in defending the country in various forms. However, the Branches still continued with their meetings and work supporting their fellow Chums in need, as well as the wider war effort. The Coventry Branch lost most of its records, property and Branch Standard when the city was devastated by the Luftwaffe on the night of 14/15 November 1940, but despite this continued to function. The presentation of a new Branch Standard was reported by The Coventry Evening Telegraph on 23 April 1942:

Old Contemptibles Again “In Action”

“When the headquarters of the Coventry branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association was destroyed in the November 14-15 raid in 1940 the branch almost went out of existence.

Records, documents, and the branch’s Standard, which had been carried on many impressive parades, were lost, together with all other equipment at the headquarters. Members were necessarily dispersed over a very wide area of the city and district after the bombing, and the Association’s activities came to a standstill.

Only one thing was salvaged from the headquarters – the brass nameplate which was fixed outside the building. From this nucleus, and the keenness of the available members, the branch has been completely revitalised, and on Sunday morning the branch’s new Standard will be dedicated at St George’s Church, Radford.


Branches from various parts of the country, including Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Evesham, Leamington, Nuneaton, and Stafford will attend the big parade, which will assemble in Corporation Street at 10.15 a.m. and march to the church, headed by a Home Guard pipe band.

The Mayor (Councillor A. R. Grindlay), Captain W. F. Strickland, M.P., Mr T. S. Quick (general secretary of the Old Contemptibles’ Association), Lieutenant E. H. Richardson (the association chairman, secretary of the Birmingham branch, and chairman of the West Midlands Council, who lost both legs in the last war), and Colonel Cameron (president of the Stafford branch) will attend the parade.”

The Association also lost several members as a result of enemy action. Among them was Chum Frederick Hatchwell of the Dorking Branch, who was killed on 30 August 1940 at Reigate Road in Leatherhead during an air raid. His death and funeral were reported on in The Surrey Advertiser on 7 September 1940:



“Keen sympathy with the relatives was shown at the funeral at Leatherhead Parish Churchyard on Tuesday of Mr Fredk. Hatchwell, of Corner Cot, Copthorne-road, Leatherhead, whose death occurred on Friday, at the age of 57.

Mr Hatchwell had been a postman at Leatherhead since 1909. He served in the South African War with the Royal Dragoons, and again with the same regiment in the last war, subsequently being transferred to the R.A.V.C., in which he was a sergeant farrier. In this war he was a member of the Home Guard. Mr Hatchwell was a member of the Dorking Old Contemptibles’ Association and the Leatherhead British Legion.

The Vicar (the Rev. G. H. B. Coleridge) conducted the funeral, and the chief mourners were Mrs Hatchwell (widow), Mr G. Hatchwell (brother), Mesdames Manton, Smith and Alvey (sisters) Messrs. T. Manton and H. B. Smith (brothers-in-law), Mrs H. G. Briar and Mrs F. Thomsett (nieces), Mr and Mrs H. Horne, and Mr D. Dew. There were also representatives of the Old Contemptibles, British Legion, and Post Office, all of which also sent wreaths; there was also one from Capt. Burke and members of the Home Guard.”[18]

Mons Week OCA poster

A poster advertising The Old Contemptibles’ Association “Mons Week” appeal (Courtesy of Stu Kidson)

The end of the war saw The Old Contemptibles’ Association resume recruiting new members, but not to the extent that had been done during the previous decade. In 1948 the Association made its first national appeal to the public for funds,[19] and “Mons Week” was held between 22 and 28 August to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the first battles fought by the British Expeditionary Force in 1914.[20] The need for additional financial support was urgent, as the effects of old war wounds and age-related illnesses exponentially took their toll on the Chums. The appointment of Branch Patrons, who were able to assist with funds for individual branches to continue to organise social events and assist Chums in need, also increased at this time. Nevertheless, the bonds of “Chumship” and common experiences bound the diminishing membership together and on 24 June 1950 a Silver Jubilee Grand Reunion was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 25 years of the Association in an appropriate manner. This included not only an Act of Remembrance, but light-hearted entertainment and bars organised by Divisions of the original British Expeditionary Force of 1914, so that Old Comrades could arrange to meet each other before the performance and during the interval.

Following the Second World War the annual Parade and Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London, held on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the Battle of Mons, was moved to Aldershot, where a Church Parade was held at the Royal Garrison Church, organised by the Aldershot Branch with the support of the units of the garrison. The annual parade Service held at St Paul’s Cathedral continued as before but by the mid 1950s it seemed to some Chums that the interest of the media and the general public in their activities was starting to wane. “W. H. R.,” the scribe of the branch notes for the Camden Town Branch for “The Old Contemptible” published in July 1955, declared that:

“This Branch was well represented at the St Paul’s parade last Sunday. It was quite an impressive affair, but it is sad to see how little notice the Press takes of the Old Contemptibles these days. I did not see all the newspaper(s) on the following day, but those I did see made little or no mention of the Service or the Parade. Can it be that the time of forgetfulness is getting near? Anyhow it was grand to see the way the Chums marched, head up, and chest out. It made one feel proud to be one of them.”[21]

In 1964 The Old Contemptibles’ Association organised a series of events in London to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War. On Friday 26 June Chums of the Association were reviewed by the Duke of Gloucester in the garden of Buckingham Palace, and on the evening of 27 June another Grand Reunion took place at the Albert Hall. On Sunday 28 June the Chums again attended a Divine Service at St Paul’s Cathedral.


The front cover of the programme for the Old Contemptibles’ Association Grand Reunion, held at the Royal Albert Hall on 27 June 1964 (Authors’ Collection).

Among those who attended the weekend’s events was Chum Wilfred Hulme, universally known as Bill, who was a member of the Victoria (British Columbia) Branch, and his wife Ruth. They had travelled from their home on Gabriola Island, and both wrote home to their friends in Canada about their experiences. Chum Hulme reported:

“Just think, it was 50 years ago I went overseas with the famous regiment The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues). We had a parade yesterday June 26, falling in at Wellington Barracks and marched to Buckingham Palace to be interviewed by the Queen. But, alas, she did not show up much to the disappointment of the men around me, also the ladies around my wife. Nevertheless ye Old Mons Star shone in all its glory.

Whereas I had got to thinking we were a band of forgotten men, yesterday however proved me wrong because the ovation we got was something I’ll never forget as long as I live. I made contact with many Cavalrymen; Hussars, Lancers and Dragoons and in my way of thinking it was well worth travelling half over the world just for that occasion. Old soldiers know the feeling of meeting pals, especially from one’s own regiment. Will tell you more when I get back to Nanaimo, the sweetest city under the sun.”[22]


Ticket for the Review of The Old Contemptibles’ Association by the Duke of Gloucester on 26 June 1964 (Authors’ Collection).

Mrs Hulme also recounted her experiences of the parade:

“Before the parade there were Old Contemptibles and their wives all around Birdcage Walk near the Palace. It was wonderful to stand by and watch these men meet again, each other. Everyone had medals on. Taxis stopped and more men alighted and joined the crowd. There were a great many too old or infirm, or both, to march but everyone finally reached the gardens of Buckingham Palace. (The) Grenadier Guards band led the parade but they were too far ahead for most to hear. It was remarkable to see this parade of elderly men marching along the street, some on crutches, many with sticks. As one man said he had come a long way to see this and he was glad he had. It was a wonderful sight.

It was sunny and warm in the gardens and the first-aid men were busy with casualties. At the end of the speeches and inspection by the Duke of Gloucester hats came off and three cheers for him. Have you ever seen 2,000 white and grey and bald heads all at once? It was something. They all marched back to the barracks, the band followed last. There would be many tired men and women that evening. We heard that the town (sic) of Birmingham had sponsored three coaches and given every man five pounds to spend. Other coaches were there from all parts of England.

Walking along with Bill in the parade was a Belgian who is director of the Mons Museum and he has a badge of every regiment in the British Army. He was given a badge by Old Contemptibles for his work for them in 1914. Also walking with Bill was a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Artillery who wore the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross, also the Legion of Honour (sic), Croix de Guerre and the Leopold Star of Belgium.”[23]

The commemorative events held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War could not conceal the fact that The Old Contemptibles’ Association was, by its very essence of exclusivity, a dying organisation. It was also clear to the Chums that times were changing, and perhaps their past deeds held little sway in the modern world, as demonstrated by an extract of a letter published in The Daily Mirror on 13 November 1964:


“To listen to the holders of the Mons Star, one would think there had only been one war. Campaign medals in the First World War, like those in the Second World War, were two a penny. – L. Carter, Yorks.”

The Association had many critics, both internal and from external sources, over the years. Some felt that the strict membership criteria encouraged an “old school tie” mentality amongst the Chums towards their fellow ex-servicemen.[24] Their jealously-guarded nickname also came in for frequent criticism, such as one letter that was published in The Scotsman on 26 September 1934:



 “Old Contemptibles”

“Glasgow, September 25, 1934

SIR. – I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I only wish to state as clearly as possible –

1) That the alleged Army Order containing the expression “Contemptible little Army” is a fabrication. No German ever used that word.

2) If the “Old Contemptibles” intend to keep that name, which constantly poisons the good relations between the two peoples, I think they ought to prove beyond doubt that the Army Order is genuine.

We Germans don’t need to refute the charge. Besides, all records have been carefully searched, and no trace of that document has been found.

You would oblige me very much if you would publish this, my last communication, in this matter. – I am & c.

F. HEYER, German Consul.”

A question often asked by descendants of Old Contemptibles is if some form of organisation currently exists in order to continue to remember the Chums and those who served with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. The subject of handing on the mantle to a new generation was discussed as early as 1935, at the Old Contemptible Association’s annual conference held in Leeds. The proposal was reported on by The Leeds Mercury on 11 March:

“Young Contemptibles.”

“Old Contemptibles from all over the country who met at Leeds for their annual conference on Saturday were very much surprised to hear from a Mr Middleton, of Manchester, that there had been in existence for some time a Young Contemptibles’ Association.

It was, he added, an Association which the Old Contemptibles’ Association might very well support.

He went on to explain naively that at present the Association consisted of only one member – his own son, nine years of age. A year ago, he said, he took the boy round the battlefields of Flanders and France, showed him where his daddy had squatted in the mud, pointed out the war cemeteries to him, and gave him a graphic lesson on the unpleasantness of war. The boy’s response was, “Why can’t I do something for the Old Contemptibles?”

Mr Middleton suggested that here was an opportunity for them to form a flourishing organization of their own descendants, who would give the parent organization valuable help. Old Contemptibles were dying off, and their membership was decreasing every year, and only in this way could they perpetuate the spirit of 1914.

The conference received the suggestion warmly, and instructed the secretary to bring the matter to the notice of the Executive Committee for their serious consideration.”

However the idea, although put forward again on several occasions while the Association existed, was never acted upon by the Chums. The reasons for this can be found in a speech given by the Reverend Godfrey Wells, who was the honorary chaplain of the Chichester Branch, at their annual dinner held on 26 November 1949. His address was recorded in The Hampshire Telegraph on 2 December:

“It would be a profound mistake to allow anybody other than those who took part in the retreat from Mons in 1914 to belong to the Old Contemptibles’ Association, said the Rev. Godfrey Wells, at the Chichester branch’s annual dinner on Saturday.

He was referring to a suggestion that members’ sons might carry on the association of which there are now only 11,000 ageing members in the whole of Britain.

“The Old Contemptibles’ Association is something which commemorates a unique event and nobody except those who actually shared in that event can possibly carry on the association,” he said.

He felt certain that, like all old soldiers, the association would fade away, but they would leave behind them an inspiration which would never be forgotten.

“The Old Contemptibles’ Association must die, but that spirit that allowed them to do that magnificent job will never die,” he said.”

By the mid-1960s it was clear that Branches were struggling to carry on as age wearied the Chums and funds dried up. The situation of one Branch was reported by The Newcastle Evening Chronicle on 25 February 1966:

Contemptibles ‘Fading Away’

 “The once booming membership of the Newcastle branch of the Old Contemptibles Association has reduced considerably in recent years. Wednesday evening meetings in the Turks Head Vaults rarely muster any more than a dozen members, and there are usually only seven or eight. On this occasion, however, lack of amenities or enthusiasm cannot be blamed. Only time.

It is well over half a century since the first British troops landed on French soil at the beginning of the First World War to earn the nickname “Contemptibles.” Now there are only a handful of these gallant men left in the North-East, and only a few are able to attend the meetings regularly.”


The secretary of the association, Mr J. Mitchell, said: “A lot of our members live in places like Hexham or Alnwick and they can’t always get in. Some of the others who live near Newcastle are finding it difficult to make the journey.”

He added: “We have got a hard core of members who attend meetings faithfully, but our numbers are much smaller. However, we still print the association magazine and we intend to keep the club going as long as funds last.”

By 1974 the writing was on the wall for The Old Contemptibles’ Association, but in spite of this one last great effort was made to organise events to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Great War, and the National Executive set up a Diamond Jubilee Sub-Committee for this purpose, the culmination of which was one final Church Parade at the Royal Garrison Church at Aldershot on 4 August. Attended by Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Chums paraded for the final time as a national body. In December 1975 the final edition of the Association’s journal – The Old Contemptible – was published, and the following year the National Executive of the Association ceased operation.

Some Branches continued to meet for as long as health and numbers permitted, but eventually they too were forced to close. The disbandment of the Coventry Branch was recorded by The Coventry Evening Telegraph on 12 June 1978:


Chums of the Coventry Branch and their wives, photographed on 9 November 1969 after attending the Remembrance Sunday service at St George’s Church at Coundon (Authors’ Collection).

Last Post for City Men

“A handful of very special veterans met in Coventry yesterday for the very last time in 64 years.

They are all that is left of the city’s Old Contemptibles, former members of the British Regular Army which went to France in 1914 and were dubbed by the Kaiser “Britain’s contemptible little army.”

Now old age and ill-health – all the “old sweats” are over 80 – have done what the Kaiser could never do and the seven-strong group have decided to meet no more.

The oldest is Albert Cowley,[25] their 88-year-old secretary-treasurer, who is helped by a friend, Mrs Maie Woodier.[26] She said:

“This is the end of an era. They have been a fine body of men but most of them are very bad on their legs now.”

The Old Contemptibles movement was started in 1926 (sic) and at one time the Coventry branch had 300 members, including a VC, 15 DCMs and several MMs.”

The few surviving Chums of the Association continued to meet under the auspices of the London and South-East Area until the early 1990s. When the memorial to The Old Contemptibles in the West Cloister of Westminster Abbey was inaugurated on 15 July 1993 six Chums were in attendance, but by the time of the last official event, a service to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War at the Wren Chapel of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea on 4 August 1994, only one Chum, In-Pensioner Frank Sumpter, was present.


“Old Soldiers Never Die, They Simply Fade Away” – Sources of Information on the Chums and The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

Unlike the Burma Star Association or Normandy Veterans’ Association, which have prominent displays at the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and the D-Day Story Museum at Portsmouth respectively, there are currently no such collection that acts as a focal point to commemorate the Chums and their Association. What archival and material evidence that does exist can be found in a wide variety of locations around the world, in the possession of their descendants or in private collections. It is therefore difficult to collate a definitive list of where records or items currently reside, or if indeed they still survive. However, it is hoped that this partial inventory may be of some assistance to those who wish to study The Old Contemptibles’ Association in more detail, and to provide some explanations as to the purpose of certain items, which is often erroneously reported.

“The Old Contemptible” – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association


The cover of “The Old Contemptible” No. 30 – June 1936 (Authors’ Collection)

Perhaps the most valuable source of information on the activities of the Association, and of the Chums themselves, is their own journal. First published in October 1930, it was printed quarterly until 1935 and from that year appeared monthly. The final edition, No. 503, was released in December 1975. The Imperial War Museum holds the complete run of issues of The Old Contemptible, the catalogue number being LBY E.J. 1028. Issues of the journal also occasionally appear in book lists or on internet auction sites and are highly sort-after by collectors.

The cover artwork for early issues of the journal was often contributed by the Chums themselves, and the contents provide insight into the activities of the Association, its Regional Area Committees and individual branches. They also contain correspondence and accounts from Chums relating to their war service, concerns regarding organisational issues and welfare, as well as humorous stories and anecdotes. Information regarding individual Chums, such as Branch nominal rolls and obituaries, were also published. It is interesting to note that in 1937 submissions to The Old Contemptible of notices to commemorate the anniversaries of the death of comrades during the war, or of individual Chums, had to be sent to Headquarters before the 10th of each month, with a remittance of 1/- for insertion.[27]

The issues of The Old Contemptible also included photographs of the Chums, many of which include their names.

Canadian Chums 1955

The July 1955 issue featured a photograph of a group of Chums at a gathering held by one of the branches of The Old Contemptibles Association raised in Canada, that at Windsor in Ontario. The Chums are named in the photograph and it was possible, by cross-referencing this information with the 1914 Star Roll and consulting other documentary sources, to find further details regarding their service:

Back Row – from left to right:

Chum Joseph Glover – formerly L/2878 12th (Prince of Wales’s) Royal Lancers, who had been drafted to France on 8 October 1914 attached to the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues). He transferred to the Guards Machine Gun Regiment in 1918 and was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star in May 1931

Chum William Hutton – formerly 9362 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Private Hutton had disembarked at Le Havre on 14 August 1914 and was also issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star in May 1931.

Chum Arthur Charles Webb M.C. – formerly 2127 1/2nd Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment (Territorial Force). Born at Cwmffrwdoer, near Pontypool in 1893, Arthur was working as a miner and serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment (Territorial Force) when he was embodied on the outbreak of the war. He landed at Le Havre with the 1/2nd Monmouths on 7 November 1914. Promoted to Sergeant, Webb was commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in The East Lancashire Regiment on 21 April 1917, being posted to the 1st Battalion, and was also awarded the Military Cross. Arthur was issued with his 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal on 23 November 1922 and his wife emigrated to Canada in the 1930s and settled at Windsor. He was sent the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 5 September 1953. In 1964, he came to London to attended the fiftieth anniversary events organised by The Old Contemptibles’ Association and died in 1972.

Chum Herbert Sidney Straw – formerly 12129 2nd Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters. Born at Burton-on-Trent in 1896, Lance-Corporal Straw landed at St Nazaire on 10 September 1914 with “D” Company and was taken prisoner during the fighting at Ennetieres on 20 October. He was held captive at Hameln, he served with the 1st Battalion after his repatriation and was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 29 June 1920. Straw was discharged on 6 October 1920 prior to emigrating to Canada.

Centre Row:

Chum Sidney Herbert Cooke – formerly MS/1808A Army Service Corps. Private Cooke had enlisted on 7 August 1914 and landed in France on 23 September. He served with the Lahore Divisional Supply Column A.S.C. He was discharged on Christmas Day 1917, as a consequence of sickness, and was subsequently issued with a Silver War Badge.

Chum Horace Alfred Newell – formerly 69397 Royal Field Artillery. Driver Newell had joined the Army on 4 April 1912 and served with XXVIII Brigade R.F.A. in 1914, arriving in France on 19 August. He held the appointment of Shoeing-Smith when he was discharged as physically unfit for service due to sickness on 31 January 1918 (his Silver War Badge roll entry states 20 February 1918), and later received a Silver War Badge.

Chum John Clarke – formerly 10732 2nd Battalion, The Connaught Ranger. Private Clarke had enlisted for The Connaught Rangers on 16 August 1913, and disembarked at Boulogne on 14 August 1914. Clarke was discharged, as a consequence of sickness, on 4 June 1919 and was issued with a Silver War Badge. His 1914 Star was sent to him by post on 8 July 1919.

Chum David Brodie Mitchell – formerly MS/1933 Army Service Corps. Born at Pathhead near Kirkaldy on 14 February 1888, Private Mitchell had enlisted at Perth on 11 August 1914 and landed in France with the 8th Divisional Supply Column A.S.C. on 5 November. He was transferred to No. 2 Water Tank Company on 21 December 1916 and posted to 777th Motor Transport Company on 16 January 1918. Driver Mitchell was on the strength of 974th Motor Transport Company R.A.S.C. when he was transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on being demobilised on 30 March 1919. Chum Mitchell was sent a replacement 1914 Star on 3 October 1956 and returned from Canada to Greenock on 15 May 1959 for a four-month visit to relatives in Fife.

Chum Duncan McLeod – formerly D/7114 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards. Private McLeod landed at Boulogne on 16 August 1914 and was re-issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 15 October 1926.

Front Row:

Chum Albert Pickard – formerly H/2923 18th (Queen Mary’s Own) Hussars. Private Pickard had joined the Army on 3 September 1908 and disembarked at Boulogne on 16 August 1914. He was serving with the 5th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at Tidworth when he was discharged on 15 June 1918. Issued with a Silver War Badge, Albert was employed on munitions work.

Chum William Harnett – formerly 4521 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards. Born at Marylebone, Harnett was aged nineteen when he attested for the 4th Dragoon Guards at London on 19 August 1896. After serving in India and South Africa, Harnett was stationed at Tidworth on the outbreak of the war and, as Squadron Quartermaster-Sergeant of “A” Squadron, disembarked at Boulogne on 16 August. He was taken prisoner following the unsuccessful charge mounted by 2nd Cavalry Brigade against German troops at Audregnies on 24 August. Harnett was held captive at Munsterlager and was finally repatriated on 18 November 1918. Posted to the 6th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at Tidworth on his return from Germany, he was discharged on Christmas Day 1919. His medals were returned as unissued, but replacements were sent to him in 1923, by which time he was residing at Harrow in Ontario.

Major Frederick Albert Tilson V.C., of The Essex Scottish Regiment, who was guest of honour at the function at which the photograph was taken. Tilson had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Uedem in Germany on 1 March 1945, during which he suffered severe wounds that resulted in him having both legs amputated below the knee.

Chum Reginald Betts – formerly L/3216 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers. Lance-Corporal Betts landed at Le Havre on 18 August 1914. He later transferred to The East Surrey Regiment, being issued with the regimental number 32441, and was a Corporal when he was transferred to the Section B Army Reserve on his demobilisation on 26 April 1919.

Reverend F. C. Watts – Chaplain to the Windsor (Ontario) Branch of The Old Contemptibles Association.

Chum John Murray – formerly L/1666 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers. Saddler-Corporal Murray disembarked at Le Havre on 18 August 1914. Later promoted to Sergeant, he was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 1 July 1920.


Local newspapers also published reports on the activities of Branches of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Many have been digitised and are available to search on-line via The British Newspaper Archive: but many more are still only available to view by visiting libraries and local archives. The amount of coverage varies greatly, but for those who have a particular interest in the Coventry Branch, The Coventry Evening Telegraph was particularly supportive and frequently published articles up until 1979, including detailed obituaries. For information on overseas Branches, articles relating to Australian Chums can be searched for via while information on the three Branches that were formed in New Zealand can be accessed by using Articles on Canadian Branches, as well as later material on Australian and New Zealand Chums, together with occasional references to Old Contemptibles who lived in the United States, can be accessed via The British Newspaper Archive and are subscription-based services, while Trove and PapersPast are free to access.

Area and Branch Records

Out of over 200 Branches, only a handful of records are known to survive in archives. Those that are known to be available include:

South-East Midlands Area:

The Minutes for the period from 1937 to 1955 are held by Northamptonshire Archives (ZB 318).

Aldershot Branch:

Documents and photographs relating to the activities of the branch can be found in the papers of Chum Major A. E. Walters (Documents 6936) deposited in the IWM in 1978.

Andover Branch:

Held by Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (45M85) – covering the period 1929 to 1980.

Auckland (New Zealand) Branch: 

Held by Auckland Museum Library (MS–931) – four membership certificates.

Basingstoke Branch:

Branch Minute Books and accounts are held by Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (52M91) – covering the period 1959 to 1978.

Bedford Branch:

Branch Minute Books for the period between 1962 and 1976 held by Bedfordshire Archives and Record Service (Z454).

Blackburn Branch:

Record covering the period between 1933 and 1957 are held at Blackburn Central Library.

Blackpool Branch:

Branch Minute Books and correspondence for the period from 1939 to 1976 are held by Lancashire Archives (DDX 1200).

Croydon Branch:

A collection of documents and photographs relating to the Branch are held in the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum in London (Documents 9646). The collection was deposited in the Museum in 1978.

Duchy of Cornwall Branch:

Held by the Imperial War Museum in the Department of Documents (Documents 9198), covering the period between 1927 and 1928. Depositied in 1976.

Edinburgh Branch:

Held by the National Records of Scotland (GD1-770) – cover period between 1928 and 1975.

Hastings Branch:

Held by Hastings Museum and Art Gallery (SOC12) – cover period between 1937 and 1971.

Hereford Branch:

Branch Minutes and accounts covering the period from 1946 to 1976 are held by Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre (CO80).

Leicester Branch:

Branch Minutes, accounts and correspondence for the period from 1958 to 1976 are by the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (DE 1708).

Lincoln Branch:

Minute Books for the branch are held in the Lincolnshire Archives (PAR23/6) – cover the period between 1937 to 1968.

Manchester and Salford Branch:

Minutes Books relating to the activities of the branch between 1961 and 1969 can be found in the papers of Chum Major G. W. Fisher (Documents 6604) deposited in the Imperial War Museum in 1979.

Market Harborough Branch:

Branch records are by the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (DE3347).

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Branch:     

Held by the Durham County Record Office (DLI 13/5) – cover period between 1930 and 1967.

City of Oxford Branch:               

Held by the National Army Museum in Chelsea at the Templer Study Centre (9703-37) cover the period between 1937 and 1979.

Plymouth Branch:

Documents and photographs relating to the activities of the branch between 1958 and 1975 can be found in the papers of Chum G. Stevenson (Documents 4756) deposited in the Imperial War Museum in 1980.

Southampton Branch:

Records covering the period between 1948 and 1971 are held at Southampton Archives Office (D/Z 673 and P.607).

Watford Branch:

Branch Minute Books held by Watford Museum.

Information on Individual Chums

For anyone wishing to explore the stories of Chums from a particular branch, or a relative who was a member of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, there are a number of avenues that can be followed. As previously mentioned, issues of The Old Contemptible published nominal rolls, correspondence and obituaries which, when used with other documentary sources such as medal rolls, surviving service records, newspaper articles and, of particular use for the Chums, the recently-released 1939 Register, can all be utilised.

Among the collections held by the Department of Documents of the Imperial War Museum, which are of particular interest to the history of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, are the papers of Chum James Preston, the last Honorary Secretary to the National Executive (Documents 22891), which cover the period between 1950 and 1976; and Chum Frederick Walder Butler, who was the last National Chairman. The collection of Chum Butler (Documents 3861), which includes a wealth of photographs, documents and correspondence, was donated to the IWM on 15 November 1983.

Frederick Walder Butler was born at West Ham on 20 November 1896 and attested for the Royal Army Medical Corps, on a Short Service Engagement to serve three years with the Colours and nine on the Reserve, at the Recruiting Office at 22 Grove Crescent Road, Stratford East, on 27 November 1913. At the time of his enlistment, Frederick was aged eighteen and employed as a clerk.

Butler was posted to the Royal Army Medical Corps Depot at Aldershot on 1 December, and was issued with the regimental number 7422. He passed his 3rd Class Certificate in Education on 18 December, and his 2nd Class Certificate on 12 March 1914. Posted to the R.A.M.C. Corps Training School on 7 April, Private Butler was appointed to the Nursing Section of the Corps on 4 June. He was serving with No. 6 Company, R.A.M.C. at Cosham on the declaration of war and was posted to 9th Field Ambulance, which served with 3rd Division, landing in France on 20 August 1914.

On 8 January 1916, Butler arrived at Salonika, and he was appointed a paid Acting Corporal on 29 April 1917. During his time in Greece, he contracted malaria and dysentery, which resulted in him being evacuated to Malta for treatment. On 14 November 1917 he married Edith Eloise Maskell at Marylebone Register Office (it is noted on his surviving service papers that his marriage took place “without leave.”), and their son, Frederick Walder John Butler was born at Slough on 2 September 1918. He also went on to serve in South Russia from January 1919.

Acting Corporal Butler arrived home on 8 June 1919 and was discharged as physically unfit for service, as a consequence of sickness, on 20 July while on the strength of No. 7 Convalescent Depot R.A.M.C. At the time of his discharge he gave his home address as 2 Myrtle Cottages on Salt Hill in Slough. As a result of the debility that he suffered from contracting malaria while serving at Salonika, Butler was awarded a weekly pension of 5/6d, for 52 weeks, from 21 July 1919. He was also issued with a Silver War Badge, which he received on 20 September 1919, and the King’s Certificate of Discharge.

By 27 July 1919 Frederick was living at 265 Barking Road in Plaistow, from where he wrote to the R.A.M.C. Record Office at Woking to make his application to receive the 1914 Star. The clasp and roses for the medal were issued to him on 8 September 1921.

Frederick later joined The Old Contemptibles’ Association and served as Honorary Secretary to the Hounslow Branch, on the Sub-Committees organising the commemorative events held in 1964 and 1974, as an Area Representative, as Vice-Chairman of the National Council, and became the last National Chairman on the death of Brigadier George Rowland Patrick Roupell V.C., C.B., (France), in 1974. Chum Butler presided over the final National Church Parade held by the Old Contemptibles’ Association at the Royal Garrison Church of All Saints in Aldershot on Sunday 4 August 1974.

Chum Frederick Walder Butler died at the Royal Star and Garter Home in Richmond in 1977.

In the archive of The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment at the City Museum in Lancaster can be found a significant collection of papers and ephemera related to Chum John William Benham, who was a member of the Southern Railway Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Chum Benham had served with the 1st Battalion, The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) in 1914 and the collection was donated to the Museum by his daughter. The accession number for the collection is KO2789.

Another interesting collection of material now held in an archive relates to John William Froom, who was a member of the Barry Branch. Chum Froom died in 1968, but a collection of papers found by the new owner of his former home at 29 Kingland Crescent was desposited at the Glamorgan Archives in 2004 (D333).

Born at Cadoxton-juxta-Barry in Glamorganshire on Christmas Day 1888, 8274 Private John William Froom had joined The Gloucestershire Regiment in 1906 and served with the 2nd Battalion before being transferred to the Reserve. Mobilised following the declaration of war, he was posted to the 1st Battalion at Bordon and disembarked at Le Havre on 13 August 1914. Wounded while fighting on the Aisne, Private Froom was admitted to hospital at Cardiff on 13 October. An interview that he gave to a journalist on his return home was printed in The Barry Dock News on 23 October 1914:




“The Germans are awful boozers and I saw them, after making themselves quite drunk from the intoxicating liquors they stole from public houses, deliberately sack and burn houses of the poor unfortunate residents. When they see us they make off to their lines. The British soldier is faced with the unpleasant experience of seeing the villagers looking on whilst their homes were burning.”

This is Private William Froom’s opinion of the enemy. A reservist of the Gloucester Regiment, he returned to his home, 19, Trinity-street, Barry, on Monday evening last, having been wounded at the Front. To a “Barry Dock News” reporter he gave a short, but interesting story of his experiences in action.

“It was during the Mons fight that we saw perhaps more plainly than at other times what cowards the Germans were. Rather than face our fire themselves they put women and children in front of them to prevent us shooting. We managed to get around them though, and didn’t half pop them off. It was a stiff tussle lasting for fourteen days, and we marched on an averaged twenty miles a day.

I went through the Battle of Mons without a scratch, but a piece of shrapnel wounded me in the left arm during the Aisne tussle. With other wounded soldiers, I was taken to the village of Chevy et Beaulumne (sic – Chevy et Beaulne) and for four days we were treated in a barn because it was unsafe to move out, the Germans keeping up a deadly fire on the road near at hand. Many of the R.A.M.C. were wounded and some killed, through venturing out of the barn to bring in more wounded.

At Angiers (sic – Angers) we were attended by a German doctor, who had been taken prisoner by the British. He was a perfect gentleman, and one of the finest doctors attending our wounded.”

Private Froom, who was given quite a rousing welcome when he returned home on Monday night, had received treatment at the King Edward VII Hospital at Cardiff, and he wishes to return thanks for the care and attention shown him by the medical staff.”

After recovering from his wound, Froom was transferred to The Royal Warwickshire Regiment and served with the 1st Garrison Battalion being appointed Acting Company Quartermaster-Sergeant, before being posted to the Labour Corps.

John Froom returned to Barry on being demobilised and was employed as a labourer at Barry Docks, living with his wife Elsie at 29 Kingsland Crescent. He was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star in September 1933 and joined the Barry Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Chum Froom was also a member of the Barry and District Amateur Gardening Association.

Information regarding applications for membership of the Association is fragmentary, no central roll of the Chums having been preserved. However, during the course of many years of research the author has come across details preserved with individual service records that form held at The National Archives at Kew in Soldiers’ Documents Classes WO 363 and WO 364. In some instances, this information has proved of great interest, particularly with reference to how stringent the criteria for membership was adhered to and the process by which those details were confirmed before an applicant was admitted to become a Chum. It is also enlightening to find that, in the cases that the author has come across, an individuals’ conduct while in the service was no bar to entry. As long as the applicant qualified for the 1914 Star and was issued with the “clasp and roses” for the medal, the number and nature of offences that they had committed while serving was disregarded.

Some application forms relating to particular branches are preserved. That of Captain Bruce Bairnsfather, the creator of “Old Bill,” is preserved among the papers of the Croydon Branch held by the Imperial War Museum. Another significant survival are some eighty application forms that pertain to the Chums of the Keighley Branch, which are in the care of the “Men of Worth” project, but perhaps the largest surviving collection is held at Durham County Record Office and consists of a file of around 120 application forms for membership to the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Branch, including those of Chums who died while still members or resigned from the Branch. The file classification for these forms is D/DLI 13/5/3.

Among the applications preserved at the Durham County Record Office is that of Chum James Robb. On 27 May 1932 Robb, who had served with the 2nd Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, was officially admitted as a Chum of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Having applied to join the branch his service record and eligibility for the 1914 Star with clasp were checked, and having been officially verified and accepted Robb paid his 1/6d for an Association Badge and Branch Membership Card, his number 453A being stamped on the reverse of the badge. At the time of his application to the Branch, James Robb lived with his wife Mary and their four children, all under the age of fourteen, at 9 Drury Lane in Jarrow-on-Tyne and stated that he had been unemployed for twelve months, having worked as a labourer since being discharged in 1919, but would be willing to “try anything.”

Born 10 October 1892, 9526 Private James Robb attested for 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry on 29 December 1911. Mobilised following the declaration of war he was drafted to France on 22 October 1914 with the Third Reinforcement for the 2nd Durham Light Infantry, being posted to “C” Company on his arrival at the Battalion. Private Robb was wounded during the successful attack mounted by the 2nd Battalion at Hooge on 9 August 1915 and news that he had been admitted to No. 6 British Red Cross Hospital at Etaples was briefly reported in The Jarrow Express on 27 August:

“Word has been received that Private J. Robb, of the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, whose home is at Jarrow, has been wounded and is at the Liverpool Merchants’ Mobile Hospital.”

James was later transferred to the Labour Corps, being issued with the service number 355378, and was discharged as physically unfit for service on 3 March 1919. He was subsequently issued with his Silver War Badge on 29 March, and the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star were despatched to him on 9 June 1920, being sent to his home at 85 High Street in Jarrow-on-Tyne. In 1939 James, his wife Mary and their four children were recorded as living at 55 Princess Street in Jarrow, and by this time he had found work as a general labourer.

Chum James Robb was still a member of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association when he died in 1968, aged 76.

Branch Standards

Old Contemptibles Mons 1928

The Banner presented by Lady Amherst at the head of the Chums in Mons on 11 November 1927 (Authors’ Collection).

The Founder Branch of the Association at Hackney was presented with its first banner by Lady Amherst of Hackney in 1925. This was suspended between two poles and was carried regularly by the Chums at parades and events organised by the London Area during the 1920s and 1930s, and can be seen displayed prominently in numerous photographs and newsreels of this period.

In June 1927, following the decision to expand the Association, other branches began to form around the country, the first being at Woolwich. Later that same year, in August, the Grand Council of The Old Contemptibles’ Association decided that the new branches would be given dispensations to carry their own standards, but unlike the one presented by Lady Amherst these would be mounted on a single pole.[28] In order to be able to obtain a Standard, a Branch would first have to obtain official sanction from Headquarters of the Association, and then raise the money to pay for it. The cost of an official pattern Standard in 1937 was £16.5.0d. (carraige paid), the equivalent to around £1,100 at 2018 prices, so was a considerable investment.[29]

The officially-sanctioned Branch Standards were manufactured by Toye & Co. Ltd. and consisted of a silk sheet, fringed with gold, and the ground was watered red/white/blue to imitate the ribbon of the 1914 Star. The motto and badge of the Association, together with the name of the Branch emblazoned on a scroll beneath the badge, was hand-embroidered in gold wire. The Standard was also supplied with a waterproof case. The finial of the Standard was a facsimile of the Association Badge in brass.

Of such importance was a Branch Standard to the Chums that it was treated with the same reverence as the Colours, Standards and Guidons carried by regiments of the British Army. Therefore each Standard was ceremonially presented and consecrated, and local newspapers frequently reported on these occasions. One such presentation was that to the Sunderland Branch on 13 December 1931, which was also filmed by the Pathe Gazette. The ceremony was recorded in great detail in the local press:[30]

Sunderland Old Contemptibles’ Baptism


“Carry on With Same Spirit of Courage That Carried You Through the War”


“Sunderland Branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association received its baptism yesterday, when following a short, simple, but impressive ceremony at which the branch standard was dedicated and presented, the “dispensation” from head-quarters was later handed over to the President, Major F. J. Gilbertson.

There were 350 ex-Servicemen on parade in the Garrison Field, and the Presenting Officer was Field-Marshal Sir George F. Milne, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., D.S.O., President of the National Old Contemptibles’ Association, and Chief of the Imperial General Staff of the War Office.

The newly-formed branch had the support of the Newcastle and Hartlepool branches, the 7th Durham Light Infantry Old Comrades’ Association; Sunderland, Roker and Fulwell and Boldon Colliery branches of the British Legion; Sunderland branch of the Old Coldstreamers’ Association, and members of Toc H.

The band and bugles of the 7th Durham Light Infantry supplied music for the service, which was conducted by the Honorary Chaplain, the Rev. Canon A. Silva-White, after Sir George had inspected the parade, accompanied by Major Gilbertson and General G. Walker, Vice-President of the Sunderland branch.

The standard bearer, Mr J. H. Laing, with his escort, marched forward and laid the flag on the drums.

“Reverend sir, on behalf of the Old Contemptibles, we ask you to dedicate this standard,” invited Mr L. Readman, Chairman of the branch, who was in charge of the parade.

“We are ready to do so,” signified Canon Silva-White.

“Our help in the name of the Lord,” he said.

“Who had made heaven and earth,” responded the parade.

“The Lord be with you,” concluded Canon Silva-White.

“And with Thy spirit,” came the response.

Following a prayer in which the ex-Servicemen dedicated themselves afresh to “the love of our King and our country, and to the welfare of mankind; to the maintenance of honour and the sanctity of man’s plighted word; to the preservation of order and good government.”


The Standard they dedicated “to the hallowed memory of our comrades whose courage and endurance add undying lustre to our emblems, and in continual remembrance, and our solemn oath, and in token of our resolve faithfully and truly to keep it to the end.”

Presenting the Standard Sir George Milne charged the branch to remember the cause of which it was a symbol, and the honour in which it was to be held.

“I came here to renew old acquaintanceships of the early days of the War,” he said: “to show you after these many years that we still hold together the same bond of comradeship that held us together in those early and sad days of 1914.

I want you all to remember that we are devoted to the same cause; the service of our King and country. I greatly sympathise with you in the hard days that are here, but I beg you to show exactly the same spirit as you did in the bad days of 1914 and the very difficult days of 1918.

I want you to carry on with the same spirit of courage that carried you through the War, and which will, I am certain, carry this country through the difficult times now. Courage is what we all have to show.”

“The Last Post” was sounded, followed by a two minutes’ silence, and “Reveille.” The parade then marched past Sir George, who took the salute.

Following the parade the Old Contemptibles were entertained to tea at the Bridge Hotel, where their head-quarters are situated, thanks to the kindness of Messrs. William Jackson Ltd.

Mr L. Readman presided, supported by Major Gilbertson.

Among their guests were the Deputy Mayor (Ald. I. G. Modlin), Major R. Norman Thomspon (President of Sunderland Branch of the British Legion), Mr G. N. Cock (Chairman of the British Legion), Major-General G. Walker, and Captain Peter Batten.

A band of willing women helpers had decorated the room with flags and bunting, and they saw to it that the service was up to the minute.

Major Gilbertson read a number of letters apologising for absence.

Letters were received from the King and the Prince of Wales, wishing the new branch every success.

Lieut.-Gen. Sir Herbert Uniacke wrote:

“We ‘Chums’ belong to what is perhaps the most exclusive organisation in existence. It’s like has never been seen before and can never be seen again.”

Letters were also sent by Captain Sir George H. J. Duckworth-King Bt., the Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins C.M.G., C.B.E. (Hon. Chaplain to the King), Brigadier-General Sir Loftus Bates, Lord Londonderry, Mr Samuel Storey, M.P., Major-General Montgomery, the Rev. Pat McCormick (St Martin’s-in-the-Fields), and Lord Barnard.

Major Gilbertson said how deeply the Sunderland Association appreciated the fact that Sir George Milne had come amongst them.


The standard which he had presented that day, the emblem and symbol of their Association, would never intentionally be slurred or lowered by word, deed, motive, or gesture by any of their members.

Their Association was so exclusive that some day it would cease to exist altogether. Some people said it was a dying Association, but the Sunderland Branch was very much alive, and they were falling over each other in their efforts to make it as strong as possible.

Mr Readman, who presented Sir George with a beautiful model of a Spanish galleon, said that there had been so many moments in his life which he had considered as the proudest, but that day had exceeded them all.

The branch was only little more than ten weeks old yet, but due to the hard work everyone had put in it had exceeded his wildest hopes.

They were delighted that Sir George Milne had come from London to Sunderland. It must have meant sacrifice on his part to come on a day he could have been resting, but they deeply appreciated it.

They hoped that the little memento would remind him of the day he had given them all tremendous pleasure and satisfaction.


Sir George Milne, acknowledging the gift, said how much he had enjoyed seeing them all on parade.

“The happiest recollection I shall take away from Sunderland,” he added, is the fact that as I went round your ranks you all looked me straight in the face and smiled.”

Dr Modlin, Capt. Batten, and Mr Parker also spoke.

Dr Modlin reminded Sir George that Sunderland was no mean town and though he might not know it its history began in the seventh century. It was actually a town before Newcastle.

At a concert afterwards the following sang: Messrs E. B. Judge, H. Nairn, J. Logan, W. W. Wardropper, F. W. Blakey, and G. Wilkinson, of the Sunderland branch; Alderson and Whitfield, of the Newcastle branch; and Wilson, Dodsworth, and Smith, of the West Hartlepool branch. The accompanist was Mrs E. B. Judge, and a dance was given by Mrs R. Brown, of Usworth.

The branch later marched to the Town Hall, and Sir George Milne shook hands with each man in farewell.”

Not all ceremonies went to plan. The Chesterfield Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association was formed at The Park Hotel on 28 February 1931 and held their first Church Parade on 16 August of that year. It was decided that this would be an appropriate occasion for the Branch Standard was presented and dedicated. The original service was to be held at St Thomas’s in Brampton but the Rector demanded that the Mayor and Corporation of Chesterfield attend “in state,” so the venue was changed to Christ Church, Stonegravels, the dedication of the Branch Standard taking place at the war memorial in the churchyard.[31]

The following is an incomplete list of dates on which Standards were presented and dedicated to Branches of the Association:

Christchurch NZ Standard

Auckland (N.Z.) Branch: 8 April 1934.[32]

Aylesbury Branch: 11 June 1939.[33]

City of Bath Branch: 25 August 1935.[34]

Basingstoke Branch: 30 July 1939.[35]

Bedford Branch: 17 July 1938.[36]

Birmingham Branch:  Presented 5 May 1929.[37] Dedicated 28 July 1929.[38]

Bishop’s Stortford Branch: 2 April 1939.[39]

Brentwood Branch: 25 June 1939.[40]

Bristol Branch: 16 June 1935.[41]

Burnley Branch:  24 July 1931.[42]

Canterbury Branch: 3 May 1931.[43]

Chelmsford Branch: 7 October 1934.[44]

Cheltenham Branch: 19 September 1948.[45]

Chester Branch:  3 September 1939 (Church Service Only).[46]

Chesterfield Branch: 16 August 1931.[47]

Chippenham Branch: 24 July 1938.[48]

Christchurch (N.Z.) Branch: March 1935.[49]

Cirencester Branch:  7 May 1939.[50]

Clacton-on-Sea Branch: 30 April 1939.[51]

Coventry Branch: 17 January 1932.[52] (Destroyed by enemy action 14/15 November 1940). Second Branch Standard presented and dedicated on 26 April 1942.[53]

Croydon Branch: 11 June 1934.[54]

Derby Branch: 1 November 1931.[55]

Devizes Branch: 2 May 1937.[56]

Dorchester Branch: Presented in 1939.[57]

Dorking Branch: Originally scheduled to take place on 3 September 1939, but postponed.[58]

Dover Branch: 18 June 1939.[59]

Dublin Central Branch: 16 August 1930.[60]

Durham City Branch: 16 September 1934.[61]

Evesham Branch: 11 September 1938.[62]

Exeter Branch: 1 October 1932.[63]

Folkestone & District Branch: 23 October 1929 (Presented at Second Annual Branch Dinner).[64] Dedicated on 27 October 1929.[65]

Gloucester Branch: 22 May 1938.[66]

Grantham Branch: 11 June 1939.[67]

Grimsby Branch: 11 June 1939.[68]

Guildford Branch: 23 April 1939.[69]

Hartlepool Branch: 14 August 1932.[70]

Horsham Branch: 28 May 1939.[71]

Huddersfield Branch: 12 March 1932.[72]

Hull & District Branch: 17 June 1934.[73]

Lancaster Branch: 9 November 1930.[74]

Leamington Spa Branch:[75]27 August 1938.[76]

Lichfield Branch: 3 June 1934.[77]

Market Harborough Branch: 18 June 1933.[78]

Middlesborough Branch: 2 October 1938.[79]

New South Wales Branch: 22 April 1938.[80]

Northampton Branch: 14 April 1935.[81]

North Bucks Branch:  25 June 1939 at Wolverton.[82]

Nottingham Branch: 30 June 1929.[83]

Perth (Australia) Branch: 15 November 1936.[84]

Plymouth Branch: 22 July 1934.[85]

Redhill & Reigate Branch: 19 September 1937.[86]

Romford Branch: 26 June 1938.[87]

City of New Sarum Branch:[88]Presented and Dedicated in 1930.

Slough Branch:  28 June 1931.[89]

Stafford Branch: 16 July 1939.[90]

Stockton Branch: 15 September 1935.[91]

Taunton Branch: 28 August 1938.[92]

Tonbridge Branch: 14 May 1939.[93]

Torbay Branch: 10 December 1939.[94]

Trowbridge Branch: 31 July 1938.[95]

Tunbridge Wells Branch: 11 June 1933.[96]

Uckfield Branch:  22 May 1938.[97]

Uxbridge Branch: 2 September 1934.[98]

Wandsworth Branch:[99]30 September 1928.[100]

Wellingborough Branch:  October 1939.[101]

Weymouth Branch:  4 October 1931.[102]

Wigan Branch:  Presented and Dedicated in 1936.

Wimbledon & District Branch:  21 August 1932.[103]

Winchester City Branch: 16 April 1939.[104]

Worthing Branch: 14 May 1939.[105]

The Old Contemptibles’ Association of Northern Ireland did not adopt the style of Standard used by The Old Contemptibles’ Association, but instead had their own design of “Colours.” The Belfast Section had a Colour consisting of a dark blue sheet with fringe and scroll-work in gold. The finial of the Colours is a crown surmounted by a lion. The first King’s Colour was presented to the Belfast Section by Major-General W. J. N. Cooke Collis, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland District, at a ceremony held at Victoria Barracks in Belfast on 26 October 1935. The King’s Colour, which was much different from the Branch Standards issued by The Old Contemptibles’ Association, took the form of a Union Flag with a representation of the 1914 Star, surmounted by a crown, with the name of the Association encircling the star embroidered in gold wire.[106] The King’s Colour of the Ballymena Section was presented at the Town Hall on 10 November 1936.[107]

A series of photographs taken during the 1930s in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, donated by Harry Brooks, show Chums of the “Cardiff Group” of The Old Contemptibles of Wales displaying their Branch Standard outside their headquarters, the Old Contemptibles of Wales Club and Institute at 22-24 Churchill Way. The Standard is of a different design to the official Old Contemptibles’ Association version, and consists of a dark blue sheet with gold embroidery and a Union Flag in the upper left canton. The finial is of the “spear” type.[108] Another Standard of a different style was carried by Victoria (British Columbia) Branch, together with a Union Flag as a Queen’s Colour, and featured prominently in a photograph of the Chums taken during a visit to Nanaimo in July 1969.[109]

When Branch Standards were laid up, the ceremonial also imitated that used by the British Army on such occasions. The Standard of the Peterborough Branch was laid up at a service held at The Church of St Kyneburgha at Castor on 9 July 1967, attended by The Duchess of Gloucester. Permission for the Standard to be laid up there had been sought by the Honorary Secretary, Chum Wellington “Middy” Middleton, and together with the Book of Remembrance which contains 273 names of Chums who belonged to the Peterborough Branch, the Standard is still cared for inside the church.[110] The fate of other Branch Standards have been less fortunate, and some examples are highlighted in the following list:

Slough Branch Standard

The Standard of Slough Branch laid up in St George’s Memorial Church at Ieper (Ypres) (Authors’ Collection)

Acton Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and its present whereabouts are unknown although a photograph, taken in 2013, showed the Standard to be in private hands.[111]

Birmingham Branch:  Laid up in St Philip’s Cathedral.

Bishop’s Stortford Branch: Originally laid up in St Matthew’s Church. Removed for restoration and preservation in 2006. Loaned to Bishop’s Stortford Museum in September 2017.[112]

Blackpool Branch: Laid up in the Church of St John the Evangelist on 9 July 1972.

Bournemouth Branch: Laid up in the Parish Church of St Peter.

Braintree Branch: Originally laid up in St Peter’s Church at Bocking. Later moved to St Matthew’s Church in Braintree.

Brighton and Hove Branch: Laid up in St Peter’s Church in Brighton on 12 November 1972.

Queensland (Australia) Branch: Laid up at St John’s Cathedral on 23 August 1942.[113]

Bristol Branch: Sold at auction on 17 February 2009 for £90. In private hands, current location unknown.

Camden Town Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and its present whereabouts are unknown, although a photograph taken in 2018 showed the Standard to be in private hands and possibly being offered for sale.

Caterham Branch: Laid up in St Luke’s Church at Whyteleafe. Permission was given to parade the Standard on 4 August 2014.[114]

Chelsea Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and its present whereabouts are unknown.

Chester Branch: In the custodianship of the Cheshire Military Museum at The Castle in Chester.

Chesterfield Branch: Laid up in Christ Church at Stonegravels.

Chippenham Branch: Laid up in St Paul’s Church.

Cirencester Branch: Laid up in St John the Baptish Parish Church.

Clacton-on-Sea Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and its present whereabouts are unknown.

Colchester Branch: Laid up in the Garrison Church.

Coventry Branch:  The first Branch Standard was destroyed during the air raid on Coventry that took place on 14-15 November 1940. The second Branch Standard was laid up in St George’s Church at Coundon on 26 November 1972.[115]

Croydon Branch:  Laid up in St John the Baptist Church.

Dorchester Branch: Placed in Holy Trinity Church for “safe keeping” on 17 December 1939.[116]

Dublin Central Branch: In the custodianship of the Dublin Central Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Durham City Branch: Originally laid up at Durham Cathedral on 29 April 1951. Now on display at Durham Museum.

Edmonton Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and was gifted to the In Flanders Fields Museum at Ieper (Ypres) in October 2008.[117]

Epsom and Ewell Branch: Laid up in St Mary’s Church at Ewell in 1973.[118]

Gloucester Branch: Laid up at Christ Church in Brunswick Square in 1974.[119]

Godalming Branch: Laid up in the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul in 1966.

Gosport and Fareham Branch: Laid up in the Royal Garrison Church at Portsmouth.

Guernsey Branch:  Laid up in the Town Church at St Peter Port.

Hastings Branch: Laid up at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery on 4 August 1971.

Hendon Branch: Laid up in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 July 1974. Removed from the Crypt when it was converted into a coffee bar and deposited in the church archives. The standard was later disposed of and was gifted to the In Flanders Fields Museum at Ieper (Ypres) in October 2008.[120]

Hertford Branch: Laid up in Holy Trinity Church at Bengeo.

Ipswich Branch: Laid up in St Matthew’s Church. Displayed at Ipswich Town Hall in August 2014 for the Ipswich Centenary Exhibition.

Keighley Branch: Laid up c.1968  in Keighley Shared Church (of St Andrew and Temple Street Methodist) in a glass frame. Restored by the “Men of Worth” Project and paraded in 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. Held in safe keeping at Keighley Civic Centre.[121]

Leamington & Warwick Branch: Laid up in All Saints’ Church at Leamington Spa on 9 November 1969.

Manchester & Salford Branch: Held by the Imperial War Museum (FLA 2342).

Marlborough Branch: Laid up in St Peter’s Church.

Melbourne (Australia) Branch: Laid up in the Scots’ Church at Port Philip on 16 July 1978.

Newport Branch: Laid up in St John the Evangelist Church, Maindee.

Nottingham Branch: Laid up in St Mary’s Church, High Pavement.

City of Oxford Branch: Laid up in St Giles’ Church.

Perth (Australia) Branch: Presented to the City of Perth on 26 February 1937. The Standard was placed in the Lord Mayors’ Parlour.[122]

Peterborough Branch: Laid up in the Church of St Kyneburgha at Castor on 9 July 1967.

Portsmouth Branch: Laid up in the Royal Garrison Church at Portsmouth.

City of Old Sarum Branch:[123]Laid up in the Church of St Mary’s at Braemore on 6 October 1974.

Sidcup Branch:  Laid up in the War Memorial Chapel at St John the Evangelist Church.

Scunthorpe Branch: Originally laid up in the Church of St John the Evangelist. Removed when church became redundant in 1984 and placed in the care of North Lincolnshire Council. Later transferred on permanent loan to the Scunthorpe Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Slough Branch: Laid up in St George’s Memorial Church at Ieper (Ypres).

St Alban’s Branch: Laid up in St Paul’s Church.

Staines (Magna Charta) Branch: Laid up in St Mary’s Church at Staines.

Stockport Branch: In the custodianship of the Cheshire Military Museum at The Castle in Chester.

Thurrock (Grays) Branch: Laid up in the Chapel of St Mary at the Royal Star and Garter Home on Richmond Hill.

Tonbridge Branch: Laid up in St Peter and St Paul Church.

Walthamstow Branch: Laid up at the Vestry House Museum.

Wellington (N.Z.) Branch: Originally laid up in St Mark’s Church at Basin Reserve. Later donated by the church to the National Army Museum at Waiouru.

Wimbledon & District Branch: Laid up in Christ Church at West Wimbledon.

Old Contemptibles’ Association of Northern Ireland:

Ballymena Section: Laid up at Ballymena Services Club at 52 Trostan Avenue.

Belfast Section: Laid up at Belfast City Hall in 1957.

Cenotaph Flags

Several Branches of The Old Contemptibles’ Association made successful applications to the Imperial War Museum to be granted flags that had been flown from the Cenotaph at Whitehall on Armistice Day, and are quite separate to the Branch Standards. Records of the correspondence are still held by the Imperial War Museum. IWM EN1/1/FLA/006 contains the records relating to the transfer of flags to the Duchy of Cornwall Branch, Romford Branch, West Ham Branch and Woolwich Branch[124] in 1928, and EN1/1/FLA/007 contains correspondence relating to the application by the Portsmouth and District Branch. The flag received by the Portsmouth Branch was subsequently placed over the main entrance door of the Royal Garrison Church on 12 February 1930, and a brass plaque was later placed there to commemorate the occasion. File IWM EN1/1/FLA/015 relating to the distribution of flags from the Cenotaph to the following branches:

  • Aldgate Branch
  • Barking Branch
  • Downham & District Branch
  • Folkestone & District Branch
  • Gravesend & District Branch
  • Liverpool Branch
  • Sheppey Branch
  • South-West London Branch
  • West London Branch

The flag that was awarded to the Barking Branch was handed over into the care of St Margaret’s Church for safe-keeping on 26 February 1933.[125] Further correspondence can be found in file EN2/1/FLA/009. The application made by the Derby Branch was accepted in January 1941, and the flag was used by the Chums on 24 August during their annual Service at St Augustine’s Church.[126] Further flags were issued in January 1946, including one to the Colchester Branch.[127] The Nottingham Branch also received a Union Flag, the award being reported by The Nottingham Evening Post on 17 January 1946:

Cenotaph Flag For Nottm. Old Soldiers

“A signal honour is coming the way of the Nottingham branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association this year. One of the flags from the Cenotaph in Whitehall has been allocated to it, and a special parade will be held to receive it.

This was revealed at the annual meeting of the branch, held at the Spread Eagle Hotel, Goldsmith-street, Nottingham, last night, when the attendance of 80 was the best for a long period.

The reserve fund of the association is now in the region of £900. Membership is 230.”

The Union Flag was dedicated at St Mary’s Church on 26 May during the Branch’s annual service at there, in memory of their comrades who had died during the Great War, and laid up on the south aisle of the Church. A plaque was subsequently affixed to the wall beneath the flag.[128]

Another flag was placed in the care of the Chesterfield Branch in 1946, and a brass plaque was later fixed beneath it inside Christ Church at Stonegravels, in whose care it had been placed:



To the Glory of God,

and the Imperishable Memory of

The Fallen of the Wars (1914-1918)(1939-1945)

This Flag Flew from the Empire Shrine

in Whitehall, London, and was given to

The Old Contemptibles Association by

The Director General of the Imperial

War Museum. It was Allocated to the

Chesterfield Branch, Who handed it

Into the Safe Keeping of This Church,

This Day of Our Lord

Sunday the 24th of March 1946


The original flag is no longer in position and its current whereabouts are unknown. However the Standard of the Chesterfield Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association rests close by.[129]

The flag given to the Isle of Wight Branch in 1947 was placed into the care of St Nicholas-in-Castro Chapel at Carisbrooke Castle and laid up at a ceremony held on 29 June 1947.

Association Badges

Old Contemptibles Association Badge

Association Badges are a fairly common sight at car boot sales, internet auction sites and there are probably several thousand that reside in museum and private collections, as well as in the possession of the families of Chums. Manufactured for the Association by Toye & Co. Ltd., the design consists of a voided crossed swords, enclosed in a circlet bearing the legend OLD CONTEMPTIBLES’ ASSOCIATION, with two central scroll on which is superscribed “1914” and “AUG. 5 TO NOV. 22”, the qualification dates for the clasp to the 1914 Star issued to those eligible to receive it. On the reverse of the badge is stamped a unique number, which corresponded to that issued to a Chum on his official acceptance into the Association. The Badge remained the property of the Association, and in 1937 cost 1/-, the Chum signing a declaration to hand in his badge should he resign or be dismissed from a Branch. A frequent question regarding the numbers stamped on the reverse of the badge is if a central Headquarters Roll still exists for the Association, so that the identity of the Chum to which it had been issued can be ascertained. Sadly, no such roll is extant, and was probably lost or destroyed many years ago on the disbandment of the National Executive in 1976. However, due to the survival of the application forms for the Keighley and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Branch, and a few individual examples held in private collections, some are known. During the early days of the Association the London Area also published nominal rolls of Chums that included their badge numbers. However, these sources only represent a fraction of the total number of badges issued.

Another number that appears on the rear of the Association Badge can usually be found on the crescent-style clip used to fix it through the buttonhole of the wearer’s jacket. This number, 726374, relates to the Registration Number of the insignia of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

In spite of the strict ruling regarding the return of Association Badges on a Chum resigning or leaving a Branch, these emblems were open to abuse. In a letter to the Editor of The Derby Daily Telegraph published on 5 November 1937, Chum King of the Derby Branch made it very clear to the readers of the importance of the Badges within the Association, and the contract into which the Chums had entered when they were issued with them:

“Sir, My attention has been drawn to a recent report in your paper of police court proceedings in which the accused pleaded for leniency on the grounds of being an Old Contemptible.

Now, while this statement may be correct and the person concerned may have been wearing our association badge, my committee desire me to make it quite plain that this person is no longer a member, having forfeited all rights some years ago.

Unfortunately, there are at the present time a considerable number of past members walking the streets wearing our badge who are strictly not entitled to do so.

Some obviously joined to gain possession of the badge and flaunt it in the eyes of the public, giving everyone the impression that they won the war. Others, quite genuine good fellows, have fallen behind with subscriptions or stay away through apathy.

To those in the latter category we offer an invitation to rejoin on the payment of a purely nominal sum, to cover H.Q.’s subscriptions.

To the others we give timely warning that legal steps will be taken in the near future to enforce the return of the badge, which is strictly association property, and only on loan to the wearer.

The fee paid will be returned on the production of the badge.

If any of the general public are approached by individuals wearing the badge, claiming to belong to our association, and are in doubt as to their bona-fides, they are earnestly requested to communicate with the undersigned, and so help us to protect the good name of the Old Contemptibles’ Association. – Yours, etc.,


Hon. secretary Derby Branch

Old Contemptibles’ Association.”

The importance of the Badge was further emphasised by the frequent appeals on behalf of Chums who had lost theirs, or Badges that had been found following parades or social functions:

Derby Daily Telegraph – 27 January 1931:

“Mr F. S. Cooper, hon. secretary of Derby branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association, informs the “Derby Telegraph” that badges 973A and 689 have been lost. He asks the finders to return them to his home “The Briars,” Cowsley-road, Derby, or the Wilmot Arms.”

“The Old Contemptible” – No. 30, June 1936:

“BADGE No. 8559. At the Drill Hall, Handel Street, W.C.2. On the 15th March upon the occasion of the London Area Parade. Will the finder please return to Chum C. A. Knight, Hon. Sec., Southall Branch, 28, Warwick Road, Southall.”

“The Old Contemptible” – No. 46, October 1937:

BADGE FOUND. Badge No. 7703 was found in a taxicab in Ypres, and was handed to Chum Carter of Newcastle, on a recent visit. Will the Chum to whom this was issued kindly apply to me.[130] (Or the Branch Secretary to whom issued).

“The Old Contemptible” – No. 258, July 1955:

“The undernoted Badges have been lost by Chums. Finders should return them to the General Secretary (Rule 75(e)). 1657-C; 4474-C; 1396-D; 1627-E; 1884-E.”

Branch Patrons were issued with their own Badge, which unlike the Association Badge had was unvoided, and consisted of a circlet bearing the legend OLD CONTEMPTIBLES’ ASSOCIATION in gold, enamelled in dark blue, over a scroll superscribed PATRON, the enamelling of which was sky blue. In the centre of the Patrons’ Badge was a white heraldic rose. The Old Contemptibles’ Association of Northern Ireland had their own design of badge, a gold cross pattée with blue enamel and a central circle in green. Honorary Branch Chaplains who were not Old Contemptibles also had their own badge.

Other variations have been noted by the author of badges issued to Officers of The Northern Ireland Association, an enamelled, and probably unofficial, badge to the Great Western Railway Branch of the Association, and a stylised version of the 1914 Star attributed to “The Old Contemptibles’ Wives’ Social Club.”

Old Contemptibles’ Association Membership Certificates and Insignia


Chums could also purchase Membership Certificates from the Association, the design having been executed by Chum W. C. Phillips of the Brighton Branch, as well as two versions of blazer badge. The cheaper woven version was available to Chums via their Branches and in 1937 cost 1/6d each. A more expensive badge, in gold wire and blue appliqué, was priced at 40/- in 1955. The Executive Committee turned down a suggestion for an Association tie-pin made in September 1929, and a design for a gold badge was also rejected. However, the design for an Association tie submitted by the Portsmouth Branch was approved, the right of sale being vested in the Executive Committee.[131] The tie, which comprised a stripe in the colours of the medal ribbon for the 1914 Star on a black ground, could be purchased for 2/3d. in 1937, with bulk orders of no less than One Dozen being priced at 26/-. In his notes for The Old Contemptible No. 43 of July 1937 Chum Thomas Quick, the Honorary General Secretary of the Association, announced that car pennants were available for purchase provided that these were ordered via Branches. The pennant, on blue material with a woven badge, was priced at 3/6d.

Old Contemptibles’ Association Memorial Plaques (Grave Markers)

Cast in bronze, memorial plaques to Chums of the Association are frequently noted placed on their graves in cemeteries across the country. These could be purchased from the Honorary General Secretary of the Association,[132] and were stamped with the name, regiment and service number and Branch to which the deceased had been a member. On occasion these plaques were the only means by which the place of burial could be marked as they provided a cheaper alternative to a headstone. In 1937 the cost of these memorial plaques was 10/-.

Unfortunately many plaques have been removed or stolen from graves over the years and have been sold to collectors. One recent example, offered for sale in 2018, was that for Chum Private George Janes, who was a member of the Harrow and Wembley Branch and died in 1949, aged 64.

Born on 6 December 1884 at Roxeth in Middlesex, George Janes had attested for the Dragoons of the Line in 1907, being issued with the service number D/291, and served in India and South Africa with the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. At the declaration of war he was stationed with the Royals at Potchefstroom. Private Janes returned to England with the regiment, arriving at Southampton on 19 September 1914, and disembarked at Ostend on 8 October. He served with the Royals in France and Flanders through the entire course of the war and was discharged on the termination of his period of engagement on 22 May 1919. On leaving the Royals, George worked as a master boot and shoe repairer and was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 30 November 1938, by which time he and his wife and daughters were living at 14 Crown Street in Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Memorials to The Old Contemptibles Association

Captain John Patrick Danny – The Founder of the Association

 Captain Danny Old Contemptibles Association

Captain Danny, who died at his home at 68 Gunton Road in Clapton on 20 May 1928, was buried with full military honours at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington on 25 May.[133] On 29 August 1929, the Executive Committee received a request from the Hackney Branch to subscribe to a suitable headstone to be placed over his grave.[134] Two years later, Chums from the London Area paraded around the grave of their founder as General Sir George F. Milne, the President, unveiled the headstone that bore the badge of the Association which he had founded. Trumpeters of the Royal Artillery from Woolwich sounded the “Last Post” and “Revielle,” and following the ceremony the Chums marched past their President, led by the Band of the 10th Battalion, The London Regiment (Hackney) (T.A.). A newsreel item on the ceremony was also filmed by Pathe Gazette. For many years the Chums continued to make a pilgrimage to the graveside of Captain Danny, usually on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of his death.[135] Chum Thomas “Ted” Legg, of the Hackney Branch, continued to tend Captain Danny’s grave until the late 1960s.[136] Ninety years after his death, the grave of Captain Danny is overgrown, neglected and largely overlooked by all but a few people who have heard of him.

Captain Danny Grave

The Grave of Captain John Patrick Danny, a photograph taken by Sheldon K. Goodman in November 2017 (Courtesy of Sheldon K. Goodman)

On 29 August 1948 Lieutenant-General Sir James Ronald Edmonstone Charles K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., President of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, unveiled a plaque fixed to the wall of the Hackney United Services Club at 69 Powerscroft Road, commemorating the formation of the Association. It reads:


The ceremony was also filmed by British Movietone, as part of a newsreel reporting on the events organised in London for Mons Week. Again, the memorial at Powerscroft Road has experienced neglect and was, until recently, covered in graffiti. However, recent photographs show that the Red House has been renovated and the memorial cleaned.


Chums of the Founder (Hackney) Branch outside the Hackney United Services Club “The Red House” on 23 May 1964 (Authors’ Collection).

The Old Contemptibles’ Association Memorial at St Martin-in-the-Field

The Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square in London held a particularly important position in the early history of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, and for several years the Chums held special services there following their annual parades on Horse Guards and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Cenotaph at Whitehall. The services were also broadcast live by the B.B.C. during the 1930s.

On 30 May 1954 a memorial, subscribed to by the Chums of the Association, was unveiled in the Crypt by Field Marshal Lord Ironside G.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. The ceremony was extensively reported on in the press the following day:

“A special service was held in the main body of the church and during the singing of the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, the unveiling party went to the crypt, where “Old Contemptibles,” holding standards, lined each side of the black marble arch that forms the memorial. The standards were lowered as the Field-Marshal left fall the Union Flag.”[137]


The Memorial in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields (Authors’ Collection).

The memorial itself consisted of an arch constructed from black marble, with the legend “Mons to Ypres, 1914” emblazoned in gold. Wrought iron gates were erected led through the arch into the memorial arch and two panels, one on each pillar, commemorated the soldiers, seamen, Royal Marines and members of the Royal Flying Corps who died during the fighting between August and November 1914.[138]

On Sunday 14 July 1974, the Crypt was again the setting for another important ceremony, when the London Area of the Association entrusted six Branch Standards into the care of the Church. The Branch Standards that were laid up at the church were those for Acton, Camden Town, Chelsea, Clacton, Edmonton and Hendon.

Sadly, this memorial no longer exists, as it was removed during renovation work carried out during the 1980s when the Crypt was converted into a coffee bar and the arch was subsequently destroyed. The six Branch Standards, after being held in the Church Archive for a period, were also dispersed. Of these, four are known to survive but the exact location of all but two of them is unknown.

The Royal Garrison Church of All Saints at Aldershot

Aldershot can be said to be the spiritual home of the Chums, who held their annual Church Parades at the Royal Garrison Church for many years during August up until 1974. As well as reminders of the Chums of the Aldershot Branch, the Church also contains the Memorial Windows that were presented by members of The Old Contemptibles’ Association and unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Ironside G.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. on 28 June 1959. Another memorial to a Chum, that in memory of Major-General Sir Eric Bertram Rowcroft, K.B.E., C.B., was dedicated on 23 August 1964 during the Golden Jubilee Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.


The cover of the Order of Service for the Golden Jubilee Aldershot Parade, held on “Mons Day” – 23 August 1964 (Authors’ Collection).

The road leading up to the Church was officially titled “Old Contemptibles’ Avenue” and declared open by Major-General R. A. Bramwell Davis C.B., D.S.O., the then-General Officer Commanding Aldershot District, at a ceremony held on 24 August 1958. An information board commemorating the event is in situ.

A notable figure in connection with the organisation of the annual Church Parade at the Royal Garrison Church was Chum William Nassau “Paddy” Smyth M.B.E., who was the Honorary Secretary of the Aldershot Branch. Born in Ireland on 18 October 1890 (some records state 30 October), Paddy Smythe was a former Coldstreamer and had enlisted for the regiment in January 1907. After serving for three years with the Colours, Smythe was transferred to the Reserve and joined the Metropolitan Police. He married Katie Sixsmith at St Philip’s Church in Clerkenwell on 18 July 1914, by which time he was serving as a Detective with the force.

As 7105 Private W. Smythe, Paddy was mobilised following the declaration of war and landed in France with the 3rd Battalion on 13 August 1914. He was sent his 1914 Star by post on 1 February 1919 and was issued with the clasp and roses for the medal on 25 April 1921. By 1939, Paddy was working as a factory storekeeper in Aldershot, residing at the Miss Daniels Soldiers’ Home on Barrack Road.

For his devoted work on behalf of his fellow Chums, Paddy was appointed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the New Years’ Honours of 1965, the award being announced in The London Gazette on 1 January. Paddy married Audrey Luck at Aldershot in 1966 and in his retirement was a familiar figure in the town, working as a “lollipop man” helping local schoolchildren to cross the road.

In 1969, Chum Smythe wrote to his fellow Chums explaining the arrangements for the 1970 parade at Aldershot:

“Well, Chums, the National Parade for 1969 is now past history and by the volume of letters which I have received everyone seems to have enjoyed the whole day, that is as it should be. Thanks, Chums, for making the day such a success.

Now, Chums, our parade in 1970 will D.V. be held on Sunday, August 2nd: why it has been brought forward is several branches and Chums wrote to say they were being penalised from attending the parade as they would be away on the dates we selected, they all want to attend the parade, so now, Chums, you have had your wish granted.

At the moment several branches have booked in to attend the 1970 parade, this is your chance now. No branch will be put on the list unless they send me a letter to say they will be attending, a few branches were at the bottom of the list this year, they had only themselves to blame for not sending a letter to say they were attending.

It is far too early to get out details, but it will follow on the same lines as this year.

That is all for now, Chums – keep well and God bless. Your old Chum and friend.


Chum Paddy Smythe M.B.E. died on 18 January 1974.

 The Old Contemptibles’ Association held their last national parade at the Garrison Church of All Saints in Aldershot on Sunday 4 August 1974, sixty years after the outbreak of the Great War. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who attended the service, later wrote to the each of the “Chums”:

“I was very pleased when your late President, Brigadier Roupell, invited me to join in your Diamond Jubilee Service, and I am glad to have been able to talk to so many of you.

It is fitting that the last National Service of the Old Contemptibles Association should be held in Aldershot, in the Royal Garrison Church. This was the peacetime home of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions who mobilized her in August 1914, and who, as part of that Contemptible Little Army which you so proudly took your name, earned their place in history in the great battles that began on 23rd August 1914 on the line of the Mons Canal, and in the months that followed.

Today’s moving Service will have brought back memories of that time 60 years ago when you stood together with your comrades and for three months held the enemy against overwhelming odds. It was a feat of arms unparalleled in our history. This was indeed your finest hour.

I am happy to have this opportunity as your Sovereign to thank you personally, on behalf of myself and our country, not only for what you did on the field of battle to keep us free and independent, but also for the example you set in courage, fortitude and comradeship.

We shall always remember those who lost their lives and those who were disabled. We should also remember that the qualities displayed by the Old Contemptibles have inspired many other afterwards – in the 1914-1918 war, in the last war, and for over half a century. These qualities have never been more needed than they are today, and although this is your last National Service, I can assure you that the courage and self-sacrifice of you and all your Chums will never be forgotten.”[140]

The Old Contemptibles’ Memorial at Westminster Abbey

The memorial to The Old Contemptibles located in the West Cloister of Westminster Abbey was paid for by subscriptions from members of the public and was designed by Donald Buttress. The plaque is fabricated from Stamford limestone and blue Welsh slate, with the lettering in gold. The memorial was dedicated on 15 July 1993 in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and six of the last surviving Chums of the London and South-East Area of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. The unveiling of the memorial was performed by Chum Basil Farrer, Vice-Chairman, assisted by his great-grandchildren Daniel and Luke Taylor.

Old Contemptibles Memorial Westminster Abbey 1993

The Memorial to The Old Contemptibles at Westminster Abbey, taken on 15 July 1993 (Authors’ Collection).

The Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond

A memorial board recording Old Contemptibles who were in-patients at the Royal Star and Garter Home on Richmond Hill is located inside the Chapel of St Mary on the lower ground floor.

Branch Memorials and Rolls of Honour

Birmingham Old Contemptibles Memorial

The Memorial Tablet to the Birmingham Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association inside St Martin’s-in-the-Bull Ring (Courtesy of Matt Felkin).

Many of the Branches of The Old Contemptibles’ Association wished to commemorate not only their comrades who had fallen during the Great War but also their fellow Chums who had died in the years that followed. Numerous memorials and Branch Rolls of Honour were erected over the years but what happened to many of them is unknown. It is certain that some are now lost forever, having been destroyed when the Churches in which they were placed were deconsecrated or the public houses and clubs that they used as their Branch Headquarters were renovated or demolished.

It was clear to some of the Chums that, after they had gone, the memories of their Association would fade quickly. In 1975, the last remaining members of the Coventry Branch made provision to have a wreath placed at their Roll of Honour located inside the Chamber of Silence inside the city’s War Memorial. Each Chum paid £3 towards the cost of the wreath, and as Chum Dick Orrill noted:

“If we didn’t arrange things like this in advance we might fade away with no-one capable of winding us up properly.”[141]

Another Chum added:

“It’s a fine state to be in. Those other b——s had theirs for free, and we’ve got to buy our own.”[142]

The following list of Branch Memorials and Rolls of Honour is fragmentary, but at least illustrates the different means by which the Chums wished to commemorate their deceased comrades:

Aldershot Branch: Memorial Tablet inside the Royal Garrison Church of All Saints.

Birmingham Branch: Memorial Tablet inside St Martin’s-in-the-Bull Ring.

Birmingham Branch: Branch Roll of Honour Board in the custodianship of Birmingham City Council and in storage at the Council House.

Birmingham Branch: Framed Roll of Honour Scroll previously held at The Albion Hotel/The Old Contemptibles Public House on Edmund Street. Last noted in the custodianship of the Birmingham County Headquarters of the Royal British Legion in 2010.[143]

Bishop’s Stortford: Marble Memorial Tablet inside St Michael’s Church.

Bournemouth Branch: Wooden Memorial Plaque inside St Peter’s Church.

Coventry Branch: Memorial Plaque at the Royal Warwicks Club on Priory Street (1956).[144]

Coventry Branch: Wooden Roll of Honour Board inside the Chamber of Silence of the Coventry War Memorial at the War Memorial Park.

Croydon Branch:  Memorial Plaque inside Croydon Minster.

Dover Branch: Memorial Plaque at Maison Dieu Hall (1971).[145]

Dover Branch: Memorial Bench located in Granville Gardens on Marine Parade.

Edinburgh Branch: Roll of Honour unveiled at 14 Brunswick Place on 12 December 1932.[146]

Edinburgh Branch: Memorial Bench dedicated to the Chums of the Branch in Crown Square at Edinburgh Castle.

Gloucester Branch: Roll of Honour at Christ Church in Brunswick Square.

Gloucester Branch: Branch Memorial dedicated at Christ Church in Brunswick Square on 14 April 1977.

Guernsey Branch: Memorial Window in the Town Church at St Peter Port.

Isle of Wight Branch: Memorial Board in the custodianship of Calbourne Mill Military Museum.

Isle of Wight Branch: Wooden Roll of Honour Board in the Newport and Carisbrooke Royal British Legion Club on Pyle Street in Newport.

Jersey Branch: Memorial Plaque inside St Andrew’s Church, Mont Cochon in St Helier.

Leeds & District Branch: Memorial Plaque inside Leeds Minster (Church of St Peter), Kirkgate.

Leeds & District Branch: Framed Roll of Honour held at Leeds Ex-Serviceman’s Club on Mill Street.

Leyton, Walthamstow & Chingford Branches: Triptych Memorial Board at the Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow.

Manchester & Salford Branch: Triptych Memorial Board at the Museum of The Manchester Regiment in Ashton-under-Lyme.

Melbourne (Australia) Branch: Brass Memorial Plaque unveiled at Cairns Memorial Church in East Melbourne on 7 March 1948.[147] The church was later destroyed by fire and the plaque was relocated to Maldon Athenaeum Library Hall.

City of Oxford Branch: Large version of The Old Contemptibles’ Association badge on display in Oxford Town Hall, presented by the Branch to the City of Oxford in 1964 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.

City of Oxford Branch: Memorial at St Michael-at-the-North Gate Church.

Peterborough Branch: Book of Remembrance inside the Church of St Kyneburgha at Castor.

Portsmouth Branch: Memorial Plaque inside St Mary’s Church at Fratton.

Portsmouth Branch: Branch Roll of Honour (1929-1976) held by Portsmouth History Centre (X/942A/1/14).

Plymouth Branch: Book of Remembrance located at St Andrew’s Church on Royal Parade.

Ramsgate Branch: Brass Memorial Plaque inside St George the Martyr Church. Presented on 7 November 1954.

Rhondda Branch: Stone Memorial Tablet inside St Andrew’s Church at Tonypandy. Unveiled on 23 August 1954.

Romford Branch: Stone Memorial Tablet inside St Edward the Confessor Church.

Sidcup Branch: Memorial Tablet inside the War Memorial Chapel at St John the Evangelist Church. Unveiled on 8 April 1951.

Slough Branch: Book of Remembrance and Memorial Tablet inside St Mary’s Church.

Stockport Branch: Triptych Memorial Board at The Armoury on Greek Street.

Stoke-on-Trent Branch: Brass Memorial Plaque inside St Mark’s Church at Shelton.

Staines (Magna Charta) Branch: Triptych Memorial Board at St Mary’s Church.

Sunderland Branch: Branch Roll of Honour unveiled on 14 April 1935 at Norfolk House on Press Lane.[148]

West London Branch: Memorial Board at the Inverness Lodge Club, Boston Manor Road in Brentwood.

Wigan Branch: Wooden Memorial Board inside St Patrick’s Church at Hardbybutts.

Welfare and Benevolent Funds

In addition to the efforts made by individual Branches to provide material and financial assistance to Chums and their dependents, the Association set up its own central Distress Fund to assist members in financial difficulties, and also a Surgical Aid Fund to provide support for their medical needs. The schemes were supported by subscriptions given by the Chums and by donations from Branch Patrons, and applications for assistance had to be made via Branch Secretaries.

For many years Chums of the Association also subscribed to the Convalescent and Holiday Fund, which supported a ward of five beds at the Kitchener Memorial Home at Lowestoft. The ward was opened on 24 July 1937 by Lord Milne and had originally been endowed by the London Area of the Association for the use of its members. The principal donor was Lord Wakefield and as a consequence the beds were initially dedicated as “The Lord Wakefield Ward.” Available for eleven months of the year, the ward was later made available for Chums from other branches outside London. The facility enabled Chums who were in need to rest and recuperation to be able to travel to the coast without cost to themselves, have free board while at Lowestoft and, if required, be supported financially during their stay.

These benevolent schemes were also supplemented by donations from the public obtained by collections, such as the “Mons Week” appeals, and Chums continued to be supported by these fund into the 1970s.

Links to other organisations were fostered by The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Chums who were in-patients at the Royal Star and Garter Home at Richmond and The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home at Gifford House in Worthing were regularly included in local and national events held by the Association, such as the annual Church Parade at Aldershot, and participated in social functions organised by Branches.

One long-term resident at Gifford House, who was also a member of the Worthing Branch, was Chum Dennis Dwyer. Born on 24 June 1886, 6927 Private Dennis Dwyer had served with the 1st Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment. He had joined the Dorsets on 8 September 1903, and disembarked at Le Havre on 16 August 1914. Severely wounded during the fighting at Pont Fixe on the La Bassee Canal, Private Dwyer was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley on 19 October 1914. He was discharged as physically unfit for service, due to his wounds, on 18 May 1915 and was later issued with a Silver War Badge. He was sent the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 14 September 1921. Chum Dwyer died on 27 September 1953 and his comrades from the Worthing Branch paraded their Standard when he was buried in the Gifford House plot at Durrington Cemetery.[149]

Particularly close links were maintained with St Dunstaners at Ovingdean and Brighton, who formed their own sub-branch of the Brighton and Hove Branch. A pilgrimage to the battlefields that was made by the Chums of St Dunstan’s was reported by The Yorkshire Post on 10 August 1955:

“A party of St Dunstan’s Old Contemptibles will later this month be revisiting some of the battlefields which were the last places they saw before being blinded in action 41 years ago.

The trip has been organised by Sergeant Alan Nichols, of Portslade, a former Leeds ex-Serviceman and the first blind and handless soldier to enter St Dunstan’s. He is chairman of the Chums, the name used by the group. A party of 28, with wives and friends acting as escorts, will included Mr M. Goundrill, of Keyingham, near Hull, one of the few blind survivors of the Battle of Mons.

They will leave the St Dunstan’s Centre, at Ovingdean, Sussex, on August 21, and sail from Dover to Dunkirk, going on to Ypres and the Menin Gate. The next day they will visit Mons and Brussels, where wreaths will be laid, and on the third day they will tour battlefields in the St Quentin area. Their visit will end with a day in Paris.

Sergeant Nichols, who claims to have built the first air raid shelter in this country at his Hampstead home early in 1938, was later invited to Leeds to erect a specimen shelter alongside the Civic Hall.”

Born at Leeds on 14 February 1889, 9891 Private Alan Mitchel Nichols joined The Durham Light Infantry on 19 February 1904 and in 1914 went out to France with the 2nd Battalion, disembarking at St Nazaire on 9 September. He received two bullet wounds to his legs while fighting on the Aisne and was admitted to 1st Western General Hospital at Fazakerley on 1 October. He was drafted back to the 2nd D.L.I. the following year and was again wounded, this time when a consignment of bombs exploded prematurely.

Appointed an Acting Serjeant and posted to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion at South Shields, Nichols was employed as a bombing instructor. In September 1916, while demonstrating how to destroy a barricade with an explosive charge he suffered catastrophic injuries when it exploded due to an incorrect fuse being fitted. Serjeant Nichols lost both hands and the lower part of his arms, his sight, and was reported to have around 500 other wounds caused by fragments of the charge and the barricade entering his body. He also lost a lung, had the hearing in one ear destroyed and had to have two of his ribs removed. As a consequence of his severe injuries, Nichols was discharged on 19 July 1917 and was issued with a Silver War Badge. Up to 1939, he had been operated on nineteen times in hospital.

Following his discharge, Alan was admitted to St Dunstan’s at Regent’s Park in London to learn how to adapt to living without his sight or hands. He was trained as a typist and was fitted with aluminium hands, with articulated fingers, and successfully passed his examinations. He later moved to the West Country, living at Fowey in Cornwall, and became the representative for St Dunstan’s covering Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, and then to Portslade, near Brighton. Nichols published a book of his experiences, “Sons of Victory: 1914-1918”, in 1950, and was a member of the Brighton and Hove Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

St Dunstaner and Chum Alan Nichols died in Southlands Hospital at Shoreham-by-Sea on 14 May 1959.

The other St Dunstaner and Chum mentioned in the article was 2688 Private Mark Ernest Goundrill, who served with the 1st Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914.

Born on 11 December 1887, Mark Goundrill was employed as a joiner and wheelwright when he attested at Beverley on 6 January 1909. He served with the 1st Battalion at home and in India, being posted to the Pioneer Section on 2 October 1911, and was stationed at Cambridge Barracks in Portsmouth when war was declared. Private Goundrill disembarked at Le Havre on 14 August 1914 and was in action at Jemappes nine days later. He was appointed Lance-Corporal on 5 October 1915, and in 1917 went home on leave, marrying Ella Maud Abel at St Augustine of Hippo Church in Newland on 26 June 1917.

Returning to the 1st Battalion, Lance-Corporal Goundrill was severely wounded on 22 August 1917 when a shell exploded close to him, and suffered injuries to his head, left arm and left leg. His left eye was removed while he was being treated in No. 1 General Hospital at Etretat, and he was evacuated to England on 20 September and admitted to 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester, remaining there until 18 May 1918. Posted onto the strength of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion at East Bouldon on 28 May, Lance-Corporal Goundrill was discharged as physically unfit for service on 12 September and was later issued with a Silver War Badge.

Mark Goundrill was sent his 1914 Star by post on 17 June 1919 and was not issued with the clasp and roses for the medal until 8 October 1955, after he had returned from his pilgrimage. He is recorded in the 1939 Register as being totally blind, residing with his wife Ella and their son Owen, who was born on 26 March 1921, at ‘High Field’ on Church Lane in Keyingham. Mark was elected as President of the Keyingham Branch of the British Legion in 1959, and served in the role for several years.

Chum and St Dunstaner Mark Goundrill died at his home on Church Lane in Keyingham on 13 July 1976.

Another St Dunstaner was Chum William Foxon, who was a member of the Leicester Branch. Born in 1878 at Leicester, 5013 Lance-Corporal William Henry Foxon had attested for The Leicestershire Regiment on 16 July 1897 and served with the 1st Battalion in South Africa, later being issued with the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Talana, Defence of Ladysmith, Laing’s Nek and Belfast, as well as the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps for South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. Posted to India following the war, Private Foxon was still serving there, with the 2nd Leicesters at Ranikhet, on the outbreak of the Great War. He disembarked with the 2nd Battalion, which formed part of the Garhwal Brigade of the Meerut Division, at Marseilles on 12 October 1914.

Appointed a Lance-Corporal shortly after arriving in France, Foxon was severely wounded during the fighting around Festubert at the end of 1914. As a consequence of his injuries he lost his sight, and Foxon was discharged as physically unfit for service on 18 April 1915, being subsequently issued with a Silver War Badge. William married Ruth Edith Saunders at St Saviour’s Church in Hammersmith on 29 September and was admitted to St Dunstan’s at Regent’s Park in 1916, where he learned skills to enable him to earn a living in civilian life. He was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star in May 1935.

William Foxon died at St Dunstan’s West House Residental Home, on Portland Place in Brighton, on 12 January 1956, and an obituary was printed in The St Dunstan’s Review published that month:

“We record with deep regret the death of W. H. Foxon, a permanent resident at West House.

He originally enlisted in 1897 and was discharged in April, 1915, having been wounded at La Bassee. He came to St Dunstan’s in the following year and trained as a boot-repairer and mat-maker. He lost his wife in 1931. He had not been able to work for some years and he subsequently came to West House. He had been spending a few months with friends in Leicester, and had only just returned to West House, where he died on January 12th.”[150]

Another tribute was paid by Chum J. Noble, the Acting Honorary Secretary to the Leicester Branch:

“We in Leicester have followed with very deep interest the course of events in connection with our old friend and comrade, the late Chum Foxon.

We are much heartened by the many kindnesses and attention he received during his stay with you, and also by the splendid way in which his interment was carried out.

It is the very special wish of the Branch that I should convey to you and your staff our deep appreciation of the way our departed Chum was looked after by all of you during his last days, and thank you so very, very much for all you have done.

It is very nice to know that a friend of ours should be so happily found amongst such good friends as all of you in Brighton have proved yourselves to be.”[151]

Chum Foxon’s effects, valued at £460 12s. 3d., were left to the charity.

At least two Branches made provision to support their Chums by registering themselves as charities in their own right. The Leeds & District Branch was registered with the Charity Commission on 20 April 1964, and was not removed from its register until 10 November 1992, by which time it was recorded as having “ceased to exist.” Following the closure of the national Old Contemptibles’ Association, the Birmingham Branch registered itself with the Charity Commission on 29 November 1977. The purpose of their charitable status was:

“To relieve poverty, sickness and distress of Old Contemptibles resident in the Birmingham area, their widows and their dependants in need.”

The charity was also removed from the register on 2 December 1996 as it had “ceased to exist.”

“Old Contemptibles” Locomotive

Built in Glasgow by the North British Locomotive Company in 1927, the Royal Scot Class Locomotive 46127 of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway was christened “Old Contemptibles” in 1936. The naming ceremony was reported on by The Aberdeen Journal on 30 November 1936:


“Old Contemptibles” to the number of 250 gathered at Euston Station to see an L.M.S. locomotive christened “The Old Contemptible” on Saturday. The ceremony was performed by General Sir Felix Ready.

Lady Haig, who arrived unexpectedly on the platform, addressed the men, referring to them as “comrades of my husband.”

The locomotive was in service until 8 December 1962, when it was withdrawn and broken up at Crewe the following year. The badge of The Old Contemptibles’ Association which was fixed above the nameplate of the engine is on display at the National Railway Museum in York.

“The Old Contemptibles” Public House

On the corner of Edmund Street and Livery Street in the centre of Birmingham, across the road from Snow Hill Railway Station, there is one very visible reminder of the Chums of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. The nature of the continued commemoration of their name would have no doubt been approved by them. The pub, originally The Albion Hotel, was where the Birmingham Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association was raised in 1928, and thirty-five years later was renamed in their honour.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette of 7 February 1928 reported the formation of the Branch:


“A branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association has been inaugurated in Birmingham, with headquarters at the Albion Hotel, Livery-street.

The Association is open for membership from all ranks who served in France or Belgium from August to November, 1914, and who are in possession of the 1914 star and clasp.

The next meeting will take place at the branch headquarters on 21 March.

The secretary is H. Turner, The Post Office, Walford-road, Sparkhill.”

Apart from a short period following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Albion Hotel continued to serve as the Headquarters of the Birmingham Branch and in January 1953 this link was further enhanced when Mitchells & Butlers Ltd. decided to rename the pub in their honour. The ceremony, which took place on 31 January 1953, was reported in detail by the April/May 1953 edition of the company’s magazine – “The Deerstalker”:

“History was made on 31st January last when the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Alderman W. T. Bowen, performed a re-naming ceremony at “The Albion” Livery Street. As a compliment to the members of the Old Contemptibles’ Association who have been meeting here for the past 25 years, it was decided to rename the house “The Old Contemptible.”

A sign, designed by Bruce Bairnsfather, and depicting a typical British Tommy of the Kaiser’s War, was unveiled by the Lord Mayor to the strains of “‘Tipperary” heartily sung by the assembled company of old soldiers, whose lungs of brass, trained on the barrack square, proclaimed them to be very far from fading away. Mr Lawrence Mitchell, who presided, revealed that the change of name was the suggestion of Councillor E. H. Richardson, Secretary of the Old Contemptibles’ Association, and said that the Company was proud to institute a permanent memorial to a grand body of men.

The timing of the renaming ceremony was particularly appropriate, as it coincided with the Silver Jubilee of the foundation of the Association, and the house had been its headquarters during the whole of that period. Mr Lawrence said that so far as could be ascertained, this was the first house to be called “The Old Contemptible.”

After the unveiling of the sign, Mr. Bruce Bairnsfather gave an amusing account of the events that led up to the creation of “Old Bill” during his service in the front line trenches. His short breezy talk revealed that, had he not become a successful artist, he might well have topped the bill at “The Hippodrome.”

Not the least impressive part of the proceedings was the inspection by the Lord Mayor of a Guard of Honour provided by members of the Association. While spectators huddled together in the biting wind, the parade of old comrades, many without hats or coats, stood stiffly to attention, disdaining the whirling blizzard as unworthy of their notice. Five of our colleagues from Cape Hill, who were in the parade, Hoppy Walker, Charlie Matthews, Mickey Austin, Harry May and Tom Conniff were joined by an ex-servant of the Company, Billy Hart.

On the conclusion of the formal part of the proceedings, the members of the Association enjoyed a grand spread, and over a pint or two of good honest beer, were able to re-live many of the good old days way back in 1914. It was a memorable day for these grand old veterans, and enabled them to realise that their deeds of valour in the very early days of the First World War had earned enduring remembrance.”

The original sign painted by Captain Bairnsfather is in the safe-keeping of military historian Taff Gillingham, and it is anticipated that it will be eventually displayed at Brook Farm Camp at Hawstead, near Bury St Edmunds.

One particularly amusing snippet regarding the social activities of the Branch was recorded by The Birmingham Daily Post on 14 November 1968:


“Some members of the Birmingham branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association have complained in recent years that the food at their annual dinner was served cold. So last night the association made sure it was all cold – it held a cold buffet supper instead.

It was the first time since the branch was formed in 1927 (sic) that its function was an informal one. The social was held at the branch’s headquarters at the Old Contemptible Inn, Edmund Street. Mr David Lloyd, the Midland television personality, showed films of 1912 and onwards.”

In 2007 “The Old Contemptibles” was purchased by Nicholson’s Pubs and was significantly and sympathetically renovated. Of particular interest is the collection of photographs and artefacts relating to the Birmingham Branch and The Old Contemptibles that are displayed within the pub, which help to keep their memory green when other memorials have been lost or neglected.


Birmingham Branch Old Contemptibles Association.

“We weren’t heroes, mate. We just did what we were bloody well told.”

Chum Edwin Francis “Ted” Farley M.M.  Formerly 9777/2646627 Corporal E. F. Farley M.M., 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. Chairman of the Birmingham Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association in 1978.[152]

 As the commemorative events marking the centenary of the Great War draw to a close, there is an opportunity to perhaps build on the interest that has been generated by studying in more detail what happened to those who returned home. Quite naturally, the focus of many of the projects and official commemorations has been on those who died, and to carry out research on those named on countless war memorials is a comparatively straightforward task in comparison to finding out information on those who survived. Although this article has only scratched the surface, while much material regarding the activities of the Association has been lost, it is clear from the authors’ own research that a rich seam of sources still survives and more is yet to be uncovered.

Serious study of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, and its Chums, has the potential of providing valuable information on the nature of remembrance and commemoration, and the wish by some ex-servicemen to continue in some form the comradeship that existed in wartime. Evidence of how ex-servicemen bonded together by a common experience, or in the case of the Chums the distinction of being issued with the 1914 Star with “clasp and roses,” strived to help each other in times of unemployment or illness; organised social events for their families and continued to remember their comrades who died not only during the Great War but in the years that followed, is worthy of more attention and may provide a better and more rounded understanding of the experiences of  “those who had served under fire or who had operated within range of enemy mobile artillery in France or Belgium during the period between 5 August and 22 November 1914.”[153]


[1] The Guardian, 22 June 1978.

[2] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 14 October 1930.

[3] NA HO 144/6819.

[4] Yorkshire Post, 22 May 1928.

[5] The Scotsman, 6 April 1928 &

[6] Birmingham Daily Gazette, 10 February 1930.

[7] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 23 August 1935 & The Old Contemptible – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 43, July 1937, pp. 4-5.

[8] The Old Contemptibles’ Association Silver Jubilee Grand Re-Union Programme, p. 14.

[9] Burnley Express, 21 December 1938 & Middlesex Chronicle, 21 January 1939.

[10] Falkirk Herald, 8 August 1931 & Radio Times, 3 August 1930 and 2 August 1931.

[11] Radio Times, 15 April 1934, Western Morning News, 16 March 1936 & Essex Newsman, 21 May 1938.

[12] The Old Contemptible – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 30, July 1936, p. 1 & Dundee Courier, 15 July 1936.

[13] The Scotsman, 14 August 1939.

[14] Birmingham Daily Gazette, 1 August 1930.

[15] James Coyle died at Leeds in 1957.

[16] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 11 May 1935.

[17] Birmingham Daily Post, 20 April 1954. Attempts by the author of this article to establish if the photograph still exists at St Andrew’s received no response from the club.

[18] Born in 1882, 4754 Private Frederick Hatchwell attested for the Dragoons of the Line at London on 11 April 1900. At the time of his enlistment he was working as barman. He was posted to the 1st (Royal) Dragoons three days later and was drafted to South Africa on 7 December 1900. While on active service Hatchwell was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 11 April 1902, and later received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. He returned from South Africa with the regiment in October 1902 and continued to serve with the Royals at Shorncliffe and in India until he was sent home to England in January 1908 Hatchwell was transferred to the Reserve on 10 April 1908. He was appointed as a postman in Leatherhead on 8 March 1909[18] and enlisted for the Section D Army Reserve on 18 April 1912, ten days after his original period of engagement had expired. Private Hatchwell was mobilised at the outbreak of the war and was posted to No. 6 (Scottish) Cavalry Depot at Dunbar. As his regiment was stationed in South Africa and not deployed with the initial British Expeditionary Force, Hatchwell and nearly sixty reservists of the Royals were posted to 5th Veterinary Section, Army Veterinary Corps, and he landed in France on 16 August 1914. Hatchwell was later transferred to the Army Veterinary Corps and was issued with the service number R/644. He was also appointed an Acting Sergeant and by the end of the war held the rank of Staff Sergeant. On being demobilised, Frederick returned to Leatherhead and his postal round. He married Gladys Olive Genner in 1936 and was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 19 October 1938.

[19] Local Branch or Area appeals for donations to assist unemployed or sick Chums had been organised since the late 1920s, but 1948 was the first year in which the Association made a national fundraising effort.

[20] Dover Express, 20 August 1948.

[21] The Old Contemptible – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 258, July 1955, p. 8.

[22] Nanaimo Daily News, 6 July 1964. Fifty years before Bill was H/8997 Private W. Hulme of the 20th Hussars. Born in the Dresden district of Longton in North Staffordshire in 1892, Wilfred was working as an electrician when he attested for the Hussars of the Line at Stoke-on-Trent on 5 December 1912. He was posted to No. 3 (Northern) Cavalry Depot at Scarborough on 9 December to commence his training, and on 14 March 1913 joined the 20th Hussars. He did not accompany the regiment on active service in August 1914 but was instead posted as a reinforcement to the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues), disembarking with the Blues at Zeebrugge on 7 October 1914. Private Hulme was wounded in February 1915 while serving dismounted in the trenches near Zillebeke and was evacuated to England on 12 February. He was sent to join 13th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at Colchester on 1 December 1915 and was drafted back to France on 25 March 1916 to rejoin the 20th Hussars. He remained at the front until 18 April 1917 and was posted to 5th Reserve Cavalry Regiment. On 26 July 1919 Hulme joined the 14th (King’s) Hussars and remained with them until he was transferred to the Section B Army Reserve on 4 January 1920, being sent the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 12 November of that year. Private Hulme was mobilised from the Reserve on 9 April 1921, as a consequence of the threat of widespread industrial unrest, but was stood down again on 6 June. Wilfred was finally discharged on the termination of his period of engagement on 4 December 1924, his military conduct being described as “exemplary.” By the time of his discharge Bill Hulme had emigrated to Canada and was residing with a Mrs Walker at 471 8th Avenue West in Vancouver. He applied for a replacement clasp for his 1914 Star on 12 November 1924 and this was dispatched to him the following year. Bill and his wife Ruth later settled on Gabriola Island where she was the proprietor of the Trentham Convalescent Home, while he worked as a cook. A member of the Victoria (British Columbia) Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, Chum Hulme often attended functions wearing his undress “blues” uniform, with overalls and spurs. He also sent frequent letters to the editors of The Old Contemptible and corresponded regularly with fellow Chums of branches in Britain and Australia, once making an appeal for a replacement 20th Hussars collar badge to be sent to him as one had been lost when he had his uniform dry-cleaned. Chum Bill Hulme died in 1978.

[23] Nanaimo Daily News, 6 July 1964 and 7 July 1964.

[24] Northampton Mercury, 6 December 1935.

[25] Chum Albert Edwin Arthur Cowley came from Bishops Itchington in Warwickshire and was born on 8 April 1892. He had been employed as a railway engine cleaner before attesting for the Coldstream Guards on 10 June 1912, and was a Lance-Corporal (his regimental number was 9626) when he disembarked at Le Havre with the 1st Battalion on 14 August 1914. Cowley was taken prisoner a month later, on 14 September, during the fighting on the Chemins des Dames near Troyon, and was held in captivity at Dulmen. A brief reference to a communication that he had sent home from Germany was reported in The Leamington Spa Courier on 30 October 1914: “Mr William Cowley has received a postcard from his son, Corporal Albert Cowley, of the Coldstream Guards (who was reported “missing”), stating that he is a prisoner of war in German and in good health.” Cowley was presented with his 1914 Star on 19 March 1919 and discharged as physically unfit for service, suffering from deafness, on 9 July 1919, being subsequently issued with a Silver War Badge. The clasp and roses for his 1914 Star were sent to him on 27 June 1921. Chum Albert Cowley died at Coventry in 1983, aged 91.

[26] Mrs Nellie Maie Woodier was the widow of Chum Frank Woodier D.C.M., who had joined the Coventry Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association in 1934 and was elected as Chairman in 1941. He died in 1970, and Mrs Woodier became assistant secretary to the Branch. Nellie Woodier died at her home at 3 Martyr’s Close in the Cheylesmore district of Coventry on 14 November 1988. Her late husband, 8261 Private Frank Woodier, had joined The Cheshire Regiment at Coventry on 4 September 1906 and had served with the 2nd Battalion in India before being transferred to the Reserve on 2 February 1914. Mobilised following the declaration of war, Woodier disembarked at Le Havre with the 1st Battalion on 16 August. He was taken prisoner following the rearguard action fought at Audregnies on 24 August 1914 and was held captive at Soltau until he escaped in 1918 and reached Holland. Woodier was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his escape in 1920. Demobilised on 13 February 1919, he received his 1914 Star on 10 July and was issued with the clasp and roses for the medal on 4 August 1920.

[27] The Old Contemptible – The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 46, October 1937, p. 20.

[28] Yorkshire Post, 22 May 1928 & The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 434, March 1970, pp. 15-16.

[29] The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 46, October 1937, back inside cover.

[30] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 14 December 1931.

[31] Derby Daily Express, 17 August 1931 & Sheffield Independent, 2 March 1931 and 17 August 1931.

[32] Auckland Star (New Zealand), 9 April 1934.

[33] Bucks Herald, 16 June 1939.

[34] Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 31 August 1935.

[35] Reading Mercury, 5 August 1939.

[36] Bedfordshire Times & Independent, 15 July 1938.

[37] Birmingham Daily Gazette, 6 May 1929.

[38] Ibid, 29 July 1929.

[39] Hertford Mercury and Reformer, 7 April 1939.

[40] Essex County Chronicle, 30 June 1939.

[41] Western Daily Press, 17 June 1935.

[42] Burnley Express, 29 July 1931.

[43] Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 9 May 1931.

[44] Essex Newsman, 13 October 1934.

[45] Gloucestershire Echo, 4 September 1948.

[46] Chester Chronicle, 2 September 1939 & 9 September 1939.

[47] Sheffield Independent, 17 August 1931.

[48] Wiltshire Times & Trowbridge Advertiser, 30 July 1938.

[49] Christchurch Press (New Zealand), 20 March 1935.

[50] Cheltenham Chronicle, 13 May 1939.

[51] Essex County Chronicle, 28 April 1939.

[52] Lichfield Mercury, 22 January 1932 & Coventry Evening Telegraph, 8 November 1937.

[53] Ibid, 23 April 1942.

[54] Eastbourne Gazette, 14 June 1933.

[55] Derby Daily Telegraph, 23 October 1931.

[56] Western Daily Press, 4 May 1937.

[57] Western Gazette, 22 December 1939.

[58] Dorking & Leatherhead Advertiser, 1 September 1939.

[59] Dover Express, 23 June 1939.

[60] Belfast News-Letter, 18 July 1930.

[61] Northern Daily Mail, 17 September 1934.

[62] Gloucestershire Echo, 11 August 1938.

[63] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 7 October 1932.

[64] Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 26 October 1929.

[65] Ibid, 2 November 1929.

[66] Western Daily News, 23 May 1938.

[67] Grantham Journal, 10 June 1939.

[68] Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, 12 June 1939.

[69] Surrey Advertiser, 29 April 1939.

[70] Northern Daily Mail, 15 August 1932.

[71] West Sussex County Times, 2 June 1939.

[72] Yorkshire Post, 12 March 1932.

[73] Hull Daily Mail, 18 June 1934.

[74] Lancashire Evening Post, 10 November 1930.

[75] The Standard was later carried by the Leamington and Warwick Branch.

[76] Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser & Leamington Gazette, 3 September 1938.

[77] Staffordshire Advertiser, 2 June 1934 & Tamworth Herald, 9 June 1934.

[78] Market Harborough Advertiser & Midland Mail, 16 June 1933.

[79] Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3 October 1938.

[80] Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 1938.

[81] Northampton Mercury, 19 April 1935.

[82] Northampton Mercury, 30 June 1939.

[83] Nottingham Journal, 30 May 1929.

[84] Perth Sunday Times (Western Australia), 8 November 1936.

[85] Western Morning News, 23 July 1934.

[86] Surrey Mirror, 17 September 1937.

[87] Essex County Chronicle, 1 July 1938.

[88] Salisbury Branch.

[89] Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, 3 July 1931.

[90] Coventry Evening Herald, 19 July 1939.

[91] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 16 September 1935.

[92] Taunton Courier & Western Advertiser, 16 July 1938 and Shepton Mallet Journal, 2 September 1938.

[93] Kent & Sussex Courier, 19 May 1939.

[94] Torbay Express & South Devon Echo, 12 December 1939.

[95] Wiltshire Times & Trowbridge Advertiser, 6 August 1938.

[96] Kent & Sussex Courier, 9 June 1933.

[97] Sussex Agricultural Express, 27 May 1938.

[98] Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, 31 August 1934.

[99] Also known as S.W. London District Branch No. 1.

[100] Norwood News, 5 October 1928.

[101] Northants Evening Telegraph, 23 August 1939.

[102] Western Gazette, 9 October 1931.

[103] Norwood News, 12 August 1932.

[104] Western Gazette, 21 April 1939.

[105] Worthing Gazette, 17 May 1939.

[106] Belfast News-Letter, 28 October 1935.

[107] Ballymena Weekly News, 14 November 1936.

[108] IWM HU 103482-103484.

[109] Nanaimo Daily News, 15 July 1969.

[110] Born on 23 December 1892 at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, Chum Wellington Middleton had joined The Suffolk Regiment in 1911, his regimental number being 8233, and served with the 2nd Battalion at Aldershot and Curragh Camp. He disembarked with the 2nd Suffolks at Le Havre on 17 August 1914. Private Middleton was taken prisoner at Le Cateau on 26 August and was sent to the Prisoner of War camp at Doebertiz. Repatriated following the Armistice, Middleton was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star 19 July 1921. He was appointed as a Postman by the General Post Office on 28 April 1924, initially working at Wisbech and Wimblington, but by 1939 he was residing and working at Whittlesey. Chum Wellington Middleton died at Whittlesey in 1981.

[111] The scroll below the Association Badge on the Standard bears the legend “East Acton Branch.”

[112] Herts and Essex Observer, 7 September 2017.

[113] Brisbane Courier-Mail (Queensland), 24 August 1942.

[114] Kenley and Caterham Branch Royal Air Force Association Newsletter – November 2014-January 2015, p. 3.

[115] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 23 November 1972.

[116] Western Gazette, 22 December 1939.

[117] Daily Mail, 25 October 2017.

[118] Epsom Herald, 24 May 1973.

[119] Gloucestershire Archives P154/3 IN 4/2.

[120] Daily Mail, 25 October 2017.

[121] Keighley News, 12 September 2014.

[122] Perth Daily News (Western Australia), 26 February 1937.

[123] Salisbury.

[124] The award to the Woolwich Branch was reported by The Illustrated Police News on 2 February 1928.

[125] Essex Newsman, 4 March 1933.

[126] Derby Daily Telegraph, 29 January 1941 & 22 August 1941.

[127] Essex County Chronicle, 18 January 1946.

[128] Nottingham Evening Post, 28 May 1946.

[129] A new Union Flag (not from the Cenotaph), but with the finial of the old flag attached to the pole, was presented on 29 April 1989 to Sea Cadets at Chesterfield, but was subsequently given into the custody of the Combined Services Association. The new flag was considered to be a “Queen’s Colour” and therefore could not be carried on parade by a youth organisation. (Information supplied to the author by John Wallace).

[130] Chum Thomas Sidney Quick, then Honorary General Secretary of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

[131] The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 434, March 1970, p. 16.

[132] The price of a Memorial Plaque in 1937 was 10/- (“The Old Contemptible” No. 46, October 1937).

[133] Yorkshire Post, 26 May 1928 & East London Observer, 2 June 1928.

[134] The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 434, March 1970, pp. 15-16.

[135] Daily Herald, 21 May 1935 & Yarmouth Independent, 30 May 1936.

[136] Chum Thomas Edmund “Ted” Legg was born on 4 July 1896 at Portsmouth, Thomas was the son of Mark and Elizabeth Legg and prior to joining the Army had been employed as a baker, but he was working as a light porter when he attested at Gosport on 2 December 1912. At the time of his enlistment as a Regular soldier, Thomas was serving with 1st Wessex Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (Territorial Force), his regimental number being 732. As 71135 Gunner T. E. Legg he had landed in France with XLII Brigade, Royal Field Artillery on 19 August 1914 and by the Armistice had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Legg was transferred to the Section B Army Reserve when he was demobilised on 31 May 1919 and was discharged on 3 December 1924 on the termination of his twelve years’ period of engagement. Thomas was issued with the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 4 October 1920 and went on to serve in the Merchant Navy before he rejoined the Army on 29 August 1932, enlisting in the Royal Engineers. He was finally discharged in 1954 as overage. Thomas later joined the Founder Branch (Hackney and District) of The Old Contemptibles’ Association and served as President before the branch finally closed. He moved to Clacton-on-Sea shortly before Christmas 1973 but died on 19 January 1974.

[137] Birmingham Daily Post, 31 May 1954.

[138] Manchester Guardian, 31 May 1954.

[139] The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles Association, No. 429, October 1969, p. 1.

[140] A copy of the letter is in the authors’ collection.

[141] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 16 June 1978.

[142] Ibid.

[143] The Dugout – Newsletter of the Dorset and South Wiltshire Branch of The Western Front Association, Issue No. 5 (2010), pp. 2-4. Several enquiries made by the author to the Birmingham County Headquarters R.B.L. to obtain access to the Roll of Honour had failed to receive a response.

[144] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 12 November 1956.

[145] The Old Contemptible: The Official Organ of The Old Contemptibles’ Association, No. 454, November 1971, p. 4.

[146] The Scotsman, 13 December 1932.

[147] The Age (Melbourne, Victoria), 8 March 1948.

[148] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 15 April 1935.

[149] Worthing Herald, 2 October 1953.

[150] St Dunstan’s Review – For Men and Women Blinded on War Service, No. 433, January 1956, p. 12.

[151] St Dunstan’s Review, No. 434, February 1956, p. 7.

[152] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 5 October 1978.

[153] Taken from Army Order 361 of 1919, published on 16 October, specifying the qualification criteria for eligibility to receive the “clasp” for the 1914 Star, which was also a prerequisite for admission to The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

4 thoughts on “In Search of the Chums: The Surviving Legacy of The Old Contemptibles’ Association.

  1. This is so interesting. My father was an Old Contemptible and wounded in October 1914. ( Oliver Casson) I was born when he was 60 so most people are a bit bemused when I say that. I am now 70. As I had no contact with him growing up I gain all insight into his war experiences through information like this. I am very proud of him


    1. I just learned about the “Old Contemptibles” recently from my ancestry research into my GGF. I too am proud of him. Professional Soldier and Marksman (joined 1899/1900) 1st Life Guards Trooper A. Howell 2148. Left for Zeebrugge in October 1914. Was probably part of Squadron D.


  2. Greetings: My late mother left me an original watercolour of The Contemptibles vessel, The Darib, leaving Plymouth harbour. On the reverse of the picture are the signatures or initials of several of the members. Perhaps there is a historical interest in this little gem? Cheers. Barry


  3. A great piece of work above. My Grandfather Edward Levingston 19th Hussars was a proud O.C and has the association grave marker on his grave in Southampton. I consider myself a “Young Contemptible”! We will remember them!


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