Bedford Borough Council logo Central Bedfordshire Council logo

The Virtual Library

Follow us on Pinterest Follow us on Twitter Contact us on Facebook Home Page What's On Contact Us Help

Bedford Highlanders


Places > Bedford > First World War > Regiments | Bedford Highlanders Home

Recruiting locals

When the Highland Division arrived in Bedford the majority of its component units were below strength and as a result, tremendous efforts were put into recruiting additional men. In addition to signing-up volunteers in the traditional recruiting areas in Scotland, the Division welcomed all-comers regardless of whether they could claim Scottish ancestry. Many Bedfordshire men decided to join the kilted ranks and the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade were particularly successful when recruiting in London.
This photograph shows new Seaforth recruits in Bedford Park in late summer 1914. In the background can be seen another group being put through their paces by the drill sergeant. The message written on the back of this post card reads:
"This is taken in Bedford Park where we drill. The one on the left of card is our Officer and the one on the right our Sergeant. They are both fine chaps. Remember me to Bob and your mother & also all the girls at 49. Cecil"
It was not unusual to see new drafts of recruits parading in civilian clothes at this time. Such was the speed at which the Territorial Force had mobilised, many of the troops arrived in Bedford with a mixture of uniform and kit due to demand outstripping supply. There is an account of one group of soldiers visiting a photographer's studio in Bedford to have their portraits made. With only one full set of uniform available to them (kilts, spats and glengarries were in particularly short supply), they had to swap and change between shots!
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Unnamed soldier

"Like all other units at this time, the Battalion was hard put to it for clothing and equipment. The regimental tailors could not turn out kilts quickly enough to clothe the new drafts... Indeed the unit when paraded at full strength must have been a curious looking collection of men in every stage of clothing and equipment."
'History of the Fourth Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders', Lt. Col. M.M. Haldane, 1927
This portrait of an unnamed soldier of the 5th Seaforth was taken by photographer J.T. Welch of 6, Midland Road, Bedford. The man's attire suggests that he is a new recruit and that the only pieces of uniform he possessed at the time the photograph was taken were great coat, shoes, spats and Glengarry (although one suspects that this may have been borrowed for the purposes of the photograph).
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Page last updated: 30th May 2014