First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Memories of Archibald Frost, Signalman

Archibald Frost (DOB 02 Oct 1894) volunteered for Kitcheners Army in 1914, and happily survived to 1987. Before his death he recorded an account of his days as a signalman on the Afghan border in India, and later in what is now Iraq. The full recording runs for about an hour, and has a wealth of material including amusing anecdotes and details of his leisure activities.
Highlights gleaned from the tape are listed below,followed by an analysis with regard to historical events.

Highlights of the account:

Archibald was refused by the Army when he volunteered initially because he was grossly underweight and only had a 34 inch chest. However, based on his marksmanship in Cadet Corps he was accepted up in late Sept 1914 to the 6th East Surrey (Yeomanry?).

He did basic training in and around Kingston and Ham. He mentions Ham as home at that time. Then he sailed from Southhampton on Oct 29 1914 in the Grand Tunny(?) Castle, arriving in Bombay 3 Dec. Eventually stationed at Rawalpindi supporting a North West Frontier division of Regulars (2nd Staffs and 1st Yorks) with Indian battalions and one "R of A", which my mother thinks means Regiment of Artillery. "2nd line of defence at Peshawar" 1915 stationed in the hills at Maree/Mari/Murray Hill 8500 ft above sea-level with a signal emplacement on top.

He went to Mesopotamia in 1916, Basra to Bagdhad by paddle-boat up the Tigris, stationed at Hillah 62 miles outside B'dad. Attached to Royal Engineers in a signals Company. There are many references to being in the RE's both in India and Mespot. Then Dunster Force(no date) to stop Russians capturing oilwells at Bakhtoum on the Black Sea. Stationed in Persia taking despatches between Kerende and the front line at Kermanshah.

Returned to Bombay for troopship home: HMS Eaneas 7500 tons. Demobbed at Crystal Palace 13 June 1919.

Archibald Frost does not appear on surviving military service records; but many were destroyed in a fire.

Analysis of Archibald's memoir:

In 1908 under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, the militia raised to defend the country in time of crisis, was abolished and replaced by the 'Special Reserve' and Volunteer Force. Each regiment was now generally to consist of two regular battalions, a reserve battalion formed from the old militia, and volunteer territorial battalions.

The East Surrey Regiment, based at Kingston, comprised two reserve battalions, the 3rd and 4th (formerly the 1st and 3rd Royal Surrey Regiments of Militia), and two territorial battalions, the 5th and 6th, formed from the 2nd and 3rd volunteer battalions. The 5th battalion was raised in Wimbledon, Streatham, Carshalton, Leatherhead, Sutton and Epsom and the 6th battalion in Esher, Richmond, Kingston, Chertsey and Egham.

During the First World War territorial battalions were expanded and subdivided into three, the new units being numbered as the 1/4th, 2/4th, 3/4th etc.

After the outbreak of war in 1914 the army was further greatly expanded through the creation of service and labour battalions: for the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment these were numbered as the 6th through to the 20th; for the East Surrey Regiment these were numbered through from the 7th to the 15th. These battalions were also known as Kitchener's Army.

The Indian Army consisted of 2 divisions, the Northern Army & the Southern Army. Rawalpindi & Peshawar coming under the control of the Northern Army.

Archibald was in the Northern Army and certainly the troops in Peshawar (where he was in late 1914 & 1915) were under the command of Brig. Gen L.C. Dunsterville - 1st Peshawar (Infantry) Brigade (hence Dunster Force).

The other 2 regiments made reference to: The Prince of Wales (North Staffordshire Regiment) 2nd Battallion ( 2nd Staffs) & The Princess of Wales (Yorkshire Regiment) 1st Battallion (1st Yorks).

These particluar battallions both saw service attached to the Indian Army. R of A might have meant Regular Army as opposed to a regiment attached to the Indian Army.

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