Joining ‘The Mutton Lancers’ in 1914


‘I see from my discharge papers that I enlisted on 27 August 1914. As I was born on 26 January 1898, it follows that I was sixteen years and seven months old.

‘The Battle of Mons had just been fought, and what was left of the Old Contemptibles was now engaged in its famous retreat. I knew nothing about all this.

‘Like a log flung into a giant river, I had only just started to move. Later on I was to be pushed from behind, relentlessly, without any chance of escape.

‘Late that afternoon, looking definitely crummy and unwashed, our motley crowd of recruits shuffled up to East Croydon station and took a train for Guildford, final destination Stoughton Barracks.

‘I gathered that this was the headquarters of the Royal West Surrey Regiment, otherwise known as The Queen’s, Second of Foot…

‘…The regimental symbol was a lamb, which somehow seemed too mild to be a symbol for fighting men. As a young rookie expecting fireworks, something fiercer-looking would have suited me better.

‘Old soldiers usually referred to us as “The Mutton Lancers”.’

Private George Coppard, 6th Battalion, Royal West Surrey Regiment

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