In August 1914 Britain had a small regular army, a territorial force and an army reserve. When war broke out Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, sent what forces he could to France as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). They were effectively wiped out by the end of 1914. Kaiser Wilhelm II was said to have referred to the BEF as a ‘contemptible little army’ and the few survivors adopted the name ‘The Old Contemptibles’. Kitchener sent the Territorials overseas to garrison the Empire, freeing up regiments of the regular army for service in France. He appealed for volunteers to serve in 'Kitchener’s Army'. Volunteers came from across the Empire as well as from Britain, but even so conscription had to be introduced in Britain in January 1916. Initially restricted to single men between 19 and 41, conscription was soon extended to include married men and 18-year-olds. By the autumn of 1918 men in their late 40s were being called up.


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Alfred 'Chum' Johnson (St John Street, Farncombe)

The British Expeditionary Force – the Old Contemptibles

Alfred Johnson's medals. Old Contemptible badges and 1947 photograph of the Godalming Old Contemptibles (Alfred centre of the front row standing)

Alfred Johnson joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Driver in 1902 and served with the British Expeditionary Force. He was wounded in January 1915 and invalided out of the army in June 1916.

Kindly donated by Mrs Kathleen Mary Voller

Sidney Frank Voller (New Road, Milford)

Kitchener’s Army

Medals (still boxed) and memorial plaque

Sidney Voller answered Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers in September 1914. He may have been one of the volunteers transported to Stoughton Barracks in a motor cavalcade led by the Vicar of Witley. He was 25 and well known locally as a member of Milford and Witley cricket and football teams and as the winner of track races at district athletics meetings. He died of a bullet wound in July 1915.


Kindly donated by Mrs H J Court

Hubert Court (Bridge Street, Godalming)


Medals, including the Military Medal for Gallantry

Hubert Court, whose brothers Sydney and Earnest were already serving in the army and the RAF joined the 10th Royal West Kent Regiment in May 1916, five months after conscription was introduced. He served in Belgium, France, Italy and Germany and in 1917 was mentioned in dispatches: “during the action you dressed and removed wounded from the battlefield under heavy shell and machine gun fire. Your brave action undoubtedly saved lives.”


Arthur Harbour (Town End Street, Godalming)

The Territorials

Arthur Harbour lived at 6 Town End Street and went to the British School and the Council School in Meadrow. A member of the Godalming Junior Rifle Club, he joined the Territorials before the war and was mobilised in August 1914. He served in India and Mesopotamia (Iraq) where he died of cholera and is buried at Basra. Arthur’s letters home are in the Museum collection and can be viewed in the Museum's Local Studies Library.

Kindly donated by Mr Peter Davies

George Newman (Brant County, Canada)

Canadian Expeditionary Force

Medals. Salvation Army New Testament and army mirror damaged by shrapnel

George Edward Newman a 34-year-old painter and decorator, emigrated to Canada in 1911. In 1915 he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His attestation papers describe him as 5’ 5½” with light brown hair and brown eyes. A member of the Salvation Army, he joined the regimental band and became a medical orderly. In April 1916 he sailed for England with the 125th Brant County Battalion, which was based in Witley Camp before going to France. George’s wife Annie, a servant in the Colonel’s household, had travelled with the Regiment from Canada and the couple’s daughter May was born in Yew Tree Road, Witley. The family returned to Canada at the end of the war.

Kindly donated by Mr Peter Thomas

Evan Thomas (Cranleigh School)

The Officers’ Training Corps

Cigarette case and ribbons

The OTC had been established in 1908 at public schools and universities to attract students to join the army and to train them as officers. Evan Thomas was given this cigarette case when he left Cranleigh School in 1916, aged 18, to join up. He was given a commission in the Royal Field Artillery and served in Italy, being awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Evan Thomas survived the War and became a vicar. He volunteered to serve in the Second World War as an army chaplain.