In 1881 what has become popularly known as "The Cardwell System" was put into effect. This system introduced a number of much-needed reforms to the British army. One of these reforms was the idea of linking two battalions or regiments into a single "corps," the idea being that one battalion would always serve at home and the other abroad. The home battalion would be charged with enlisting and training new recruits, who would then be shipped off to join the sister battalion once the desired level of proficiency had been achieved.
And so it was that the former 34th and 55th Regiments of Foot were amalgamated into the first and second battalion of the Border Regiment (respectively).
At the outbreak of the Great War, the Second Battalion Border Regiment -- formerly the Westmorland or 55th Regiment of Foot -- had just returned from garrison duty in South Africa. At this time in its history, the British Army had gone through many reforms and soldiering was now a respected and admired profession. Therefore, when the call went out, volunteers literally streamed in from all parts of the country.
Recruits for the Second Battalion Border Regiment largely came from the areas of Westmorland and Cumbria counties. Cumbria county is in the extreme northwest corner of England proper and is nestled against the English border with Scotland. Westmorland county is just southeast of it (see map). Today these two counties, as well as the northwestern most bit of Lancashire county, have been combined (due to a redrawing of county boundaries in 1974) and are now known collectively under the name of Cumbria.
Modern Cumbria county is home to some of the most picturesque landscapes in all of Great Britain. Much of the county is taken up by The Lake District National Park -- a favorite vacation spot for Queen Victoria. In 1914 the area was home to many mining villages, and There was a great deal of national pride at the time, as well as a prevailing sense that the war would be over within just a few months, and those that tarried would miss out on all the action. When the call went out so many young men flocked into the Border Regiment depot at Carlisle that many had to drill in their civilian clothes and use broomsticks in place of rifles!
The area around Cumbria is well-known for its long history of quality hunting, and the old 34th Foot's regimental marching song "John Peel" was often sung as the regiment went into battle.
Major actions that the Second Battalion, The Border Regiment participated in include:
October, 1914: First Battle of Ypres
Autumn, 1915: Loos, France
April 1915: With the 91st brigade at Bray
July 1916: With 15th Corps, The Battle of the Somme
September 1916: The Battle of the Somme, at Ginchy, France
Early 1917: Ancre, France
May 1917 : Bullecourt, France
July 1917: Third Battle of Ypres
October 1917: sent to Italy as part of 7th Division
November 1917: assigned to Montello sector, Italy
January-October 1918: with the 7th Division in Italy
October 1918: 2nd Btn Border leads attack over Piave River.
Sutherland, Douglas, Tried and Valiant, the Story of the Border Regiment, 1702-1959 (London: Leo Cooper, 1972)
Barnes, Major R.M., A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army, The Development of Weapons & Tactics (London: Seeley Service & Co., 1967)
Gilbert, Martin, The First World War, A complete History (New York: Holt & Co) 1994