Posted by: sommecourt | 11/01/2011

Civil Service Rifles in WW1

One of my friends on Twitter, Tim Godden, recently mentioned he had a relative who had served in the 2/15th London Regiment. This reminded me I had a small collection of images of the 15th London Regiment, otherwise known as the Civil Service Rifles.

In the years before the Great War the London Regiment formed twenty six battalions in the city of London or County of London. Some of them were locally based – ‘pals’ battalions before such things even existed – while others related to specific jobs. The 15th London Regiment fell into the latter category, being known as the Civil Service Rifles because it was recruited for Civil Servants living and working in London. It’s headquarters was at Somerset House and officially it was part of the 2nd London Division before the war. Mobilised in August 1914, the battalion was made up to strength by wartime recruits who flocked to join resulting in the raising of a second battalion. The originals now became the 1/15th Battalion London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles) and the new wartime raised one the 2/15th Battalion. A 3/15th was also raised to provide replacements for the other two battalions.

The 1/15th went to France in March 1915 and took part in the Battle of Loos later that year, and in 1916 served at Vimy Ridge and fought on the Somme before moving to Flanders in November. It would remain here for nearly a year, taking part in both the Battle of Messines and Passchendaele, before returning to France for the final offensive of 1917 – the Battle of Cambrai, where it suffered heavy casualties at Bourlon Wood. In March 1918 it was in action on the Somme again as the German offensive broke, and the battalion found itself back in the High Wood area where it had been two years before. The Somme featured heavily in its 1918 history, and it remained in action here until the summer of 1918, when the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line began. The battalion’s final action of the war was at Tournai in Belgium in November 1918.

The 2/15th meanwhile had become part of the 60th (London) Division, and finally went to France in 1916, serving at Vimy before moving to Salonika in the winter of 1916. In 1917 it moved to Palestine, and took part in the fighting for Gaza and Jerusalem. When the 60th Division was re-organised in early 1918, the battalion was posted back to France with two other London battalions and joined the 30th Division, with whom it fought in Flanders in the final offensives of 1918.

By the close of the war more than 1240 officers and men of  the Civil Service Rifles had died in the war, and among its many soldiers was the sculptor Henry Moore; a fact that another Twitter friend, Patrick Baty, was able to tell me.

A good book on the battalion is Jill Knight’s ‘All Bloody Gentleman‘ which tells the story of the unit in the Great War in detail.

The complete collection of images which originally prompted this post are now on Flickr:



  1. Splendid overview of the CSR and I am touched to get a mention.

  2. Thanks, and my pleasure.

  3. you maybe interested to know I have one of your pictures on my Flikr site but mine has all the names on the back if its a help. My great uncle was ACSM Halbert Leonard Smith 1/15th KIA at Bourlon Wood in the counter attack



  4. Paul, that’s fantastic! Thanks for sharing that little gem.

  5. whats interesting is that one of the men in the picture appears to be Eric Lawman who, according to his MIC was a 17th March man but was also invalided out on 14.11.1917 and issued with the SWB so would “suggest” that the picture was taken before then?
    btw I missed a great out of the uncle bit, I’m not quite that old……yet!

    • Dear Paul

      I am amazed to read that you have what may be a picture of my late grandfather, Eric Lawman, who was severely wounded in 1917. He was shot in the eye and the bulled exited through his ear; he was left for dead for several days. I should be so grateful for any information you could let me have.

      Kind regards

      jenni thomson

  6. Hi there.

    My cousin thrice removed (Elliot Camrass) died on December 18th 1917, aged 21

    According to his records, he died in’France & Flanders’ – he was past of the London Regiment 15th Battalion (Civil Service Rifles). It says he ‘died of wounds’ but some family records I have suggest he died of gas poisoning.

    Does anyone perhaps have a copy of the battalion diary or any other info that could help me understand the location and circumstances of his death and the time leading up to it?

    Many thanks

  7. Dear all,

    You may be interested to learn that men from the Exchequer and Audit Department (now the NAO) are remembered on a Roll of Honour at our HQ in Victoria. As part of our commemorative activities I am part of a group researching the E&AD war time contribution on and off the battlefield.

    Many of our predecessors were Territorials in the CSR and formed A Company of 15th Btn. Not all remained or were casualties in the London Regiment as many men accepted commissions and moved on to other units.

    We would naturally be very interested and grateful for any information, photographs and memorabilia. We hope to support different commemorative events over the coming years not least the Battalion’s move to France on 17 March 1915. We also plan to make our research available.

    You can reach me via twitter if you’d like to know more.

    And thanks again Paul for such an interesting site.

    Best wishes


    • Hi Mike – I have quite a big collection of CSR images, quite a few of which you will find on this site.

      Can you email me on


    • My Great Uncle Valentine Sullock Aveline Tardif KIA 15/09/16 age 19.on 1st day of battle of Flers- Courcette cut up by machine gun fire. He was featured in an episode of Not forgotten channel 4 as was i. I wonder if anyone has a photo of him? He was a March 17th man . Is there a gathering this year to mark the 100th year. . I would appreciate some information. I was named after him.
      Aveline Moore

  8. My great uncle, Charles Richard Shearman served in this unit until his death on 15th September 1916. I would be very interested in any information about his service history.

    • The only way to trace his service history is via Ancestry who have the service records.

      • I’d like to research Uncle Charles war service further, do you have any suggestions?

    • My Great Uncle Valentine Sullock Aveline Tardif was killed on the same day as your Uncle Charles.
      aveline Moore

      • Hi, I’m going to visit the Somme memorial in September this year as two of my relatives were killed within 24 hours – Charles Richard Shearman and Charles Richard Keene (both named after their Grandfather). They have no known grave and are commemorated on the Somme memorial.

    • Anne. You may be interested to know that Charles’ has a page on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War digital memorial – We are tweeting a day by day record of the CSR’s activities on @PoWCSR100. Best wishes Mike

      • Hi – thanks for this, will follow the twitter link. I couldn’t find the CSR’s war diary on the Ancestry web site – do you have clues as to where it might be? thanks.

      • Anne, When you get to the War Diaries Page and opt for London Regiment you then need to select 47th Division. The 1/15 Diary is there. If you opt for 30th Division the 2/15 Diary is there.

        Hope this helps


  9. I am trying to find any information on 2977 Cpl AJ Mason 15th London Regt who was awarded the Military Medal as per London Gazette of 21 December 1916. I have his medals and would like to know more about him and the circumstances of his award if possible. Kind regards. DW

  10. Dear Paul
    This is the first time I’ve found this site, my great grandfather served with the CSR enlisting in houndslow at the outbreak of WW1. Because he had a grammer school education, he was enlisted into the CSR and his name appears in the back of the book above. Sometime in either late 1915 or early 1916 he was transfer to the royal Sussex regt, were he won the military medal. My nan always said it was for rescuing a wounded officer from no mans land, but because it was never spoken about he took the story to his grave. He was later transferred to the Suffolk regt, were he finished the war being demobbed in 1919 after a stay as occupying force on the Rhine I believe. I have his medals and I recently acquired regt badges for all hid regt’s, I would like to follow his footsteps thru the war but was told a WW2 bomb destroyed all the records would there be anyway to no were he served in battle or his whereabouts in the front line?
    Mark Mcilroy

    • I’m no expert, but I believe medal records survived the bombing and can help to fill in some details of WWI soldiers’ careers. Try googling that, and if that fails have a look at the Western Front Association website: they may have a FAQ file with useful tips or a discussion forum where you could ask for advice.

  11. Sorry trying to remember everything my nan told me forgot the name
    It was Alfred Tobias Titcomb(e) sometimes spelt with an e sometimes not
    Thanks again

  12. My Uncle John Dwyer died in the assault on High Wood on 15/9/1916. His name is on the Thiepval memorial and on the wall in the Peace Park, in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland. I have a web page up on him:

  13. I am trying to find my grandfathers records csr 1/15 london prince wales own attached pioneer corp. Sgt GF Phipps 2 years 6 months active service 2 years 11 months served

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