July of 1914 the men of the 36th were moved to Seaford in Sussex, England.
They left Newcastle Co. Down by train, to Dublin where they boarded the
boat to Holyhead. From here it was back onto the train with a stop at
Crewe for refreshments before boarding again for the last leg of their
journey to their camp in Seaford.
The men found Seaford a pleasant place and performed manoeuvers on the open expanse of the South Downs which the troops appreciated for the natural beauty of the Sussex countryside, but there was also plenty of evidence, at last, of the war they had come to participate in. On calm days, when the breeze was in the right quarter, they could hear the guns in France. There was also a dirigible airship over Beachy Head and aeroplanes regularly passed overhead.
Seaford was very much an Ulster colony but the majority of the Ulster Division were unfamiliar with England and the English, and equally the inhabitants of Seaford had had little prior knowledge of Ulstermen apart from what they had heard during the Ulster crisis, so many of them had been dreading the arrival of ‘wild Irishmen’. Soon however, the Ulster Division made some favourable impressions.
The men attended local church services on Sunday and one clergyman came to the Ulster camp one day mid-week to say that his offertory box had been broken by Ulster soldiers. This caused initial consternation, as scarrilege should be the last crime attributable to young men of noted religious devotion. But the clergy man went on to explain that he had purposely not taken up a collection when he had seen his pews crowed with troops, and that the almsbox had been broken by the weight of coins stuffed into it as the soldiers left the church!
On another occasion the Division had been engaged on night manoeuvers and it was discovered at dawn that a deep trench had been dug across a valuable gallop belonging to a racehorse training stable. However, the owner, rather than complaining, expressed pleasure that his ground had been of use to the Division, and went on to offer jumps to the mounted units for practice.
A sketch by Jim Maultsaid of the 14th Royal Irish Rifles, recording the items of a soldiers kit
More can been found out about Jim in the Remembrance section.
On July 27, Kitchener made a visit to inspect the men. The inspection began at 11am, but it would appear that the ‘Great Man’ was in a hurry-he mounted a horse that was not intended for him and dashed off at speed to make his inspection. To the men it appeared that he was there for a very short time and this disapointed them as most of them had got little sleep the night before, getting everything ready for him.
A cause of both pride and annoyance from Kitchener’s visit was that he thought the personnel of the field ambulances to be of far too fine a quality for the RAMC. ‘You will have to give me some of those men for the artillery’, he said and subsequently 150 men were transferred to the artillery, and the majority of them, although flattered, were grieved to lose their chance to serve in the Ulster Division. Kitchener would appear, for all the swiftness of his visit, to have been impressed by the 36th, and shortly afterwards told Sir Edward Carson that it was the finest Division of his New Army that he had seen yet. Carson and his wife were also to inspect the Division in Sussex. The men marched some twenty miles into the countryside where they assembled for Sir Edward.
After the inspection, their old leader came round to meet the infantry as they lay resting on the turf. The men rose to their feet and cheered as he approached. It was Carson, not Kitchener, for whom the they felt most love and respect : they were still Carson’s army first and Kitchener’s second.