World War 1 and Guernsey Cricket
In 1914, as Europe went to war, the Royal Guernsey Militia, which at that time consisted of two infantry regiments and an artillery regiment, was mobilised to replace the regular army garrison which was withdrawn to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders.
Militiamen could not be sent overseas but the States of Guernsey decided to offer a contingent of trained men to the British Government. This offer was taken up gratefully and in the end two full strength infantry companies and a machine gun section were sent to join the 16th Irish Division which was forming in Ireland as part of Kitchener’s all volunteer army. The companies were attached to 6 Royal Irish Regiment and 7 Royal Irish Fusiliers; the machine gun company went to 6 Royal Irish Regiment. In addition a Divisional Ammunition Column was formed from the Royal Guernsey Artillery and sent to 9th Scottish Division. The 16th Division took part in the fighting on the Somme in 1916 and the Guernsey Companies suffered heavy casualties. They were eventually disbanded in early 1918.
In the meantime the States decided that they would send a full infantry battalion to the British army, probably because they felt that the island should be seen to be doing its bit. As a result at the end of 1916 the Militia was suspended for the duration of the war, conscription was introduced and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was raised as part of the British army. Most of the initial officers and men were former members of the Militia but later drafts were not.
The RGLI left behind them in France 327 graves bearing their cap badge. Many, many more Guernsey men suffered grievous wounds of body and mind while yet others had suffered years of captivity in Germany. The war had been won, but at a terrible cost which was felt in every home in the Island. When the call for men came in 1939 the States remembered 1917 and 1918 and refused to send the Militia to war.
The Total Number of men who served in the RGLI was 3549, of those the number recruited in Guernsey was 2430, the remainder were transferred from England. Of the 3549 men of the RGLI, 2280 served in France with the 1st (Service) Battalion.
The following casualties were sustained:
Killed in Action or Missing, presumed dead - 230
Died of Wounds - 67
Died of Sickness - 30
Total - 327
Wounded - 667
Prisoners of War - 255