Hundreds of spectators gathered on Epsom Downs to mark the 100th anniversary of an inspection by Lord Kitchener of World War One soldiers.

They saw a re-enactment of the day in 1915 when Britain’s war secretary inspected 20,000 troops with his French counterpart Alexandre Millerand. The inspection took place in snow, which fell incessantly for hours and in places reached 12in (30cm) deep.

A group of World War One re-enactors in period kit set off from Bourne Hall, in Ewell, on Saturday to march to Epsom Downs via Epsom Town Hall. They were joined on parade by members of the Army Cadets and soldiers from 135 Geo Sqn RE. A commemoration service followed the inspection before the re-enactors placed a wreath at Epsom cemetery.

In 1915, the volunteer soldiers from the 2nd London Division of Kitchener’s New Army rose at 04:00 GMT on 22 January and marched from all over Surrey without breakfast. Two battalions arrived by train from Maidstone in Kent.

Kitchener arrived at 11:00, by which time some of the soldiers had passed out. One of them, Lt Hamilton, wrote: “Just as Kitchener arrived I fainted, dash nuisance!”. The soldiers who were ill were taken to the wartime hospital set up at the grandstand on the racecourse. One later died.

Mr Brooks said the purpose of the inspection was to impress Millerand but the official party stayed with the troops for only five minutes. The reason given was the snow, but there may have been another motive. 10857192_441876712636519_7658309484767668144_o 10860927_441876585969865_4858477315894672339_o

The 20,000 soldiers on parade only had 100 rifles between them, which were displayed on the front row.

Kitchener knew this and, after walking quickly along the ranks, suggested to his ally that they should call it a day because of the worsening weather.


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