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.
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.