The turn out from these local men was so prompt that the Battalion could declare itself ‘ready to move’ before any other unit in the country. They left Bradford for East Yorkshire on 10 August and training under service conditions began.
On 15 April 1915 the Bradford Territorials left their final training grounds near Gainsborough and arrived in France the next day.
The land in front of their first trench positions was littered with the dead from the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, including men of the Lahore Division, Indian Army. These men left a strong impression as they marched away: “Their courtesy and the splendid physique of the tall turbaned Indians seemed to surpass that of our own men and they marched with wonderful spirit and Èlan.”
In July the Battalion moved to the Ypres salient for seven months of physical wretchedness in water-logged trenches which were too close for comfort to the German lines. It was here that Corporal Sam Meekosha was awarded a VC for directing a group of men, in full view of the enemy, to dig out comrades from a shelled position.
On 19 December the Bradford men were to suffer their first gas casualties. Fortunately Major CE Scott, in charge of gas masks, had been punctilious in training the men in their use and they responded promptly to the white vapour rising from gas cylinders in front of the trenches. This was followed by gas shells and the sky “glowed like a vast electric light whilst the air was full of a choking sickly heaviness”.
In the spring of 1916 the Territorials moved to the Somme area. They spent 1 July under shell fire in Thiepval Wood, awaiting an order to attack which came at 4.00pm. Casualties were severe. Amongst them, were school chums Avon Moore, WH Allum and Ken Bloomer who died together on the edge of Thiepval Wood. All three were interred during battlefield clearances in 1920. Even more men were lost on 3 September during another assault on Thiepval yet the Battalion was to fight at Passchendaele in 1917 and at Ypres in 1918.