One feature of army life has always been the change in appearance of the recruit. Apart from the obvious adoption of a uniform and often an improvement in physique, there was – of course – the matter of haircuts. This was not only on joining the army: a severe haircut was often part of going to the front.
The officers of C Company, 10th Essex (a mixed Essex and London battaltion in its personnel) had their photo taken after getting their hair cut very short prior to going out to France.
The group includes Randolph Chell, a Londoner (although Essex-born), who ended up with a DSO and an MC and co-wrote the battalion’s biography With the 10th Essex In France – a classic of the genre. On the left is James Duncan Archibald, another Londoner having grown up in Edmonton, but sadly one who died during the war – killed during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Another group who were shorn was Len Smith and his mates in the ‘shiny seventh’ – the 7th battalion of the London Regiment. Private Smith, a Walthamstow lad, wrote up his war experiences from his diary with excellent illustrations (published recently as Drawing Fire – and online here). At one point he shows two of his comrades and himself before and after their haircuts out in France in 1915:
The chap with the moustache is referred to only as Tom, with the others being Jack and Len himself. I think Len is the one on the right.
Another Essex-born Londoner whose appearance was changed by a wartime haircut was Frederic Hillersdon Keeling, whom we have met before. Company Sergeant-Major ‘Ben’ Keeling served with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry; he was killed in action at Delville Wood 1916 and posthumously awarded the Military Medal.