On arrival at Porthmadoc the Unit was marched to the town hall where the men were allotted their billets. 48135 C W Jarman records that on arrival at the town hall he was set to work by Hon Lt Thompson to record the billets that each man was given, but for his efforts was also told that he had been assigned the absolutely best billet. He was very pleased to discover that he was again sharing with his two friends 48064 Sgt Lawrence Williams, 48128 Sgt Francis Sumption and Sgt Owen, 48087 Pte Claude Trelawny Blackall and 48192 Pte Ernest Sweeting (neither Sgt Owen nor Pte C T Blackall went out to France with the Unit, Claude Blackall was subsequently commissioned into the Monmouthshire Regiment). Clifford Jarman records that ‘These are fine fellows and rather the better class’.
The town had arranged a group of special constables to direct and take the men to their new billets.
The following day, the Unit paraded at 9.30 outside the post office in the High Street as the Unit’s HQ was next door and spent the day drilling. 48135 C W Jarman records in his diary that ‘The people are doing all in their power to make us comfortable.’ The Town Council placed the Town Hall at the Unit’s disposal for reading and recreation and the Liberal club was also open to them.
A view of Porthmadoc Harbour in 1906
The Unit’s daily routine continued in Porthmadoc with parades, physical exercise, marching drill and route marches. Capt Anderson was away on the 1st February having developed septicaemia from a needle stick injury. 48135 C W Jarman records ‘We hope he will soon be better as in common with all our officers, he is universally liked.’ On the 2nd , following the 7.30 parade and roll call in very wet weather the Unit was dismissed for breakfast and then went on a route march to Criccieth in pouring rain, arriving back at 1pm thoroughly soaked, and were dismissed for the rest of the day as most of the men did not have a change of clothes. On the same day, 500 Army Service Corps men arrived in Porthmadoc, causing those men of the Unit billeted in Porthmadoc itself to be moved to billets in Borth-y-Gest, half a mile away, although C W Jarman and his 5 friends were lucky not to be moved from their fine billet. The awful weather continued for several days causing the Col to cancel much of the training. Finally on Thursday 4th February a few stretchers were delivered to the Unit, so the men could start practicing ‘stretcher drill’ although, for most of them, as St John trained ambulance men this was second nature. The weather finally improved on Friday 5th and following the 7.30 parade the men had physical drill . They were all stripped down to their Cardigans (see photograph above). Even Col J. E. H. Davies, the commanding officer took part in the Unit’s early morning physical exercise drill with 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption recording in his diary entry of 5th February 1915 that “there is no swank with him”.
On the 6th February, 48071 William Stroud was made Sergeant Major for the Unit. On the evening of Monday 7th February a concert was held in the Town Hall, arranged by the A.S.C. with men from the Unit also participating in the line up. Soldiers were admitted free but the townspeople were charged 3d, with the proceeds in aid of amusements for the troops. On Tuesday 9th, 48135 C W Jarman who had been tasked to work in the Unit office for a few days, recorded that overcoats for the men had been invoiced, so he expected then to arrive very soon. The Unit was gradually receiving their kit, albeit in penny numbers. The Unit’s training gradually became more interesting with medical lectures being given by the Medical Officers, such as one on typhoid given by Major William B Edwards after the 09.30 parade on 10th February.
On the 12th February, the men of the Unit were finally issued with khaki overcoats and so could start to look vaguely military, although they had to sew on the buttons themselves.
The photograph above is used with the kind permission of Eleanor, Granddaughter of 48192 Sgt Ernest Sweeting M.M and was probably taken in mid March 1915.
Rear row, L/Cpl Blackall, S/Sgt Williams, Sgt E T Owen and L/Cpl Sweeting. Front row, Sgt Sumption, Pte Ll Jones, Pte C W Jarman and Ginger the mascot.
So long without being issued with their full Army Uniform, many of the men were still wearing the clothes that had on when they enlisted back in December and the seats of their trousers were becoming so threadbare, that by Monday 15th February, it was felt that it was no longer safe for them to participate in vigorous exercise and so were excused taking part in the Unit’s daily physical exercises.