The Old Contemptibles Association

Old Contemptibles Association badge

Title: Old Contemptibles Association badge
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The Old Contemptibles Association was founded by Captain JP Danny, RA, on 25 June 1925. Membership was limited to veterans of the regular army who had served in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders within range of enemy artillery during the period 5 August to 22 November 1914 and had thus taken part in the desperate early battles and retreats before the advancing German forces, before the tide turned and the allies counterattacked at the Battle of the Marne.  The Association took its name from a notorious Order of the Day issued by the Kaiser  in August 1914 which referred disparagingly to Sir John French’s ‘contemptible little army’.  The derogatory title was adopted enthusiastically by soldiers in the BEF.

The Association had 178 branches in the UK & 14 overseas branches. It produced its own magazine The Old Contemptible & all members were known as “chums”.  The Association’s national organisation was wound up in the 1970s but in London and the South East it continued until 1994.

Colours of the Old Contemptibles Association in St Mary’s Staines (photograph by Don Burt MBE)

No records of branches of Surrey branches have been located so far but in St Mary’s, Staines, a roll of honour of local members and a flag are still on display in the church and there are, no doubt, other monuments and memorabilia elsewhere.

Roll of honour listing members of the Staines branch of the Old Contemptibles (photograph by Don Burt MBE)

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8 Responses to “The Old Contemptibles Association”

  1. Kathy Atherton

    I have recently come across a framed list of the Old Contemptibles from the Dorking area. I will try to get hold of a photograph for you and to find out who put together the list and where it hung.

  2. Patricia Paterson

    My Grandfather Wiliam Grant Pat(t)erson was in KOSB 2nd Battalion and was an ‘Old Contemptible.’ He served at Mons and subsequent French Battles under Gen. French. I have his papers and medals and am currently writing a book on his movements and after-war life as a Rolls Royce Mechanic and Barber. He married and had one son, my father who also served in WW2 in the RAF. He died of complications of his wounds 15 years after he was wounded in 1930 and is buried in Beath Hill Cemetary. If anyone has information about the battles or war diaries, please contact me. I can add it to my research and book. Thank You.

  3. Jeff Strudwick

    My Grandfather John W Strudwick was an old contemible originally from Redhill then Coldharbour & Westcott. He served with the Queens from early 1900’s demobbed in I think 1909 ,recalled Aug 14 invalided out 1916 died 1960 buried Westcott cemetery.

    • Imogen Middleton, Surrey Heritage

      Hello Jeff,
      Thank you for sharing this information with us. We would be delighted if you would consider sharing your Grandfather’s story on our website, by clicking ‘Add Your Story’ (at the top right hand corner).

  4. Stephen Carter

    I have just come across an obituary in my Grandmother’s photo album for a gentleman called Henry Leslie Sharpe. He lived at 27 Vale Farm Woking and was caretaker of Woking YMCA for 18 years. Mr. Sharpe served with the RASC during the 14-18 war and attained the rank of Sergeant Major. He was a member of the Woking Old Contmptibles and after the war served as a postman.

  5. Andrew Thornton

    The Old Contemptibles’ Association had at least 227 Branches in the British Isles and overseas during its existence. The figure of 178 UK Branches and 14 Overseas dates from 1964, and was originally published in the programme for the Golden Jubilee Grand Reunion held at the Royal Albert Hall.

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