The Old Contemptibles' Association


Prior to the Great War, Britain's defensive strengths lay in her Royal Navy and the British Army. The Army was spread throughout the British Empire in an essentially 'policing' role to defend the territories and in a home defence rule to protect our island nation.
At the outbreak of war much of the British Army was scattered all over the world so the call to the Colours went out and was answered by the home battalions in each regiment and by the reserve forces who were men who had previously served in the Army, but had served their time and been retained as reserves for times of need such as this.
The call came to Keighley at 6.00pm on 4th August 1914. By 9.00pm, three quarters of the men had answered the call and many more followed soon after. These men were quickly equipped and mobilised to camps for deployment to the continent and they left Keighley by train later that evening to a massive show of local support with thousands of local people attending the 'send-off'. Within two weeks, over 80,000 men, artillery, stores and equipment of the First British Expeditionary Force had landed in France ready to take on the German Army with the French Army to our right flank. We then marched to positions near the Belgian town of Mons where they engaged the enemy on 23rd August.
The Germans facing us outnumbered the British by ten to one and an order from the Kaiser was allegedly intercepted on 19th August:
It is my Royal and Imperial command that you concentrate your energies for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that is that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to exterminate, first, the treacherous English and walk over General French's contemptible little army. -- Headquarters, Aix-la-Chapelle, August 19.

This created outrage at home with newspapers running the story and politicians of all sides (including Winston Churchill) made grand speeches in attacks on this insult to the honour of the British Army.
The British Army did what might be expected of ordinary soldiers, they took this insult on the chin and wore the 'Old Contemptibles' title as a badge of honour.

The truth was that the Kaiser never issued such an order and an investigation after the war found the most likely source was the British Army's General Headquarters who probably issued it as propaganda to cast shame on the Germans. Certainly the Germans did not have a headquarters at Aix-la-Chapelle back then, and at the time of the alleged order they were not even aware that the British Army had landed in France, and even less idea of the numbers involved. However, the die had been cast and the name entered into history.

The 'Old Contemptibles' of the British Expeditionary Force faced overwhelming numbers in the first few weeks of the war and were forced back and had to fight a rearguard action, retreating a long way before they stopped the German Army's advance. They then pushed back and dug in. With the French Army doing the same, the German Army had nowhere to advance. So began what is sometimes described as 'The Race to the Sea' but in reality was a series of attempts to outflank each other. We managed to take control of the channel ports. By this time the opposing armies had consolidated their positions and on the 22nd of November 1914 trench warfare was firmly in place and this would dictate the course of the war for the next few years.
The men of the 'Old Contemptibles' earned the 1914 Star with a clasp which bore the dates '5th Aug - 22 Nov 1914' to define this period.

Keighley's Old Contemptibles Association

On June 25th 1925, Captain John Patrick Danny of the Royal Field Artillery founded the Old Contemptibles Association and its popularity was such that it grew to 178 branches in the UK and had 14 overseas branches.
It produced its own magazine called 'The Old Contemptible' and all members were known as "chums":
The members of the Association are all survivors of the First British Expeditionary Force of August-November 1914 - "That 'little mighty Force that stood for England...stood fast while England girt her armour on' -that withstood the German onslaught at Mons, The Marne, The Aisne and Ypres, they kept the enemy from the Channel Ports."

Qualification for membership is the same as the qualification for the 1914 Star with Clasp and Rose, which is from 4th August to 22nd November 1914 and all members had to prove this before joining.
We think the Keighley branch of the Old Contemptible's Association was founded in April 1938 at a meeting held in the Devonshire Hotel, Keighley, and dissolved in April 1968 when there were only five members remaining.
There were other meetings prior to this but the branch didn't start issuing memberships until April.
The Standard was ordered and arrived to be paraded at the War Memorial in Keighley's Town Hall Square in September 1938. We think a function was held after this at Prince Smith's Sport's Club Pavilion where a group photograph was taken.
There are forty men pictured in this group photograph and we have managed to name half of them, but are always on the lookout for new names. We have reproduced below the photograph, plus an outline photograph with names we do know, and a list of the members taken from Keighley Branch membership record forms.

KOCA groupsmall.jpg

KOCA group - Outline and names-02.jpg

Known Keighley Old Contemptibles' Association Branch members (77 names in total):


George Atherton - Haworth
Captain Baker - Thwaites Brow
James Birdsall - Keighley
Harry Boyes - Keighley
George William Bugler - Keighley
Ernest Burnett - Keighley
William George Burnett - Keighley
John Capstick - Laycock
Charles Carroll - Keighley
Cuthbert Catterson - Keighley
Wallace Cawston - Crosshills
Sandell Edward Chatten - Bingley
John Willie Cooper - Denholme
William Cox - Keighley
William Cunningham - Keighley
John William Davis - Keighley
John William Daynes - Keighley
Michael Derrick - Keighley
William Dixon - Keighley
Harold Driver - Keighley
Thomas Duckett - Keighley
Olroyd Ellis - Keighley
Robert William Mayes Emery - Keighley
John Finan - Haworth
Edward Foy - Keighley
Maurice Allen Gardner - Keighley
Edward Geldard - Steeton
Charles Goff - Cononley
Frederick Gower - Oxenhope
William Graham - Keighley
William Grange - Keighley
Jesse Townsley Green - Keighley
Joseph Green - Keighley
Charles Gunton - Keighley
Herbert Hainsworth - Haworth
Henry Hardisty - Military Medal - Keighley
Thomas Henry Hayes - Oakworth
Thomas Henry - Keighley
Benjamin Hum - Keighley
Willie Ideson - Keighley
Joseph Jackson - Keighley
Tom Jowett - Keighley
Joseph Joyce - Keighley
Alexander Keenan - Keighley
Hugh Kelly - Goose Eye
George Kershaw - Military Medal - Keighley
John Robert Langstaff - Keighley
George Langstaffe - Keighley
Lewis Laycock - Military Medal - Keighley
Albert Victor Liddimore - Keighley
Walter Longman - Keighley
John Martin - Keighley
Sam Metcalfe - Keighley
Percy Moore - Keighley
Iveson Moorhouse - Keighley
Arthur Nixon - Keighley
Charles Nobes - Steeton
William Normington - Haworth
William Pryke - Keighley
William Thomas Pye - Keighley
Herbert Riley - Keighley
Christopher Silverwood - Keighley
Albert Smith - Keighley
Fred Stephenson - Keighley
Harry Stewart - Riddlesden
Frank Sugden - Keighley
William Templeton - Keighley
James Thomas - Keighley
Albert E. Tighe - Keighley
John Thomas Tinkler - Riddlesden
Walter Walworth - Keighley
William Whitaker - Keighley
Joseph Whitehall - Keighley
George Whittemore - Keighley
Arthur Parker Wilson - Keighley
John Winkley - Keighley
Joseph Yeomans - Oakworth