IN order to fight in the First World War, thousands of men volunteered to head to the front line in France and Belgium – as well as the regular soldiers.

This remarkable picture, above, is from the collection of the Lancashire Infantry Museum in Preston.

It shows members of the 4th Battalion of the South Lancs assembling at Bank Quay Station in August 1914 immediately after war was declared to join the British Expeditionary Force.

These were the regular volunteers not additional recruits or conscripts.

In the ceremony pictures, they have just officially handed over their colours to the deputy mayor for safe keeping and these weren’t handed back until June 1919 when the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Warrington Territorials headed off on trains from Warrington Bank Quay and were soon serving with the South Lancashire Regiment, according to Janice Hayes from Warrington Museum.

She said they soon found themselves in the thick of the action in France and Belgium.

Sgt Greeley of the 2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment recounted his experiences after the early battles at Mons for the Warrington Guardian in early October 1914.

He wrote: “I have been very lucky as I have been under shell fire ever since I got here.

“It is terrible the sights we see.

“We have been walking over German dead bodies for days. We often get wet to the skin. We have no overcoats now.

“We lost them in the Battle of Mons.

“We were unable to carry them, so we had to leave them in the trenches. At night time we have to lie down in the rain.

“That is when we do lie down which is not often.

“It makes our blood run cold to see men, women and dear little children running for their lives out of the villages and leaving their homes.

“The places have been set on fire by German shells. The war does not seem like finishing yet awhile, judging from the news.

“It is always ‘heavy German losses’, but they never seem to be getting any smaller. As they get knocked down there seem to be dozens to come in each man’s place. But they must be getting fewer somewhere.

“They keep coming hundreds at a time to give themselves up as prisoners.”

As the war progressed, Sgt Greeley’s rather pessimistic view of the fighting might havebeen subject to more rigorous censorship.