In a city which attracted many German immigrants to trade in its textile industry, it is no surprise that a number of the men in the Bradford Pals were of German descent.

Colonel G. H. Muller© Bradford Weekly Telegraph

These included the Pals first commanding officer, Colonel George Herbert Muller, who although born in Bradford had German parents. A former commander of the 6th Territorial unit of the West Yorkshire Regiment, Muller knew how to run a battalion and had a network of contacts of former officers to call on, which made him the right man to take charge of the formation of the First Bradford Pals, despite his family background. The Colonel on his white horse became a familiar figure in the city of Bradford and the Pals came to respect Muller. There was genuine expressions of regret when he left them to take command of the Second Bradford Pals shortly after their arrival in Skipton.

Colonel Charles Wallace Warden took over command of the First Pals from Colonel Muller on 22 February and stayed with them until they departed for Ripon on 20 May. Colonel Warden was a veteran of both the Zulu and Boer Wars and belonged to the breed of retired Army Officers unflatteringly termed ‘dug-outs’, who the War Office relied upon to train Kitchener’s New Armies. He was refused permission to serve with the Pals abroad and instead commanded various training battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment until the end of the war. He went on to live until the ripe old age of 99.

Like Warden, many of the officers of the First Pals were older men with military experience who had been ‘dug-out’ of retirement to train the new recruits. However, they also included well-educated younger men with family or business connections, but who had little or no military experience. It was a learning curve for some, including 34-year-old Lieutenant Robert Sutcliffe who found soldiering rather different from his pre-war occupation as a solicitor:

He once got confused and said ‘right’ when he meant ‘left’. Our platoon would have ended up in the canal if we had obeyed him. He was a nice chap, but he wasn’t much of a soldier. None of the officers were at that time if I’ve got to be honest

Interview with Private George Grunwell from ‘Bradford Pals’ by David Raw, p. 62

Lieutenant Sutcliffe leading a drill© David Raw


photo of schoolmaster harold colley

Harold Colley© Craven's Part of the Great War

An important part of the officer training at Raikeswood Camp was learning French and German. Lessons were given by Skipton Grammar School foreign language master, Harold Colley, who before the war had been teaching at the University of Posen in Prussia. He was on summer vacation at home in Bradford when war broke out and was immediately dismissed by the German government. He obtained the teaching post at Skipton and later became an officer in the Bradford Pals himself, working as an Intelligence Officer with the Second Pals. He was one of the many Pals missing on the first day of the Somme who did not come home.