WW1 Recruiting

General Annual Reports on The British Army (including the Territorial Force from the date of Embodiment) for the Period from 1st October 1913, to 30th September, 1919

During the period October 1913 to 4th August, 1914, recruiting had been proceeding in a normal manner, and the numbers taken into the Army indicate that if war had not broken out the number of recruits for the year would have been normal. On 4th August, 1914, however, war was declared, the Expeditionary Force was prepared forthwith for embarkation overseas, and the reserves and special reserves, amounting to about 200,000 men, were called up; the members of the Territorial Force, the majority of whom were then under canvas, were also mobilized to the extent of about 250,000.

An Army Order was issued on 4th August, authorizing the immediate enlistment of specialists for certain arms, such as artificers, motor cyclists, hospital subordinates, motor-car drivers, etc. The next step which was taken was the promulgation of an Army Order on 6th August, permitting ex-soldiers of the Regular Army to re-enlist in the Special Reserve for one year or for the duration of the war. On the same date another Army Order was issued authorizing civilians to be recruited for the Army for a period of three years or the duration of the war. The contract admitted of the soldier being discharged on the completion of his three years’ service or earlier if war had ceased, but this provision was subsequently cancelled by the Military Service Acts. Under the Army Order, the standards for physique were similar to those in existence for the Regular Army and the conditions of service were for service in any part of the world during the period. On 8th August, the Secretary of State for War announced that the minimum immediate requirements were 100,000 recruits who were required to form the first new army, and this number was easily obtained within a few days. Men, ready and anxious to serve their country, waited for hours, frequently all night, to obtain admission to the recruiting offices, and the machinery for dealing with the vast numbers of recruits proved to be totally inadequate. Steps were immediately taken to open recruiting offices all over the country whereby the congestion at the central offices was somewhat relieved. Local authorities placed at the disposal of the War Office public buildings, such as Town Halls, libraries, baths, etc., to enable the recruiting staff to carry out their functions with the least possible delay.

The next difficulty arose in the matter of training. The large numbers of men without military experience who were being placed in billets and camps throughout the Kingdom were without instructors or non-commissioned officers. Consequently, an Army Order was issued on 17th August, 1914, authorizing the re-enlistment of ex-non-commissioned officers of the Regular Army, upon the understanding that they would be utilized in any part of the world, that they would be promoted forthwith to the rank held upon their previous discharge, and, if possible, would be posted to a unit of their former corps.

Recruiting proceeded rapidly, and on more than one occasion the numbers attested in one day exceeded the total numbers attested annually under normal conditions.

Recruiting had, indeed, become so brisk that the difficulties of housing, feeding and clothing the men became unmanageable and it was deemed advisable that a “brake should be put on.” On 11th September, 1914, the standard of physique was raised, and this measure immediately had the effect of damming the stream.

The necessary re-organization having been completed, the restrictions in regard to standards of physique were removed. Once, however, the dam had been placed across the stream, the flow was very considerably reduced, and it became necessary to adopt special measures to stimulate recruiting.

A Parliamentary Recruiting Committee was accordingly established, and speakers were drawn from every class of the community, and included many officers who had been wounded overseas. The object of this Committee was to bring home clearly to the male population of the country the definite need of the nation to create as large an Army as possible, in order that the war might be brought to a speedy determination. By means of this Committee, some 20,000 speeches were delivered, and the horrors which were being suffered by the French and Belgian populations within the war areas were brought home as vividly as possible to those in this country who had suffered no inconvenience from the war in the shape of pillage, plunder or destruction, and who had hardly been affected by difficulties of food supply. As a consequence of this propaganda both municipalities and individuals came forward with offers to raise local battalions or units, notable among these being Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Salford and Hull. Special battalions such as the Sportsmen’s and Public Schools’ were also formed.

Simultaneously during this recruiting campaign, the officers and men of the Territorial Force, who had no obligation to serve overseas, were asked to volunteer for general service, and the response was practically unanimous.

It must be remembered, however, that during the earlier period of the war, large numbers of men joined the Territorial Force for “home defence.” These were mostly men on whom dependents relied for support; at that period allowances were somewhat inadequate to meet the rising prices of the day, and many employers were unable to pay employees who had enlisted the half wages commonly paid by rich firms.

Recruiting for the Territorials had proceeded simultaneously with recruiting for the new armies, and by July 1915, more than two million volunteers had been enlisted for services in the Regular and Territorial Forces.

In June, 1915, however, the numbers of recruits began to diminish in proportion to the requirements, and the maximum age standard was raised from 38 to 40 years of age, and the minimum height standard for infantry was lowered to 5 feet 2 inches.

It must be remembered that considerable numbers of men who had offered their services to the country in the Army since the outbreak of war, had been rejected for either height or age, and had consequently sought work other than in their own profession, work in which they felt they would be doing good service to the country, by supplying the Army with its necessary munitions and equipment. Having settled into these occupations, however, it became difficult for them to be released for military service when the restrictions which had previously debarred them were removed. May of these men after a short period had become practically indispensable in their new occupation.

On 15th July, 1915, the National Registration Act passed through both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent. This Act thenceforth formed the basis of organized recruiting throughout the country. The occupation of every male and female between the ages of 15 and 65 was recorded and it then became possible for the first time to ascertain the numbers of men of military age in the country, irrespective of their medical classification, and also to determine how many men were actually employed in occupations which were directly of military service or otherwise. From this registration, a proportion was quickly arrived at to enable the Government to ensure that none of the essential industries, i.e., coal mining, shipbuilding, munitions, etc., were depleted of the necessary numbers required to keep the ever-increasing Army fully supplied with all its requirements, to ensure that the Fleet was also maintained in a state of efficiency, and that the merchant shipping losses were repaired with the least possible delay.

On the completion of the registration, the cards of men between 18 and 40 years of age were handed over to the Recruiting Authorities and the Recruiting Committee undertook the work of canvasing all such men who were registered as being employed in occupations which were not considered “reserved occupations.” Subsequently cards were prepared for record purposes of all men who came within the ages laid down in the National Registration Act, viz. 15 and 65 years.

Every effort was made to recruit more men voluntarily during the latter part of 1915 by parades, recruiting marches, speeches, demonstrations, etc., but the need still being great, in October 1915, the Earl of Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruiting, and he at once instituted the system of group-recruiting, men so attested being commonly known as “Derby Recruits.” This system allowed men to attest and to be forthwith transferred to the Reserve, to be called up as and when their services were required. It had become evident, about this time, that conscription was probably inevitable, and the “Derby system” was instituted in the hope that such large numbers would become available that conscription could be avoided. The men attested under the scheme were classified into 46 groups, according to age and to their married or single state, and were called up by the War Office authorities, by groups, according to requirements. The scheme, however, was only in operation for a period of two months, during which time nearly two and a quarter million men were attested. Of this very large number, many were never called to the Colours for various reasons, one of the chief being that a large number who had attested were already in reserved occupations. As, however, on the closing of the recruiting campaign, it was found that a large number of single men, of military age, had neither attested nor enlisted, the Government introduced a measure called the Military Service Bill, 1916, rendering all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 Liable to compulsory service.

As the Government had originally aimed at a policy of winning the war by voluntary recruitment, the provisions of the Act were not put into force for a time, and the groups under the “Derby system” were re-opened, with the satisfactory result that there were few single men left to be brought into the Army compulsorily.

In June 1916, the powers under the Act were extended to apply to married men, and from that time forward all men of military age became liable to compulsory service.

The difficulties of compulsorily taking men from their occupations into the Army were very numerous, many businesses being run single-handed, and considerable hardship would have resulted had the Act been rigorously put into force without some form of appeal.

Local Tribunals were therefore set up throughout the country, to which all men who were called up were entitled to appeal, and the method adopted on a successful appeal was to place the man in a lower group, thus granting him temporary exemption from military service. During the period of exemption, he was required to either secure his business against the future or to make such arrangements as would enable him to join the military forces on the calling up of his new group. Appeals by employers were also allowed on behalf of men whom they considered it essential to retain in order to maintain their business. The organization of compulsory service in itself proved no small task, but the connection between the War Office and Local Tribunals was such that it was deemed advisable during 1917 to remove the calling up of recruits from the War Office to a branch of the Government created to deal with the man-power situation of the whole nation. Accordingly, the recruiting administration was reorganized, and from 1st November 1917, to 15th January 1919, was under the control of the Minister of National Service.

Recruiting was only one phase of the Ministry’s activities, the object being to obtain a maximum result from the man and woman power of the nation. In this connection, the Ministry had to hold the balance between the demands of the Army, the Navy and the Royal Air Force for men, munitions, ships, coal, etc., and to maintain the agencies of production, distribution and supply, upon which depended the daily life of the civilian population of the country. This task would have been difficult if the conditions had been fixed, but, as it was, the respective claims were constantly changing.

Detailed investigations were made from time to time into the state of industry and labour throughout the country, and, in view of the fact that the complexity of the problem of organizing resources increased as the amount of reserve in civil life decreased, these investigations called for constant additions in the details of information required.

The General Annual Report of the British Army 1913

From October 1, 1912 to September 30, 1913, 104 men were recruited into the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment representing 77.6% of all recruits in Ashton. Of the 196 total recruits (Territorial and Regular Army), only 2 men were discharged within 3 months for medical disability. On October 1, 1913, 726 men of the 9th Battalion were born in the district.

The General Annual Report of the British Army 1913

The General Annual Report of the British Army 1913

Average total recruiting numbers (Territorial and Regular Army) over the five years were approximately 199 men each year, (standard deviation of 21.48).