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Recruitment in the First World War
BRITAIN and STANTON GOES TO WAR
On August 4th 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. At this point it had a small regular Army of professional soldiers, Reservists, and Territorial forces.
It was these trained men who were first sent to Belgium and France as the British Expeditionary Force.
It soon became clear that the numbers in these forces were wholly inadequate.
A huge recruiting drive was launched, headed by Lord Kitchener, exhorting men to join up.
The famous poster outside is part of this campaign, and other examples of recruiting posters are exhibited on postcards.
Stanton responded to the call. In Britain nearly half a million extra men volunteered, and at least 36 of those were from the village. One of those, George Stuart Broomhead, was under age, joining up when he was 16.
Those names are listed on the exhibited Society of Oddfellows record.
Those names, referenced to the 1911 census, giving age, address, occupation, and whether they survived, are available in the purple documents folder.
There are an extra 3 names captured on a memorial in the Wesleyan Reform Church, now lost. The record is also in the folder.
Why did so many volunteer?
Available oral histories from around the country give many reasons, such as doing your duty, moral obligation, travel, sense of adventure, a chance to play a part in world events, and unemployment (not so relevant to Stanton).
The national feeling that the war would not last beyond 6 months added to the attraction.
Friends and people who knew each other often joined up together, and this would have been a powerful incentive in a small community like Stanton.
However, there would probably been some considerable upset as well. Oral histories suggest that parents, and especially mothers, were fearful and anxious about what might happen to their sons, sometimes leading to tensions within and between families.
Would Stanton have been any different?
MORE MEN NEEDED!
After summer 1915, voluntary enlistment started to slow, and high casualty rates meant the Army was struggling for numbers.
In January and May 1916 Military Service Acts were introduced leading to conscription for men aged 18-41.
Applications for exemption could be made on grounds of ill-health, war work, necessary work or reserved occupations, hardship, and conscientious objection, and have their cases heard before a tribunal.
Despite conscription, enlisting men for the forces continued to be a struggle, especially after the huge losses during the battle of the Somme in 1916.
The 1911 census suggests there were approximately 90 men in the Parish of Stanton who were technically liable to serve, either voluntarily or by conscription, but no records exist which tell us actually who did.
A reasonable estimate is that it was approximately 50-60, the rest being in ‘reserved occupations’.
There is no evidence of any conscientious objection.
SOME STATISTICS FROM THE WESTERN FRONT
All the Stanton men we know about served, or finished up serving, on the Western Front.
The national figures tell us that :
5 million soldiers served there
92% wounded men survived
88% Britain’s soldiers returned home
Days of mass loss were the exception
15% time spent in the firing line
10% time spent in support trenches
30% time spent in reserve trenches
45% time spent out of trenches
Boredom was a factor!
For examples of recruiting posters click here.