WWI 100th Anniversary: From Volunteering to Conscription

WWI 100th Anniversary: From Volunteering to Conscription



when the first world war broke out 100 years ago most people in Britain put aside their differences to support the war effort United by a sense of patriotism duty and the shock of war hundreds of thousands of men across Britain and the empire volunteered to fight when the war started in 1914 Britain was actually had a very small army and needed to expand it very very quickly initially that was done on a voluntary basis and actually thousands of men volunteered in the opening months of the war and through into 1915 millions of people at home volunteered their time and money to support troops as they feared what might happen if Germany won while initially most Britons needed little persuading to play their part in their country's cause the government turned out around twelve point five million recruitment posters in over 160 designs despite the vivacious volunteer effort the sheer size and scale of World War one meant that conscription came into force seven million men marched off to war in August 1914 but a million of them died by the end of the year the horrific number of casualties caused by modern weapons came as a terrible shock while the British Expeditionary Force or the BEF the core of Britain's small army was almost destroyed as 1915 drew on it became clear that the number of recruits into the armed forces wasn't wasn't enough for this what was it an absolutely huge war effort and so towards the end of 1915 there was initial scheme called the Darby scheme which is in again encouraging her men to join up but it was kind of a halfway house between full conscription but that wasn't effective particularly either so full conscription came in the very beginning of 1916 it started to take effect in the spring and summer of 1916 and it was really important to enable Britain to have armed forces that will be enough to Main Payne what was a really enormous war effort you know you know a really desperate struggle particularly on the Western Front which required you know huge numbers of men and an obstinate huge amounts of material as well in 1916 over a million British and Empire troops were evacuated from the Western Front to Britain for medical treatment and a quarter of a million of them had already suffered partial or total amputation of an arm or leg meanwhile Britain wrote in unlikely help in the war effort such as over 1 million Indian men to help fight the war and hundreds of thousands of women to help become farm laborers and work in other forms of manly employment in the forces for more support but it was the adoption of conscription that was dominating the use of manpower conscription was was something that was very alien to Britain as a country it was something that had never happened in Britain before which is in complete contrast to most of the eight other major powers in Europe in terms of how it actually worked there was a restricted age range for soldiers so men between about 18 and 41 years of age were were conscripted and they were conscripted in different classes according to when they were born and so that affected when they would be caught up the actual age restrictions were slightly relaxed in 1918 when there were manpower problems when the army was really desperate for new conscripts to keep it at a reasonable level of manpower and so actually soldiers before were only supposed to serve overseas when they turn 19 but in 1918 that was slightly lowered to 18 years old and also the age range at the top of the scale was slightly extended as well so it just showed how desperate the war effort had become by that point that the age ranges were were widened not only did World War one change the way Britain formed its armed forces but it also shaped the way Britain drew a new recruit for World War two when the Second World War affected things in the sense that conscription came in as soon as the war started so voluntary recruitment wasn't an issue because it there was no need for it it was a conscription was there from from the word goes so it was an entirely different sort of situation I think by the time of the Second World War people you know that the two world wars were relatively close together so you know some people who had served in the First World War were also involved in some capacity during the second as well for example a lot of service personnel who might have been too old to actually serve in the Armed Forces by the time of the Second World War they would have been in the Home Guard or they would have been an AARP warden or done some some kind of civil defense role so people were I think you know very much in a in a mindset where they could they knew they could cope in some to some extent with with something some kind of massive conflicts a total war on an even more global scale actually than the first world war so in some ways I suppose Society was was slightly better prepared for such a cataclysmic event but at the same time it went something it has happened so relatively recently in living memory there's something quite quite you know depressing and quite difficult about having to face another you know long and you know very costly war by the end of the First World War Britain and its empire were triumphant but the fallout had reshaped society forever 88 percent of British soldiers he went off to fight came home but some towns and Families paid a disproportionately high price by the end of the 1920s around 2.5 million War veterans were still receiving a disability pension while 60,000 British soldiers suffered head or eye injuries over 41,000 British servicemen lost limbs what 80,000 cases of war neuroses had been reported by the end of the war by 1922 around 1/4 of the 2 million people out of work were ex-servicemen this is why especially to mark the centenary that society should remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives and one of the most brutal wars in history

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