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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Recruitment of civil prisoners


KevinBattle
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Having a grandfather who I have traced was remanded for 7 days in 1911 and with other family members claiming he was sent down for 7 years, what happened to the prison population when WW1 was declared? I realise that, initially, there would be no "desire" for prisoners to be soldiers, but what happened when the demand for more recruits grew?

I quite accept that there would be some prisoners who you wouldn't want in the ranks with you, even without a weapon, but there must have been many who were as loyal as the next man, if a little lighter in the fingers!

Was it a general principle to recruit from prisons, perhaps keeping in those who would be a danger to everyone, not just the enemy? I know some "criminals" being sentenced were sometimes offered a choice between the Army or prison, but it's those inside before August 1914 that I'd like to know about.

Would any Attestation Form show their "origin" as prison, or just gloss over that aspect?

Would they be eligible for front line service or just as a sort of penal Labour Gang, not quite in chains, but under (ahem) armed supervision?

I'm just trying to explore what may have happened to him, he seems to have disappeared after the remand record, although grandma continued to have children until the 1930's, in her "married" name.

There are too many Robert Rigby's to trace which might have been gramps, without some corroborating evidence. No one in the family seem to know whether or not he served and with a Liverpool connection, he could have been Army or Navy, Royal or Merchant, or just lost contact.

Thanks in advance (Yes, I did do a Search and found some info, but not enough!)

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Was it a general principle to recruit from prisons, perhaps keeping in those who would be a danger to everyone, not just the enemy? I know some "criminals" being sentenced were sometimes offered a choice between the Army or prison, but it's those inside before August 1914 that I'd like to know about.

This has been discussed before (and if memory serves generated some bad temper). I don't think a consensus was reached but there is a suspicion that if your brief or solicitor said something along the lines of "me client has volunteered his services in the defence of this country" sentence might be suspended if the crime wasn't too henious. More an understanding than a choice.

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