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1914: Age Bar for Active Service -19 or 20?


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Hello

I have always understood that the age limit for serving overseas in 1914 was under 19 years of age. I have always assumed that this meant a man could only go on active service when he hit his 19th birthday. I understand the exceptions were Drummers, Buglers and Trumpeters which were small in number. Whilst doing some research I stumbled on a few references that might suggest the age bar was originally 20 and reduced at some stage in early Aug 1914 to 19. Here is the evidence:

History of the Black Watch in the Great War 1914-1918 (page 1): " The [1st] battalion was in a high state of efficiency and well up to its peace strength of about seven hundred. On mobilization however, about two hundred of these men were left behind under the regulation debarring soldiers under twenty years of age from proceeding on active service"

4th Bn Middlesex Regt War Diary: 7th Aug 1914: 3:00 pm. "Details (unfit men, men under 20 and surplus Reservists, also 9 NCOs of permanent establishment at Depot). Total 1 Officer 162 Other Ranks proceeded to depot leaving small party under an Officer to take over surplus baggage."

1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt War Diary:

5th Aug 1914: 7:00 pm "Orders received from War Office to include men between 19 & 20 years of age who have fired Table A in numbers to proceed on service."

6th Aug 1914: 9:00 am "Capt Kitchen took over command of Details from Capt Hyslop. Medical Inspection of Officers who were not previously inspected and of men between 19 & 20 years of age".

To be clear, this is not about young men slipping through the net. I am aware that hundreds of under-aged men went overseas in 1914. This is about the regulations or instructions. Are all three battalions above simply making a mistake? The last one is very precise. It seems to indicate the 19-20 year olds were not inspected initially and when the order came that 19-20 year-olds who had fired Table A were to go on service, they were inspected by the MO.

The reason I ask is that at the outbreak of the war, many battalions received more than a hundred Reservists than they required and I wonder if their requests for drafts were based on leaving 20 year olds behind, and when the order changed to 19 year-olds they found themselves with surplus reservists. Just a thought.

If anyone can provide more examples of the 20 year old bar (rather than the 19 year-old) I would be grateful, similarly if anyone can trace the alleged order from the War Office on 5th Aug 1914, I would be grateful.

The differences are big. For the line infantry in Oct 1914 (last reliable data we have) some 17% of the home based Line Infantry were aged between 19 and 20,some 9,741 individuals (= 131 per battalion)- enough to fill 8 battalions to War Establishment. The historical data for the preceding 10 years shows similar proportions and there is every reason to believe that in Aug 1914 the proportion of 19-20 year olds was similar. The decision to take 19-20 years-olds essentially added manpower equivalent to two brigades of infantry in the BEF. For the Army as a whole, it equates to over 17,000 men.

MG

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Pre-war some branches were regularly restricting recruitment to those aged 19 or over (based on recruiting demand) - allowing that soldiers weren't usually sent overseas within the 1st year of enlistment this could provide the answer but as to where it's covered in regulation and whether any infantry regiments used this age restriction or not I don't know for certain.

Craig

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That seems to clarify it.

Grumpy's post #6 in the thread seems to confirm the 20 years age for overseas service so it looks like they quickly changed this so that the extra men could be freed up for France.

Craig

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Hi,

Another age related "loophole"....

I understand from a previous thread that pre 1914 men could enlist in the Special Reserve aged 17 years.

Consequently when mobilised in Aug 1914 any 17 year old Special Reservist would be immediately liable to deployment for active service overseas.

Regards

Steve Y

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Consequently when mobilised in Aug 1914 any 17 year old Special Reservist would be immediately liable to deployment for active service overseas.

Was there no overseas service age specified in the S.R. enlistment regs ? (Martin's quotes seem to suggest that the men between 19 & 20 were sent overseas following the amendment but what happened under 19 (presumably they stayed at home) and did this apply to the S.R ?)

The whole system across the regular, T.F. and S.R seems to have been a mishmash of various age restrictions.

Craig

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That seems to clarify it.

Grumpy's post #6 in the thread seems to confirm the 20 years age for overseas service so it looks like they quickly changed this so that the extra men could be freed up for France.

Craig

Indeed. That might very well be the source of confusion. On mobilisation by dint of the fact that they were going overseas meant (initially) that men under 20 would be barred. When the War Office instruction came through permitting men aged between 19 and 20 to go, subject to being fully trained and having fired Table A.

The maths seems to be fairly straightforward. On stroke of the pen added 9,741 regulars and 6,018 Special Reservists to the pool of men eligible to serve overseas - some 15,759 men assuming they complied with the other criteria. MG

Hi,

I understand from a previous thread that pre 1914 men could enlist in the Special Reserve aged 17 years.

Consequently when mobilised in Aug 1914 any 17 year old Special Reservist would be immediately liable to deployment for active service overseas.

Steve Y

I don't think they were liable for overseas service at 17. In theory the same rules would apply. On mobilisation the SR became embodied and transferred en masse to the Regulars, so the same rules applied. MG

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I recently came across a statement in reported in Hansard 1906 by Haldane saying that men were not sent out to India until they had passed 20

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Hello

I have always understood that the age limit for serving overseas in 1914 was under 19 years of age. I have always assumed that this meant a man could only go on active service when he hit his 19th birthday. I understand the exceptions were Drummers, Buglers and Trumpeters which were small in number. Whilst doing some research I stumbled on a few references that might suggest the age bar was originally 20 and reduced at some stage in early Aug 1914 to 19. Here is the evidence:

History of the Black Watch in the Great War 1914-1918 (page 1): " The [1st] battalion was in a high state of efficiency and well up to its peace strength of about seven hundred. On mobilization however, about two hundred of these men were left behind under the regulation debarring soldiers under twenty years of age from proceeding on active service"

4th Bn Middlesex Regt War Diary: 7th Aug 1914: 3:00 pm. "Details (unfit men, men under 20 and surplus Reservists, also 9 NCOs of permanent establishment at Depot). Total 1 Officer 162 Other Ranks proceeded to depot leaving small party under an Officer to take over surplus baggage."

1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt War Diary:

5th Aug 1914: 7:00 pm "Orders received from War Office to include men between 19 & 20 years of age who have fired Table A in numbers to proceed on service."

6th Aug 1914: 9:00 am "Capt Kitchen took over command of Details from Capt Hyslop. Medical Inspection of Officers who were not previously inspected and of men between 19 & 20 years of age".

To be clear, this is not about young men slipping through the net. I am aware that hundreds of under-aged men went overseas in 1914. This is about the regulations or instructions. Are all three battalions above simply making a mistake? The last one is very precise. It seems to indicate the 19-20 year olds were not inspected initially and when the order came that 19-20 year-olds who had fired Table A were to go on service, they were inspected by the MO.

The reason I ask is that at the outbreak of the war, many battalions received more than a hundred Reservists than they required and I wonder if their requests for drafts were based on leaving 20 year olds behind, and when the order changed to 19 year-olds they found themselves with surplus reservists. Just a thought.

If anyone can provide more examples of the 20 year old bar (rather than the 19 year-old) I would be grateful, similarly if anyone can trace the alleged order from the War Office on 5th Aug 1914, I would be grateful.

The differences are big. For the line infantry in Oct 1914 (last reliable data we have) some 17% of the home based Line Infantry were aged between 19 and 20,some 9,741 individuals (= 131 per battalion)- enough to fill 8 battalions to War Establishment. The historical data for the preceding 10 years shows similar proportions and there is every reason to believe that in Aug 1914 the proportion of 19-20 year olds was similar. The decision to take 19-20 years-olds essentially added manpower equivalent to two brigades of infantry in the BEF. For the Army as a whole, it equates to over 17,000 men.

MG

Take a look at this link http://www.da.mod.uk/wwi/from-the-archives/general-officer-staff-conferences/GSC-1914_Jan12-15-r.pdf/view - specifically page 55 onwards.

It's a copy of the Jan 1914 conference of staff officers at the the RMC and the age question is brought up along with queries regarding drafts. If you navigate back over from the page then there's also copies of earlier years conferences.

Craig

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