Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Recruiting difficulties


Khaki

Recommended Posts

What region of Great Britain (counties) presented the greatest difficulties in recruiting?, I am not referring to political resistance, but for example, rural family owned farms where the loss of an able bodied man to the forces would have impacted on production, I understand that exemptions could be applied for. Were there any other reasons that caused resentment to recruiting?

khaki

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What region of Great Britain (counties) presented the greatest difficulties in recruiting?, I am not referring to political resistance, but for example, rural family owned farms where the loss of an able bodied man to the forces would have impacted on production, I understand that exemptions could be applied for. Were there any other reasons that caused resentment to recruiting?

khaki

The stats will tell us the whole country had difficulties eventually.

Despite some early enthusiasm the limit factors were population and population densities. This was further complicated by the fact that the Army was losing men faster than it could train new recruits in 1914 and early 1915. There is hard evidence that accelerated training of Kitchener men and early deployment to France and Flanders was used to solve the problem. This had unintended consequences. Following the trail back to source, this put further demands on the recruiters. Five line infantry regiments literally ran out of 'Fully Trained and effective' men in their reserves in early 1915. Most surprising of all is that one of the Regiments was the Northumberland Fusiliers which was the best recruited pre-war unit in the British Army and able to tap large population sources in the industrial North East, including neighbouring Co. Durham. It eventually had over 50 battalions, however this took some time and of course required the Conscription Act. Very close to 50% of all recruits were conscripts. The men who volunteered got their own medal in the shape of the 1914 and 1914-15 Star. Men disembarking after Conscription was in place had no similar recognition.

The designated regimental recruiting areas established in the 1880s yielded somewhere in the region of 300-350 men per line infantry regiment per year. Rural areas sometimes struggled to fill their quota in the pre-war years and some were permitted to recruit in the cities. The essential problem was that the administrative structure of the Army anchored in the Cardwell and Childers Reforms was largely incompatible with the requirements for total war and mass recruiting. The asymmetry between population concentrations and designated regimental recruiting districts was sometimes very large. Lincolnshire (the County with one of the lowest population densities in England) was required to raise the same number of Service battalions for K1, K2 etc as, say, the Manchester Regt. Very soon surplus men from the cities were firstly offered opportunities to serve in regiments that were short of recruits. Later they were not given a choice and simply sent. (there were no guarantees in the attestation form).There are examples of surprised and disgruntled northerners being pressed into service with rural county regiments or Irish regiments.

The consequences of this can be seen in the casualty data of some K1 units where for example large numbers of men who joined the York and Lancaster Regt (recruited from Industrial Sheffield) in Sept 1914 ended up dying in Gallipoli and Macedonia with Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish) Div. The data is very revealing and clearly shows the evidence of block-transfers of men. The root cause being recruiting problems quite early on. In short there were enough men, but they were concentrated in the cities. Britain' population passed the 50% urban dwelling in 1858 if memory serves.

The lack of conscription in Ireland caused the greatest problems if one measures the number and % of units disbanded or amalgamated.

There are examples across the country but as a general rule rural areas found it more difficult. The 12th (Eastern) Div lagged in recruiting against most other K1 Divisions largely due to its agricultural base and the harvest . One other area that had some isolated cases were some Scottish TF battalions, but that was more of a matter of Imperial Service. Despite the fact that Scotland had a strong initial response, a number of Scottish TF battalions had to be brought up to war Establishment by importing whole companies from other Regiments. Where two Battalions from two different regiments did not have enough men who had signed for service overseas, some enterprising commanders agreed to merge the two to get to War establishment. This was not widespread but did happen.

There are a number of books with considerable deatail on the recruiting phase. Mitchinson's TF trilogy is excellent on this and reveals that the enthusiasm to serve was not quite as enthusiastic as we may believe. Simpkins on Kitchener's New Armies is excellent too. Lots of detailed examples. Also worth reading is Scotland and the Great War which explodes a few myths.

The Returns of the British Army carefully recorded the strengths of evey individual unit on a weekly and monthly basis throughout the period. The data is massive. A careful study of the data shows where the shortfalls were in absolute and relative terms as it is easy to compare across the 80 odd battalions raised for each of the K1, K2, K3 and K4 cohorts. I have the complete data and parts have been transcribed.

There are some big swings as the politically charged Divisions (16th Irish, 36th Ulster, 38th Welsh) caused some switching of large blocks of men between battalions. The Irish histories cover this reasonably well but the data is very revealing as it is possible to see the weekly swing both up and down.

Other examples revealing the underlying asymmetry in recruiting districts and population: the 53rd Welsh Div was not very Welsh. More than 50% of its battalions came from England, some from as far away as West Kent.

MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The stats for the 10th Irish Div and 16th Irish Div. Ireland had low population densities compared to the rest of the British Isles. It is worth remembering that this data is for Aug-Sep 1914 when recruiting was at its absolute peak, never to be matched. There are fragments of the data missing (blurred images) buut enough to give you an idea of the challenges facing largely rural County regiments in ireland such as the Connaught Rangers whose recruiting data reverses at one stage (6th Bn) and the Leinsters


Data below is Weekly Strength of K1 Battalions for the 10th Irish and 16th Irish Divisions in Aug-Dec 1914.

post-55873-0-18682600-1434561706_thumb.j

post-55873-0-69894400-1434561742_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks MG,

First class detailed response , which I am sure, will be of interest and a practical reference for all members,

regards

khaki

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks MG,

khaki

There is more. Lots more K1, K2, K3, K4. I don't want to drown the thread but the Irish story is particularly pertinent on a number of levels. It is more complex than we might think.

The Great War was largely fought (in the context of the British) by men from the Industrial North, for the simple fact that it is where they largest proportion of the population (ex London) lived. By a very wide margin. It is simply a fact of population concentration. I have a spreadsheet which lists every battalion that served and, by month, for the 52 months of the year, where they served. It can be filtered by geography of origin and it is quite staggering the concentration of units that came from the crucible of the industrial revolution.

I sometimes think of Charles Bean's rather disparaging comments about the weedy men from the slums of Lancashire and how they compared to the Australians at Gallipoli. He conveniently forgot to mention around a quarter of the Australians were in fact British. He also forgot to mention that without this narrow-shouldered, unhealthy, and defrauded youth we might have lost, as there simply were nowhere near enough Antipodeans. Outside the industrial areas of England it was difficult for any community to sustain recruiting levels due to their limited populations - the only exception is India of course. The English were thankfully not hobbled by any insecurities of national identity and did not require any parochial nationalistic labeling of formations - something that is rather overlooked in histories. In the same way it is rather a surprise to discover that most pre-war regular 'County' regiments were far from what was imagined - recruiting from the length and breadth of the country. The 1911 Census is eye-opening as are the Army Returns for 1902-1913 which are a gold-mine of demographics: pace of birth, occupation, recruiting district returns et. They even recorded how many Methodists were in the Army. They can provide some rather challenging truths: On the eve of the war there were not enough Scots born men to fill the ranks of the Scottish Infantry and some of the Scottish regiments had some of the lowest levels of Reserves of any regiment in the British Isles aide from the Irish. Facts like these are often ignored as inconvenient truths.

Similarly the English saw no need in their histories to focus on some imagined martial qualities of their race. They simply volunteered, fought, and died in very large numbers and when enthusiasm for dying for one's country waned, they were conscripted, fought and died in slightly lower proportions. One might argue that regional English formations became the touchstone for the English, but even these identities were difficult to sustain. By the end of the war a man from Cornwall might easily be serving in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Formations such as the Guards Division are interesting in this aspect as they drew on different sources of inspiration. While each had national identities, these were always subordinated to being a Guardsman.A different solution to the same challenges.

MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is the data for the Recruiting of K1 across the 6 Divisions spread across the country for the first two weeks. This is when recruiting was reaching peak rates when measured as number of volunteers per week.

During the period ending 5th Sep 1914 343,000 men had volunteered. Peak daily recruiting happened three days before when 33,204 men enlisted in a single day. Never to be repeated even during conscription. The week ending 5th Sep saw 144,852 men enlist.

Some observations that might give some idea of the correlation with population densities and recruiting;

1. The 11th Northern Division recruited four times more men than the 10th Irish Division in the same period.The 13th Western Division had recruited five and a half times as many as the 10th Irish Division. Both the Northern and Western Divs had recruiting bases in the industrial heartlands.

2. The 11th Northern Division recruited more than the 9th Scottish Divisoon and the 10th Irish Division combined during the period.

3. The 9th Scottish Division recruited less than any English Division during the period. Received wisdon is that the response to Kitchener's call was strongest in Scotland. The data during peak recruiting does not support this idea.

4. Within the Northern Division, the Lincolnshire Regt (low population density) was recruiting at less than half the rate of the Northern regiments

5. The weakest Division in England was the 12th (Eastern) Division. Lower population densities, agricultural depenedencies and the harvets all playing their part. This was noted by the War Office at the time. Despite this, the 12th eastern Div still managed to recruit more men than the 9th Scottish Div and 10th Irish Div.

8. During the period the 8th Bn Cheshire Regiment (formed at Chester) recruited 4,042 men. At the other extreme the 6th Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers had recruited just 39 men.

MG

post-55873-0-31036400-1434615267_thumb.j

post-55873-0-09419200-1434615299_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the Royal Newfoundland Regiment had particular difficulty finding enough manpower to maintain its single first line Battalion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An interesting table that compares the population by region (based on 1911 decennial Census) against the number of Battalions in each County Regiment or designated TF Regiment

The correlation is reasonably good. There are some Regiments that appear to have raised more battalions than their traditional recruiting districts might have suggested. It is worth remembering that the spillover from London into the home Counties would be a factor. Similary I have consolidated the Northumberland Fusiliers (51 battalions) with the DLI (42 Battalions) as the Northumberland Fusiliers could recruit in the more populous Co Durham.

Please note the data does not include the KRRC or Rifle Brigade or the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards, which could all recruit country-wide, although one might argue with a heavy tilt towards London and Middlesex, particularly the KRRC and Rifle Brigade.

Any mistakes are mine.

MG

post-55873-0-14601400-1434627393_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin

Many thanks for some fascinating stuff. What is interesting about the K1 divisions in the early weeks is the lack of officers. I suspect that this is in part because a good number were away on officer training courses which were run at six universities throughout GB. The courses were four weeks long, but were closed down after the first had been run in September 1914 because of the lack of officers with their units. It was thought better if they learned on the job along with their men. Another reason is possibly because the War Office found itself swamped with applications for commissions and nence there were delays in processing them.

Charles M

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first reference to your interesting statistics was to the West Yorks and the population density for West Riding. I have noticed that the West Yorks are often mentioned (or so it seems to me) this is supported by the population density for that region, just over three million for 1911. You have to understand that I have almost no knowledge of British geography and demographics, so your charts are appreciated.

khaki

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A slightly more refined version showing the relationship between population and the number of battalions in each Regiment. The regression line is pretty good. The four major outliers towards the top right are (right to left) Lancashire (red), London (green), West Riding (purple), and Northumberland and Co Durham combined (black).

The term 'West Riding' can be slightly misleading as not only could the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regt) recruit there, it also included the West Yorkshire Regt, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and the York and Lancaster Regt. The latter being particularly confusing as the regimental title refers to the lands owned by the Duchy of York and Lancaster rather than the Cities of York or Lancaster.

Looking at the data below it seems fairly clear that the Middlesex Regt and the Surrey regiments benefited from the over-spill from Metropolitan London as they appear to have raised disproportionately high numbers of battalions for their given population base.

The North Riding is interesting. From a population base almost exactly the same as Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire (combined) The Yorkshire Regt (Green Howards) stood at 24 battalions at its peak compared to the OBLI's 18. In essence, from similar population bases the Green Howards fielded a third more battalions than the OBLI. I suspect its ability to recruit from more densely populated areas of Yorkshire (neighbouring West Riding) is the primary factor behind this anomaly.

MG

post-55873-0-25547200-1434714331_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What region of Great Britain (counties) presented the greatest difficulties in recruiting?, I am not referring to political resistance, but for example, rural family owned farms where the loss of an able bodied man to the forces would have impacted on production, I understand that exemptions could be applied for. Were there any other reasons that caused resentment to recruiting?

khaki

The 1911 Census has some valuable data that breaks down the population of the UK by Administrative Counties and Metropolitan Boroughs etc. These areas were the building blocks for the Regimental Districts (read recruiting areas) and it is possible, country-wide, to measure the population in each Regimental District and compare this to the number of infantry battalions raised. The ratios of Population-to-Number-of-Battalions was as as follows

England 24,587

Wales 25,438

Scotland 18,339

Note: the lower the number, the higher proportion of the population enlisted in the Infantry.

This is a very simplistic approach with a few caveats. Drilling down one level we can see the data at Regimental District level. This mostly coincides with County boundaries or regions within counties if shared by a number of regiments. Making the necessary adjustments, No 79 Regimental District has a ratio of Population:Number of Battalions of just 6,234 - the lowest by far. No. 79 District was the Regimental District of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders which recruited (in theory) from Inverness-shire. It did not share its recruiting area with any other Scottish Regiment and is, in theory, one of the cleanest sets of data: one Regiment, one County.

On the surface the people of Inverness-shire joined the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders is disproportionately large numbers. In order to check the numbers and proportions of Cameron Highlanders that came from Inverness-shire we can look at the CWGC data for 1914-1918. The data set is large enough to be statistically meaningful. Of the 6,441 fatalities, 5,664 have a known place of birth (87.9%). Of these only 687 were born in Inverness-shire. Put another way, 4,977 of the 5,664 men whose place of birth is known, were born outside Inverness-shire. It is a reasonable assumption that these ratios applied to the men who served and survived.

This suggests that the Cameron Highlanders had to rely very heavily on men recruited from outside of its No. 79 Regimental District. This is not unusual. It is worth noting that within Scotland, the Cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee were excluded from any Regimental District as well as the Burghs of Leith, Govan and Partick. All Scottish infantry regiments could recruit in these high concentrations of population. Without this proviso it would have been rather difficult for the Cameron Highlanders to sustain its 14 battalions during the war.

This does not necessarily suggest that the Cameron Highlanders had recruiting difficulties, merely that the designated Regimental Districts sometimes had low correlations with the number of men who served in these 'County' Regiments. We see similar traits in England. The ratio of Northumberland's population:number of Battalions was the lowest in England at 13,665 (suggesting exceptionally high levels of recruiting). This however masks the fact that Northumberland recruited heavily in neighbouring Co Durham, a county with a population very nearly double the size of Northumberland (that surprised me too). Looking at the aggregate figures for Northumberland and Co Durham combined, we see the ratio come back to 22,223, somewhat closer to the national average of 24,587. I may revert with the proportion born in the North east if I can locate the data.

Any recruiting 'difficulties' would have been concentrated largely into the latter half of 1915 after the initial flood of volunteers had been trained and sent off to fight. The attrition during 1914-1915 was way beyond any expectations. Between Aug 1914 and early March 1915 casualty rates exceeded the British Army's ability to reinforce and average strengths of Battalions were typically way below war establishment. Kitchener Recruits, particularly those who were re-enlisted time-expired men were naturally accelerated through training into the filed, however age worked against them and the diaries are full of negative comments on the quantity and quality of reinforcements from Nov 1914 to around April 1915. The number of re-enlisted time-expired men exceeded 100,000. Quite something.

After this date the masses of Kitchener Recruits were released not only as formed bodies but also as reinforcements for the BEF's regular battalions that fought in 1914. The supply of 'Fully Trained and Effective' men hit a nadir in March 1915 and then slowly recovered as the number of trained Kitchener recruits coming through the system began to exceeded the casualties. The effects back in the UK were positive and the number of Reserves of trained men started to rebuild, however the continued rate of attrition in the early battles of 1915 and particularly at Loos in Sep 1915 made it quite clear that without Conscription the numbers were simply not sustainable.

Once Conscription started (and arguably much earlier) the British Army had greater flexibility with recruits and could sent them to any regiment. System-wide, after Jan 1916 there was no shortage of troops and local shortages could be made up by reallocating men to other regiments.

In terms of recruiting, local pools of manpower might not always have supplied the theoretical numbers required to sustain the 'local' battalions, but it is quite clear from the outset that resourceful administrators at regimental, Command and Govt levels found imaginative short-term solutions. Flexibility was born out of necessity.

MG

Any mistakes are mine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Scotland clan loyalty will skew the statistics as men would cross district boundaries to enlist in the Clan regiment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Scotland clan loyalty will skew the statistics as men would cross district boundaries to enlist in the Clan regiment.

I don't doubt for a minute that a Cameron might want to serve in the Cameron Highlanders, but I would love to see the supporting evidence to understand how many did.

It is difficult to isolate the data with confidence as we know the Cameron Highlands had no choice but to recruit from outside Inverness-shire. If a man with the surname Cameron from, say, Glasgow joined the Cameron Highlanders, how can one know for sure if he chose to join that Regiment or was given no choice? Even if he did so by choice, we know Glasgow was a designated recruiting area for the Cameron Highlanders (and indeed all infantry battalions), so it does not tell us much unless we can show a disproportionate number did make that decision.

The SNWM data is nearly 150,00 named men of which 615 had the surname Cameron. 95 served in the Cameron Highlanders (15.4%), or to put it another way 84.6% didn't serve with the Cameron Highlanders. This is for the whole war. If we look at the volunteer period 1915-15 the data sample shrinks to 135 and the split is 22.1% / 77.9% which might support the theory that when men named Cameron had a choice a proportion chose to serve with the Cameron Highlanders. The sample size is too small to be statistically robust (the difference between 22.1% and 15.4% on a sample of 135 men is just nine individuals). The check on these skews is the proportion of men named Cameron who lived in the Cameron Highlanders' recruiting areas.

The 1901 Scottish Census indicates roughly 8.4% of people in Scotland named Cameron resided in Inverness-shire. The 1911 data is not available. We know however that the Cameron Highlanders recruited in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. If we add the Camerons who resided in these Cities, the proportion of Camerons in Inverness-shire, Glasgow , Edinburgh and Dundee as a per cent of all Scottish residents is 42.9%. That surprised me. A lot. Glasgow alone accommodated 11.7% of all Camerons living in Scotland. A check of the 1911 Census data show 35.1% of all Scottish residents lived in these three cities. This suggests a skew of Camerons in the urban areas (42.9%/35.1% = 1.22) which in itself is interesting.

Given these Cities were designated recruiting areas for the Cameron highlanders, I can't see how one could prove the theory given the available data. The compelling factor is that there were more Camerons serving in the Cameron Highlanders than any other regiment.

This exercise also illustrates is just how urbanised Scotland was. A third of all Scots living in Scotland resided in one of these three cities. If we did this exercise with any clan surname, it is inevitable we would see urban skews.

MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...