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Starting a new thread with the aim of consolidating some knowledge and understanding of Irish Battalions in the Great War. 

 

A few questions for GWF member 10 Div that I have been unable to get to the bottom of;

 

1. When English surplus K1 recruits were sent to the Irish Battalions of the 10th (Irish) Div in Sep 1914, was this voluntary? i.e. did the recruits have a choice; were they asked or were they pushed? I have heard anecdotal evidence that would support both cases. 

2. Why was the 2nd Bn Connaught Rangers amalgamated with 1st Bn in Dec 1914?

3. Why did Irish Regiments (and Southern rural Irish Regiments in particular) have such high wastage of Reserves during the Reserve obligation? 

 

MG

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MG

I can answer some of your questions and will get back to you later after I’ve had a chance to look at some of my notes:


1.    There is evidence of both voluntary transfer and compulsion of English recruits to the Irish regiments of the 10th Division. The Wiltshire Gazette was certainly convinced that the 1,100 Wiltshire men who had joined the 5th (S) Bn of their county regiment went, initially at least, unwillingly (they had to be promised that they would be given the opportunity to return to their county regiment as vacancies arose). Their dissatisfaction is best illustrated by the reaction of Private Fred Croad and his friend Elmer Anthony who both went AWOL on their way to Ireland. Likewise Major Geoffrey Drage, 7 RMF, states in his memoires that of the 1,000 men he “recruited” from the Yorks and Lancs regiment for the division he chose the first 500 men (on the basis of physique and the depot commander chose the second 500. No mention at all of volunteers.
By contrast the 30 men from the Maurice Hostel, Hoxton, obviously chose to join the 7th Leinsters to be with their leader who had been commissioned into the battalion. The same is true of the 100 men from Glasgow who followed a workmate to join his county regiment.


2.    I will have to check my notes but I believe that it was largely due to the regiment being unable to find replacements for the casualties incurred by both battalions in the early months of the war. In mid-September 1914 the 5th Bn Connaught Rangers had to receive 350 men from York and Lancaster Regiment to bring it up to strength, by which time the 6th Bn was being raised for the 16th (Irish) Division. War Office returns for 14 September 1914 shows that the 5th Bn already had 600 trained men suggesting that it may have obtained recruits from regimental reserve battalions thus denuding their ability to provide replacements to the two regular battalions. This is borne out by the regiment’s reserve battalion number on the 14 September when the 3rd (SR) Bn had only 233 trained men and 178 recruits and 551 and 13 respectively in the 4th (Extra Reserve) Bn; the  men from the latter battalion like their T.F. equivalent had no obligation to serve outside the UK.


3.    I will have to give some thought to this.

Steve
 

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3 hours ago, 10Div said:

MG

I can answer some of your questions and will get back to you later after I’ve had a chance to look at some of my notes:


1.    There is evidence of both voluntary transfer and compulsion of English recruits to the Irish regiments of the 10th Division. The Wiltshire Gazette was certainly convinced that the 1,100 Wiltshire men who had joined the 5th (S) Bn of their county regiment went, initially at least, unwillingly (they had to be promised that they would be given the opportunity to return to their county regiment as vacancies arose). Their dissatisfaction is best illustrated by the reaction of Private Fred Croad and his friend Elmer Anthony who both went AWOL on their way to Ireland. Likewise Major Geoffrey Drage, 7 RMF, states in his memoires that of the 1,000 men he “recruited” from the Yorks and Lancs regiment for the division he chose the first 500 men (on the basis of physique and the depot commander chose the second 500. No mention at all of volunteers. I have read his account quite recently and my impression was that these were recruits surplus to requirements; I have always assumed from the context of other anecdotal evidence that they were led to believe that their only chance of getting to serve before the war ended 'by Christmas' was to transfer to regiments still recruiting. In a way they were not forced, but duped or coerced.. I am not sure if the Army had the legal authority under their terms of engagement to forcibly transfer them. Even if they did, a man would simply deliberately be a useless soldier in training and be discharged as unsuitable for military service. Wastage in the first three months was pretty high if the medal rolls and gaps in the number sequences are any indication. 
By contrast the 30 men from the Maurice Hostel, Hoxton, obviously chose to join the 7th Leinsters to be with their leader who had been commissioned into the battalion. The same is true of the 100 men from Glasgow who followed a workmate to join his county regiment. I assume these men had not joined any other regiment, so forcible transfer was not an issue.

Any thoughts on the R Berkshire draft sent to the RMFs Service Battalions post Gallipoli? Over a year into the war and very large drafts being sent to 6th and 7th Bns RMF

3 hours ago, 10Div said:


2.    I will have to check my notes but I believe that it was largely due to the regiment being unable to find replacements for the casualties incurred by both battalions in the early months of the war. In mid-September 1914 the 5th Bn Connaught Rangers had to receive 350 men from York and Lancaster Regiment to bring it up to strength, by which time the 6th Bn was being raised for the 16th (Irish) Division. War Office returns for 14 September 1914 shows that the 5th Bn already had 600 trained men suggesting that it may have obtained recruits from regimental reserve battalions thus denuding their ability to provide replacements to the two regular battalions. This is borne out by the regiment’s reserve battalion number on the 14 September when the 3rd (SR) Bn had only 233 trained men and 178 recruits and 551 and 13 respectively in the 4th (Extra Reserve) Bn; the  men from the latter battalion like their T.F. equivalent had no obligation to serve outside the UK.

Intetersting. My strong belief is that it was related to low levels of trained Reserves, however that could alos be said of a number of Regiments. I wonder if the authorities were also making projections from the numbers in training and concluding this was unsustainable. 

 

3 hours ago, 10Div said:


3.    I will have to give some thought to this.

Steve
 

 

 

Many thanks. My comments in blue. MG

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MG

 

1.    It is certainly true that according to Bryan Cooper that ‘Lord Kitchener decided early in September to transfer a number of recruits for whom no room could be found in English regiments to fill up the ranks of the 10th Division’ but as early as the 27th August the Wiltshire Gazette was reporting that the Wiltshire Regiment was receiving men “from London and other large centres, and the percentage of Wiltshire men has rapidly gone down”. Writing of his company, Second Lieutenant Terence Verschoyle, 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, stated that ‘one third of its strength consisted of a draft of Londoners who had as they thought, enlisted in the DCLI’. Frank Battersby from Birmingham records in his memoires that he reported to the Town Hall for onward transportation to the regimental depot at Bodmin on 7 September from where two days later he was sent to Newquay and on returning to Bodmin a week later was sent to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Dublin. 

Concerning the transfer of men from English regiments after Gallipoli I know it was an action resented by both parties. Noel Drury records in his diary of a draft received from the Norfolks who he thought ‘a bit uppish’ and from whom he had overheard  remarks about their ‘hard luck’ in being attached to an Irish Regiment. It should be noted, however, that during the Salonika campaign that it was not only Irish battalions who received drafts from other regiments.

2.    The general situation in the recruiting district of the Connaught Rangers should be taken into consideration when examining the regiment's capacity to maintain four battalions in the field. Between 1841 and 1911 the population of Connaught had fallen from 1,420,000 to 610,000 and due to emigration the male population was disproportionately skewed toward those either too young or too old to serve. It should also be remembered that some 600 men who formed the 6th Connaught Rangers of the 16th Division were recruited from West Belfast.

Steve

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2 hours ago, 10Div said:

MG

 

1.    It is certainly true that according to Bryan Cooper that ‘Lord Kitchener decided early in September to transfer a number of recruits for whom no room could be found in English regiments to fill up the ranks of the 10th Division’ but as early as the 27th August the Wiltshire Gazette was reporting that the Wiltshire Regiment was receiving men “from London and other large centres, and the percentage of Wiltshire men has rapidly gone down”. Writing of his company, Second Lieutenant Terence Verschoyle, 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, stated that ‘one third of its strength consisted of a draft of Londoners who had as they thought, enlisted in the DCLI’. Frank Battersby from Birmingham records in his memoires that he reported to the Town Hall for onward transportation to the regimental depot at Bodmin on 7 September from where two days later he was sent to Newquay and on returning to Bodmin a week later was sent to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Dublin. 

Concerning the transfer of men from English regiments after Gallipoli I know it was an action resented by both parties. Noel Drury records in his diary of a draft received from the Norfolks who he thought ‘a bit uppish’ and from whom he had overheard  remarks about their ‘hard luck’ in being attached to an Irish Regiment. It should be noted, however, that during the Salonika campaign that it was not only Irish battalions who received drafts from other regiments.

 

2.    The general situation in the recruiting district of the Connaught Rangers should be taken into consideration when examining the regiment's capacity to maintain four battalions in the field. Between 1841 and 1911 the population of Connaught had fallen from 1,420,000 to 610,000 and due to emigration the male population was disproportionately skewed toward those either too young or too old to serve. It should also be remembered that some 600 men who formed the 6th Connaught Rangers of the 16th Division were recruited from West Belfast.

 

Steve

 

 

Steve - thanks again. I really appreciate this.  By way of reassurance that I am not wasting your time, I should say that I have done a considerable amount of research in this area which largely agrees with your conclusions thus far. I have read your book and (I think) everything in current publication that touches the subject. Nicholas Perry kindly sent me his paper on Irish recruiting some years back. I have done a considerable amount of analysis with the SDGW data and the medal rolls and some interesting frequency analysis that provides quite compelling evidence of nationalities of various drafts. I am reasonably well read in the Irish history of the Victorian period (and mass emigration) and have done some very hard yards in the decennial Census data trying to map exactly where the expatriate Irish communities were concentrated in Great Britain. Some small concentrated areas of England had more than one in four men born in Ireland in 1861 and Irish communities were established in some parts of England, Scotland and Wales that are quite a revelation. 

 

The sourcing of first hand accounts is particularly interesting. As you know the focus for the Great War among published authors has largely been in the War rather than the pre war period, mobilisation and expansion of the Army. Those who have touched on the expansion of the army understandably have not the bandwidth to focus on the Irish complexities.

 

The research I have done on the Wiltshire draft would indicate that the vast majority were Wiltshiremen born and bred, resided and enlisted in the county. The 1915-16 casualty data is a rich source of this data and one can even see how men in the same number sequence of the Wiltshire Regt were transferred en masse to Irish Battalions (there is another thread on the GWF that touches this - analysis challenging one author's suggestion that English recruits were either of Irish extraction or Catholic or both. Neither were in fact true.

 

One of my long standing questions is why a most authors and especially journalists who have written about the Irish and the Great War seem to want to inflate the number of Irishmen who served and have sometimes stretched facts to fit this preconceived idea. Bryan Cooper kicked this off with more than a little help from Redmond and it is something that seems to be peculiar to the Irish story. It is something I cant quite understand. 

 

Back to the OP: Your reasoning on the Connaught Rangers is consistent with my own research, but one wonders why they were an isolated case. My sense is that for (British) political reasons the desire for all Irish regiments to be represented in the 10th and 16th Divs was paramount in order to give an illusion of widespread and deep unity in the response to recruiting. 

 

Another question if you would indulge me:

 

4. Does the National Archives have much on the Irish recruiting? Trawling the catalogue online there are about 30 documents that might shed some light on this dark space. I wonder if you have been through this data and whether  there are any minutes from meetings that provide clues on strategy and response towards the (relatively) weak response from Ireland. I am particularly interested in anything from Irish politicians who would be in the know. I have often doubted that the British promise of self-determination for the Irish had any impact on Irish recruiting. 

 

5. Conscription. Would a man born in Ireland and living England in 1916 be subject to Conscription. Did his place of birth provide the necessary exemption? 

 

Thanks again.

 

Martin.

 

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Martin – During my original research on the 10th Division I found of 124 members of the 6th Leinster Regiment born in GB only 3 had an Irish parent suggesting that if they were of Irish descent it must have been at least a generation further back. Likewise of 76 non-Irish born members of the 5th Connaught Rangers only 14 had an Irish parent significantly less than the impression given by Bryan Cooper. I’m currently undertaking research on the London Irish Rifles with the intention of writing a book on the subject and have found of the original 800 men so far identified as going overseas with the 1st Bn in March 1915 only 22 were either born in Ireland or had an Irish parent.

Regarding the impression given by Bryan Cooper that the division was more Irish than it actually was, it must be remembered when the book was written. At that time the Easter Rising had taken place and Redmond and constitutional nationalists were trying hard to maintain their position and display Irish loyalty. Irish recruitment had also stalled and without conscription the existing Irish regiments could not be maintained. Cooper’s book was as much an encouragement to Irish recruitment as it was a record of the division’s experience at Gallipoli.

Regarding your comment on the desire of the government to give the impression of greater Irish support than there actually was, Major C.W. Hughes, 5th Wiltshires, made an interesting observation after the war – “I have often wondered if the War Office worked on any system in the drafting of men to the various County regiments, why a large number of the first recruits from Wiltshire should have been drafted to Irish regiments, it is hard to say unless it was to delude the public into thinking that the Irish had changed their attitude towards this Country and were anxious to help us”.

Many academics still seek to over play recruitment in the three Southern Provinces perhaps in an attempt to contribute to the current resurgence in interest in the Great War that has been seen in the Republic of Ireland in the past 10-15 years. My own research suggests that of the men who volunteered in Ireland that a disproportionate number, both Catholic and Protestant, were recruited from Ulster. The War Office, of course, must have anticipated this as 10 of the 24 Irish battalions of the 10th and 16th Irish divisions had recruiting districts in the historic province of Ulster.

The National Archives has a series of spreadsheets (non-computerised) that give daily returns for every town in Ireland that had a recruiting office. I’ve only examined the first three months of the war to enable me to build up own database to demonstrate the need for recruits from England to supplement recruitment to the 10th (Irish) Division. I will try and dig this out and email you a copy. As to British promises of home rule it’s interesting that following Redmond’s Woodenbridge speech in September 1914 (after the Home Rule bill had been passed) encouraging enlistment in the British army that the number of recruits in the southern counties actually feel over the next 4 weeks compared with the 4 weeks before his speech.

Unless you were in a reserved occupation your place of birth provided you with no protection from conscription but there appears to be evidence of men from GB taking employment in Ireland to avoid conscription.

Steve

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1 hour ago, 10Div said:

Martin – During my original research on the 10th Division I found of 124 members of the 6th Leinster Regiment born in GB only 3 had an Irish parent suggesting that if they were of Irish descent it must have been at least a generation further back. Likewise of 76 non-Irish born members of the 5th Connaught Rangers only 14 had an Irish parent significantly less than the impression given by Bryan Cooper. This does not surprise me at all but it is interesting to see the confirmation. Have you done any sampling of two generations back, or is that simply too large a task? 

 

I’m currently undertaking research on the London Irish Rifles with the intention of writing a book on the subject and have found of the original 800 men so far identified as going overseas with the 1st Bn in March 1915 only 22 were either born in Ireland or had an Irish parent. Fascinating. I recently did some work on the London Irish Rifles' 1914 Star medal roll. My impression from frequency analysis is that the men had distinctly English profiles. I noted recently that the Adjutant of the London Irish Rifles was not always drawn from an Irish regiment post 1908, which was a small surprise.

 

Regarding the impression given by Bryan Cooper that the division was more Irish than it actually was, it must be remembered when the book was written. At that time the Easter Rising had taken place and Redmond and constitutional nationalists were trying hard to maintain their position and display Irish loyalty. Irish recruitment had also stalled and without conscription the existing Irish regiments could not be maintained. Cooper’s book was as much an encouragement to Irish recruitment as it was a record of the division’s experience at Gallipoli. Noted. 

 

Regarding your comment on the desire of the government to give the impression of greater Irish support than there actually was, Major C.W. Hughes, 5th Wiltshires, made an interesting observation after the war – “I have often wondered if the War Office worked on any system in the drafting of men to the various County regiments, why a large number of the first recruits from Wiltshire should have been drafted to Irish regiments, it is hard to say unless it was to delude the public into thinking that the Irish had changed their attitude towards this Country and were anxious to help us”. Not surprising but an interesting contemporary anecdote. Thanks for highlighting.

Many academics still seek to over play recruitment in the three Southern Provinces perhaps in an attempt to contribute to the current resurgence in interest in the Great War that has been seen in the Republic of Ireland in the past 10-15 years. My own research suggests that of the men who volunteered in Ireland that a disproportionate number, both Catholic and Protestant, were recruited from Ulster. The War Office, of course, must have anticipated this as 10 of the 24 Irish battalions of the 10th and 16th Irish divisions had recruiting districts in the historic province of Ulster.

 

The National Archives has a series of spreadsheets (non-computerised) that give daily returns for every town in Ireland that had a recruiting office. I’ve only examined the first three months of the war to enable me to build up own database to demonstrate the need for recruits from England to supplement recruitment to the 10th (Irish) Division. I will try and dig this out and email you a copy. I would dearly love to see the data. A very kind offer.  I have the Battalion data for 10th Div for two weeks at the beginning of Sep 1914  (in fact all of K1 so the comparisons are interesting) and the longer run data for the Battalions of the Ulster Div all on a spreadsheet if of any interest. Some small gaps due to poor photographs of the original making transcription difficult but 98% of the data is ther. I will post on this tread for wider interest. 

 

As to British promises of home rule it’s interesting that following Redmond’s Woodenbridge speech in September 1914 (after the Home Rule bill had been passed) encouraging enlistment in the British army that the number of recruits in the southern counties actually feel over the next 4 weeks compared with the 4 weeks before his speech. Indeed. I think you mention this in your book. 

Unless you were in a reserved occupation your place of birth provided you with no protection from conscription but there appears to be evidence of men from GB taking employment in Ireland to avoid conscription. To be clear, an Irish born man working in England in March 1916 was subject to the MSA? i.e not exemempted? 

Steve

 

 

Steve - many thanks again. My comments in blue above. I am most grateful for your detailed responses. If and when time permits I would be very interested in tracing the source of the primary material, particularly first hand accounts. I have the ones in yours and others' books but some might not have made the cut. 

 

in 1861 3% of the English Population was born in Ireland. Assuming the number of their English born offspring grew in proportion to the English population, this might suggest roughly 3% of the 'English-born' population one and two generations later had Irish-born parents or grandparents. We then risk descending into the black hole of definitions of nationality. Your research into the London Irish Rifles sounds fascinating and I will be very interested to see what comes out of this. London of course traditionally had a higher-than-national-average concentration of Irish migrants. 

 

John Sheen - GWF member Tyneside Chinaman has drawn my attention to the relative concentration of Irish migrants living in Durham pre-war. His work on the Tyneside Irish seems to show considerable tangible links to men with Irish heritage. If I recall correctly some men joined the Green Howards in nearby Richmond, North Yorkshire in the belief that Green had some Irish connection. MG

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Martin

To quote the Military Service Act 1916 the extent of conscription covered (initially single men) "Every male British subject who - on the fifteenth of August nineteen hundred and fifteen,  was ordinarily resident in Great Britain, and had attained the age of eighteen years and had not attained the age of forty-one years ... etc". This therefore would have included Irishmen living in Great Britain as at that time they were still British subjects, indeed British citizens.

 

Steve

 

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38 minutes ago, 10Div said:

Martin

To quote the Military Service Act 1916 the extent of conscription covered (initially single men) "Every male British subject who - on the fifteenth of August nineteen hundred and fifteen,  was ordinarily resident in Great Britain, and had attained the age of eighteen years and had not attained the age of forty-one years ... etc". This therefore would have included Irishmen living in Great Britain as at that time they were still British subjects, indeed British citizens.

 

Steve

 

Thanks Steve. ... But there were a long list of exemptions or exceptions and I don't know if being born in Ireland was one of these, or whether a later amendment dealt with this (or not). Take twins born in Dublin. One lived in Dublin, one on London. This would imply that the London resident was Conscripted and the Dublin resident was not. If this was the case it is really quite interesting. I note the legislation was retrospective in terms of qualifying date: 15th Aug 1915, some five months before the Act.  MG

 

Edit. Trawling Hansard seems to support the idea that it was based on 'ordinarily being resident in Great Britain'. There were questions about Munitions Workers and Ship-Builders sent from Ireland to England and Scotland potentially being Conscripted and reassurances tat they were not subject to the Act if they had not been ordinarily resident in Great Britain on 15th Aug 1915. All clear now. One learns something new every day. 

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An exceptionally interesting thread. I have posed here before, with regard to London drafts to Irish regiments, just how "Irish" they actually were towards the end of the war- having regard to a local casualty here in the east of London who seems never to have been near Ireland but having been transferred ended up on "Ireland's Roll". General reading and a few plays with casualty statistics leads me to pose 2 questions regarding the Irish regiments:

 

1) Just to play with numbers, I have run RMF, RDF and Connaught Rangers for casualties up to the end of 1915.(Rather than the actual reading of the Proclamation on the steps of the Post Office, often seen as a turning point) ) and then, as a random cut-off, isolated casualties over 30. The rationale being that, as a rough guide, this might show up any slew in Reservists- A guess, that most men over 30 up to the end of 1915 might be Reservists. Then run against a sample English regiment (Essex) - the proportion of post 30 casualties is in the same ball park.

    I suggest that the army authorities in 1914 must have been aware that the southern Irish regiments would be in trouble when the Reservists were expended-and that this was foreseeable in the manpower planning. As it is, I suggest that the return of Reservists to the southern Irish regiments in 1914 seems quite normal. Is there any evidence of Reservists failing to report for an "English" war, as,I suspect most reservists pre-1914 had expected nothing more than the odd imperial frolic.

 

2) A problem with concentrating with the "Irtish regiments" is that there is a zone of darkness regarding Irish support units- Is there any evidence that there is a shortage of Irish support units- say, Field Ambulance, RFA,RGA,Divisional Ammunition columns, etc. I do not know what the balance is between front-line infantry battalions and the rest but does it hold sway for Ireland?

 

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 An exceptionally interesting thread. I have posed here before, with regard to London drafts to Irish regiments, just how "Irish" they actually were towards the end of the war- having regard to a local casualty here in the east of London who seems never to have been near Ireland but having been transferred ended up on "Ireland's Roll". General reading and a few plays with casualty statistics leads me to pose 2 questions regarding the Irish regiments:

 

1) Just to play with numbers,  I have run RMF, RDF and Connaught Rangers for casualties [I assume you mean fatalities] up to the end of 1915.(Rather than the actual reading of the Proclamation on the steps of the Post Office, often seen as a turning point) ) and then, as a random cut-off, isolated casualties over 30. The rationale being that, as a rough guide, this might show up any slew in Reservists- A guess, that most men over 30 up to the end of 1915 might be Reservists. [Yes, but there is hard evidence that the first flush of Kitchener men included many thousands of men in this age range too. One would need to isolate Regular Battalions from Service Battalions to reduce confusion and conflation in this aspect] Then run against a sample English regiment (Essex) - the proportion of post 30 casualties is in the same ball park.

    I suggest that the army authorities in 1914 must have been aware that the southern Irish regiments would be in trouble when the Reservists were expended-and that this was foreseeable in the manpower planning. [WO 114 at the National Archives has massive ledgers recording battalion fortnightly data for every unit] As it is, I suggest that the return of Reservists to the southern Irish regiments in 1914 seems quite normal. [This is not in question] Is there any evidence of Reservists failing to report for an "English" war, as,I suspect most reservists pre-1914 had expected nothing more than the odd imperial frolic. [No.]

 

2) A problem with concentrating with the "Irtish regiments" is that there is a zone of darkness regarding Irish support units- Is there any evidence that there is a shortage of Irish support units- say, Field Ambulance, RFA,RGA,Divisional Ammunition columns, etc. [Yes]. I do not know what the balance is between front-line infantry battalions and the rest but does it hold sway for Ireland?

 

I am sure Steve will have some insightful comments, but here are my thoughts in blue (again).

 

The question about 'wastage' is not impacted by the numbers failing to turn up. Retuns to the Colours were recorded as near universal. In fact if one adds the deserters (pardoned by Kitchener) there was in fact a small surplus to expectations. Put simply, for every 100 men who enlisted and were issued an Army Number, in theory they would all end up in the Reserve and when War was declared they would be mobilized. Unfortunately reality gets in the way of this concept.

 

Firstly, a decent proportion of men were discharged during training (consistent with decades of data), some deserted never to be seen again (ditto), some deserted to be caught and start again (interestingly always returned to serve from the start, as if service to date never started) some died, some were killed, some bought themselves out, some were discharged unlikely to be a efficient soldier etc etc...and this was just in training. The same happened whilst serving with the Colours and the same again happened whilst on the Reserve. Wastage during three distinct periods. All were recorded across the Army in GARBA. Before reading on, as a simple experiment I would ask you to consider or estimate for every 100 men who enlisted between 1902 and 1907 (the cohorts that would all still be Reservists in 1914) - how many would still be on the books?

 

A few years ago GWF member Grumpy (aka Muerrisch) and I got stuck into some research on Reservists. Specifically the aim was to show how the Reservists were important for mobilization, but ultimately insufficient for the requiremenst of a full scale Continental war. We used the RWF as the benchmark regiment (lots of Englishmen largely masquerading as Welshmen). We looked at the monthly returns going back to 1902 to 1907 (men who, in theory, would still be Reservists in 1914) which recorded the number of men serving, under a myriad of categories of rank, years served, terms of engagement. Many thousands of data points. We transcribed that data and compared it to the numbering sequence. The Service Records  and Pension Records which provided important clues as to the exact number of men issued an Army number over the 5 years (consolidated in the excellent Army Numbers blog website). We could then compare this to the number of Reservists who actually turned up in 5th Aug 1914 (record held at NAUK). We were both very surprised by the 'wastage' particularly as the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were one of the top three strongest recruiters in the British Army during the period. They were exceptionally good at recruiting, yet the wastage seemed very large. 

 

Stand by.

 

Only 61% of the men recruited between 1902 and 1907  made it to 1914 as a Reservist. Put another way: 39% didn't make it.  Effectively 4 in every 10 men. It was a staggering figure and raised many questions. How can nearly 40% simply disappear? How? Why? 

 

We then did similar analysis of the whole of the line infantry. On average across 74 Regiments only 56% of men who enlisted between 1902 and 1907 in the Line Infantry made it through to 1914 still categorised as an Army Reservists.

 

I suspect the answer lies in the simply appalling conditions that these men returned to and in part reflects the low levels of healthcare available in Edwardian Britain. Just a theory as yet unproven. The GARBA data provides some clues but is inconclusive. Death and medical discharge (if recorded accurately) only explains part of the Wastage.

 

Ireland. For the Connaught Rangers 41% only made it. This means that 6 in every 10 men who served in the Connaught Rangers between Aug 1902 and Aug 1907 never made it to 1914 as a Reservist. It gets worse. The Royal Irish Regt data indicates a figure of only 36%, meaning nearly 2 in every 3 fell by the wayside: An astonishing figure in my view. It is an area that is simply screaming out for more research.

 

My only theories so far are:

 

1. Subsequent emigration.

2. The possibility of Army Reservists transferring to Special Reserve and Extra Reserve to see out their Reserve obilgation. GARBA does not expose anything on this. 

3. Re-enlistment

4. Extended service

5. All of the above.

 

A conundrum. MG

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, QGE said:

Only 61% of the men recruited between 1902 and 1907  made it to 1914 as a Reservist. Put another way: 39% didn't make it.  Effectively 4 in every 10 men. It was a staggering figure and raised many questions. How can nearly 40% simply disappear? How? Why? 

 

 

      Thanks for the very informative response, the more so to an amateur like me. Since posting, I tried to look up the Emigration from UK figures for the years before the war- my usual reliable books on the subject are currently boxed up. My memory is that c.half a million emigrated from the UK each year from 1815-1914(but had slowed by 1914). Lets face it,a number of these must technically have been reservists. OK, many men came back from overseas in 1914 or so but, again, I suspect the vast majority did not- they were gone for good.And emigrants tend to be the young.

     I seem to remember De Groot in "Blighty" explaining that in TOTAL manpower loss terms, the Great War had little impact- the restriction of emigration through the war years meant that the number of men "retained" in the UK exceeded losses.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with emigration being the likeliest cause of disappearance of reservists (Surely, if reservists were still lurking in the UK, they would have been picked up with the introduction of conscription?)

2)  Just another thought about Irish units- If emigration is restricted (Was it restricted in Ireland???), then it might be a spur to Irish migration to England,Wales,Scotland for employment in war industries.I guess that statistics on this are out there somewhere- Certainly, there was a boom of Irish workers coming to UK industry between the wars-  Fords at Dagenham or the West Midlands motor industries for example. But may this have been continuing a trend from the wartime economy?? One little quirk that might be out there in the statistics- conventional wisdom is that there was consistently high emigration from Ireland due to its poor economy and lack of employment prospects-thus, if emigration was curtailed with the war, then that problem should have increased- Lack of opportunity exacerbated by even more men in the country. So the possible remedies seem to be migration to mainland UK- or war industries in Ireland (I can see some evidence for the north,as well as migration to the Clyde)   Thus, a key question in the light of this debate:  Was conscription enforced on the Irish living in the mainland UK?  (And if it was, did this lead to a boom in those returning to Ireland when it was introduced?)

    I ask these questions because manpower resources in the Great War were a balance not only between front-line and support but also between armed forces and industry. Thus, the ups and downs of the Irish regiments may well have to be set against what happened to the TOTAL pool of men of military age in  Ireland for the period of the war. I suggest that it may well have been a circle- less Irish in the armed forces, leads to more Irish in war economy jobs, partly caused by the call-up of UK men on conscription (and their posting in drafts to Irish regiments- you can see where this going- that English drafts to Irish regiments were all part of a larger merry-go-round of labour displacement)

(Note: the experience of labour recruitment and direction in the Second World War was based much on the actual experiences of the Great War- I suspect that the Irish experience of working in UK war industries in that war may be much more similar to the Great War than usually thought.

 

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This is turning into a meaty thread so you will forgive me if I comment on some of the points raised a bit at random and not all at once to give me time to consider some of the points raised. Economic and social trends are important when comparing Ireland and the rest of the UK and even between Ulster (historic Province) and the rest of Ireland.  Lord MacDonnell in a House of Lords on 8 January 1915, reminded his fellow peers that ‘the contribution made by Ireland to the Imperial Army was in 1883 25%, in 1892 it was 15% and in 1893 it was 20%. In 1903 it had sunk to 13% and the last year the contribution was 9%’ . This reflected both an anti-recruiting campaign led by Sinn Fein, improved economic conditions and the result of emigration.   Between 1861 and 1911 the male population of Ireland fell from 2,837,370 to 2,192,048, a reduction of almost 23% in 50 years, while in Great Britain over the same period the male population increased from 10,232,658 to 19,452,843, an increase of some 90%.  A major factor in the fall in the Irish population was emigration, 80,625 males emigrating between 1912 and 1914 alone. Interestingly after war was declared there is evidence that US officials prevented men of military age from entering the country as they believed they were avoiding military service. 

 

Early in the war it became obvious that recruitment in the industrial North-east was significantly higher than the non-industrial southern counties. John Dillon, a nationalist MP and recruiting official, complained in 1915 that the availability of well paid jobs in England was making it difficult to obtain recruits for the army, particularly when a government agency was offering £2 10s a week for munitions workers in a reserved occupation compared with the basic shilling a day of an infantry private.  According to his biographer, Redmond calculated that by the end of 1915 about 40,000 Irishmen were employed in munitions work in Britain and Ireland. As early as 17 September 1914 (around the time the WO was filling the ranks of the 10th (Irish) Division) wrote to the Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary for Ireland, setting out what he considered to be the economic impact on recruitment in Ireland - " It must be remembered that the situation of a thickly populated manufacturing land and that of a thinly populated agricultural country is very different. In England or in manufacturing districts of Ulster the dislocation of commerce and industry favours recruiting. Take, for example, the flax industry of North-east Ireland, where the raw material has been almost entirely cut off; there the manufacturers advise their men (for whom they have no work while the War lasts) to enlist and promise to keep their places open for them when the War is over and imports of flax begin again.  In agricultural districts, on the other hand, the case is reversed. There the work in the fields should be doubled. Already before the War more men were required for tillage.  Any extensive recruiting in country districts at this time would have left a rich harvest rotting."

 

Steve


 
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I am finding this thread really interesting, my Grandfather was in the 6th Btn RMF 3014 and great Uncle was in the RDF and Connaught Rangers. Grandfather joined up on 14th Sept 1914 in Dublin.

Paul

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2)  Just another thought about Irish units- If emigration is restricted (Was it restricted in Ireland???), then it might be a spur to Irish migration to England,Wales,Scotland for employment in war industries.I guess that statistics on this are out there somewhere- Certainly, there was a boom of Irish workers coming to UK industry between the wars-  Fords at Dagenham or the West Midlands motor industries for example. But may this have been continuing a trend from the wartime economy?? One little quirk that might be out there in the statistics- conventional wisdom is that there was consistently high emigration from Ireland due to its poor economy and lack of employment prospects-thus, if emigration was curtailed with the war, then that problem should have increased- Lack of opportunity exacerbated by even more men in the country. So the possible remedies seem to be migration to mainland UK- or war industries in Ireland (I can see some evidence for the north,as well as migration to the Clyde)   Thus, a key question in the light of this debate:  Was conscription enforced on the Irish living in the mainland UK?  (And if it was, did this lead to a boom in those returning to Ireland when it was introduced?)

Slightly off topic but to answer the question:-

The number of men sent from Ireland to 'England' by the Labour Exchanges from 1st October 1914 to March 1916 was Shipbuilding, 2,103; Engineering 2,154; and Explosives, 2,267.
There was no record kept of Irish workers who came by other means.
It was emphasised that an Irishman who is not normally resident in Great Britain was not subject to the Military Service Act. (Parliamentary answer March 7 1916).  

This exemption was in part obtained to protect Irish seasonal agricultural workers following lobbying by the industry, and to appease the Irish MPs.

 

However, in August 1916 Parliament debated the arrest of Irish agricultural migratory workers, and others in the shipbuilding industry, especially in Scotland.  It was noted many of the seasonal workers who were arrested had been included on the National Register in 1915.  On seeking guidance the Local Tribunal was (wrongly ) advised that 30 days constituted 'ordinarily resident' and handed them over to the military authorities.  It was reported a number were drafted into the Scottish Rifles.  It was reported in the Irish press under the headline 'Military Authoritis Ignore Ministerial Pledge'.  Probably had some effect.

 

Elsewhere in the press it was reported that those Irish who were already working, and resident in Great Britain, therefore subject to the Act had little sympathy for their countrymen.  Incidentally, it was reported in the Liverpool Post in October 1916 that a man of Irish nationality called up from the Class B Reserve could elect to serve in an Irish Regiment and would be sent to the Depot of an Irish Regiment.

 

In November 1916 it was proposed certificates of exemption should be issued  to Irish seasonal workers.

 

In March 1917 the Government refused to give any guarantee that Irish workers would not be subject to the Act.  The case of James Bray was cited.  He had been 'induced' by high wages to work on military buildings and had been picked up by the civil police and deemed by a civil court to be 'ordinarily resident' in Great Britain.  Drafted into the London Regiment he was ' 'failing to obey orders.'

 

In April 1918 conscription was extended to Ireland, but never implemented causing the political crisis which had been averted in 1916.

 

Ken

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     Ken- Thanks for the info. I don't know about you but Irish economic statistics for 1914-1918 are pretty thin on the ground. Been trying to tack some down today but they are reticent and shy little beasties: Just a couple of observations:

1) Military Service Acts- Yes, Irishmen "not normally resident" etc, exempted. I suspect that the examples you quote of Irishmen being picked up for  military service were the exception rather than the rule-and appear to be those in individual employment. I suspect that anything connected with the main war employers and the Ministry of Munitions would have been protected.

   I have found only one figure that suggests that some 20,000 Irish men worked in British war industries-which I do not give much credence to. The statistic about directed labour to jobs in mainland UK must be qualified by (perhaps) my memory that the scheme of "direction" was effectively a state-aided form of emigration,albeit internal, but still out of Ireland.

 

2) Shipbuilding- Governmental shipbuilding in Ireland (effectively Belfast) doubled in value during the war from £3 million to £6 million. Here I think the old canard about where the Irish emigrated comes into play. In the Famine, the counties with the greatest incidence of emigration were not the ravaged and poor west of Ireland but the North-East- and across to Scotland. I am trying to dig out my own copy of Scott on the industries of the Clyde Valley during the War (in the Carnegie Series). If Glasgow and Central Belt Scotland  had strong war industries, then where did the extra male labour come from? I suggest from Ireland. The Highland Regiments faced the same problems of inability to recruit to strength in 1914, so again, where did the Clyde manpower-especially of the post-conscription years actually come from?

 

3)  The structure of Irish recruiting for the war years but particularly for 1914 and 1915 must be qualified. The myth that Protestant and North meant King and Country,while the South meant Catholic and Nationalist does not entirely stack up. Nor does the Irish moderate nationalist stance do other than blur the issue- the Tom Kettle and Willie Redmond aspects-that of "nationalist but loyal" "show what Ireland can do".  There was a significant Protestant community in the 26 Counties pre-1914.It has declined in  our times to much of a nothingness but its decline seems to be set wholly in terms of a Catholic and Nationalist regime from 1921-22. What intrigues me is the proportion of Catholic and Protestant recruiting in 1914-1915 in the 26 Counties. Was the proportion of Protestant/Catholic among recruits the same as among the stock of men of military age in the 26 Counties. We have in the mainland UK the long established myth of the "Lost Generation"- the sons of the aristocracy and gentry, those of the public schools,obliterated as junior officers. Now does this hold true for Ireland as a whole and more especially for the 26 Counties and the "Ascendancy"-  Were the Ascendancy families as hard hit as their UK kith and kin?  

    It might well be that even the recruiting figures there are for the 26 Counties disguise a disproportionate volunteering by the Protestant community. Although smallish in number and,again,in a smallish country, if they were more responsive to the call of "King and Country", then it might be a background and undiagnosed causal factor in the decline of that community after 1922 if even a disproportionat number of this small community were casualties of the war..

     Right, lets try and find some hard statistics about Irish workers in war industries- recruiting from Ireland for UK war work, etc. I note there was an Irish Branch of the Ministry of Munitions. If you can dig up any more statistics, then fire away

 

 

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As for exception rather than the rule and allowing for Parliamentary hyperbole it was reported the Irish workers were 'driven in hordes first to the Sherrifs Court then to the Military Barracks' and that many had left the district.

 

Ken

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1 hour ago, kenf48 said:

As for exception rather than the rule and allowing for Parliamentary hyperbole it was reported the Irish workers were 'driven in hordes first to the Sherrifs Court then to the Military Barracks' and that many had left the district.

 

Ken

 

     Ken-Do you have the source of the quote? The reference to sheriff's courts suggests it refers to Scotland.

I will have a go in the next few days at some sources of statistics. The problem with recruiting for Irish regiments seems to me to be  part of a larger construct of how the British Government "managed" Ireland during the Great War- a history thus far based almost exclusively on narratives of sectarian politics of various hues. I suspect the British Government played a much more intricate game of British Government v the Irish than hitherto assumed. I make one assumption in all of this: that Ireland as a whole, both in terms of its utiliseable labour (military and civilian use, male and female, industrial and agricultural) and resources was much more micro-managed by the British than just recruitment to Irish regiments might suggest.

     What reading I have done suggests that Irish business wanted to be in on the wartime boom (there is a good study of Limerick online).So the rhetoric of nationalism doesn't seem to have had much effect on the pounds,shillings and pence in the pockets of Irish bosses and Irish workers.

 

2)  As a small control, I would like to get hold of the enlistment figures for Irish into the Royal Navy. My interest in this thread is a general dissatisfaction with some of the historiography of the Great War and a family connection- Our only casualty of the war was in the RDF, Easter 1916 in Dublin- and my grandfather left the parish of Convoy, Co.Donegal in 1900 at the age of 14 to enlist in the Royal Navy at Devonport. My first boss in my first summer job as a student was Irish and ex-RN- the service tradition of the Irish in the British Army is matched also by that of Irish in the Royal Navy.

    So if anyone out there on the Forum has the break-down of RN recruiting figures for 1914-1918, then shout out.

 

3)  I have no reason to think (I could stop that sentence there!) .. that British strategic planners of the Great War were stupid. Ireland was too large a resource to ignore but I suspect that a lot of careful planning went into squaring the circle of not arousing overt Irish nationalist hostility set against supping of its resources. It seems that the Irish economy of the war years was a  boom. Indeed, one might speculate that the slip into troubles post-war was much of a sameness as post-demob problems in other states of Europe- that is, an irony- the end of benefits of the British war economy to Ireland and the Irish may have been a factor in the upturn of unrest after the end of the war

 

4) Particularly for the post Easter Rising period-that is, April-May 1916 to the end of 1918, I think that an important factor is just how much military resource may have been needed to keep British control in Ireland. I think the statistics are there- what was the British garrison in Ireland in 1916,1917 and 1918- and compare it with the period of full-blown troubles of 1919-1922- but especially 1920 and 1921, the heart of the British campaign in Ireland. It may well be that the success of British military polices in Ireland  1914-1918(but especially 1916-17-18) is not best gauged by the level of recruiting into Irish regiments but,rather, by the freeing-up of British military resources for use elsewhere.OK, stronger garrisons post Rising- but the difference in manpower needs to control Ireland 1916-1918 compared to 1920-1922 might suggest that Britsh policy was in fact a success. Lets churn up some stats. and have a good old chew on this one. The historiography is a bit of blank-Lets paint a few pictures. Happy to be shot down on any/all of this- but lets fly the kites to start with- To me,the traditional historiography just does not add up

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Martin and Steve,

 

I am throughly enjoying this thought provoking thread. I only have a fleeting interest in recruiting and Ireland due to an Irish great grandfather who moved to the North East and joined the Tyneside Irish.

 

You are probably aware of Catriona Pennell's A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (OUP, 2012) who deals with Ireland's response in chapter 6. She also has an interesting chapter on recruiting and used figures extracted from NATS 1/398 held at Kew. I had a look at these once and they consist of very large sheets of statistical tables showing the numbers of recruits raised daily 1914-1917. They are arranged as I remember by place and possibly by area; however, I cannot remember if they include Ireland but I do remember they would have been a challenge to copy.   

 

Bootneck

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Mark

 

This is the spreadsheet I promised giving details of recruits in Ireland by recruiting office to 31/10/1914. I hope it has upload properly otherwise send me your email address  and I'll send it to you direct. The  Irish population at this time was approximately 9% of the UK population as a whole and the percentage on the extreme right of the spreadsheet gives the daily Irish recruitment as a percentage of that for the whole UK. If you are unfamiliar with Irish recruiting districts then Armagh, Belfast, Ballyshannon/Bundoran, Enniskilling, Londonderry and Omagh are in Ulster.  The graph shows recruitment by Province for the same period.

 

Steve

 

 

 

 Book2.csv

Recritment.JPG

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31 minutes ago, 10Div said:

Mark

 

This is the spreadsheet I promised giving details of recruits in Ireland by recruiting office to 31/10/1914. I hope it has upload properly otherwise send me your email address  and I'll send it to you direct. The  Irish population at this time was approximately 9% of the UK population as a whole and the percentage on the extreme right of the spreadsheet gives the daily Irish recruitment as a percentage of that for the whole UK. If you are unfamiliar with Irish recruiting districts then Armagh, Belfast, Ballyshannon/Bundoran, Enniskilling, Londonderry and Omagh are in Ulster.  The graph shows recruitment by Province for the same period.

 

Steve

 

 

Thanks. Most interesting. Does the raw data by any chance have a tabular breakdown by towns within Regimental recruiting districts? The four provinces dont exactly align with the eight Line infantry regiments.

 

Regards  Martin

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Martin

If my recollection is correct the original sheets were just as I have presented them with no reference to Regimental recruiting districts and of course no assumption can be made that anyone enlisting joined their local regiment. The best that can be said is that , Enniskilling Omagh and Londonderry are in the recruiting district of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; Armagh, Ballyshannon/Bundoran and Cavan are in the recruiting district of the Royal Irish Fusiliers; and Antrim, Belfast, Carrickfergus and Downpatrick in that of the Royal Irish Rifles. I can try to allocate the rest to their respective Regimental recruiting districts if required.

 

Steve

 

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Steve - thanks. I may have misunderstood but I thought that you mentioned there was a list of towns with recruiting data or the first 3 months.... apolgies if I have the wrong end of the stick.

 

The GARBA for 1902-1913 usually gave a breakdown of annual recruiting by Regimental District as well as metropolitan areas (Belfast and Dublin only for Ireland), so I wonderd if your data source had it broken down by recruiting district rather than by Ceremonial Provinces. Martin

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Martin - sorry I may have given the wrong impression. What I have given you is the daily returns for each recruiting office (presumably the recruiting offices in Belfast and Dublin have been amalgamated) for the period 23/8/1914 (which if I remember correctly was the first date available) to 31/10/1914. I have analysed the data in various forms including Provinces but not by regimental district but I will try to do some work on this over the next couple of days.

 

Steve

 

 

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