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Two questions about conscription: regiments & timing


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Hi all, I've been trying to get a sense of the timeline of my great-grandfather's time in the Great War. I've been reading about the process of conscription on the Long Long Trail and on this forum and have two questions. 

 

1) Were conscripts drafted into a general regiment--for some Scottish examples, the Scottish Rifles or the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders--and then transferred to specialized regiments like the Royal Engineers or Labour Corps? Or were those assignments to specialized regiments made at the beginning? Simply put, did conscripts have to volunteer for those jobs or were they assigned them, or it was a mixture of both?

 

2) Did all men who turn 18 get called up on or shortly after their birthday, or was the conscription process slower than that? I read that when the draft was initially introduced in 1916 that men born in 1898 were called up on a specific date if they did not attest beforehand. I'm curious if that was the case after 1916. 

 

Any information on these two parts of conscription is appreciated. Thanks. 

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ss002d6252
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1) Were conscripts drafted into a general regiment--for some Scottish examples, the Scottish Rifles or the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders--and then transferred to specialized regiments like the Royal Engineers or Labour Corps?

Could be either way - depended on who needed what men at what time and what skills etc they had. The Labour Corps tended to be filled from those already serving who were deemed no longer suitable for infantry duty.

Quote

2) Did all men who turn 18 get called up on or shortly after their birthday, or was the conscription process slower than that?

It varied - some men were called up quite quickly, some took a few months. It depended what the army needed at the time.


Craig

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4 hours ago, ss002d6252 said:

Could be either way - depended on who needed what men at what time and what skills etc they had. The Labour Corps tended to be filled from those already serving who were deemed no longer suitable for infantry duty.

It varied - some men were called up quite quickly, some took a few months. It depended what the army needed at the time.


Craig

Thanks-- I figured that there would be a lot of variation as the war went on. 

 

Would you happen to know anything about the state of conscripts towards the end of the war--those who had to enlist in the spring of 1918, for instance? Was the Army focused on getting as many men into the infantry at that point, and therefore rushing conscripts to France as soon as possible? (I know from the Long Long Trail starting in 1918 they lowered the minimum age to be sent to the Front to 18 years, six months). 

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12 hours ago, jem1900 said:

2) Did all men who turn 18 get called up on or shortly after their birthday, or was the conscription process slower than that? I read that when the draft was initially introduced in 1916 that men born in 1898 were called up on a specific date if they did not attest beforehand. I'm curious if that was the case after 1916. 

 

Under the terms of the Military Service Act 1916, and subsequent amending Acts all eligible men aged eighteen were 'deemed to have enlisted' on coming of age at eighteen. They were effectively in the Army Reserve, however the age for active service overseas was nineteen.  Generally they were mobilised at eighteen years and one month, they then trained in the U.K. for the next few months.  Irrespective of age they could still seek deferment through the Local Tribunal (but single men usually received short shrift there but the process could delay mobilisation).  As Harry Patch wrote, " I turned eighteen in June 1916 and from that time on I knew the telegram requiring my service was just months, or even weeks away." (In fact the notification came by post with a rail warrant, in October 1916).

 

In April 1918 following the German Spring Offensive the Government authorised men aged eighteen and a half and with six months training in the UK to be sent France. This was withdrawn a few months later.

 

Even after the introduction of the Act many young men could volunteer and were mobilised before their eighteenth birthday.  Although voluntary enlistment denoted some element of choice most were destined for the infantry, and again until April 1918 were unlikely to be eligible for active service.

 

1 hour ago, jem1900 said:

Would you happen to know anything about the state of conscripts towards the end of the war--those who had to enlist in the spring of 1918, for instance? Was the Army focused on getting as many men into the infantry at that point, and therefore rushing conscripts to France as soon as possible?

 

A youth who did not volunteer and was eighteen say in March 1918 would be mobilised in the normal way, five months later he would still be training and could not be posted overseas.  There was much resentment in F & F that after the Armistice many of these conscripts were simply told to go home from the training units.  Those who had volunteered many went on to serve in Germany, or re-enlisted under the bounty scheme.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

 

Under the terms of the Military Service Act 1916, and subsequent amending Acts all eligible men aged eighteen were 'deemed to have enlisted' on coming of age at eighteen. They were effectively in the Army Reserve, however the age for active service overseas was nineteen.  Generally they were mobilised at eighteen years and one month, they then trained in the U.K. for the next few months.  Irrespective of age they could still seek deferment through the Local Tribunal (but single men usually received short shrift there but the process could delay mobilisation).

 

In April 1918 following the German Spring Offensive the Government authorised men aged eighteen and a half and with six months training in the UK to be sent France. This was withdrawn a few months later.

 

Even after the introduction of the Act many young men could volunteer and were mobilised before their eighteenth birthday.  Although voluntary enlistment denoted some element of choice most were destined for the infantry, and again until April 1918 were unlikely to be eligible for active service.

 

 

A youth who did not volunteer and was eighteen say in March 1918 would be mobilised in the normal way, five months later he would still be training and could not be posted overseas.  There was much resentment in F & F that after the Armistice many of these conscripts were simply told to go home from the training units.  Those who had volunteered many went on to serve in Germany, or re-enlisted under the bounty scheme.

 

 

Thank you very much, this is just the information I was looking for. 

 

My great grandfather turned 18 on April 1, 1918. Family stories always suggested he was called up very shortly after his birthday, which would make sense if he was automatically entered into the Reserve and the need for manpower was high after the Spring offensive. 

 

He is said to have served in the BAOR. If he did need six months training before being sent to the continent, I suppose he may have been one of the last of the conscripted men to finish their training. 

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A book I would recommend is: Men of 18 in 1918 by F R Hodges.

 

Regards

 

Russ

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2 minutes ago, RussT said:

A book I would recommend is: Men of 18 in 1918 by F R Hodges.

 

Also 'They Did not Grow Old, Teenage Conscripts on the Western Front, 1918'  Tim Lynch

 

If you know where he served many war diaries of the Army of Occupation, although brief, continue through to the disbandment of the 'Service' Battalions.

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6 hours ago, kenf48 said:

 

Also 'They Did not Grow Old, Teenage Conscripts on the Western Front, 1918'  Tim Lynch

 

If you know where he served many war diaries of the Army of Occupation, although brief, continue through to the disbandment of the 'Service' Battalions.

Thanks for the book recommendation. It looks pretty relevant. 

 

I found a war diary for the RE of the Lowland Division, which is my educated guess on the division my great-grandfather was in during his time in the Army of Occupation. Haven't found anything like a disbandment roster or list, but I'll look into that more deeply. 

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