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"Pals" Battalion, University course help please


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Mary Kate Maco

Greetings all, and apologies in advance as I am brand new to the forum and not sure of the proper way to pursue this (Pal's Battalions) topic. I'm returning to university after 30+ years and am considering this (what this, as a recruiting strategy, can tell us about patriotism at the outbreak of war; tracing these battalions' tragic history through 1916; what was public reaction to their being banned in 1916, etc.. I'm open to other avenues of inquiry which any of you think might be more profitable!). I've gone down the rabbit hole here and, as there so many of these battalions, each unique in its own way, I'm thinking I need to focus on just one.  As (we think) the first was the Stockbroker's battalion, this is what I have in mind. As you can imagine I'm rusty in pursuing primary source materials--although presumably this is much easier than pre-GWF, in-person visits to the IWM archives, etc., I'm interested in the usual suspects: newspaper accounts; Parliamentary records; telegrams or other communications between and among General Sir Henry Rawlinson, Lord Derby, Robert White, Kitchener, etc.; letters or diary accounts recording individuals' experience in or response to this campaign, etc..  Any help in tracking down these sources, or suggestions in general about the feasibility of this topic, would be most welcome.

 

Gratefully yours,

MKM

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Michelle Young

Welcome to the forum. I’ve split off your enquiry into a new post as you had posted on a old thread.

Michelle 

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Hello and welcome to the forum.

 

The 'Pal's' Battalions are a well trodden path, although the Stockbrokers may have taken umbrage at the term 'pals'.  To be pedantic, or accurate, these were 'locally raised' battalions and unique to WW1. The majority of the initial recruits to Kitchener's 'New Army' (K1) were drawn from the traditional recruiting base of the drinking, swearing, labouring classes, and a shock to those middle class volunteers who first volunteered.  In the United Kingdom the so called 'rush to the colours' was a myth, there has been much research both on the GWF and elsewhere concerning the recruitment to the New Army. Therefore when Kitchener called for the second 100,000 the idea of locally raised battalions was suggested, firstly to allow men to join with their peers and social class but also to take the pressure off the War Office.  Locally raised battalions were funded by civic authorities, or wealthy benefactors and socialites an even included the County Territorial Associations who were also vying for recruits.  When up to strength the Battalions were handed over to the War Office who could then dispose of them as they wished.

They were not 'banned' in 1916 as suggested in your original post.  There are two identified peaks for locally raised Battalions, at the outbreak of war and early in 1915. The initiative was one of many designed to prevent the unacceptable alternative of universal conscription which as the war progressed and losses mounted became inevitable and the Military Service Act was introduced in March 1916.

 

As far as primary sources are concerned as to the raising of local battalions, local newspapers are probably the best and most accessible source at present.  There was competition for recruits and these were published daily/weekly.

Once on active service every Battalion kept a war diary and these can currently be downloaded for free, if you register.

 

There are many secondary sources which should be on your reading list

 

David Carter's 'The Stockbrokers Battalion' is currently on sale

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/the-stockbrokers-battalion-in-the-great-war-hardback/p/6088

 

Professor Peter Simkins in Kitchener's Army 'The Raising of the New Armies 1914 -1916' devotes a whole chapter to the 'Pals' putting them into the context of recruitment. His bibliography is very good.

As does 'A Nation in Arms' A Social Study of the British Army 1914-1918, a series of essays on recruitment and motivation.

General works which can be recommended are the late Richard Holmes 'Tommy' and Charles Messenger's 'Call to Arms', Charles was a member of the GWF and also passed away last year.

It would be tedious to list all the accounts written by authors old and new on the 'Pals' I happen to like the Bradford Pals with its detailed demographic of the recruits

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Bradford-Pals-Kindle/p/7721

but just about every locally raised battalion has had a book written about them and many have websites, facebook pages and all the paraphenalia of social media.

 

Add to that the trove of personal memoirs  and 'newly discovered' diaries published in the Centenary

 

I don't want to put you off but I doubt there is much new to say about the raising of specific local Battalions.  A less 'populist' topic might be why many more did not volunteer, after all during the period volunteer recruitment in England and Wales to December 1915 less than 25% of men of military age did so.  In terms of recruitment consider the pressure on single men, the broken promises to married men, the 'manpower crisis' of 1917, attitudes and the voices against war and the legistlation and the work of the Local Tribunals.

 

Good luck with your studies and go on explode a few myths.

 

 

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Pen and Sword published a number of books on a number of individual locally raised battalions a few years ago, inlcuding the "Leeds Pals" and the "Accrington Pals". Second hand copies should be available. The battalion history of 16 (2nd City of Glasgow) HLI which was raised from through the Glasgow Boys Brigade Battalion was republished by the Naval and Military Press a few years ago. I think the history of 17 (3rd City of Glasgow - Chamber of Commerce) HLI is available on archive.org.

 

RM

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ilkley remembers
15 hours ago, Mary Kate Maco said:

I'm returning to university after 30+ years and am considering this (what this, as a recruiting strategy, can tell us about patriotism at the outbreak of war; tracing these battalions' tragic history through 1916;

 

Clearly this no shortage of source material when studying the many Pals Battalions with plenty of traditional unit histories as well as more specific studies about the logistics of recruitment. I suppose some might argue that there is little mileage in pursuing another study of the pals but I would disagree and think that there is still much you can say particularly about the manner and strategies employed in the recruiting process. In recent years the focus has turned away from a presumption that motivation to enlist was simply nationalistic and patriotic towards a more nuanced and wider ranging model which for example would include notions of masculinity in Edwardian Britain.  

 

The problem is that many of these studies are in extremely expensive academic texts or in difficult to access journals, however, however they would be more accessible if you have the use of a university library. Nevertheless searches using phrases like 'citizen soldier volunteers in WW1' or 'masculinity and WW1 should bring back accessible sources.

 

Anyway good luck it sounds like it could be an interesting and worthwhile study.

 

IR

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17 hours ago, Mary Kate Maco said:

I'm returning to university after 30+ years

I returned after 20 years and found it tough going, needed a lot of stamina.  Good luck, I wish you well and hope we all get to hear of your success when it comes.

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Ron da Valli
On 25/02/2021 at 00:23, Mary Kate Maco said:

Greetings all, and apologies in advance as I am brand new to the forum and not sure of the proper way to pursue this (Pal's Battalions) topic. I'm returning to university after 30+ years

Welcome to the forum.

I returned to university aged fifty. Being a "mature" student can become addictive. I stopped again many subjects and courses later aged sixty two.

RM

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Yup, me too - another very late developer academically: it was very satisfying, albeit tougher at times than I'd expected (being somewhat resistant to learning and needing to earn money at the same time). Enjoy yourself, it's a nice idea for a study! And the online resources available via a University library are astonishing, absolutely fantastic.

The interpretation of a single battalion's data would give you lots of scope, as others have pointed out here, and it is likely that the real picture is both similar to and different from the clichéd cap-waving throngs of August 1914 (yeah, OK, that isn't exactly rocket science! But you know what I mean). I'm with Ken, actually, in that I'd really like to know about those who did not join up (there's a similar area of interest in those who didn't sign up for Imperial service amongst Territorials, too, I think).

 

Anyway, all the best and I hope you'll keep us updated.

 

Cheers, Pat.

 

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How about tracing a single Irish infantry battalion, either Pals or Regular (equally intriguing stories can be had from both).  They are less excavated than almost all others because post WW1 political sensitivities in Ireland/Irish Free State/Republic of Ireland (and the two civil wars that marked that passage) led to their stories being effectively buried.  It’s only recent events post the Good Friday Agreement that have led to hidden away family stories coming to light, and a more nuanced attitude emerging among Irish families that in some cases had generations of forebears who served in British Army Irish Regiments (not to mention many other units).  There’s lots of sub texts for you to consider within the subject as a whole and, in terms of studying a single Irish battalion in depth, it’s largely much untapped. Such a study could potentially have considerable novelty value.  There is much generic source material too.  Books on Kitchener New Army battalions such as the Accrington Pals and Hull Commercials have become well known in the genre, but I’ve neither heard of, nor seen an Irish equivalent.  It seems like a hole waiting to be filled.  There’s a good list of associated publications here: https://www.greatwar.ie/remembrance-2/contact-reference/

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Michelle Young

@Mary Kate Maconot sure if you realise you have replies? 

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Mary Kate Maco
On 25/02/2021 at 01:57, Michelle Young said:

Welcome to the forum. I’ve split off your enquiry into a new post as you had posted on a old thread.

Michelle 

 

3 hours ago, Michelle Young said:

@Mary Kate Maconot sure if you realise you have replies? 

Thank you, Michelle, I did not so thank you for pointing this out.  And wow. I'm extremely grateful to all who responded. In responding to you, have I responded to the group? Or do I start a new post at the bottom of this thread?

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Michelle Young

No need to start a new thread every time you want to reply, just carry on replying under this post.

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  • 1 month later...
Mary Kate Maco
On 26/02/2021 at 06:20, rolt968 said:

Welcome to the forum.

I returned to university aged fifty. Being a "mature" student can become addictive. I stopped again many subjects and courses later aged sixty two.

RM

LOL (as the kids say). I am 55 and finding it difficult to hit/find my stride again. Thank you for the warm welcome, but why did you stop?

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Mary Kate Maco

Thank you all so very much for responding, and apologies for not doing likewise sooner.  A torn ACL and an unexpected house move put me out of commission for a few weeks, but I am (sort of) up and running and hoping to make up for lost time.  Your leads have proved most profitable; I'm pursuing some as I write.  Most of all I thank you for your (implied) confidence that I might actually make something of this project!

 

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Frogsmiles Irish suggestion may well have mileage and I too cannot remember seeing much in printIve read a few Pals books (contributed to one of them in a small way) and one follows the ‘cotton town comrades’ which were the Oldham pals, from memory a pioneer battalion which might add another angle

 

Simon

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9 hours ago, Mary Kate Maco said:

LOL (as the kids say). I am 55 and finding it difficult to hit/find my stride again. Thank you for the warm welcome, but why did you stop?

Welcome back.

I researched the men on a church WW1 Roll of Honour as part of a PGDip final assessment. Then I started researching men on the equivalent war memorial. Then I researched the men on the War Memorial for the next parish and so on....

RM

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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, mancpal said:

Frogsmiles Irish suggestion may well have mileage and I too cannot remember seeing much in printIve read a few Pals books (contributed to one of them in a small way) and one follows the ‘cotton town comrades’ which were the Oldham pals, from memory a pioneer battalion which might add another angle

 

Simon

Pioneer battalions are well served unfortunately Simon.  Mary is following a rather well trodden path, which is why I suggested she seek something novel such as the Irish experience.  It’s especially important when you factor in the key aspect that, unlike all the other then home establishment nations, Ireland alone did not introduce conscription.   There’s lots to examine regarding the various motives of those men who did join and also how that was influenced to some degree by Carson’s UVF and Redmond’s Irish Volunteers.  There’d be so much for her to get her teeth into, including the Irish Pals experiences on the Somme on 1st July 1916, and in Salonika (Kosturino, etc.).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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