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On the outbreak of war in August 1914, it was clear that more soldiers were needed. On 7th August, Lord Kitchener began a recruiting campaign calling for volunteers aged 19-30 to join up. At first this was very successful with an average of 33,000 joining every day. Three weeks later Kitchener raised the recruiting age to 35 and by the middle of September over 500,000 had volunteered.
Men signed, for a number of reasons. This included patriotism, guilt, money and even adventure. Many had never been abroad, and used the war as an excuse to travel and have some fun.
One reason why the men signed up was because many thought it would be an easy ride, and joined to see the world, and have an adventure. They used mothers and girlfriends to persuade the men to join, by using the White Feather modus operandi and the Mothers Union, even issuing posters stating ”Is your best boy wearing khaki”, the poster stated that if he was not wearing it, he does not want to protect the country or you, that suggested they weren’t would not be worthy of their girlfriends, encouraging girlfriends to force their ‘best boys’ to join the army.
This made the men feel guilty, and as a result they signed up to fight.
The Mothers Union produced posters to persuade their sons to join. ”On his return, hearts would beat high with thankfulness and pride”. The mothers urged their sons to join to also hold a sense of pride that their sons were fighting for Great Britain, instead of staying at home. In August 1914, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather. With the support of leading writers, the organisation encouraged women to give out white feathers to young men who had not joined the British Army.
One woman remembered her father, Robert Smith, being given a feather: “That night he came home and cried his heart out. My father was no coward, but had been reluctant to leave his family. He was thirty-four and my mother, who had two young children, had been suffering from a serious illness. Soon after this incident my father joined the army. ” The idea was to make the people who received the feathers unpatriotic and this caused them to feel guilty and in some cases leave there family straight away and go to join the forces.
Though eventually this was frowned upon as harassment by the police and it led to those being caught handing out these feathers to be prosecuted. At the beginning of the war the army had strict specifications about who could become soldiers. Men joining the army had to be 5ft 6in tall and a chest measurement of 35 inches. By May 1915 soldiers only had to be 5ft 3in and the age limit was raised to 40. In July the army agreed to the formation of ‘Bantam’ battalions, composed of men between 5ft and 5ft 3in in height.
This was a reason why men who fell under the height restrictions at first were able to join, they may have wanted to join but could not, but with the restrictions being lowered it would have encouraged them to join up. In August 1914, the British government discovered that Germany had a propaganda agency. So David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) was given the task of setting up the British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB). Many were convinced that the war was going to be an easy ride. Many signed up because they thought it would be over by Christmas, as Britain was a powerful country.
In ”Goodbye to all” by Robert Graves explains ” the papers predicted a very short war…… over by Christmas at outside”. Another example of a person who thought the war would be over quickly was ‘Private Godfrey Buxton, Royal Army Medical Corps’ – he said in his article ”I’d had one year at Cambridge and then volunteered for the army. We were quite clear that the Germany would be defeated by the 7th of October when we would go back to Cambridge. Patriotism was one of the main influences as to why men signed up in 1914.
The government used military marching bands and flags to engage the public, and to attract them to the war. George Coppard joined the Royal West Surrey Regiment at the age of sixteen, on 27th August, 1914. “Military bands blared out their martial music in the main streets of Croydon. ” This created a sense of pride in young men. “This was too much for me to resist and as if drawn by a magnet. I knew I had to enlist straight away. ” Young men were particularly inspired by the Union Jack flag, and the military uniforms.
A propaganda poster showing patriotism is the “Enlist Now” poster. The poster shows a soldier pointing to a picture of the English countryside. The line reads: “Isn’t this worth fighting for? ” The poster is asking the reader to sign up to protect the beautiful countryside. Many more men were influenced because they saw others signing up in large numbers. Lionel Ferguson joined the British army in Liverpool: “What sights I saw on my way up to Frazer Street: a queue of men over two miles long in the Haymarket. As men joined up in their thousands, men who didn’t could have been influenced by a sense of guilt. However, younger men signed up with their friends from their village, often known as ”Pals battalions”, for example Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, organized a battalion in Liverpool.
Within two days, fifteen hundred men from Liverpool had signed up. Speaking at a rally in August 1914, Lord Derby said, “This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool. Within the next few days three more battalions were raised in Liverpool. This showed that the ”Pals” battalion idea was a good idea to help raise patriotic beliefs. The men who joined up had similar backgrounds and occupations, they may have been a battalion who consisted of mainly contractors, a famous battalion that was constructed was the Scottish battalion from Liverpool, and these men were all Scottish and wore kilts in battle.
Men also may have signed up for the money, they were paid A kings shilling, a shilling and sixpence a day, encouraging men to join because their wives also received money and extra depending on how many children they had, this was a benefit for fighting, but if you died in battle – without insurance and benefits, that is why the pay was so high, but some people desperate for the money would have ignored that thinking again the war would end quickly and that they were impervious to harm because they were over confident this is shown in a source where women who had more children received up to 10 shillings extra per a week.
More importantly, men were encouraged to sign up, because of the brutal devastation that Germany caused in Belgium. This was known as the Rape of Belgium, a series of tragic ‘supposed to have occurred’ events that circulated as a rumour around Britain. Men felt they needed to avenge the deaths of innocent Belgian people, looking for revenge. In the book, “Memoirs of an infantry Officer”, Lt. S. Sassoon wrote that “the newspapers informed us that German soldiers crucified Belgium babies.
Stories of that kind weren’t taken for granted; to have disbelieved them would have been unpatriotic. ” After the news broke out, propaganda posters drew Germans as Huns, or gorillas. They were shown as savages, inhuman and immoral. This sparked further controversy, and as a result, men signed up in their thousands. There were also posters published depicting the A depiction of a German soldier standing on the body of a dead woman and about to step onto a baby. ‘Gott mit uns’ [God is with us] is written on his chest belt.
More bodies lie on the ground in front of burning buildings. A vulture flies above in an orange sky. This image would have persuaded people to join the forces because it was a depiction of injustice and if you had justice in you, you would join to prevent the Germans from massacring Belgium even more. Though this image may not have been true and just propaganda to encourage people to join, without televisions there was no real proof of these events except word of mouth and rumours.
Young men were not always patriotic. Some even joined because they felt guilty. Propaganda posters often portrayed the idea of guilt. “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War? “, is an example of making soldiers feeling guilty, as they had feelings of fear and embarrassment holding them back from participating in the war. The poster shows two children asking their father, who is sitting on a chair, if he had taken part in the war. This implies that the children look up to the father.
The father has a look of guilt in his eyes, and viewers, especially young men, would not want this to happen to them. As a result, men joined the army in large numbers. Also like the White Feather method people also sent abusive letters to people who had not joined the army….. A taunting letter forwarded to a railway porter who had not yet enlisted… It reads: ”Dear Mr. E. A. Brookes seeing that you cannot be a man not to Join the army. We offer you an invitation to join our Girl Scouts as washer up, …….. Scout mistress………
Bath Girl Scouts”. The objective of all this pressure was to push the people receiving the intimidation to feel guilty and join up right away; these men were probably less patriotic if patriotic at all because they refused to help the country. It is clear there are many reasons why the British forces needed more men, but through unforeseen circumstances the British underestimated the German forces. The reasons why the British men joined the army included: ”patriotism, adventure, guilt, more money, peer pressure and many more”.