100 Days Centenary Countdown: Places- Recruitment & Training
Over the next 100 days to mark the countdown to Armistice Day we will highlight some of the sites recorded by our volunteers and champions.
This series of ‘Places’ blogs will highlight some of the interesting Home Front sites that you can explore further. Although Home Front Legacy 1914-18 is now closed to new records, you can still access and explore our Map of Sites.
Recruitment & Training at the outbreak of war
This month we will look at sites dating from the very start of the war; specifically buildings and sites associated with recruitment and training of new volunteers.
At the outbreak of war on the 4th of August 1914 Britain had a small but professional army, in contrast with France and Germany, who both maintained large but conscripted armed forces.
The number of soldiers serving in the armed forces would need to be considerably increased if the country was to win the war. General Lord Kitchener called for a recruitment campaign to form the ‘New Army’; also known as Kitchener’s Army.
One outcome of this concentrated recruitment campaign was the formation of Pals Battalions. The Pals regiments resulted from the recruitment of large bodies of men from local areas, businesses and industries, with the first recognised ‘Battalion of Pals’ being the 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (The Stockbrokers Battalion). In some cases whole factories, coal mines and streets signed up together. The established social hierarchy from the factories and coal mines often followed the Pals battalions; with managers becoming Officers, deputies Non-Commissioned officers, and the workers Privates. It was believed that as the men knew each other well this would promote unit cohesion and increase morale. You can find out more about the Pals battalions in this article from the Imperial War Museum.
Here’s some of the sites recorded during Home Front Legacy’s 4 years that relate to recruitment and the training of soldiers during the First World War. You cans search for these on our Map of Sites using the provided grid references or Site Type terms. To search with a grid reference press the ‘Find Location’ button and paste the provided grid reference into the text box. You can even investigate our Map of Sites further to identify other sites and buildings that relate to recruitment and training.
Large buildings and offices were required to process the new recruits. Recruitment offices were often established in requisitioned buildings, such as Town Halls and Police Stations.
You can find out more about these buildings used for recruitment by searching for the grid references below or using the Site Type ‘REQUISITIONED BUILDING’.
Leeds Town Hall, West Yorkshire- SE29763387
Hull Town Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire- TA0955828758
Barnsley Civic, South Yorkshire- SE3459006460
Treaty Lodge, Hounslow- TQ1374175266
South Church, Murray Place, Stirling- NS7965093511
Drill halls were established prior to the First World War as headquarters buildings and training centres for local reserve regiments and volunteer forces. At the outbreak of war many Drill Halls acted as recruitment stations for new troops and billets for men of the volunteer and territorial units who were called to action.
Thanks to the great work of Home Front Legacy Champion John, of Geograph, most Drill Halls in the UK can be found on our Map of Sites along with photographs and descriptions of their use during the war. Use the ‘DRILL HALLS’ Site Type to find your local Drill Hall.
The men recruited to the colours needed to be housed somewhere together to allow them to be processed and trained. The military had not expected such large numbers of men to sign up and as a result had to requisition suitably large buildings. In some cases new recruits were told to return home at night and come back to their new unit in the morning. Public halls, large town houses, schools and other large buildings that could house large numbers of people were initially used as billets.
Here are a few we have recorded on our Map of Sites. You can search for them using the ‘BILLET’ site type-
Tonbridge- St Eanswythes Mission- TQ5920445890
Cathedral Quarter Grammar School, Norwich- TG23380889
Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge- TL44975832
Alnwick- Alnbank House- NU1957312788
All new recruits needed a convenient place where they could be accommodated and trained before being deployed to the battlefield. Towards the end of 1914 many Training Camps sprang up around the country. These often consisted of a large open area, close to land that was suitable for constructing practice trenches and conducting route marches. The camps themselves often featured the ubiquitous Accommodation Hut (often constructed to the Armstrong Hut design), ablutions blocks, a YMCA or recreation hut and mess facilities.
You can explore a small selection of training camps by searching for the grid references below, or you can use the Site Type ‘TRAINING CAMP’ or ‘TRAINING AREA’.
Redmires Training Camp, South Yorkshire- SK2763685931
Newhall Training Camp, South Yorkshire- SE29510545
Danbury Camp- TL78100613
Breary Banks Camp- SE1547580092
Over To You
Over to you! Explore the Home Front Legacy Map of Sites to see what sites you can discover. Spotted something that isn’t recorded? Contact your local Historic Environment Record (HER) HERE to record your local First World War sites.
Be sure to join us next time for more Home Front Places.