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from volunteering to conscription



ritain declared war against Germany on 4thAugust 1914,with

Austria-Hungary on 12thAugust 1914,withTurkey on 5th

November 1914 and with Bulgaria on 15th October 1915. Australia,

Canada and New Zealand entered the war alongside Britain on 4th

August 1914.

By the end ofAugust 1914,300,000 men had signed up. By the end of

September these ranks were swelled by another 450,000,and by the end

of December over one million men in Britain had volunteered to fight in

the war. Almost four years later,when the war ended on 11th November

1918,in the region of one quarter of the total male population had

served in theArmed Forces.

Of course no one knew how this war would turn out and there was

a great rush at the start to be part of it,spurred on by a massive

advertising campaign featuring Lord Kitchener. However in contrast

to its French and German counterparts the BritishArmy was relatively

small. While Britain’s Naval supremacy was a matter of national

pride at the outbreak of war herArmy was comparatively small,being

traditionally made up from volunteer recruits,and she was in no way

prepared for a protracted land war. The French mobilised around

1,600,000 troops in 1914 and the Germans mobilised around 1,800,000.

A prominent feature of the early months of volunteering was the

formation of‘Pals Battalions’. ‘Pals’,men who lived and worked together

in the same community, joined up and trained together and were

allocated to the same units.

Knowing what we know now,it’s hard to understand why anyone

would go willingly to the hell of Gallipoli or theWestern Front.

But people had romantic notions as the story ofWilliam Darling

from Edinburgh typifies.

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