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trench notes

conscr i p t i on

On 11 August 1914, Alfred Leete’s famous poster announced “Your

Country Needs You”, the requirement being for 100,000 men. The

First Kitchener New Army, or K1, as they became known, was fully

subscribed within just two weeks. On 28th August, a call went

out for a second 100,000 men to form the Second New Army, or K2,

with K3-5 being required shortly thereafter.

In August 1914, 300,000 men had signed up to fight, and another

450,000 had joined-up by the end of SeptemberŒ17.ŒRecruitment

remained fairly steady through 1914 and early 1915, but it fell

dramatically during the later years, especially after the Somme

campaign, which resulted in 360,000 casualties.

vol unt e er i ng i n scot l and

A number of factors prompted those volunteers from all over

Scotland to take the King’s Shilling. Workers doing repetitive

or menial jobs saw a chance to escape the drudgery of their

existence. The Scots’ inherent respect for militarism also

encouraged many a young man who thought he would look a god in

a kilt and a Glengarry bonnet. In those days too, words such

as duty, honour and patriotism were not idle concepts but the

cornerstone of many young lives: within a year the Rev Duncan

Cameron, minister of Kilsyth claimed that after painstaking

research, he had found that 90% of the country’s ministers had

seen their off-spring (“sons of the manse”) volunteer for duty

in the armed forces. Unskilled workers or the unemployed looked

forward to the prospect of work and a steady wage but as The

Scotsman reported on 8 August the recruits in Cockburn Street

came from all walks of life:

“Men of all types and classes passed along, some in professions

and trades - well groomed and spruce - and others with whom

the world had dealt more harshly, but all curious to take their

places in the ranks and shoulder a rifle.”