Scots at War Creating an Army
Problem • The scale of World War One posed a massive challenge to the relatively small British Army • Lord Kitchener avoided introducing conscription by inviting men to volunteer with their friends, family and colleagues to form the Pals Battalions.
Britain, bound by treaty to aid Belgium, declared war against Germany on 4 August, determined but unready. Its professional army was badly equipped and minuscule in comparison to the conscript-heavy standing armies on the continent. It comprised just 450,000 men - including only around 900 trained staff officers - and some 250,000 reservists.
This posed a problem. While many famously expected the war to be 'over by Christmas', Lord Kitchener, the newly appointed Secretary of State for War, was unconvinced • With conscription politically unpalatable, Kitchener decided to raise a new army of volunteers
Pals Battalion • On 6 August, Parliament sanctioned an increase in Army strength of 500,000 men; days later Kitchener issued his first call to arms. This was for 100,000 volunteers, aged between 19 and 30, at least 5‘6" tall and with a chest size greater than 35 inches. • General Henry Rawlinson initially suggested that men would be more willing to join up if they could serve with people they already knew
Away from the world of armed forces the countdown to war was followed with keen interest throughout Scotland and the announcement of the declaration of war was accompanied by a mixture of relief, anticipation and excitement.
Neil Munro (Novelist and Journalist) – “What silly patriotic and romantic elations were stirred in me when I found that already there were armed guards on every railway viaduct” • Munro was caught up in the excitement and wanted to do something • That sense of enthusiasm conviction was shared by many others and gave the early days of the war an unreal quality, creating a feeling that war was a great adventure and that man had been transformed and liberated from the doldrums of a humdrum existence.
Enthusiasm for war was one thing, finding the soldiers to fight it was another • Kitchener – “I feel certain that Scotsmen have only to know that the country urgently needs their services to offer them with the same splendid patriotism as they have always shown in the past” • His words did not fall on deaf ears
Within a day of declaration Edinburgh's recruiting office in Cockburn Street was doing brisk business. • 20,000 men had been processed in the Gallowgate • 1500 Coatbridge • 900 Clydebank • 940 Dumbarton • 750 Alloa
Why did men join? • Workers doing repetitive or menial jobs saw a chance to escape the drudgery of their existence • Scotland’s traditional respect for militarism also encouraged man a young man. • Unskilled workers or the unemployed looked forward to the prospect of work and a steady wage • Peer pressure • Great Adventure
Pals Battalions • They kept together volunteers from the same cities or towns, or from working, sporting or social clubs • 215 ‘pals’ were formed in the UK by the summer of 1916 • Glasgow Boys’ Brigade • Glasgow Stock exchange • Glasgow public transport system • Tramways • Hearts FC part of the 16th Battalion (McRae’s battalion)
Hearts FC • The entire first and reserve teams, several boardroom and staff members and many supporters joined McRae’s Battalion
On 9th April 1922, the club’s War Memorial was unveiled at Haymarket in front of 35,000. • Secretary State of Scotland said they did not hesitate and their example was contagious.
Disaster • Idea was that men would fight harder for those around them as they were friends and countrymen etc • Nobody had taken into account the devastating effect of heavy losses suffered, when a Pals Battalion went into action, on the local community. • Friendship made them join together and die together. • Few homes remained untouched: an epidemic of grief swamped the country after the Battle of the Somme.
After the Somme, the ideas of keeps local communities together was abandoned. • Conscription was introduced