Slideshow: The First World War - Recruitment

Throughout 2014, the Harrogate Advertiser series of newspapers is publishing photographs and stories from our archive room at Cardale Park to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.

When war broke out, hundreds of young people across our district found themselves called up to fight. Lucinda Abbott takes a look at recruitment.



At the outbreak of World War One in August 1914, the British army was a small, professional force of around 247,000 men.

It was clear more men would be needed to defeat the much bigger German army which was based on universal military training.

On August 5 1914, Lord Kitchener was appointed secretary of state for war. Unlike others, he predicted a war lasting for years.

At once he started an enormous recruiting drive and trained huge numbers of volunteers for a succession of entirely new Kitchener armies.

The Harrogate Herald began to publish notices urging men between the ages of 19 and 30, and any regular soldiers between the ages of 30 and 42, to go to war. Men in our district were asked to go to the drill hall in Harrogate to apply.


People could enlist as young as 18 but they had to remain in the UK until they were 19 before being posted abroad. No under 18s were allowed to join the army. However, some youths who were too young to legally enlist would lie about their age and sign with a false name to apply.

Recruitment offices would have to handle tens of thousands of men and officers did not have the time and inclination to check the age of volunteers. Signing on with a false name meant that parents could not track them down and ask a commanding officer to return their underage son.

Horace lles of the Leeds Pals Battalion may well have been the youngest to join the army. He joined the battalion in September 1914 at the age of 14 but told the recruitment office he was 18.


Nationwide, around 30,000 men were enlisting every day by the end of August 1914. Men enlisted for a variety of reasons, including patriotism, the chance to see another country, and the desire to quit a boring job.

Recruitment events were held around the Harrogate district, such as in the market place in Knaresborough.

The ‘Herald reported that a novel method of recruiting had been organised by Mr Fred Kelley, the commanding officer of the Harrogate Defence League.

On Sunday August 16, 1914, four motor cars with 9 speakers made a tour of the district and held 90 meetings, urging young men to join Lord Kitchener’s Supplementary Army.

Share your stories

Have you any old photographs, letters or cuttings from 1914-1918? We will be sharing stories throughout this year, and always welcome reader help and input.

Email: or write to us at 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate HG3 1RZ

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Slideshow: The First World War - Recruitment

Read more First World War stories at the Great War section of our website