Registration Certificate

Each person who was successfully registered under the National Registration Act received a certificate.

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Front of card, Image from Daily Mail, 18 August 1915

The card had to be returned for re-issuing within 28 days of the date a person changed address.

Canvas

An instruction was given to local authorities in mid September 1915 for the pink forms they held to be passed to the local recruiting officers. On 5 October 1915 local recruiting committees were instructed to canvas any men shown on pink forms and who were not ‘starred‘ . The intention was to encourage men to attest in to the Derby Scheme.

A further instruction however was issued on the 6 October 1915 to continue any preparatory work and deal with any men who presented themselves but not to begin the actual canvas. On 15 October 1915 Lord Derby announced further details of his plan in Parliament and advised that instructions were issued for canvassing to begin. The instructions were issued on 18 October.

These instructions asked that the political recruiting agents for each district, those men used by political parties to canvas areas at election time, and the local parliamentary recruiting committees be tasked to organise the canvas as they were the men best placed to do so.

Prior to canvassing a man was intended to have received a letter from Lord Derby. It was envisaged that each man would be visited a maximum of 3 times to try and encourage them to attest. in order that a card index of men available for military service could be created.

The canvassers were supplied with a blue form holding data of men in their area, these had been compiled from the pink forms. This data mirrored a series of white cards held at the recruiting committee offices and which held any updated information which was fed back by the canvassers. Recruiting committees were instructed to use only canvassers who were either over military age or otherwise outside exempt or excused from service.

The initial canvas was to be made to all eligible single men aged over 19 years of age and men not falling in to this criteria were to be canvassed only following the completion of this.

 

Khaki armband

To identify those men who had attested under the Derby Scheme to serve at a later date a khaki armband was authorised.

In order to collect an armband a man had to report to an authorised distribution office and present a copy of his attestation documents. He would then be issued with a numbered armband for his use, it was an offence to wear an armband that was issued directly to that man.

An armband could also be issued to man who had tried to attest under the Derby Scheme and been rejected or to a man who had been released from the military prior to the Derby Scheme on the grounds of health.

Direct enlistment

The Derby Scheme allowed men to enlist for service in the military for immediate service as well as allowing them to attest under the group scheme. The canvassers who visited eligible men were asked to encourage them to enlist for direct enlistment where possible.

A man who enlisted was immediate service would often be sent home for a few days until the military could deal with him however once attested and approved he became a serving soldier. Whilst he was awaiting the military to recall him he was entitled to 3 shillings per day however he could be recalled with 24 hours notice.

A man had several different options as to which branch of the military to which he could enlist. A quick summary is shown below as they existed in November 1915 however these conditions did change as the war progressed:

Kitchener’s Army

  • Men would be taken between the ages of 19 and 40 years.
  • Ex soldiers would be taken up to the age of 45 years of age.
  • Ex officers would be accepted up to 50 years of age.
  • Ex Warrant Officers and NCO’s would be enlisted to the same rank previously held as a regular.
  • The height requirement 5′ 2″ minimum.
  • All terms are the same as regulars with the exception of the period of service  was for the duration of the war.
  • Bantam battalions take me between 5′ 2″ and 5′ 4″.
  • The 3 footballers battalions accept men up to 45 years of age.

Regular Army

  • Men would generally be taken between the ages of 18 and 25 years.

Household cavalry

  • 8 years with the colours and 4 years reserve commitment

Cavalry of the line

  • 7 years with the colours and 5 years reserve commitment

Royal Field Artillery (RFA), Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) and Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA).

  • Men would be taken between the ages of 18 and 25 years.
  • RFA and RHA gunners – 5′ 7″ to 5′ 10″ height
  • RFA and RHA driver – 5’3″ to 5′ 7″ height
  • RGA gunners – 5′ 8″ minimum height
  • RHA – 6 years with the colours and 6 years reserve commitment
  • RFA – 3 years with the colours and 9 years reserve commitment
  • RGA – 3 years with the colours and 9 years reserve commitment

Royal Engineers (RE)

  • Sappers – 5′ 6″ and above
  • Pioneer – no specific height
  • Driver – 5′ 4″ minimum
  • Engine drivers recruited up to age 30
  • Mechanics recruited between ages of 25 and 35

Infantry

  • 5′ 2″ minimum
  • 7 years with the colours and 5 years reserve commitment

Royal Flying Corps (RFC)

  • 4 years with the colours and 4 years reserve commitment

Territorial Army

  • Men would be taken between the ages of 17 and 35 years.
  • 4 years service commitment

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Derby Scheme

The Derby Scheme was a scheme proposed by Lord Derby as an attempt to increase recruitment and avoid the need for conscription by allowing men to voluntarily attest for service at a later date. Men attested under the scheme would be paid 1 days wages, placed in the Class B army reserve and released to civilian life until needed by the military.

The scheme was originally intended to run only from 16 October 1915 to 30 November 1915 , this was later extended to midnight of 11/12 December 1915.

The number of men trying to enlist was such that those who had made themselves known at the recruiting office before the end of 11 December 1915 were allowed to return to complete the process up to the end of 15 December 1915. Many recruitment offices were so overwhelmed that medical examinations were dispensed with, this was done on the basis that men would be examined once they called up for service in any case.

To identify those men who had attested to served at a later date a khaki armband was authorised.

A man who had attested under the Derby Scheme was free to voluntarily enlist at a later date if he wished to so (assuming he hadn’t already been called up).

It should also be noted that between 10 December 1915 and 13 December 1915 1,070,478 men were attested under the Derby Scheme, this was nearly 48% of the total number of men who had attested up to 15 December 1915.

On 20 December 1915 Lord Derby made a report to parliament based on the figures which had been reported to him under the Derby Scheme. A breakdown of these figures is given below:

Single Men
23 October 1915 to 15 December 1915

Total Single Men
2,179,231
of which starred
690,138

Number who enlisted
103,000
Number who attested
840,000
Number rejected
207,000

Total men who attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
1,150,000

Total men who had not attested,enlisted or tried to enlist
1,029,231

Married men
23 October 1915 to 15 December 1915

Total Married Men
2,832,210
of which starred
915,491

Number who enlisted
112,431
Number who attested
1,344,979
Number rejected
221,853

Total men who attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
1,679,263

Total men who had not attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
1,152,947

Total figures
23 October 1915 to 15 December 1915

Total men available for enlistment
5,011,441
Total men who attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
2,829,263
Total men who had not attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
2,182,178

What was noted in the original report is that out of the 2,829,263 of men who had attested for future service it was estimated that a large number of these men would either be in starred occupations, deemed essential in their employment or found to be unfit at the time they were called up and as such only some 831,000 could actually be brought in to the military, only some 30% of those who had enlisted.

The figures took in to account only the period of 23 October 1915 to 15 December 1915 and the report makes a separate estimate of the number of men attested and enlisted from 16 October 1915 to 22 October 1915 and 16 December 1915 to 19 December 1915 as 59,600 direct enlistments and 61,651 attestations for future service. Attestation under the scheme had stopped on 15 December 1915 therefore any figures reported between 16 to 19 December 1915 were down to late return of numbers by recruiting offices.

Adding the late returns in to the figures gives an amended result of:

Total men available for enlistment
5,011,441
Total men who attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
2,950,514
Total men who had not attested, enlisted or tried to enlist
2,060,927

It can be seen that out of the 5,011,441 men who were available for service only around 59% did attempt to register for military service. It should be also be taken in mind that only 275,000 or 5% of the available men enlisted for immediate service and nearly 9% of the available men were rejected for military service.

On 20 December 1915, only 5 days after the end of the scheme, the first call up notice was announced for groups 2,3,4 and 5 (single men aged 19 to 22) , this was to have effect from 20 January 1916. Groups 6,7,8 and 9 (single men aged 23,24,25 and 26) were given notice on 8 January 1916 for call up on 8 February 1916.

Whilst the call up of the first groups were being announced discussions were taking place in parliament regarding the possibility of introducing conscription, this led to the resignation of the Home Secretary on 31 December 1915. Conscription would involve forcibly attesting all eligible men who were not already either serving or attested under the Derby Scheme.

On 5 January 1916 it was announced that with effect from 10 January 1916 the Derby Scheme was to be re-opened however this wasn’t to last and on 1 March 1916 the Military Service Act 1916 automatically conscripted every eligible man, not already either serving or a member of the Class B army reserve, in to the Class B reserve.