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.

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4 thoughts on “Derby Scheme

  1. Pingback: Blue forms | The Derby Scheme

  2. Pingback: Canvas | The Derby Scheme

  3. Pingback: Khaki armband | The Derby Scheme

  4. Pingback: Direct enlistment | The Derby Scheme

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