The History Place - World War I

Somewhat green-looking British Army volunteers at Aldershot training camp, near London. Below: Aldershot recruits seen on a practice hike--now looking battle-ready--soon to be sent to France and Belgium to participate in the some of the most intensive combat fighting ever experienced by soldiers.

Below: Two British Army recruiting posters. On the right, Lord Kitchener, Britain's Secretary of State for War, makes a direct appeal for volunteers. Entire villages and communities of men did respond and enlisted together, then fought side-by-side in Europe. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sent to Europe in 1914 comprised nearly the entire all-volunteer regular British Army, most of whom would be dead within a year. Historically Britain had maintained a gigantic navy to achieve and maintain global dominance, while a minimal army was used mainly to quell disturbances in the colonies. Upon the outbreak of war with Germany, the highly successful recruitment campaign was used throughout the Empire to quickly grow the volunteer army tenfold.


Below: Dominion volunteers--a tender goodbye for a Canadian artilleryman headed off to war. Canadian and Australian troops fought alongside the British on the Western Front, not as members of the British Army, but as soldiers of their own national corps, an important distinction for them.

Below: Unique British uniforms. On the left, a member of the Black Watch demonstrates how to fire a rifle grenade. The sight of men in kilts was at first amusing to frontline Germans until they found them to be ferocious fighters--and later referred to them as "Ladies from Hell." On the right, a British "Tommy," wearing shorts for summer, writes a letter home after participating in a battle. The nickname Tommy for British soldiers came from a poem by Rudyard Kipling with its character Tommy Atkins. The poem ends:
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!


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