Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source3
Photographs of volunteers, 1915
(Catalogue ref: RAIL 253/516, by permission of BRB (Residuary) Limited
  • Source 3a shows 6 men who worked at the Paddington audit office of the Great Western Railway. They are (from left to right): A E Kirk, N Boyce, S B Hodges, E Bright, D J Robertson, and M A Russell.
  • Source 3b shows the same 6 men in army uniform. They joined up in late 1915.
  • They joined the Royal Engineers Railway Troop, so they would have been able to put some of their civilian skills to use in the army.
  • These photographs were kept with letters sent back by men from the front. They were circulated around the railway office with a newsletter so their colleagues could know how they were getting on.
  • These are very personal photographs that show a group of co-workers who volunteered together to do their duty, maybe out of loyalty to their country or loyalty to their mates.
  • In 1914, there was a huge surge of volunteers who wanted to join up and do their duty for their country. Britain had no system of calling men up to fight so they relied on volunteers and a recruitment campaign.
  • The campaign was headed by Lord Kitchener, whose face appeared on the famous 'Your Country Needs You' poster. The campaign was successful in August and September 1914, but volunteer numbers fell away in October. Another poster campaign raised levels of volunteers in November 1914, but the numbers then fell away again. They continued to be too low for the army throughout 1915, which was why conscription was introduced in 1916.
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