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Nairnshire Telegraph And General Advertiser In Apr 1915 History Essay

Source 2 is an extract from the Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser from the 13th of April 1915. The paper was a regional one and the extract refers to the potential benefits of enlisting in the army. This was during a revived recruiting campaign which had seen a reduction in volunteers enlisting after September 1914. At the turn of the 20th Century the principal form of communication within Scotland about current affairs or other events was the newspaper. [1] In the period following the French Revolution in 1789, the demand and popularity of newspapers grew exponentially and with it the political identities and messages which they carried did also. [2] 

The colossal loss of life and scattering of war memorials scattered around Scotland would hint at a watershed in modern Scottish history. The growth in technology and industrialisation coupled with population growth made for a body count of epic proportions. It is thought that Scotland lost a higher percentage of men than any other nation. [3] Recent figures would attest to that with 26.4 per cent of the 557,000 Scots who enlisted recorded as killed compared to an average death rate of 11.8 per cent with the rest of the British Army between 1914 and 1918. [4] The initial surge of enlistment into the army had been overwhelming and this put tremendous pressure logistically into housing, feeding, training and equipping of the troops. Scotland was again at the forefront of this patriotic voluntary splurge with 65 per cent of the Scottish contingent being volunteers compared to 52 per cent from England and Wales. [5] It would be a mistake to be lulled into a traditional mode of thought that Scotland ‘gave more’ in any test of moral commitment and it is of note that 41 per cent of the male population aged between 15 and 49 served in the war compared to 46 per cent in England and Wales. [6] 

The source refers to a ‘patriotic and loyal spirit’ and ‘high standard of manhood’ and this rallying call was initially answered in the opening months of the war. Newspapers and posters with Lord Kitchener’s face became the recruiting officers of the campaign. It was the first conflict for over a century that Britain had to raise a mass army for. [7] In October 1914, 136, 811 men joined the army. This was a huge drop from the 462,901 that had enlisted only the month before. [8] This was UK wide but Scotland was similar in comparison with 19,748 joining in October compared to 58,225 from September. [9] Traditional recruiting grounds like Glasgow could only produce 1,801 recruits in October following 17,890 the month before. [10] 

Of all the Scots volunteers who enlisted in 1914 and 1915, 54 per cent had done so by the end of 1914. [11] The over rushed expansion of the army in the initial 6 weeks contributed significantly to this recruiting slump. [12] The source refers to the excellent conditions and welfare of the soldiers with remarks like ‘splendid training, well clad, well fed and comfortable” however logistically the army could not cope with these numbers and recruits opinions differed. The Scottish Territorials and those in Kitchener’s first 100,000 endured cramped accommodation, lack of proper uniforms or training and complained of obsolete equipment. [13] 

These stories which filtered back to the local communities did nothing to boost numbers of recruits and the stories from the Front were if anything worse. In contrast to the newspapers version of events it was nothing but trench labour, rations, snipers, rats, lice and mud. [14] Soldiers would read these newspapers when they were at home injured or on leave and be amazed at how distant the public were from the reality of the Western Front. Robert Graves recalls in his memoirs “it never occurred to me that newspapers and statesmen would lie” [15] and several historians have labelled this ‘myth’ of the war concerning the widening gap between the war and home fronts. [16] 

It should be noted that restrictions placed on potential recruits had some effect on recruitment. Firstly, there was a height restriction of 5’6” which deterred many Scots. By November 1914, however this had been reduced to 5’3”and the maximum age restriction extended to thirty-eight. [17] Some have argued that age was the largest single determinant of enlistment variations during the first year of the war [18] but it must be considered in a wider context and is far more complex on reflection.

Scotland was going through a period of economic change at both a national and local level. This had varying degrees of impact on recruitment dependant on a number of factors. The type of industry in that locality was significant. Industries such as cotton initially shrank as demand fell and workers left. [19] This was in sharp contrast to areas like Dundee where the wartime contracts for jute provided security for workers but subsequently impacted on recruiting figures. [20] In 1914 Dundee only contributed 1.5 per cent of all recruits. [21] There has been research done to suggest that there is a link between unemployment and enlistment [22] and certainly after the rise in employment following several large governmental contracts there is a slump in recruitment but again this fails to tell the whole story.

Around this time there were significant wage raises and the employment prospects improved, this made potential recruits less eager to sign up. [23] It has to be noted though that these varied regionally. Rents were also rising sharply and some areas around Glasgow endured a 12-13 per cent hike between the spring of 1914 and October 1915. This had huge social impact and by the end of 1915, twenty thousand tenants had refused to pay the increases. [24] There were also work strikes in the area of the Clyde over pay and work conditions. The Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser had condemned these wartime actions only the month prior to the date of this source. [25] Links have also been made to the correlation between volunteers and working class but this has subsequently been dismissed on reflection due to high numbers of white collar workers, skilled craftsmen and religious clerics who enlisted. [26] 

The Highlands had become synonymous as a military farming ground from at least as early as the eighteenth century. Service in India and America had helped to enforce this stereotype but the area had been severely depopulated. [27] Even in the decade during the war (1911-1920), 349,415 Scots still emigrated overseas. Highland regiments still wore kilts but had barely any highlanders within their ranks. It is of note that Donald Cameron the twenty-fifth chief of Clan Cameron wrote to the Glasgow Herald requesting an advertisement in their publication for any fit able bodied men between nineteen and thirty. [28] 

Newspapers provide historical evidence of affairs that were current at the time. It will need no justification to propose that not everything contained within this source or any other paper is true by default. We can learn a lot about public opinion and concerns from the language contained within sources like these. As this particular document shows, public opinion can change within a period of months. This cannot be applied wholesale by reading one article but must be taken into account with several other factors. The region, social, economic and political factors all play a part. In some areas religion and race was also prevalent [29] and with the limitations of words the role of the church and the Irish community [30] has had to be omitted but is recognised. Newspapers would soon be influencing public opinion again with the sinking of the Lusitania and the release of casualty lists in May 1915.

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