The British Army

During the war one of the specificities of the British military involvement was the tremendous deployment of its armed forces. Whereas the British presence in August 1914 was limited to sending a small expeditionary force of about 100,000 men to the western front, there were about 4 million British soldiers in the British Army by 1918.

Unlike France and Germany the British Army in 1914 consisted of the Regular Army, which was made up of career soldiers, the Territorial Force and the Special Reserve. In this frame, Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, launched a massive campaign in August 1914 aimed at recruiting as many men as possible. Soon large numbers of soldiers spontaneously joined the ranks of a new force, which was named the "New Army or Kitchener’s Army".

In spite of the great success of this recruitment campaign (2,500,000 soldiers recruited over a two-year period), the ranks of the British Army were still not sufficient in view of the demands placed on them and the losses recorded in 1914 and 1915. From January 1916 onwards, following a drawn out political debate, military service became mandatory in the whole of the United Kingdom, except in Ireland. The result was a huge army, which was deployed in the battlefields on the continent until the end of the war.

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  • Poster "Step into your place", 1915, poster, In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

    This poster encouraged British men to join the ranks of the army portraying the long lines of volunteers outside the British recruitment offices from August 1914 onwards.

  • Article "L’armée de Kitchener" in the Journal de Montreuil, 9 April 1916, newspaper, Departmental Archives of Pas-de-Calais – mark PG 224/8

    In 1915 the local press of Pas-de-Calais paid tribute to the many English volunteers. Lord Kitchener called on his countrymen to join the ranks of the army. The massive influx of volunteers allowed the British Army to deploy 72 divisions on the continent in January 1915 while it only had 6 on August 1st, 1914.

Step into your place. Poster with long lines of volunteerspress article