Kitchener's Army

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Alfred Leete's recruitment poster for Kitchener's Army. 30a Sammlung Eybl Grossbritannien. Alfred Leete (1882-1933) Britons (Kitchener) wants you (Briten Kitchener braucht Euch). 1914 (Nachdruck), 74 x 50 cm. (Slg.Nr. 552).jpg
Alfred Leete's recruitment poster for Kitchener's Army.

The New Army, often referred to as Kitchener's Army or, disparagingly, as Kitchener's Mob, [lower-alpha 1] was an (initially) all-volunteer army of the British Army formed in the United Kingdom from 1914 onwards following the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War in late July 1914. It originated on the recommendation of Herbert Kitchener, then the Secretary of State for War to raise 500,000 volunteers. Kitchener's original intention was that it would be formed and ready to be put into action in mid-1916, but circumstances dictated its use before then. [1] The first use in a major action came at the Battle of Loos (SeptemberOctober 1915).

British Army during World War I

The British Army during World War I fought the largest and most costly war in its long history. Unlike the French and German Armies, the British Army was made up exclusively of volunteers—as opposed to conscripts—at the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, the British Army was considerably smaller than its French and German counterparts.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Contents

Origins

1914 poster describing terms of enlistment New Army Terms of Enlistment poster Aug 1914 IWM.jpg
1914 poster describing terms of enlistment

Contrary to the popular belief that the war would be over by Christmas 1914, Kitchener predicted a long and brutal war. He believed that arrival in Europe of an overwhelming force of new, well-trained and well-led divisions would prove a decisive blow against the Central Powers. Kitchener fought off opposition to his plan, and attempts to weaken or water down its potential, including piece-meal dispersal of the New Army battalions into existing regular or Territorial Force divisions (the view of the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), Field Marshal French). Kitchener declined to use the existing Territorial Force (set up by Lord Haldane and Douglas Haig as part of the Army reforms of the Edwardian period) as the basis for the New Army, as many of its members had volunteered for "Home Service" only, and because he was suspicious of the poor performance of French "territorials" in the Franco-Prussian War 1870–1871. In the early days of the war, the Territorial Force could not reinforce the regular army, as it lacked modern equipment, particularly artillery. In addition, it took time to form First-Line units composed only of men who had volunteered for "General Service". [2]

Central Powers group of countries defeated in World War I

The Central Powers, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria—hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance —was one of the two main coalitions that fought World War I (1914–18).

Territorial Force former volunteer reserve component of the British Army

The Territorial Force was a part-time volunteer component of the British Army, created in 1908 to augment British land forces without resorting to conscription. The new organisation consolidated the 19th-century Volunteer Force and yeomanry into a unified auxiliary, commanded by the War Office and administered by local County Territorial Associations. The Territorial Force was designed to reinforce the regular army in expeditionary operations abroad, but because of political opposition it was assigned to home defence. Members were liable for service anywhere in the UK and could not be compelled to serve overseas. In the first two months of the First World War, territorials volunteered for foreign service in significant numbers, allowing territorial units to be deployed abroad. They saw their first action on the Western Front during the initial German offensive of 1914, and the force filled the gap between the near destruction of the regular army that year and the arrival of the New Army in 1915. Territorial units were deployed to Gallipoli in 1915 and, following the failure of that campaign, provided the bulk of the British contribution to allied forces in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. By the war's end, the Territorial Force had fielded twenty-three infantry divisions and two mounted divisions on foreign soil. It was demobilised after the war and reconstituted in 1921 as the Territorial Army.

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the British Army sent to the Western Front during the First World War. Planning for a British Expeditionary Force began with the Haldane reforms of the British Army carried out by the Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane following the Second Boer War (1899–1902).

Those recruited into the New Army were used to form complete battalions under existing British Army Regiments. These new battalions had titles of the form "xxth (Service) Battalion, <regiment name>". The first New Army divisions were first used in August 1915 at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli Campaign and also the Battle of Loos in the autumn of 1915, and they were sorely tested in the Battle of the Somme. The initial BEF—a single army of five regular divisions in August 1914, two armies comprising 16 divisions by the end of the 1914 when the Territorials had been deployed—had grown to five armies totalling around 60 divisions in strength by the summer of 1916, approximately 2 million men, of whom around half were infantry (the rest were gun crews, supply and logistics men etc.).

Battalion military unit size

A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry.

Regiment Military unit

A regiment is a military unit. Their role and size varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.

Gallipoli Campaign Military campaign during World War I

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Entente powers, Britain, France and the Russian Empire, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia. The invaders launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). The naval attack was repelled and after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force was withdrawn. It was a costly and humiliating defeat for the Allies and for the sponsors, especially Winston Churchill.

Recruitment

All five of the full army groups (meaning a group of divisions similar in size to an army, not a group of armies) were made up of volunteer recruits, which included the famous Pals' Battalions. Due to the huge numbers of men wishing to sign up, in places queues up to a mile long formed outside recruitment offices. There were many problems in equipping and providing shelter for the new recruits. Rapidly the Government added many new recruitment centres, which eased the admissions burden, and began a programme of temporary construction at the main training camps. Almost 2.5 million men volunteered for Kitchener's Army. [3]

Pals battalion

The Pals battalions of World War I were specially constituted battalions of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and colleagues ("pals"), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions.

By the beginning of 1916, the queues were not so long anymore. Information about the true nature of the war had reached Great Britain, and enthusiasm for volunteering plunged. Great Britain had to resort to conscription under the Military Service Act 1916, like the other great powers involved in the war. (Conscription was also applied "in reverse", so that skilled workers and craftsmen who had volunteered early in the war could be drafted back into the munitions industry, where they were sorely needed.)

Military Service Act 1916

The Military Service Act 1916 was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom during the First World War.

The first conscripts arrived in France in late 1916 to fill the gaps in the volunteer units, which had been greatly diminished during the Battle of the Somme. After the bloody battles of 1916 and 1917, the British army facing the Ludendorff Offensive of 1918 were mainly conscripted youths, most of them under 20 years of age, although there were also some men in their late thirties or older. Roughly half of those who served in the British Army throughout the war, including more than half of the five million men serving in the British Army in 1918, were conscripts.

Battle of the Somme battle of the Western Front, World War I

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of the Somme was fought in the traditional style of World War I battles on the Western Front: trench warfare. The trench warfare gave the Germans an advantage because they dug their trenches deeper than the allied forces which gave them a better line of sight for warfare. The Battle of the Somme also has the distinction of being the first battle fought with tanks. However, the tanks were still in the early stages of development, and as a result, many broke down after maxing out at their top speed of 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h).

Training

A Church of England service at the 10th (Irish) Division's camp at Basingstoke in 1915 10th (Irish) Division at Basingstoke.jpg
A Church of England service at the 10th (Irish) Division's camp at Basingstoke in 1915

The British army traditionally recruited on a regimental basis, therefore a recruit accepted into the army was first sent to his new regimental depot, where he received his kit [lower-alpha 2] and was introduced to army discipline and training. Next he was sent to the main training camps to join his battalion. In practice, no regiment had the required stocks of equipment, or the manpower to train the flood of recruits; men trained wearing their own clothes and shoes. To mitigate this problem, the army issued old stored uniforms, including First Boer War–vintage red jackets. Some regiments bought their own uniform and boots with money paid from public collections. Many regiments were also issued with emergency blue uniforms, popularly known as Kitchener Blue. Whilst this crisis went on, the soldiers wore regimental and unit badges or patches on their clothing. Many photographs from the era show uniformed soldiers drilling alongside civilian clothed soldiers, perhaps led by red-jacketed NCOs. [4]


The Regiments also suffered from a lack of officers to train them. The government called up all reserve-list officers and any British Indian Army officer who happened to be on leave in the UK during the period. Men who had been to a recognised public school and university graduates, many of whom had some prior military training in Officer Training Corps, were often granted direct commissions. Commanding officers were encouraged to promote promising leaders and later in the war it was common for officers ("temporary gentlemen") to have been promoted from the ranks to meet the demand, especially as casualty rates among junior infantry officers were extremely high. Many officers, both regular and temporary, were promoted to ranks and responsibilities far greater than they had ever realistically expected to hold.

The Army had difficulty supplying new units with enough weapons. No artillery pieces had been left in Britain to train new artillery brigades, and most battalions had to drill with obsolete rifles or wooden mockups. By early 1915 the Government had overcome many of these problems. Among its methods was pressing into use old ceremonial cannons and unfinished modern artillery pieces (they lacked targeting sights). During 1915, it corrected such shortages.

Later developments

At the beginning of 1918, the shortage of manpower in the British Expeditionary Force in France became acute. The Army ordered infantry divisions to be reduced from twelve infantry battalions to nine. The higher-numbered battalions (in effect the New Army units, and some Second-Line Territorial units) were to be disbanded rather than the lower-numbered Regular and First-Line Territorial battalions. (Since Kitchener's death in 1916, no other major figure opposed this fundamental change to the principles on which the New Army had been raised.) In some cases, New Army divisions had to disband about half of their units to make room for surplus battalions transferred from Regular or First-Line Territorial divisions. While the change reduced the unique sense of identity of some New Army formations, it developed the divisions in France into more homogeneous units. By this time there was no longer much real distinction between Regular, Territorial, and New Army divisions. [5]

Structure

Kitchener's New Army was made up of the following Army Groups (meaning a group of divisions similar in size to an army, not a group of armies) and Divisions:

K1 Army Group

K2 Army Group

K3 Army Group

Original K4 Army Group

Kitchener's Fourth New Army was formed from November 1914 with

The divisions were not fully formed when the decision was made to use them to provide replacements for the first three New Armies. The divisions were broken up on 10 April 1915; the infantry brigades and battalions became reserve formations and the other divisional troops were transferred to the divisions of the newly created Fourth and Fifth New Armies. [7]

K4/K5 Army Group

Redesignated K4 following breakup of original K4.

K5 Army Group

Following the re-designation of the previous K5 Army Group, a new K5 Army Group was formed.

Divisional structure in 1915

In 1915, the prescribed structure of a division would have comprised the following units:

Number of troops and equipment:

Divisional structure in 1918

In 1918, a typical division would have comprised the following units:

Number of troops and equipment:

See also

Footnotes

  1. "'Kitchener's Mob' they were called in the early days of August, 1914, when London hoardings were clamorous with the first calls for volunteers. The seasoned regulars of the first British expeditionary force said it patronizingly, the great British public hopefully, the world at large doubtfully. 'Kitchener's Mob,' when there was but a scant sixty thousand under arms with millions yet to come. 'Kitchener's Mob' it remains to-day, fighting in hundreds of thousands in France, Belgium, Africa, the Balkans. And to-morrow, when the war is ended, who will come marching home again, old campaigners, war-worn remnants of once mighty armies? 'Kitchener's Mob.'"
    Kitchener's Mob: Adventures of an American in the British Army by James Norman Hall, 1916
  2. his basic uniform, boots, webbing etc

Related Research Articles

9th (Scottish) Division

The 9th (Scottish) Division, was an infantry division of the British Army during World War I, one of the Kitchener's Army divisions raised from volunteers by Lord Kitchener to serve on the Western Front during the First World War.

10th (Irish) Division

The 10th (Irish) Division, was one of the first of Kitchener's New Army K1 Army Group divisions, authorized on 21 August 1914, after the outbreak of the Great War. It included battalions from the various provinces of Ireland. It was led by Irish General Bryan Mahon and fought at Gallipoli, Salonika and Palestine. It was the first of the Irish Divisions to take to the field and was the most travelled of the Irish formations. The division served as a formation of the United Kingdom's British Army during World War I.

17th (Northern) Division

The 17th (Northern) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, a Kitchener's Army formation raised during the Great War.

18th (Eastern) Division

The 18th (Eastern) Division was an infantry division of the British Army formed in September 1914 during the First World War as part of the K2 Army Group, part of Lord Kitchener's New Armies. From its creation the division trained in England until 25 May 1915 when it landed in France and spent the duration of the First World War in action on the Western Front, becoming one of the elite divisions of the British Army. During the Battle of the Somme in the latter half of 1916, the 18th Division was commanded by Major General Ivor Maxse.

21st Division (United Kingdom) infantry division of the British Army during World War I

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32nd Division (United Kingdom)

The 32nd Division was an infantry division of the British Army that was raised in 1914, during World War I. The division was raised from volunteers for Lord Kitchener's New Armies, that was originally made up of infantry battalions raised by public subscription or private patronage. The division was taken over by the War Office in September 1915. It served in France and Belgium in the trenches of the Western Front for the duration of the war.

The 19th (Western) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, part of Kitchener's Army, formed in the Great War.

The 22nd Division was an infantry division of the British Army during World War I, raised in September 1914, from men volunteering for Lord Kitchener's New Armies. The division moved to France in September 1915, but it was transferred to Greece only one month later. It served in the Balkans Campaign for the duration of the First World War.

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Lancashire Hussars

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The Glamorganshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Glamorganshire in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 as part of an Army Field Artillery Brigade. A second line battery, 2/1st Glamorganshire RHA, served in England and Ireland before being broken up in January 1917. Glamorganshire RHA was not reconstituted in the post-war Territorial Force.

The Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Shropshire in 1908 from the Shropshire Battery of the 1st Shropshire and Staffordshire Artillery Volunteers, Royal Garrison Artillery of the Volunteer Force. It saw active service during the First World War on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 as part of an Army Field Artillery Brigade. A second line battery, 2/1st Shropshire RHA, also served on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 as part of another Army Field Artillery Brigade. It was reconstituted post-war as a medium artillery battery and served as such in the Second World War.

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References

  1. W.N. Medlicott, Contemporary England 1914-1964 (1967) p. 21.
  2. Peter Simkins, Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914 – 1916 (2007)
  3. Simkins, Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914 – 1916 (2007)
  4. Simkins, Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914 – 1916 (2007)
  5. Charles E. Carrington, "Kitchener's Army: The Somme and After." The RUSI Journal 123#1 (1978): 15-20.
  6. Baker, Chris. "The 14th (Light) Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  7. Becke 1945 , pp. 133138
  8. Baker, Chris. "The 30th Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  9. Baker, Chris. "The 31st Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  10. Baker, Chris. "The 32nd Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  11. Baker, Chris. "The 33rd Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  12. Baker, Chris. "The 34th Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  13. Baker, Chris. "The 35th Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Archived from the original on 21 December 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  14. Baker, Chris. "The 36th (Ulster) Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  15. Baker, Chris. "The 37th Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  16. Baker, Chris. "The 38th (Welsh) Division in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.

Bibliography