Conscription introduced in Britain
The Military Service Act was passed in Britain in January 1916, coming into force in March. Under the Act, all men of eligible age who met the health requirements could be called up for service in the army. At first, this was limited to unmarried men aged 18 – 41, but raised in May to include married men. By 1918, the shortage of men saw the age bar raised to 51. Conscription was limited to Britain, and not extended to the empire. In both Ireland and India, where there was significant agitation for independence, the introduction of conscription would have been too controversial.
There was huge moral and social pressure on those eligible to join up. Local newspapers pursued a strongly patriotic approach designed to encourage men to enlist. As early as 22nd August 1914 the Herald ran an appeal by Colonel J. Leslie G. Powell for young, single men in Richmond to enlist for active service, adding that it was a disgrace to the county that recruitment was so slow.
From 29th August 1914, until conscription was introduced in 1916, the Richmond Herald published a weekly column listing all those who had signed up under the heading “Local Men who are doing their bit – are any of your friends on the list? If you are eligible, your name ought to be there.” Volunteer numbers fell sharply as the war took its toll, dragged on, and casualty numbers grew.
A Roll of Honour was also printed every week in the Herald listing the men who had died.