Lord Kitchener inspected the New Army, 1915

Lord Kitchener inspected the New Army, 1915

Lord Kitchener inspected the New Army, 1915

Lord Kitchener inspects a unit of the New Army at Chelmsford in the summer of 1915. Here we see part of the artillery moving past Kitchener's inspection point.

From Civilian To First World War Soldier In 8 Steps

After the outbreak of war in August 1914, Britain recruited a huge volunteer citizens' army. In just eight weeks, over three-quarters of a million men in Britain had joined up.

Every volunteer had to undergo a series of medical and fitness tests before being accepted as a soldier. New recruits were then given months of basic training in camps all over the country where they learned to be soldiers. New officers learned to lead their men.

The Army was unprepared for the stampede of volunteers wanting to fight, and men were often rushed through the official process for joining up. Conditions in training camps were often basic and supplies of equipment were limited.

Here are some of the actions civilians had to take to become a First World War soldier in 1914.

Lord Kitchener calls for 100,000 men to join British Army, 7th August, 1914

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Britain had 247,432 regular troops. About 120,000 of these were in the British Expeditionary Army and the rest were stationed abroad. It was clear that more soldiers would be needed to defeat the German Army.

On 7th August, 1914, Lord Kitchener, the war minister, immediately began a recruiting campaign by calling for men aged between 19 and 30 to join the British Army. At first this was very successful with an average of 33,000 men joining every day. Three weeks later Kitchener raised the recruiting age to 35 and by the middle of September over 500,000 men had volunteered their services.

At the beginning of the war the army had strict specifications about who could become soldiers. Men joining the army had to be at least 5ft 6in tall and a chest measurement of 35 inches. By May 1915 soldiers only had to be 5ft 3in and the age limit was raised to 40. In July the army agreed to the formation of 'Bantam' battalions, composed of men between 5ft and 5ft 3in in height.

To help with recruitment David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was given the task of setting up a British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB). Lloyd George, appointed the successful writer and fellow Liberal MP, Charles Masterman as head of the organization.

During the first few months of the war the War Propaganda Bureau published pamphlets such as the Report on Alleged German Outrages, that gave credence to the idea that the German Army had systematically tortured Belgian civilians. Other pamphlets published by the WPB that helped with recruitment included To Arms! (Arthur Conan Doyle), The Barbarism in Berlin (G. K. Chesterton), The New Army (Rudyard Kipling) and Liberty, A Statement of the British Case (Arnold Bennett).

The British government also began a successful poster campaign. Artists such as Saville Lumley, Alfred Leete, Frank Brangwyn and Norman Lindsay, produced a series of posters urging men to join the British Army. The desire to fight continued into 1915 and by the end of that year some two million men had volunteered their services.

History of the phrase ‘(Lord) Kitchener wants you’

The British-English phrase (Lord) Kitchener wants you was used during the First World War (28 th July 1914 – 11 th November 1918) as an appeal for people to enlist in the armed forces.

This phrase refers to:
– the Irish-born British army officer and colonial administrator Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), who served as Secretary of State for War from 5 th August 1914 until his death
– an image showing Kitchener’s head and his raised arm pointing towards the viewer, designed by Alfred Leete (1882-1933) this image, which originally appeared as the front cover of London Opinion of 5 th September 1914, was used as a poster in the recruitment campaign at the beginning of the First World War.

This is a reproduction of the poster, published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York City, USA) of 5 th February 1915:

English Use Posters in Campaign for Recruits

This poster is typical of many used by the British War Office in its efforts to get recruits. “Britons, Kitchener Wants You,” says the Poster, the portrait of the man who is organizing Great Britain’s army being used instead of his name.

However, before this image of Kitchener was first published, Keble Howard had used a similar formulation in his column Motley Notes, published in The Sketch (London, England) of 2 nd September 1914 among the Don’ts for men that he published to deal with the situation caused by the war, Keble Howard mentioned this one—“his” is in italics in the original text:

Don’t be ashamed to go on with your job. It is what you are best at. If Kitchener wants you for his job, he will send for you.

The earliest occurrence of the phrase that I have found is from this poem, published in The Daily Mail (Hull, Yorkshire, England) of 23 rd September 1914:


Lord Kitchener wants you,
So do not delay
Roll up, Young England,
And join in the fray.

And when the war’s over,
And victory is won,
You’ll be proud to remember
Your duty you’ve done.
—E. H., Hull.

The second-earliest occurrence of the phrase that I have found is from the Salisbury Evening Post (Salisbury, North Carolina, USA) of 6 th October 1914:

London is kept in darkness after nightfall, fearing the appearance over the city of German Zeppelin war balloons, and great searchlights sweep the skies on the lookout for these aircraft. Great cannons have been erected about the city, all pointing upward ready for a shot at war aircraft. At the gates to the entrance of Buckingham palace are other great cannon, all mounted to point skyward. Recruiting is very active in London and all young men are stopped and informed that “Lord Kitchener wants you.”

The phrase occurs in Old Nitch: A Story from the Pickle Works, Written Down and Punctuated, a short story published in Kitchener Chaps (London: John Lane, 1915), by Albert Neil Lyons (1880-1940). Sid Carpenter, a cripple who works at a jam and pickle factory at Aldgate, London, has been nicknamed Old Nitch as a result of his studying the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900). At the outbreak of the war, Old Nitch presents himself at the recruiting office, but is rejected without thanks. He proceeds back to the factory:

Now that day old Kitchener he’s put up them placards and bills of his’n. He’s put ’em out on all the shops and houses and he says: “Them saucy Germans they talks of comin’ here,” he says, “and all chaps under thirty, they better join my army and stop that talk,” he says “for if they do not dam well join it, then I shall jolly well fetch ’em,” he says.

Old Nitch then acts as recruiting officer in his factory, despite being repeatedly beaten by fellow-workers for doing so:

Well, they gives Old Nitch another shove behind the ear, and Old Nitch, he gets carried back home to bed again. And Old Nitch, so soon as he’s reared back to health, and me * and young Jessie has turned our backs, he hops it back again to the Pickle Works—dot and carry once the whole hard way.
So then he gives it to them again, straight out of his mind. And he tells them straight, he do. He says:
There’s old Kitchener wants you,” he says, “for your King and your Country need you,” says he. “Them as goes now,” says he “will be bloomin’ British heroes. Them as don’t ’ll be fetched next month by a dirty copper. Go now and be a hero. Don’t wait till they bring a rope’s end.”

( * The story is told by one of the girls of the factory.)

Apparently, the phrase became popular in Germany, too. This cartoon by Thomas Theodor Heine (1867-1948) was published in the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus (München: Simplicissimus-Verlag G. m. b. H. & Co.) of 2 nd February 1915—captioned “Lord Kitchener wants you!”, it depicts a British policeman catching a burglar red-handed:

According to the New Zealand-born British lexicographer Eric Honeywood Partridge (1894-1979) in A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (London: George Routledge, 1937), the phrase came to be ironically used in Army slang with reference to any unpleasant, difficult or dangerous task:

Fresh troops made up of territorial soldiers, reservists and volunteers from Lord Kitchener’s New Army, began to arrive on the Western Front in 1915. Although enthusiastic, many had very little training and were unprepared for trench warfare.

View this object

Field Marshal Lord Kitchener inspecting New Army units at Halton, 1914


African troops played a key role in containing the Germans in East Africa and defeating them in West Africa. Europeans and Indians struggled in the harsh African climate, but the local inhabitants had the skills to survive and prosper.

By November 1918, the ‘British Army’ in East Africa was mainly composed of African soldiers. The units involved were the West African Frontier Force drawn from Nigeria, the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Sierra Leone, and the King’s African Rifles, recruited from Kenya, Uganda and Nyasaland (Malawi).

At least 180,000 Africans also served in the Carrier Corps in East Africa and provided logistic support to troops at the front.

View this object

Nigerian Regiment artillery in West Africa, 1914

Men of the King's African Rifles, 1916

Origins [ edit | edit source ]

Britain declared war on the German Empire on 4 August 1914. The poster was designed by Alfred Leete and had first appeared as a cover illustration for London Opinion, one of the most influential magazines in the world, on 5 September 1914. ΐ] A similar poster used the words "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU". Α] On the outbreak of the First World War, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Herbert Asquith appointed Kitchener as Secretary of State for War. Ώ] Kitchener was the first member of the military to hold the post and was given the task of recruiting a large army to fight Germany.

The poster has often been seen as a driving force helping to bring millions of men into the Army. Β] The image first appeared in the front cover of the hugely influential London Opinion magazine on 5 September 1914, a month that had the highest number of volunteers. In response to requests for reproductions, the magazine issued postcard-sized copies, and the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee obtained permission to use the design in poster form. ΐ] The Times recorded the scene in London on 3 January 1915 "Posters appealing to recruits are to be seen on every hoarding, in most windows, in omnibuses, tramcars and commercial vans. The great base of Nelson's Column is covered with them. Their number and variety are remarkable. Everywhere Lord Kitchener sternly points a monstrously big finger, exclaiming 'I Want You'". ΐ] Although it became one of the most famous posters in history, ΐ] its widespread circulation did not halt the decline in recruiting. ΐ]

Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

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Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, in full Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum and of Broome, also called Viscount Broome of Broome, Baron Denton of Denton, Baron Kitchener of Khartoum and of Aspall (from 1898), and Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, of the Vaal, and of Aspall (from 1902), (born June 24, 1850, near Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland—died June 5, 1916, at sea off Orkney Islands), British field marshal, imperial administrator, conqueror of the Sudan, commander in chief during the South African War, and (perhaps his most important role) secretary of state for war at the beginning of World War I (1914–18). At that time he organized armies on a scale unprecedented in British history and became a symbol of the national will to victory.

Educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Kitchener was commissioned in the Royal Engineers, and from 1874 he served in the Middle East. In 1886 he was appointed governor (at Sawākin [Suakin], Sudan) of the British Red Sea territories, and he subsequently was assigned to Egypt as adjutant general in Cairo. His energy and thoroughness led to his appointment as sirdar (commander in chief) of the Egyptian army in 1892. On September 2, 1898, he crushed the religious and politically separatist Sudanese forces of al-Mahdī in the Battle of Omdurman and then occupied the nearby city of Khartoum, which he rebuilt as the centre of Anglo-Egyptian government in the Sudan. His reputation in Great Britain was enhanced by his firm, tactful, and successful handling (from September 18, 1898) of an explosive situation at Fashoda (now Kodok), where Jean-Baptiste Marchand’s expeditionary force was trying to establish French sovereignty over parts of the Sudan. (See Fashoda Incident.) He was created Baron Kitchener in 1898.

After a year as governor-general of the Sudan, Kitchener entered the South African War (Boer War) in December 1899 as chief of staff to Field Marshal Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts, whom he succeeded as commander in chief in November 1900. During the last 18 months of the war, Kitchener combated guerrilla resistance by such methods as burning Boer farms and herding Boer women and children into disease-ridden concentration camps. These ruthless measures, and Kitchener’s strategic construction of a network of blockhouses across the country to localize and isolate the Boers’ forces, steadily weakened their resistance.

On returning to England after the British victory in the war, he was created Viscount Kitchener (July 1902) and was sent as commander in chief to India, where he reorganized the army in order to meet possible external aggression rather than internal rebellion, which previously had been the primary concern. His quarrel with the viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, over control of the army in India ended in 1905 when the British cabinet upheld Kitchener and Curzon resigned. Remaining in India until 1909, Kitchener was bitterly disappointed at not being appointed viceroy. In September 1911 he accepted the proconsulship of Egypt, and until August 1914 he ruled that country and the Sudan. Protection of the peasants from seizure of their land for debt and the advancement of the cotton-growing interest were his basic concerns. Tolerating no opposition, he was about to depose the hostile Khedive ʿAbbās II (Ḥilmī) of Egypt when World War I broke out.

Kitchener, who was on leave in England and had just received an earldom and another viscountcy and barony (June 1914), reluctantly accepted an appointment to the cabinet as secretary of state for war and was promoted to field marshal. He warned his colleagues, most of whom expected a short war, that the conflict would be decided by the last 1,000,000 men that Great Britain could throw into battle. Quickly enlisting a great number of volunteers, he had them trained as professional soldiers for a succession of entirely new “Kitchener armies.” By the end of 1915 he was convinced of the need for military conscription, but he never publicly advocated it, in deference to Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith’s belief that conscription was not yet politically practicable.

In his recruitment of soldiers, planning of strategy, and mobilization of industry, Kitchener was handicapped by British governmental processes and by his own distaste for teamwork and delegation of responsibility. His cabinet associates, who did not share in the public idolatry of Kitchener, relieved him of responsibility first for industrial mobilization and later for strategy, but he refused to quit the cabinet. His career was ended suddenly, by drowning, when the cruiser HMS Hampshire, bearing him on a mission to Russia, was sunk by a German mine.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

Coalition Government [ edit | edit source ]

The visit of the Opposition Leaders to Asquith (17 May) was caused more by Fisher’s resignation (15 May) than by the Shells Scandal. As a result of the meeting Asquith wrote to his ministers demanding their resignations. Δ]

Asquith formed a new coalition government and appointed Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions.

Although Liberal politicians held office in subsequent coalitions, no purely Liberal government ever again held office in the UK after May 1915.

The Maltese Labour Corps

Despite Malta’s detachment from the active fronts of World War One, many Maltese still willingly answered to the universal call to arms to defend the British Empire. Thousands joined the fighting services whether at home or in some distant part of the empire to which they had emigrated before the hostilities. Others joined the armed forces of France and the United States on the same basis finding themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with their brothers in the British service. Maltese emigrants in Australia joined the ANZACS – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps which were raised specifically for service in the Dardanelles. Notably, the first Maltese-Australian casualty died on the very first day of the fated Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 which has ever since been commemorated as ANZAC Day. His name was Private Charles Emanuel Bonavia belonging to the 11 th Australian Infantry Battalion aged 27. Originally a Land Surveyor from Sliema, he had emigrated to West-Perth, South-west Australia in 1912.

Besides Malta’s role as a nursing station, the island also served as a strategic naval base and ship-repair centre along the route to the Aegean and the Dardanelles. Thousands of workers had been recruited at the dockyard to increase its capacity. Indeed, the island had been home to Britain’s largest naval squadron – the Mediterranean Fleet since 1803. But as a result of the 1904 Anglo-French Entente Cordiale its role was temporarily covered by the presence of French Fleet in Malta as from August 1914. Between 1917 and 1919 two Japanese destroyer flottilas were stationed in Malta to escort convoys against submarines.

Numerous Maltese officers from the Royal Malta Artillery and the King’s Own Malta Regiment of Militia also volunteered to fight with British front-line units to do their bit too. In the summer of 1915, a decision was taken by the War Office to raise a corps of labourers in Malta with the aim of sending it to the Dardanelles to help out with the unloading of supply ships and the transportation of provisions. On 2 nd September, an initial call raised 1,000 volunteers out of which 864 were enlisted for three months. The new unit was baptised as the Malta Labour Corps.

In August 1914 there were no Labour Corps in existence to assist the army in the field. In the infantry, manual work near the front lines was carried out by the Pioneer Battalions which were added to each Division. Some infantry regiments formed labour companies and works battalions for work on the lines of communication and at home, but the organisation of manpower was haphazard until the formation of the Labour Corps. The labour units expanded hugely and became increasingly well-organised. However, despite adding large numbers of men from India, Egypt, China and elsewhere, there was never enough manpower to do all the labouring work required. The total number of men engaged on work in France and Flanders alone approximated 700,000 at the end of the war, and this was in the labour units alone.

The first Malta contingent arrived at the small Greek port of Mudros on Lemnos Island, 50 km away from the Dardanelles Straights. This served as the forward Allied base for the blockade of the Dardanelles. In 1918, at this port, representatives of the Allies and the Ottoman Empire signed the ‘Armistice of Mudros’ which confirmed the end of hostilities between them.

On 27 th September, 234 Maltese labourers under the command of Captain Stivala sailed to Gallipoli along with Australian reinforcements to Anzac Cove. The ship was anchored close to a small jetty which the military engineers had built after they landed. When they got to their destination their job was to unload barges from Egypt. Their first job was to erect two marquees close to the hill for protection. Three gangs were instantly formed to work eighth hour shifts on a seven day basis.

At the closing period of their three-month contract, only 213 men returned to Malta while the rest stayed on for another period of three-months. With the approach of winter, the Maltese were located with the British labour units on the northern-side of Ari Burnu where they came under constant fire. A 27 year old labourer, Guzeppi Camilleri was killed at this place on 7 th December 1915. He lies buried at Ari Burnu Cemetery, Anzac. Other men may have died as a result of injury or illness resulting from their service at Gallipoli.

Medal Rolls show that 1088 men were awarded the Bronze War Medal and the Victory Medal for service in Gallipoli. Six officers were mentioned in Despatches and Captain Alfred J. Gatt was awarded the Military Cross for his service at Gallipoli.

On 13 November, Lord Kitchener inspected the Corps at Gallipoli during his tour of the area. He congratulated them on their physique and thanked them for the valuable services they were rendering.

In December 1915, the Cabinet decided to evacuate the peninsula. But the last of the Maltese Labour Corps returned to Malta on 17 February 1916 where they were met by the Governor-General who thanked them for their services. Recognition for their services also came from the C-in-C Mediterranean Forces in a letter sent to the Governor-General dated 23 rd January 1916 and part of which says:

‘…I have much pleasure in informing that the Battalion performed most excellent work, both at Anzac and elsewhere, and I shall be grateful if you will be good enough to express to the Commanding Officer, and through him to the NCO’S and men of the Battalion, my high appreciation for the services they have rendered.’

Each member received half-a-crown a day (present day £9) and a separate allowance of six-pence in favour of the wife and a penny for every child. Upon discharge each member of the Corps was paid the sum of 20 Sovereigns.