| Home

 Recruitment under the Derby Scheme
This is not intended to provide a detailed analysis of the workings of the Derby Scheme, as this information is readily available elsewhere (for a background see: Derby or Group Scheme  on the Long, Long Trail website). Rather it is intended to deal with some of the minor and administrative details regarding Territorial enlistment at this time that I feel are less frequently referred to.  It shows the process that a man would go through from the time he first volunteered until he arrived at the depot of his new regiment. It explains the forms he would have to complete and those he would receive.  I have used contemporary sources wherever possible - mainly newspaper accounts - as these are often more detailed than some later histories which can sometimes be misleading. 
The Early years:
In the early years of the war, as has been explained elsewhere, men could volunteer directly for service in their local Territorial Force. Enlistment was originally for 4 years with another year added in time of war.  Attestation was on the Territorial form E.501 (Fig. 1). The conditions of service changed in 1916 with the passing of the various Military Services Acts. 

Fig. 1

In 1914, 1915 and early 1916, men who enlisted for general service for the duration of the war  (such as those who joined the New Armies in 1914) attested using Army form B.2505. (Fig. 2) In Scotland, men enlisting for war service in the infantry were distinguished by having a letter S (Service) preceding their service number, as seen in the example of James Halley below.

Fig. 2

The Derby Scheme:
With the advent of the Derby or Group Scheme in late 1915 a new form came into use - Army Form  B.2512. (see Fig. 4 and Fig. 5 below)  This form reflected the changes in the enlistment procedure.
This new scheme was both a last-ditch attempt to increase voluntary recruitment as well as a demonstration to the populace that all possible steps had been taken to obtain men voluntarily before the introduction of compulsion.  It initially operated between October and December 1915.  Under the Derby Scheme men of military age, who had been identified as such during the National Registration in August,  were canvassed and urged to enlist either immediately, or to commit to do so at a later date.  If a man volunteered to enlist immediately he would attest on Army Form B.2505. A booklet of the time explained: The recruit who responds to the call at once will be medically examined, attested, and forthwith appointed to any corps that is open for enlistment, becoming at once a soldier in training.
If the man chose to attest under the Derby system he would be assigned to a Group based on his year of birth (see Table below), and then placed in the Reserves – specifically Army Reserve Class B - without pay and allowances with the exception that he received one day’s pay at infantry rates for the day of attestation, which The Times newspaper of 1916 placed at 2/9d.  The new recruit would be issued with a card - Army Form W.3194 (Fig. 3 below) which recorded his Group details and he would then be allowed to return to his home and his employment until such time as his Group was called up. The Times recorded that in order to increase numbers of men enlisting under the scheme  "a gradual relaxation of the formalities prescribed on attestation became visible. The eyesight test for men enlisting on the group system was deferred until they should be called up for service."
In theory, no person could join any particular branch of the service such as Special Reserve or Territorials, under the Group system. Nor could he join for home service only, or any particular regiment.  However any preference he may have would be noted by the recruiting officer and his wishes, at least regarding regimental preference, carried out as far as possible.  On 2nd March 1916 the Scotsman was able to report regarding men in Groups 10, 11, 12 and 13 who were dealt with on the previous days: "As far as possible every man had his choice of corps."


Above (Fig. 3): Army Form W.3194. This was retained by the recruit and gave his essential details including his Group number and his identification number - in the examples here Group A (see details below) and No.635. This latter number was recorded in the military ledger at the recruiting station in accordance with an Army Council Instruction of July 1915 that stated that each recruit must have a recruiting office number. This number was also written on his "Notice Paper", form W.3195 (Fig. 4 - at right) which the man would receive at least 14 days prior to call-up,  and on his Attestation form.  
These particular forms belong to a lad who was born in late 1898 and was thus outside of the Groups mentioned below. An extension of the Derby Scheme allowed him to attest voluntarily and be placed in a new group - Group A. A newspaper report from 8th September 1916 explains the process:
As a result of further extension to the Derby Scheme, young men in their 17th year now have the opportunity of voluntary attesting in what will be known as Group B, thus avoiding becoming conscripts.  The proclamation giving notice of the formation of the new group was widely posted last night, and it states that Group B will be open for the voluntary attestation of all men born in 1899.   [They] will be able to train if they desire, but training would not be compulsory.  In any event they would not be taken into the Army until they attained the age of 18 years.

A further proclamation issued at the same time calls to the colours all lads as and when they attain the age of 18 years and 7 months.  This proclamation relates to all men born in 1898 and who are in Group A if attested and Class A if unattested.  These men are ordered to report on October 7 and onwards.

The new attestation form B.2512 had the words “with the Colours and in the Army Reserve” added and also had a “Card No. Box” in the upper right.  The code in this box showed the man’s Group, martital catagory (married or single) and his recruiting office number, mentioned above. 
Single men

Fig. 5

Leslie Smith, in the example above was 23 years of age and single. Although he married in June 1916 and the form was altered to reflect this, he was still treated as a single man for call-up purposes as his marriage occurred after the prescribed date of 15th November 1915. Consequently the code showed s.a 6/184 which meant  : S [single] ; a [possibly medical catagory - not always included here] ;6 [Group 6, i.e.born  1892] ;184, his recruiting office number.
He was originally assigned to a Territorial unit (6th Gordons) and so the Territorial Association is noted at the top of the form as is his medical category “A”.  This was not originally shown on Derby forms.  However Smith was not called up until June 1916 at which time the medical categories were frequently shown for Groups and for the later Classes (conscripts). The various changes of service number are also visable.

 Married men
Fig. 6
Charles Wilson, above, was married and aged 39 (38 in 1915 when the Groups were established) so was in Group 44 (m/44) and recorded as number 265 in the ledger or card index at the recruiting station. Once again, this man was assigned to a Territorial unit so the Territorial Association was shown at the top of the form. In accordance with procedure, the recruit passed first to the third line or reserve battalion of his unit.
Notification of call-up was effected in two ways.  Firstly, approximately a month before a Group was to be called-up, a Proclamation was posted in all parishes giving general notification of the Groups required and the date that the call-up would begin. (As the men were in the Reserves, they were in fact "rejoining" the Colours.) If a man attested after his age group had already been called, his month’s notice commenced from the date of his attestation. 
The successive Proclamations were printed on different coloured paper to ensure that each new one was obvious.  The first one (see schedule below – Fig. 7) was white, the second pink, the third yellow and then green.  Secondly, two weeks before call-up date, each man would receive an individual notice by post - Army Form W.3195 (see description below) giving a particular time, place and date on which he was to attend.  This staggering of attendance over a week or so was to avoid delays and overcrowding at enlistment stations.  This letter would have the recruiting office identification number, mentioned above on form W. 3194,  that would correspond to the number in the Card No. Box on the Attestation form.
Fig. 7 The Group Schedule
(Source: The Scotsman 11th May 1916)
  Status   Group   Date of Birth  Proclamation  Date of Call-up


  1   1897  Feb 25 1916   March 28 1916 
    2, 3, 4, 5   1893 - 1896  Dec 20 1915  Jan 20 1916 
    6, 7, 8 9   1889 - 1892  Jan 8 1916  Feb 8 1916
    10,11,12,13   1885 - 1888  Jan 30 1916  Feb 29 1916
    14 - 23   1875 - 1884  Feb 16 1916  March 18 1916


  24   1897  May 13 1916   June 13 1916 
    25 - 32   1889 - 1896  March 7 1916   April 7 1916 
    33 - 41   1880 - 1888  April 27 1916  May 29 1916
    42 - 46   1875 - 1879  May 13 1916  June 13 1916 

Men attesting under the Derby Scheme were permitted to appeal to a local tribunal for a postponment of their call-up which allowed them to be called with a later Group. The Scotsman on 28th January reported an early tribunal hearing in Aberfeldy. "There were five appeals ... all single men.  Four were placed in a later group and one appeal was dismissed."  Lord Kitchener complained (see also below) that the enlistments of some 71,000 men were delayed by tribunals in January 1916.
In 1916 the Daily Mail published a 16 page guide for new recruits called "Joining the Army : all about the new Military Service Act – accurate to the date of issue."  Although issued after the introduction of conscription, it does illustrate the process the Group men went through as well.
Under the heading "The First Day in Khaki : helpful hints to men who are called up" it stated:-

On the first day upon which your "Group" or "Class" is called up you must report yourself at the hour and place appointed. If you have not received a notice calling you up, and if you are not in a reserved occupation or exempt from service, it is your duty to report yourself at your local registration officer in accordance with the terms of the Proclamation calling you up. Ignorance is no excuse.

It would be unwise for you to take it for granted that you will not be passed as fit for service. If you do, it may cause you much inconvenience if you are passed when you expected you would be rejected.

In any event, try to make your personal arrangements and business transactions on the assumption that you will be passed fit for service. Leave nothing to chance. Do not expect an additional few days leave if you are passed.

When called up be punctual, be cheerful, and show a reasonable amount of intelligence. This will help the workings of the whole machinery. Men are usually called up at such times and in such numbers and at such places as experience has proved to be most satisfactory, and you can help by being punctual.

You will receive a small buff slip or card ordering you to report to the headquarters of your battalion.  This will tell you at what time to report and will contain the name and address of the battalion headquarters at which you must report the following morning.

Before you leave the recruiting-office on the day you are called up you will be given a recruit’s pass and travelling warrant.  This will entitle you to travel by train from your home to your new battalion’s headquarters the next day.”
The administrative arrangements for men posted to Territorial units from Army Reserve, Class B were announced in The Scotsman on 24th January 1916.
With reference to W.O. letter of 24th December 1915, the following information as to the treatment from an administrative standpoint of men enlisted under the group system, passed to Army Reserve Class B, and subsequently called up and accepted for service and posted to units of the Territorial Force is promulgated for the guidance of all concerned.
Such men will be treated as normally enlisted members of the Territorial Force, except that they will always serve on their Regular Attestation Form (Army Form B.2512) and will remain subject to the conditions of that attestation. No Territorial Attestation Form will be made out for them.
The following documents will be sent with the man from the area headquarters to the administrative court of the T.F. unit to which he has been allotted - Attestation Form (Army Form B.2512), Army Form B.100 (with counterfoil) [this had to do with pay], Army Form B.178 [Medical History Sheet].
When the soldier reaches the administrative centre, the O.C. the Centre will record on pages 1 and 3 of the Attestation Form (Army Form B.2512) the corps to which the man has been appointed, and the unit and the line to which he is posted, being careful to see that the full title of the unit is correctly entered.  He will also record on page 1 of the Form the County Association administering the unit.  The Sub-Area Commander will already have entered on page 3 the date upon which the man joined the Sub-Area on being called up.
The Attestation Form, together with Army Form B.178 should then be sent at once to the Officer i/c T.F. Records concerned, who will proceed to allot the soldier a T.F. regimental number in the ordinary way.
As regards Army Form B.100, the O.C. administrative centre will, after filling in the information received at 8(a) and (b) of the form regarding separation allowance and allotment of pay ...forward the counterfoil to the regimental paymaster of the T.F. unit. [Click here for examples of these forms]
The O.C. administrative centre will also complete and dispatch the post-card (Army Form W.3184) informing the soldier's next-of-kin of the unit to which he has been posted.
The soldier will receive his initial outfit of clothing and personal equipment in the same way as a man enlisted direct into the T.F and will be paid, clothed etc in accordance with the regulations applicable to that force.
[Note:This is an abbreviated version of the article.]
Recruitment under the Group scheme was to have ended on Saturday 11th December but due to the late rush of recruits was extended to midnight Sunday 12th December 1915.  The Times reported:
After the latter date [12th December] enlistment could only be be for immediate service without the intervention of the group system. As December 12 drew near the rush  of recruits completely overwhelmed the arrangements made for dealing with it.  Just as in the early days of the war, men waited for many hours in vain outside the recruiting offices. (It was decided at the last moment to take the names of men still unattested at midnight on December 12 and keep open the group system for them alone for a further three days.) In some cases no attempt could be made to carry out a medical examination.  The recruiters' instructions appeared to be to attest anyone who presented himself, leaving it to the future to decide whether he had or had not justified his sojourne in Section B of the Army Reserve.
The situation regarding Territorial recruitment was unclear in late November.  The Scotsman of 11th December outlined the confusion:
 At a meeting of the Glasgow Territorial Force last Thursday [9th December] it was reported that the deputation from the West of Scotland Territorial Associations which had waited upon Lord Derby ... had been unable to obtain any concession on the decision that after 4th December enlistment for the Territorial Force would stop and that the Territorial battalions would have men allocated to them from the general pool enlisted on the the general service attestation.  Much regret was expressed at the meeting at the adoption by the authorities of a course which was regarded as the equivalent of the extinction of the Territorial Force on its present basis.
On the following day however the Glasgow Association was agreeably surprised to receive a letter ... that stated that " direct enlistment into the Territorial Force will continue for the present, Army Form E.501 being still used for this purpose." This was hailed with satisfaction in Territorial circles...Their satisfaction however has been short-lived, a telegram being received yesterday to the effect that after the close of Lord Derby's campaign today, recruits cannot be taken directly into the Territorial units.
It was soon realised however that in order to maintain enlistments during the interval between the end of the Derby Scheme and the seemingly inevitable introduction of compulsion, and/or the calling up of the first Groups, direct recruitment would have to continue. A War Office announcement of 12th December 1915, published in The Scotsman the following day explained that direct recruitment was still possible:

Although enlistment under the group system in accordance with Lord Derby's scheme ceased today, yet direct enlistment into both Regular units and the Territorial force continues for the present. It is most important that there should be no cessation in the number of men offering for direct enlistment. In this connection it may be pointed out that men who have been attested under the group system can at any time, if they so desire, exercise their right to enlist for immediate service ...instead of waiting for their group to be called up.

This seeming contradiction regarding Territorial enlistment was clarified by The Scotsman when on 15th December, under the heading Enlistments : Territorial Force it published the details of a War Office telegram: 
No. 1965 T.F.2 11th December - "Direct enlistment for units of the Territorial Force which are open to enlistment will continue after today and until further orders.  Such enlistment will be carried out on the Territorial form of attestation." TERRIFOR. Scottish Command Order No. 3119 may therefore be considered cancelled.
The first proclamation calling up Groups 2,3,4 and 5 was posted on 20th December. The Times of 14th February quoted a War Office report on early results: "It is stated that from the groups already called up, the percentage of recruits actually obtained has been very small."  Lord Kitchener reported to Cabinet that:
In January we obtained for general service 30,158 out of the four groups we tapped, and 34,050 by direct enlistment.  We required 259,000 and we are thus short by, roughly 195,000. The requirements to the end of March are 473,000, and to meet this we estimate to get 284,000 out of the groups and classes now being called up, 71,000 delayed by tribunals ... and perhaps 24,000 by direct enlistment.  (CAB 17/159)

The Military Service Act was introduced to Parliament on January 5th.  However as men would not be called-up under this scheme until March 1916, and direct enlistment was proving insufficient, it became necessary to resurrect the Group Scheme in January 1916 and posters advertising this were circulated.




Figs. 8 and 9 - The final push for voluntary recruitment and an early notice advising what was to come.
The Derby scheme came to an end for single men at midnight on 1st March 1916. The Scotsman of 2nd March reported:
Inquiries made at a late hour last night...elicited the fact that in some cases a goodly number of recruits presented themselves for attestation, while in others there were very few, and nowhere was there anything like the rush of December 11, which completely "snowed under" the recruiting officials.
At midnight the provisions of the Military Service Act took effect and all single men between the ages of 18 and 41, not otherwise excempt, were "deemed to have enlisted".

| Home |

Carolyn Morrisey