Conscription question

Discussion in 'General' started by JoshS, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I would loosely use the word expert but very kind of you all the same Steve ;)
  2. JoshS

    JoshS Member

    Tullybrone - Drew5233 - Thank's again Steve, that's a great idea. I will be in touch, Drew. I had no idea that service existed! Brilliant idea. I'm moving house in less than a month, so everything's going to be up in the air, but once things have settled and I'm back to my research then I will contact you again. As well as research for my book I'll also be interested in a number of family research related documents. Cheers!
  3. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Some idle speculation to add a bit to Steve's Territorial Army idea:

    As I understand it, the pre-war 1939 conscription scheme was for single men aged 20-22 to be called up, undergo six months of full-time training, then be released into an active reserve to provide a pool of ready-trained manpower should war break out.

    At about the same time this was coming into force, the Territorial Army quickly doubled in size - each existing TA unit was to take on enough new recruits to create a duplicate of itself, and split into a 'First Line' and 'Second Line'. First Line was generally the old hands with a bunch of newcomers, Second Line was mostly new recruits with a core of experienced men and officers from the original unit.

    There was no problem getting new recruits: in April 1939, TA barracks were suddenly swamped with men trying to join up. My grandfather was joining his local TA unit (91st Field Regiment RA - the 'Lewisham Gunners') that month and they were queueing round the block at the barrack gates - the end of the queue had to be turned away to try other regiments. Here's the personal recollection of one of his comrades for some background, but bear in mind that some of the precise details are a little wonky:

    BBC - WW2 People's War - DWBD's War Part 2 - Becoming a Gunner 1939

    I suspect that the major factor in this sudden rush to join up in April 1939 (don't know if others agree?) was that if you joined the TA you would be excused conscription when your turn came. I believe that TA recruits at this time would parade at the local barracks two evenings a week for drill, lectures etc., and would have to attend the annual 2-week camp in summer, but other than that carried on with normal life. When war was declared in September, though, the TA regiments were embodied and all the part-timers found themselves immediately mobilised as full-time soldiers.

    Some of the First Line TA units deployed overseas over the next few months, and a few of the Second Line units went out in the the spring of 1940 if judged to have reached a high enough standard. My grandfather joined the 91st, which raised the 139th as its duplicate (both he and the author of the above link, Doug Dawes, signed up with the 91st and were then put into the 139th when it was formed); the First Line 91st went to France at the end of 1939, and the Second Line 139th was judged good enough to go to France in mid-April 1940... coming back pretty rapidly afterwards through Dunkirk.

    If your younger brother (maybe 17-18) saw the writing on the wall with regards to his older brother (maybe 19-20) being liable to be conscripted full-time for 6 months in the near future, perhaps he pre-empted it by joining his local TA unit for a bit of part-time square-bashing as an alternative, then finds himself right in it when war breaks out.

    Best of luck with the book anyway!
  4. JoshS

    JoshS Member


    That's really helpful! Thanks. It's given me a lot to think about! I think I'm going to research what was going on locally, with the TAs and with the Gloucestershire regiment and then see which fits the character's personality best. Either way, I think the older brother is going to have to be 20, which won't take too much re-writing.

    Everyone here has been a great help. No doubt, as the war section of the book continues I may have to come back on to ask more questions, as well as searching through the site!

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