The National Reserve was a register of trained officers and men who had no further obligation for military service. Its purpose was to enable an increase in military resources in the event of imminent national danger. The register was maintained by the County Associations that also organised the Territorial Force and they would frame their own rules for organising the reserve within their area.
The rules of eligibility for entry into the register applies as follows. There was no age limit for joining or leaving the National Reserve:
- Officers who have rendered satisfactory service for at least one year in the military forces of the Crown, provided they are not on the Active List of the army or the Active or Unattached List of the Territorial Force or of the Special Reserve of Officers;
- Officers who have rendered satisfactory service for at least one year in the military forces of the Dominions, Colonies or Protectorates of the Empire are have no further liability;
- Ex-soldiers of the regular army or Special Reserve and who have completed their engagement or been discharged with not less than one year’s service for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency;
- Ex-soldiers of the Territorial Force or Territorial Force Reserve after not less than eight years service or been discharged with not less than one year’s service for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency;
- Ex-soldiers of the Militia who have completed one period of engagement;
- Ex-soldiers of the Imperial Yeomanry or Volunteers not serving in the Territorial Force, and ex-members of analogous colonial services who served a full term of engagement of not less than three years and who have been discharged for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency;
- Ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have completed not less than four years’ service and who have been discharged for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency;
- Naval and Marine pensioners over the age of 55, and men who have served in the Royal Fleet Reserve and who have been discharged for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency;
- Former naval ratings and Marine ranks who have been discharged for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency and have no liability for further service;
- Officers and men who have served in the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve or kindred colonial services and who have been discharged for any reason other than misconduct or inefficiency. Men of the RNR who enrolled before April 1906 and who are in possession of the Deferred pension Certificate could not enroll in the register until they were 60;
- Individuals in possession of a War Medal duly granted to them;
- Officers of the General Reserve of Officers, Territorial Force Reserve and army pensioners may be permitted to register as long as registration in no way interferes with existing liability to military service.
- Class I: officers and men under 42 years of age who satisfy the medical requirements to join a combatant unit for service at home or abroad;
- Class II: Officers, Warrant Officers and Sergeants under the age of 55, and men under the age of 50, who satisfy the medical requirements to join a combatant unit for home defence or for duty in fixed positions or administrative work at home;
- Class III: for those unable to undertake any obligation. This was divided into three sections: [a] those who were qualified for Class I; [b] those who were qualified for Class II; and [c] all others, who will be regarded as honorary members of the National Reserve.
- On reaching the age limit a man would be struck off the register for that Class but could voluntarily transfer his name to the next Class.
National Reservists were not required to undertake any definite liability. They were invited to sign an honourable obligation to present themselves for service when required. They would be used to reinforce existing units of the regular army or of the Territorial Force once it had mobilised. It would also be used to strengthen garrisons, guard vulnerable points, provide specialists or tradesmen in technical branches, or be used in hospital, veterinary, remount, clerical or recruiting duties.
If the National Reservist was mobilised he would receive a gratuity of £10 (for officers, warrant officers and men of Class I) or £5 (Class II) provided they were found fit and accepted for service. They would receive army pay from the point at which they were accepted for service in accordance with the Pay Warrant for their rank and branch of the service.
National Reservists were eligible for the same disablement pensions as a man of the regular army if they were discharged on grounds of disablement. Similarly, widows and children of National Reservists were eligible for the same pensions and compassionate allowance as widows and children of men of the regular army.
The War Office would inform each County Association of the number of Class I National Reservists required for each arm or department of the service. The relevant Territorial Force Association would receive specific orders regarding the number, where and when men should report and would issue necessary railway warrants and cash orders. Class I National Reservists would be medically inspected and then attested for service for the period of war, clothed and equipped and sent to the unit to which they were detailed. Service in the National Reserve would not count towards the qualifying period for Long Service awards.
Newspapers of 24 August 1914 were reporting that men of Classes I and II were being called up and would be able to enlist in the reserve battalions for one year or the duration of the war. They would be allotted to an infantry unit of the regimental area in which they lived, although men formerly of the cavalry, Royal Field Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps, Army Veterinary Corps or Army Ordnance Corps may be appointed and posted to their own corps.