Recruitment by Political Recruitment Agencies

Did your soldier have his army service record stamped “Political”? This page explains its significance.

Part of the attestation paper of Archibald Flannigan, who joined the Gordon Highlanders in Glasgow on 30 November 1914. The form is stamped “Political” and carries the stamp of the “Political Recruiting Agency” in Kilsyth.

“The Scotsman” of 17 August 1914 carried an article reporting that “a circular has been issued by the chairman of the Scottish Liberal Association, the chairman of the Scottish Unionist Association, the general secretary of the Scottish Liberal Association,  and Mr James Adam, secretary to the Scottish Unionist Whip, to the respective political parties regarding the assistance which it has been suggested should be given by them in the raising of the second New Army of 100,000 men.” It explained that the ordinary machinery of recruiting was inadequate for the task and that, with the agreement of Lieutenant-General Sir Spencer Ewart, commanding Scottish Command, it was proposed to set up through the organisation of the two political parties as system of “collecting stations” for recruits. A Central Joint Committee of the parties had already been constituted with addresses at 95 Princes Street in Edinburgh and 100 Wellington Street in Glasgow.

Localised operations began to be set up and were known as “Political Recruiting Agencies”, under overall control of this Central Recruiting Committee (also known as the Joint Committee of Party Organisations).

It was an immediate success: the Daily Record reported that on Monday, 31 August 1914 alone the political recruitment organisation in Glasgow had attested over 1,000 men.

By 8 September 1914 the “Edinburgh Evening News” was reporting that the “Political Recruiting Agencies” had been advised to attest recruits for the infantry only, and should regard the other branches of the army as being closed to recruitment except for non-commissioned officers. They were also advised not to accept men from the railways, armament manufacture or food production, unless they came with a certificate from their employer confirming that they could be spared.

The Central Recruiting Committee ran a poster and leaflet campaign, including organising handing out of leaflets at football matches and at public works. Images of the posters (on “lantern slides”) were shown at cinemas. They would go on to organise marches by regimental bands; meetings with persuasive speakers, and so on.

By December 1914 the Committee had also begun the process of voluntary registration of potential recruits. Newspapers on 18 December 1914 mentioned the the Committee had said that response to this scheme was of a “very satisfactory nature” and that by January they included responses from areas which had not yet “been adequately tapped by the Recruiting Agencies”. The use of the phrase “willing bantam” for men below minimum recruitment height is also mentioned.

The following political recruitment centres were established in Glasgow (this may not be exhaustive): Blackfriars and Hutchesontown, 130 Adelphi Street; Bridgeton, 24 West Street; College, 308 New City Road; St. Rollox, 24 Monkland Street; Tradeston, 9 Cumberland Street; Maryhill, 612 Gairbraid Street; Whiteinch, 961 Dumbarton Road; Goven, the Gladstone Institute on White Street.

A later report said that the services of volunteers running the recruitment agencies had been freely given and that even the small fee paid to the Recruiting Sergeants for each man attested had been handed over to funds.

In other words, there is no implication that the recruit was himself of a political nature or that he was a member of any given party or, for example, of a trade union. He may well have been so, but the stamp only indicates that he had been recruited through the political organisation described.


Enlistment into the British Army