Call to Arms
Before the declaration of war on the 4th August 1914, the local Territorial battalions, the 4th and 5th East Yorkshires, and the Territorial Royal Field Artillery were mobilized and reservists received their call up papers.
The Hull Daily Mail recorded that about 100 naval reservists left Hull for the South of England on the 5.05am train to London. The sudden loss of men affected the ability to bring in the harvest and hit the fishing fleet and merchant navy very hard.
Hull was the major recruitment centre for the East Yorkshire Regiment, but as it was also a major port. A large percentage of the population was already recruited by the Merchant Navy, the fishing Fleet, the Royal Navy and the Humber Estuary and Coastal Defences.
As well as the demands of the sea, there were other units in existence which further drained the supply of Hull men. In the East Riding there was a Yeomanry regiment, two territorial battalions, a Royal Garrison Artillery battery, a Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps and a Field Company of the Royal Engineers.
With the onset of war, each of these (except the 5th Battalion) recruited, firstly up to full strength and then recruited a second line unit to replace the first when it went on active service. The 4th Battalion actually raised a third line battalion. Competition was particularly fierce to join the Hull cyclists, who with their 'knee britches and black bugle buttons' were seen as a rather noticeable unit to belong to. Army life meant regular pay (one shilling a day for privates) as well as proper food and clothing, not to mention barracks that compared favourably with the living conditions experienced by many at the time. Even with an establishment of keen recruits, many would-be volunteers were rejected on medical grounds, suffering from the cumulative effects of poor diet, medicine and housing.
Within the first six month of the war, over 20,000 men from Hull had enlisted, and by the end of the war some 75,000 had served in His Majesty's Services.
The women of Hull also proved indispensable, serving in the factories, farms and transport, as well as maintaining the families at home and supporting their men away at war.
They all served for a variety of reasons – some out of a sense of duty and patriotism, some for a change and adventure, others for money. However, all answered the call to do a practical job with little idea of what lay before them.