Hull City Hall Recruitment Office
It was mostly at the City Hall that Hull formed its own four ‘Pal’ Battalions, known as the 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th Service Battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment. These formed part of the 92nd Infantry Brigade, in the 31st Army Division. Recruitment began at 10am on the 1st September, 1914. Each Battalion contained 1,050 men. Some of these battalions such as 11th East Yorkshires were raised within 3 days. Hull also raised a 5th ‘Bantam’ Battalion made up of ‘small men, with big hearts’ and this became know as Lord Robert’s or ‘Bobs Battalion’ These 5 Battalions were more than may other Cities which had larger population.
(Hull Corporation tram above on route H, Holderness Road, Hull. The Corporation tram, was bedecked with recruiting adverts, running along Holderness Road. Volunteers were asked to jump on, for a free ride to enlist at Hull City Hall )
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.
The 10th 'Hull Commercials' Battalion were initially recruited at the Army Office at 22 Pryme Street. However, this became inadequate to cope with the large numbers of volunteers enlisting. Recruitment was therefore moved to Hull City Hall on the 6th September 1914.
Hull City Hall was a larger, more central location and could provide all the administration associated with recruitment. Between 400 & 500 voluntary clerks attended the City Hall continuously. This included one hundred School Mistresses and lady teachers who on the 15th August 1915 dealt with over 12,000 recruits. The Tramways Committee based at the Hall provided free cars for recruitment and war advertising.
An Advisory Committee was established by Mr Walter Fred Harris and spent several hours each day at the City Hall advising the Recruitment Officer of applications for exception from military service. The Port Labour Committee chaired by Mr C S Page
considered military exemption applications from Dock workers and others.
Hull City Hall was considered by the War Office as one of the most successful and efficient recruitment offices in the country. When the role of recruitment was finally taken over by the Ministry of National Service, Hull was selected as a Training Centre for Officers. The 10th 'Commercial' Battalion made up of Hull Office workers, provided many NCOs' and Officers for other regiments. Many Hull men were recruited for the Royal Flying Corps, and used for the Motor Transport and the Inland Water Services. The total number of men raised within Hull for all services was over 75,000. This was a huge effort for a small City. While there were some reserved occupations, most Hull men of fighting age were enlisted in active service.three and six, Justices of the Peace attended the City Hall every day to take the Oaths of all new recruits.
Medical Boards staffed by older Doctors examined new recruits and worked double shifts, taking on the patients of younger Doctors and releasing them for the Royal Army Medical Corp. Rota's were formed to ensure that recruitment was continuous and several Boards attended the City Hall every day for the full duration of the War.
The Call to Arms
Before the declaration of war, 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.
While Hull was the major recruitment centre for the East Yorkshire Regiment, it was also a major port and 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. The 17th Northumberland Fusiliers which was a Pals Battalion for Railwaymen working on the Hull and Barnsley Railway Line was also recruited in Hull and accommodated in two large warehouses on King George Dock.
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. Newspapers reported on many patriotic families. These included Mr T G Marshall, at 96 St Georges Road, who had 18 family members, including 4 sons, serving. The Frays at 72 Flinton Street, had enlisted eight family members. Mrs Watts at 265 Alliance Avenue, had six sons and a nephew serving. Mrs Parker at 67 Bean Street, also had six sons serving. Mr and Mrs Whittle's, five sons, at 54 Rosmead Street, all enlisted. Twenty two men from Maple Street, joined up in the first weeks of the war. Those who enlisted, joined 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.