As war was declared on 4 August 1914, Great Britain only had a standing army of 120,000 men, including the Leeds Rifles, the City regiment. We would need more men to fight a war. So, Lord Kitchener introduced the idea of volunteering, and men joined up in their thousands. But it was still not enough.
The Pals battalions were set up as a way for men from the large towns and cities to serve in the army with their friends, colleagues and team mates. There were deliberately aimed at white collar workers, as the conditions of enrolment in a Pals battalion included 'non-manual workers between the ages of 19 and 35 only' and 'single men were preferred'. They raised a battalion of 1200 men.
‘It was quite a common sight to see three or four men from one office walk into the Victoria Hall [Leeds Town Hall] together, and two or three batches said they had been given special permission by their employers to leave their desks and get their name down without delay…’
'Then I found myself in the awesome Town Hall, the first time I had ever been there… yet I was with several more fellows who appeared to be at ease… later I discovered that they had! They were mostly officials and clerks in the city’s administration offices.'
Administration - managing a business or organisation
Battalion - large unit of soldiers within the infantry of the British Army
Colleagues - people who work together
Daunting - something that seems frightening or difficult
Fellows - old-fashioned word for men or boys
Preferred - when something is wanted more than something else
Regiment - a military unit usually made up of 2 or 3 battalions
Secretary of State for War - the British Government minister in charge of arrangements for a war