Reaction to the outbreak of war

When the war began there was mass enthusiasm for it all over Europe as hundreds of thousands of men rushed to join up, confident that they would be 'home by Christmas'.

Britain had a very small army in comparison to other European powers and immediately began a recruiting campaign. 900,000 volunteered in the first three months. 500,000 enlisted in August alone. Some were younger than the 18 years of age they claimed to be.


British war volunteers at the outbreak of World War One.
British war volunteers at the outbreak of World War One

Young men from Scotland were encouraged to join the army. More Scots volunteered in proportion to the size of the population than in any other area of the UK. It is thought that approximately 190,000 joined up.

The organisation of battalions meant that soldiers who came from the same area, often fought together. This would also have encouraged men to join, as they would have familiar company and an increased sense of adventure.

Young Scots volunteered for many reasons such as peer pressure, feelings of guilt and a desire for new experiences.

Joining was seen by most as the right thing to do, a chance to see the world and a way to make a decent income. There was also the belief that if they did not join up quickly they would miss being part of a new adventure. However, it was soon clear that the war would not be over by Christmas.