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Why Did People Join The Army In 1914 For The First World War

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#1 katinthehat2910

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 06:41 PM

We are doing a debate tomorrow about why men joined the army in 1914 to fight in the First World War. Our group was given patriotism and I was given the task of trying to discredit:
The Sticks of Army Discipline
Joys of War

Does anyone know any websites or information that could help me discredit these options as to why men joined the army, thus trying to make my argument stronger.

Many thanks

#2 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 09:50 PM

There's a thread on the forum about why people joined up here: http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=2227
but I don't think we have anything that does what you want.

I think you'll just have to make up something out of your head, perhaps along these lines:

The Sticks of Army Discipline - don't be silly - discipline isn't going to make people join up! Maybe it was important to keep them trying hard when they had joined up, but discipline would tend to put people off if they thought it was going to be very tough.

Rewards - it depends how selfish and greedy you think people were. Some out-of-work and poor people did sign up because the army offered them 'opportunity to eat'. But what about the public school boys, and the bank managers, and the people in work and the men with homes and families who dropped everything and flooded to join up? It is obvious that 'rewards' did not tempt them - they had everything and more already.

Obedience - people were much more obedient in those days, and 'did their duty', and a lot of the propaganda played on this, including the famous: 'Your country needs you' poster with the eyes which followed you wherever your stood. But be seious - these people were going to a place they knew they would likely die. They had to have a motive that was worth dying for (ie patriotism) - the government wouldn;t have got far without patriotism behind its propaganda campaigns. Would YOU have signed up if the government sent you a letter saying 'we order you to sign up and get shot'. LATER, of course, that is just exactly what the government did - it 'conscripted' men (ordered them to sign up). But at the beginning of the war it was all by volunteering, and noone is going to volunteer to die just because someone tells them to.

Comradeship - a key factor. Friends and brothers often signed up together. So, for a lot of people, I suppose they DID sign up because of comradeship. But you have to ask yourself: 'Why did their comrade sign up?'! And then you realise - your comrade was signing up for patriotism

Joys of War - there is a famous letter from a public schoolboy called Julian Grenfell rejoicing because he hadn't changed his socks in weeks. He thought war was SUCH fun! He had been a public schoolboy, and he had had to wash his neck and do his homework and always behave properly and politely ... and now he could be as violent a he liked, and stay dirty, and make rude jokes etc. But Grenfell was the exception, not the rule - most soldiers HATED being muddy and lousy and cold and wet and away from their families. Many soldiers volunteeing in 1914 may have had illusions about what the war was going to be like, but few would have suggested it was going to be a 'joy' - nobody joined up for the 'joys' of war. They joined up for love of country ... and a few people enjoyed it when they got there.

#3 katinthehat2910

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 10:42 PM

Thank you so much! This has helped me immensely with what to write about.

#4 Mr Moorhouse

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 10:11 AM

What about:

Peer pressure
Role of the media - long and short term. 'Bigs up' the might of the army, long tradition of praising the forces etc...
Unemployment - for some this might have been a factor.
Spirit of Adventure?
Ignorance? (War will be over by Christmas... did people believe that?)

Remember that there is a counter argument to all of these points though - and also remember that sme people DID join up for patriotic reasons. Yourtask, I suppose, is to argue that whilst it was a factor, it wasn't neccessarily the most significant one.

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