Into Battle : A Seventeen-Year-Old Joins Kitchener’s Army

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There would normally be a few days for new replacements to train with, and be integrated into, their units, practising simple tactical drills and manoeuvres, before returning to the trenches. So, new recruits in both the British and German armies underwent a progressive system of training designed, as far as possible, to equip them with the skills needed to survive on the modern battlefield and to perform their missions.

Into Battle: A Seventeen-Year-Old Joins Kitchener's Army

Grumbles about the quality of new men, often from pre-war regulars, remained common. The system was not without problems and did not always operate perfectly. But it often avoided the Second World War situation of green replacements coming up in the evening to a unit engaged on the front line, only to be killed before breakfast without anyone even learning their name.

Inexperienced divisions were inserted into quiet sectors of the line to learn their trade. Whenever units came back from the front to rest, they trained. Route marches maintained fitness. Individual skills were brushed up. Training might aim to refresh basic skills; to pick up new techniques learnt from experience elsewhere; or, indeed, to rehearse for specific operations over mock-ups of the enemy defences.

Finally, a whole network of schools grew up to teach specialist skills, either to equip individuals for a new role, or so they could go back to their units and train others. Thus, men might find themselves sent off to learn, for example: how to command a platoon or company; the skills of a sniper; the use of wireless; or of Lewis guns.

The subaltern Charles Carrington, serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, spent 21 days on courses of this kind in compared with 65 days in the front line. Training millions-strong armies posed an immense challenge to all the armies of the First World War. Time, space, kit and experienced instructors: all were in short supply early in the war, and mistakes inevitably occurred. As the war wore on, however, all sides devoted considerable attention and resources to training their men. A sensible, progressive system evolved.

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It was never perfect. Could it ever have been? Inevitably, its effects were often patchy. But by and it was capable in a few months of producing, from citizen conscripts, the highly professional forces that mastered modern warfare. Thanks to James Hopkinson for permission to use this.


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Training to be a soldier. How were soldiers prepared for World War One?

Into Battle: A seventeen-year-old joins Kitchener's Army

Dr Jonathan Boff examines the stages of training undertaken by the millions of soldiers across the British, German and French armies. Moving on The next stage might well include several weeks or even months of specialist training, for instance to be a machine gunner, a signaller or a cook.

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The proof of the pudding Training millions-strong armies posed an immense challenge to all the armies of the First World War. Footnotes [1] Unpublished diary. He specializes in the First World War. Hear how a change in U-boat tactics by the Germans in February caused great resentment. Episode After the close of the Battle of the Somme in November , the men on the Western Front dug in for the coming winter.

That year, it proved to be exceptionally cold. Counting the Cost. Episode From the start of hostilities in , women contributed to the war effort. Initially, there were only a few voluntary organisations as well as some official schemes for them to join. But over time, the range of roles and the number of more formal services open to women gradually grew.

Episode During the First World War, the mass mobilisation of civilian armies coupled with fighting on an industrial scale led to unprecedented numbers of wounded. Hear about the range of weapons used and the wide variety of ways that men were wounded. Military aviation was still relatively new in and the Royal Flying Corps was very small in size but serving in the RFC was an attractive prospect for those living in the trenches on the Western Front.

INTO BATTLE: A Seventeen-Year-Old Joins Kitchener's Army

Episode The First World War was the first time that the psychological trauma of warfare was formally recognised both by doctors and society at large. Episode Artillery played a huge role in the First World War and helped to shape how it was fought. Hear about the training new wartime recruits to the Royal Artillery had to undergo before being sent to the front. Episode The Ypres Salient was one of the most intensely fought over sections of the Western Front.

Episode The First World War had a profound effect on the lives of civilians. In Britain, people found themselves being gradually drawn into a conflict that had, at first, seemed remote. Hear about the main ways the war affected civilians. Under Pressure. Episode It was essential for soldiers during the First World War to be properly armed for combat.

At the start of the war, members of the British Army trained with very basic weapons. However as operations grew in scale, weapons evolved to keep pace with them and to enable them to be fought. One of the most famous Christmas-time events was the truce that took place along some parts of the line on the Western Front in Episode Around 16, men refused to take up arms or fight during the First World War for any number of religious, moral, ethical or political reasons. They were known as conscientious objectors. Episode By early , Allied troops on the Western Front were weary from years of launching failed campaigns against the Germans.

Meanwhile the German Army was boosted by the arrival of men from the Eastern Front — and busy preparing for a huge attack. Much of this essential wartime logistical work was undertaken by the Army Service Corps.

They would often have to find ways to pass the long, tedious hours when nothing was happening. Final days. Episode In early October , Germany, no longer able to continue the war, approached the United States about an armistice. Many ordinary British soldiers on the Western Front recall having a sense that the war was drawing to a close.

Episode By the summer of , the German offensives on the Western Front had stalled. The Allies suffered greatly in these attacks — but held on.