Following the first month of conflict in August 1914, it was clear the relatively small regular army would very quickly succumb to the significantly larger German Regular and Reserve Force. At the end of August Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State initiated a drive for the recruitment 600,000 men in a new volunteer army, solely for service for the duration of the war. The famous posters of the moustachioed Field Marshall attracted tens of thousands of men, many joining together from the country’s large industrial cities. This recruitment drive was supported by local politicians and employers, many of whom committed to fund the recruits and re-employ them after hostilities. The whole nation believed the young men would be home by Christmas.
In late August Sir Daniel McAbe, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, planned the recruitment of a City Battalion, comprising the Clerks & Warehouseman of the City’s commercial businesses. These potential recruits had not been enthusuiastic to be recruited to the Service Battalions. The prospect of enlisting with men from their own worplace, or similar businesses was the primary driver in the formation of the Pals. The employers also played their part with a commitment to maintain wages for family members and re-employ the troops when they returned. Businesses also committed to fund the Pals Battalions until they were taken over by the War Office. Suitably employed men collected a ticket enabling them to considered in the City Battalion. A mass of young arrived and the 1st City Battalion was formed on the 1st September 1914 with a small number of men enlisting the day before. Immediate proposals were made for a 2nd City Battalion the next day.
Arthur Bell and a colleague from W.T. Glover had arrived at the recruiting station on 1st September and found themselves enlisted in the 2nd Manchester Pals on the next day.
“…a pal from my office and myself, went down to the Ardwick Town Hall on the 1st of September 1914, where we were told that they’d filled their requirements, but they were forming another battalion, and if we’d like to go down the following day, we might be enrolled.”
The Pals Battalions committed to keep men together with their friends and colleagues. The volunteers were paraded at the Artillery Drill Hall in Ardwick and allocation to Companies and Platoons was supervised by Captain Walkley, the chief recruiting officer. Arthur recounted his posting in III Platoon of A Company.
“So we duly went down … the system was to ask [first for ] all people from say Tootlals – … from the other big firms in the town – and got some quite large numbers from each of these big firms. But the firm we belonged to, we were only two representatives, and there were a lot of other little firms like that…these big firms were recruited first. Well I’ll say they were taken first, they weren’t positively recruited at that moment.”(2)
Arthur found himself recruited into the ‘riff-raff’ from smaller firms in A Company. It has not been possible to identify Arthur Bell’s pal that enlisted with him from W.T. Glover. However three pairs of colleagues have been found. The first pair is Louis Linney and Frank Hoyle from Haslams. The second workmates were James Thomson and Arthur Wilkins from Messrs Hans Reynolds, chain makers in Burnage. Finally R. Schofield and J Law are identified on the Roll of Honour for David Midgely & Sons Ltd.
Alec Mitchell who was the son of Arthur’s neighbour’s son from 4 Warrener Street enlisted in D Company at a similar time.
“And they stood in their ranks and formed companies. The result was – that A Company, B Company, C Company and D Company – were formed in that way; and the little, the ‘riff raff’ you might say… would have been D company. But, a strange thing happened. The whole gang was given order ‘about turn’ and what would have been D company became A company. So A company was formed of the riff raff and D company was the bigger ones, like CPA and Tootals [Tootal, Broadhurst & Lee Co Ltd]. “(2)
Arthur Bells Cap Badge and shoulder tabs for the 2nd City – 17th Manchester Regiment form the main photo on this page. It is a sobering thought that Arthur will have worn these specific shoulder tabs during his service, although they were replaced by red ‘Manchester Regiment’ tapes before the summer of 1916. The Battalion was raised on the 2nd / 3rd September 1914; with the official date recorded as 28th August.
Each Company had four Platoons and Arthur was allocated to III Platoon. The 2nd City Battalion was intended to recruit clerks and warehouseman from the City’s commercial businesses. Representatives from the smaller firms included Stephen Broadmeadow, who was a Clerk at Horrocks and Crewdson, cotton manufacturers. Also enlisting was shippers clerk, Arthur Bennett from G S Mitchell & Co.
As well as the men of commerce, two teachers were posted to III Platoon, including Oxford born Louis Brownjohn from Crumpsall and Frank Chandler from All Saints Church School, Whitefield. In addition a number of tradesmen joined Arthur Bell’s Platoon, including Ernest Conroy, a painter and decorator from Oldham Road and engineering draughtsman, Percy Amos. Percy’s family lived in Ipswich and he was a resident of Flixton when he enlisted.
Notwithstanding the trades and professions that have been identified, the core of the Battalion remained Clerks and Warehouseman. Other men from the City joined the Territorial Battalions of the Manchester Regiment, or a range of regular army Regiments. For example, James Ward was a fellow worker from Arthur Bell’s employer, W.T. Glover and it may be assumed he was not a Clerk or Warehouseman. James enlisted with the Northampton Regiment; he was promoted to Sergeant and shot in the knee in July 1916. Sergeant Ward had been a keen footballer with Crescent Rovers in Salford.
Lord Derby had formed the Liverpool Pals in late August and it is clear Arthur and other young men of Manchester had anticipated the Mayor’s invitation to form their City Battalions. The new Manchester and Liverpool Brigades were combined to form the 30th Division, sometimes later known as ‘Lord Derby’s Own’. For other ‘invitations’ for enlistment see WW1 Recruitment Posters