Home Front

Home Front

'H' Company, 7th Gordon Highlanders leaving Culter for war service.
The work of mobilisation was carried out in a spirit of great enthusiasm.

The military response to the announcement of war on 4th August 1914 received immediate and resounding coverage. The call to arms was thoroughly detailed in the Journal the following day. Soldiers and reservists received orders to assemble at their regimental headquarters. The mobilisation orders permitted soldiers to reached distant regiments by rail and Post Offices stayed open late on the night of the announcement to cash £5 mobilisation gratuities for Territorial Forces.

The Journal reported the work of mobilisation as being carried out in a spirit of great enthusiasm. The paper detailed bustling scenes as regiments such as the 4th Gordon Highlanders and the Royal Artillery, among many others, assembled at their various headquarters throughout the city. The paper described these as scenes of considerable excitement and reported a crowd gathering outside the Hardgate headquarters of The Royal Engineers, keen to hear any news, however slight, of the intended movements of its various divisions. Most Aberdeen corps were dismissed after assembly and would parade the next morning, however The Highland Ammunition Column paraded at midnight on the 4th.

The first of Aberdeen’s Territorial Forces to go on active service was the North Scotland Garrison Artillery. After a prompt response to the call to arms, and a rapid mobilisation, the men were dispatched from their headquarters for active service. The soldiers who were reported as being in great spirits received an enthusiastic send-off from thousands of citizens.

The Journal also reported the calling out of Territorials in Peterhead, describing the summons as spreading like wildfire after an initial posting on the windows of public buildings. The paper voiced concern over the toll the call to arms would take on every industry in the town: "No fewer than 18 of the staff of the Convict Prison are concerned, and this will mean a serious disorganisation in the working of the establishment." In response to the announcement of war a battalion of cadets was created, receiving widespread interest and "a large amount of influential support". Major Sibley who served with the Territorial Force was chosen to be the commanding officer. 

In the following weeks the Journal reported that the response to the call to arms was so great that an additional recruitment office was opened in Guild Street in order to relieve the strain on the Castlehill Barracks. The recruitment of tradesmen for the army was halted after an initial large intake. Wages in the army compared favourably to those typically received for trade work. Veterinary specialists and motorcyclists were particularly sought after and ex-soldiers were asked to re-enlist. The latter were to report to a Captain Monteith at Castlehill Barracks. The paper states that following a brief probationary period these men would retain the rank they held when they left the army. In order to reduce congestion at the larger depots arrangements were made by the War Office for chief constables and postmasters to act as recruitment officers in more remote areas.

Knowing about the long and bloody conflict that was to follow, The Aberdeen Journal’s celebratory and excited coverage of troop mobilisation now makes for slightly uncomfortable reading. The reports suggested preparation for a rather welcome venture. The Journal’s coverage was one particular and perhaps quite representative voice in Aberdeen’s response to the war. It could be interesting and informative to compare the Journal’s coverage with that of a wide range of other publications.

Source: David Oswald (Aberdeen City Libraries)