When the Great War broke out, Britain had a large navy but only a very small army. On 5th August 1914, Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener became the Secretary of State for War. He anticipated that the war would be a long and costly one and that the existing British Expeditionary Force of six infantry divisions and four cavalry brigades would be far too small for a major European conflict.
He decided to create a series of ‘New Armies’, duplicating the original British Expeditionary Force. He launched a massive recruitment campaign to encourage men to join up. He also permitted the part-time Territorial Force, originally intended for home defence duties, to expand and volunteer for active service overseas.
Kitchener successfully encouraged men to enlist by tapping into local civic pride, national patriotism and community spirit. Recruitment posters, with their emotive messages, were displayed in public buildings and were used as a means of encouraging young men to go and fight.
The Military Service Bill was introduced in January 1916 bringing in conscription. It gave the British Government the power to enlist all single men between 18 and 41. The Universal Conscription Act of May 1917 made all men between 18 and 41 eligible for service. Conscientious Objectors were imprisoned or put to work for the war effort.
When the Great War broke out in 1914 the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment had two Regular Battalions (1st and 2nd), two Militia Battalions (3rd and 4th) and five Territorial Battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th each of which split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-line Battalions). Seven more Service Battalions were raised for ‘Kitchener’s Army’ and they were numbered 10th to 16th.
The Territorial Battalions were recruited from specific geographical areas in the west and Highlands of Scotland. The 8th Battalion was recruited from Argyll and the 9th Battalion was recruited from Dunbartonshire.
“With the object of giving fillip to the recruiting in connection with the Reserve Battalion of the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a squad of twenty men under the command of Lieut. Stirling arrived in Campbeltown from Dunoon on Saturday last, and during the four days of their stay they carried out their duties with such energy and success that they were able to add the names of no fewer than thirty recruits to the list of those who have decided to serve with the Argylls.”
On 5 December 1914, the Campbeltown Courier reported:
Every part of the county did their bit for King and country. In October 1914 there was a recruiting meeting in Gigha and the numbers in training from the island made a percentage of 4 of the population, which was above the average of the country.