Recruitment in 1914

In August 1914 the Sentinel reported a “large number of recruits” to the North Staffords Third Line Battalion with an “excellent response to the appeal of Major Cecil Wedgwood” and an “unceasing stream of applicants.”

On Saturday September 5th the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel reported: “North Staffordshire is making a noble response to the call to arms. Men of all sections of the community are coming forward to their country’s need at a much faster rate than the recruiting officials and their many assistants can cope with. All the Stoke, Shelton, Burslem and Hanley recruiting stations – an average of 300 men each were registered on Monday, and the whole of the North Staffs area, including Leek, Stoke, Kidsgrove, Tunstall, Biddulph & Audley returned the handsome total of 1,491 men enrolled.”

So! Where did the Biddulph men go to enlist?

The lack of an official recruiting office at this early stage in the war caused much consternation amongst Biddulph folk and the Chronicle summed up their concerns: “Biddulph men and Biddulph women are doing what they can, but they are without either the influence or the example of a recognised leader. Beyond an ambulance class and the remnants of a volunteer corps, there is not the vestige of a trained body of men fit for military service. Few of the men have ever undergone any military training, and fewer still have any skilled knowledge of a rifle.”

Many of the Biddulph men who enlisted soon after war was declared did so at Congleton. Maybe one of the reasons for this was the lack of any organisation or of a recruitment office in the town.

Although it may seem a somewhat trivial question - it is still an intriguing one: who from Biddulph enrolled first?

An article which may solve this query appeared in the Chronicle in 1915 under the heading “Gone to the Front – or a Young Patriot.”

“Private Charles Hancock, 10290, the second son of Mr. William Hancock, 32, Tunstall Road, Biddulph, whose photo we publish in this issue, is a young soldier who may possibly lay claim to two very notable distinctions.

He is probably the first recruit from Biddulph to be sent to the front, and as he enlisted in the 3rd Cheshires at Congleton on August 6th, it is quite on the cards that he was the first man from Biddulph to enlist. All honour to the young soldier. His patriotism affords a grand example to any young man in the land. Biddulph lads, please copy!

Hancock was transferred to the 1st Cheshires, and left for the front via Southampton with the 15th Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force about three weeks ago.”

First Recruitment Meeting in Biddulph

The first recruitment meeting at Biddulph took place in the Public Hall in early September as the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel reported: “Long before the doors of the Public Hall were thrown open the streets in the immediate vicinity were packed with a dense crowd of people, and so great was the crush that many were unable to obtain even standing accommodation in the Hall. The attendance would be between 500 and 600, and a public gathering of such numbers, and permeated with such boundless enthusiasm, has rarely been experienced in the annals of Biddulph.”

This response had not been anticipated and although at least 100 men wanted to sign up, the “lack of any organised method for securing the signatures of the large number of men anxious and willing to join” meant that arrangements were made for the Public Hall to open up the next day to cope with the demand. The hall was decorated, the platform having “a profuse display of flags and bunting, from which the Union Jack hung conspicuously in the centre, and previous to the entrance of the platform party the audience whiled away the time in singing God save the King, Rule Britannia and other patriotic songs.”

Speakers included Mr. Robert Heath, Mr Stanley Stocker and Captain Mainwaring. A strong appeal was made by Captain Mainwaring for help in sending more recruits to Lord Kitchener’s Army.

“The Expeditionary Force had been performing heroic deeds, but it had suffered greatly, and there were lots of gaps that need filling. Trained men of 45 were turning up nobly, he said, but untrained men were wanted now. It was no good delaying. Some of them might be regretting having done nothing in the past to make themselves ready, but they could do something now by going to join. Captain Mainwaring concluded an eloquent appeal by expressing the hope that the women would do something in this matter of recruiting. To the women of England he would say Send on your men, and to the men he would say Join the colours, do your duty, and do it now.

Mr. J.A. Lees, made “a stirring appeal to the mothers, sisters and sweethearts to send forward their men to enlist. Be ashamed he said, to go about with any man who will not go to war. I have only one son and he enlisted two days after war broke out, Mr. Lees concluded.”

Mr Heath said “they were fighting for a righteous cause and with clean hands. Mr Stanley Stocker said the ultimate aim of Germany was the overthrow of our great Empire, but he felt sure Englishmen were prepared to stand up for their natural liberty. He was proud of the way North Staffordshire was coming forward to help in this struggle. The whole of the first battalion had been raised and a large portion of the second, and he believed the young men of Biddulph would come forward; it was their duty and their proud privilege to do so.”

Captain Mainwaring afterwards spoke, and strongly appealed to the women “to send their husbands and sweethearts forward at once, as the safety and very existence of the Empire demanded it.”

In reply to a question by an ex-soldier, as to whether they considered the Government’s allowance of 1s 2d a day for the wife and 2d a head for the children was sufficient, Mr Heath said “the men about Biddulph had decided to contribute liberally to the Relief Fund, and that those who went away to serve their country might depend on their wives and families being well looked after.”

List of Biddulph & District Recruits

James Booth, 17, West Street.
Arthur Lacey, 12, South View.
James W. Holland, 4, Shepherd Street.
Samuel Gibson, 60, Tunstall Road.
Thomas Readon, Braddocks Hay.
William E. Bailey, 49, Albert Street.
James Allcock, 50, Station Road.
Frank Reece, Congleton Road.
Joseph T. Peach, Welsh Row.
Harry Birch senr., 36, Stringer Street.
Fred Parton, Buglawton.
Charles Taylor, 27, Congleton Road.
William Rutland, Fan Row, Black Bull.
Percy Parton, 42, Brook Street.
Bernard Holland, 39, Congleton Road.
Albert Fitzgerald, 24, Cross Street.
Jack Moss, 37, Station Road.
Samuel W. Mayer, 4, Charles Street.
W.E. Vickers, 12, Charles Street.
Joseph Boon, Congleton Edge.
Nehemiah Bibby, Railway Terrace.
Albert Chell, Gillow Heath.
Leonard Warren, 19, New Buildings, Black Bull.
John Henry Smith, Welsh Row.
Arthur Smith, Welsh Row.
Jonathan Pyatt, Nettlebeds Cottages.
Reginald Brown, 39, Albert Street.
William Gallimore, 124, Brown Lees Road.
Wilfred Edwards, 70, Railway Cottages.
Joseph Evenson, 84, Railway Cottages.
Arthur Slaney, 74, Railway Cottages.
James Maxwell, Welsh Row.
Leonard Edwards, 10, Newpool Cottages.
Henry E. Matthews, 13, Newpool Terrace.
Harry Stockton, 5, Ridgway Road.
Albert Bourne, New Buildings, Black Bull.
Harry Birch, junr., 36, Stringer Street.
Stanley Mitchell, 3, New Buildings.
David Whatmore, Mow Lane.
James Grindy, Deansgate Row.
Frank Swingewood, 109, Congleton Road.
George Foy, Slater Street.
George Savage, Welsh Row.
----- Shufflebotham, Overton Hall Farm.
Samuel Cox, Brown Lees.
J.W. Barlow, Gillow Heath.
Harold Bailey, Gillow Heath.
T.W. Kirkham, Gillow Heath.
Abram Milwood, Welsh Row.

Reservists and Men Serving With the Colours

James Barlow, Welsh Row.
Albert Cliffe, Welsh Row.
Thomas Simpson, 111, Chain Row.
Jesse D. Spender, Brook Street, Brown Lees.
Charles Nixon, 15, Tunstall Road.
Charles W. Yorke, Station Houses.
Bert Taylor, 140, John Street.
James E. Hambleton, Congleton Road.
A. Proudlove, Well Lane.
Charles Hancock, Tunstall Road.
William Smith, High Street.
Alfred Robin Martyn Lees, The Moor House.
William Parkinson, 48, Congleton Road.
William James Shaw, son of Councillor T. Shaw, High Street.
Walter Weston, Wharf Road.
Bert Locket, 28, Albert Street.
James V. Barlow, 4, Newpool Terrace.

Three of the men are old service men, and they have volunteered for active service at the front: Albert Chell, James Booth, James Allcock.

The Chronicle recognised the contribution made: “Biddulph, however, has contributed her quota to the national call in several ways. Smart young fellows have enlisted; many reservists have proudly responded to their call for King and country; and there is a capable body of expert motor cyclists alert and ready when the time comes. A great many horses have also been drafted from the district for transport purposes. Our women, too, have not failed us. Miss Heath has taken a splendid and patriotic initiative in organising a working guild at Biddulph Grange, and it is reported that the Grange has been offered to the Government as a hospital by Mr. Robert Heath.

Who can now say that Biddulph has not proved her patriotism and loyalty to the very core?”

Even the clergy made efforts to recruit as the Sentinel reported on October 3rd 1914:

Striking Sermon by Vicar of Endon at Biddulph Moor

“A striking sermon on harvest time and the war was preached by the Rev. J. S. Morris, Vicar of Endon, at the harvest festival in Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, on Sunday evening.

The sermon was of particular significance, if only on account of the lack of patriotism shown by the dwellers on Biddulph Moor in responding to their country’s call for men. With the exception of two reservists, very few men from off the Moor have responded to the national call for King and country, and the stirring address of the Vicar of Endon must have come as a rude awakening.”

The service created a profound impression. There was a packed congregation with visitors from Biddulph and Knypersley including Privates Gerald and Robert Sherratt, the two sons of Mr. Edmund Sherratt, Knypersley, on leave with the Biddulph Territorial Company from Butterton Hall.