Hei ho, hei ho, it’s off to w(ar) I go…

Watching the Battle of the Somme brought the above line to mind. Men jauntily off to war – rifle and spade (and handgrenade?) over their shoulder in Part 1. In Part 3, the Manchester Pioneers are waiting to move to the front whilst German prisoners of war and British wounded are leaving the front.

Men and women of all races joined the war effort: some willingly, others not.
Why did those who did so willingly join?
Here are some ideas:

  • Adventure – the Legion of Frontiersmen who formed part of the 25th Royal Fusiliers come to mind.
  • Patriotism – although this relates to Australia, the same reasons applied to British South Africans, Rhodesians and East Africans
  • Protection of their home and land – settlers
  • Finance – Chinese Labour Corps (Interview) (overview) (remembrance)
  • New beginnings or hiding away – European example; the Legion of Frontiersmen had a few over time
  • Conscription – in September 1915 the East African colonists voted in favour of conscription for the white settlers (TNA:  CO 542/9). Amos van der Merwe shares Vetfaan’s experience of being called up in a later war in his novel Rolbos
    During World War 1, South Africa and Australia were the only two British Empire countries not to introduce conscription.
  • Co-option – Carrier Corps, SANLC, West Africa

Other interesting enlistment titbits

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