Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Peter » 24 Aug 2013 12:27

Thanks Graham.

It's never too late for the complete answer.

Regards,
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Peter » 28 Sep 2013 08:54

One of the subjects covered in this Topic is Boy soldiers.

I thought this might be of interest: a “Boy” ‘promoted’ to “Lad”.

On 7th July, 1873, his fourteenth birthday, Henry Charles Messenger attested in the 20th Foot.

Statement of Service details:

(Promotion – Rank – From … )

Attested – Boy - 7th July, 1873

Attained 15 years of age – Lad - 7th July, 1874

Xxxxx – Lance Corporal – 1st April 1876

Attained 17 years of age – Lance Corporal - 7th July, 1876

Promoted – Corporal - 1st October 1876

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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Maureene » 20 Mar 2014 01:34

I recently read a book called Pick Up Your Parrots and Monkeys: The Life of a Boy Soldier in India by William Pennington.

The first chapters cover his life as a Boy Trumpeter in the Royal Artillery in training at the Boys' Depot, Woolwich. Although this account is for the years 1934-1935, the method of training sounds as though it would have been unchanged for decades, so I think what is described would also have been the situation c 1900.

Pennington entered training aged 14, (the usual age) and the training course was a year. At any one time there were three classes of 30 boys each, so there was a new intake every four months. The training consisted of musical training and horse training, as they attended parades on a horse. They were not allowed to leave the Barracks for the first three months. They were subject to military discipline which was harsh by today's standards.

Most of the boys at the commencement of training were thin, because of the inadequate food they had received throughout their childhood, when poverty was so endemic.

Generally there was no evening meal served, although food was plentiful at breakfast and the midday meal. If you wanted to eat at night, you had to provide this food yourself.

Pennington was one of the best recruits and was appointed to the Royal Horse Artillery, and after a short period in the Royal Horse Artillery in England was sent to India, with a small draft of replacements. He was appointed to E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Meerut, the location of the British Army in India headquarters.

He was aged 15. Whether in England (post training) or India, on a day to day basis he did not have contact with anyone his own age.

In 1938, with mechanization looming and because the Battery was returning to England, the horses were either disposed of to other regiments or shot (by soldier volunteers). Perhaps mechanisation meant the end of the era of the Boy Trumpeters?

They became gunners at age 18, but not automatically on the birthday, as Pennington was not made a gunner for some months (during which time he was still paid as a Boy, and his Boy length of service did not count)

The author subsequently won the Military Cross as a forward observation officer In Burma. He was Temporary Captain Joseph William Pennington, Royal Artillery 151372

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Frogsmile » 02 May 2014 11:10

Maureene wrote:I recently read a book called Pick Up Your Parrots and Monkeys: The Life of a Boy Soldier in India by William Pennington.

The first chapters cover his life as a Boy Trumpeter in the Royal Artillery in training at the Boys' Depot, Woolwich. Although this account is for the years 1934-1935, the method of training sounds as though it would have been unchanged for decades, so I think what is described would also have been the situation c 1900.

Pennington entered training aged 14, (the usual age) and the training course was a year. At any one time there were three classes of 30 boys each, so there was a new intake every four months. The training consisted of musical training and horse training, as they attended parades on a horse. They were not allowed to leave the Barracks for the first three months. They were subject to military discipline which was harsh by today's standards.

Most of the boys at the commencement of training were thin, because of the inadequate food they had received throughout their childhood, when poverty was so endemic.

Generally there was no evening meal served, although food was plentiful at breakfast and the midday meal. If you wanted to eat at night, you had to provide this food yourself.

Pennington was one of the best recruits and was appointed to the Royal Horse Artillery, and after a short period in the Royal Horse Artillery in England was sent to India, with a small draft of replacements. He was appointed to E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Meerut, the location of the British Army in India headquarters.

He was aged 15. Whether in England (post training) or India, on a day to day basis he did not have contact with anyone his own age.

In 1938, with mechanization looming and because the Battery was returning to England, the horses were either disposed of to other regiments or shot (by soldier volunteers). Perhaps mechanisation meant the end of the era of the Boy Trumpeters?

They became gunners at age 18, but not automatically on the birthday, as Pennington was not made a gunner for some months (during which time he was still paid as a Boy, and his Boy length of service did not count)

The author subsequently won the Military Cross as a forward observation officer In Burma. He was Temporary Captain Joseph William Pennington, Royal Artillery 151372

Cheers
Maureen


Thank you for that interesting post on the RA Boy trumpeters Maureen. Boy service is much misunderstood generally and I am always pleased to see illuminating accounts. Until the 1920s Boys were trained entirely within units, but after I think 1922/25 they were trained within Boy units formed specially for the purpose. The joining age was always set to coincide with the statutory school leaving age and changed as and when the law did. Three meals a day were not introduced until WW2. My own uncle was a REME Boy apprentice, when the Corps formed in 1941 and both my brother and I enlisted as Boys, although by the date that I joined the designation had recently changed to 'Junior Soldier' (as opposed to 'Boy Soldier' and because of recently declared U.N. sensibilities that Britain had signed up to). We still thought of ourselves as Boy soldiers though and were generally referred to as such.

Our regime was broadly similar to that which you described (albeit without horses) and our day was divided into military training and so-called three R's education. The former was mostly lots of drill (marching and rifle drill), weapon training (i.e. skill at arms), fieldcraft (camouflage and movement, etc.) and PT (physical training). We were all terrified of the PTIs, who still wore Victorian period worsted pullovers in black and red bumblebee type stripes. We hid when we saw them coming as they were sure to award 50 press-ups for some obscure shortcoming.

The year was divided into 3 terms and training lasted either 2 or 3 years, with the latter the requirement for technical trades. Kit cleaning and ironing was endless and all web equipment had to be coated (daily) with blanco and brasses shone until they gleamed. Time off was confined to Saturday and Sunday afternoons (assuming good behaviour - the privilege was easily lost). Wednesday afternoons were turned over to sport and Friday evenings required a floor-to-ceiling weekly clean of barrack rooms and locker layouts (the inspectors really did come around with white gloves to check for dust and grime). Discipline was rigid and Boys were regularly confined in the Guardroom cells for short periods, most frequently on the Saturday morning drill parade (rehearsed every Wednesday morning), which always took the form of a 'pass out' a la RMA Sandhurst. We marched to formal church parade every Sunday morning behind the corps of drums, something that is unthinkable now.

One feature that had been changed was that our Platoon Sergeants were all specially selected in a similar way to the Colour Sergeant instructors at Sandhurst, except that those selected for Boy units had to be in their last few years of Colour Service and recommended by COs as having a steady and fatherly demeanour (almost all had experienced National Service). Most met this requirement, but of course the odd rogue got through, albeit remarkably few when I think about it. We also lived in barracks dormitories (10 to a room) sub-divided residentially into Platoons by age. These were further sub-divided into Sections, with NCOs provided by Boys in the Terms ahead of us. Thus we trained in different age groups (according to one's prevailing term) during the day and then returned to our administrative Platoons at night. There was a little bullying by the older boys in terms ahead of us, but the Platoon Sergeants were generally able to keep a close eye on things and were mostly very approachable.

I realise that none of this is Victorian, but to a large degree the regime was remarkably similar to that described by Victorian Boy recruits, albeit far better fed, so I hope that I can be indulged. Many of my fellow Boy soldiers came from quite deprived backgrounds and the Army was the first proper home that they had experienced. As an illustration of the pseudo Victorian culture that still prevailed at that time (the early 1970s), I can remember 6 particular features of life that have now gone for present-day soldiers:

1. As a hangover from pipeclaying equipment we were still coating canvas belts and anklets (aka (incorrectly) 'gaiters') with 'blanco' (a wet paste) and polishing the brass fixtures and fittings on a daily basis as mentioned above.

2. For the first 6-months and whenever under punishment, bedding (cotton sheets and thick woollen blankets) was made up daily into painstakingly precise folded blocks and beds only made up at night.

3. On top of lockers (i.e. wardrobes) was a folded 'top kit' that comprised a kit bag and personal web equipment, blocked off with wooden formers, mess tins and steel helmet. This was a very old practice that went back generations.

4. Separate boot, scrubbing and clothes brushes were issued and a holdall roll in which toothbrush and shaving equipment was contained (shaving was compulsory even at 15yrs).

5. 100% kit checks took place on a weekly basis with kits laid out on the bed in a rigidly set pattern ('deficiencies' and 'exchanges' had to then be made good at the QM's store with deductions from pay for anything lost through negligence (often theft)).

6. Within lockers all tins (shoe polish etc) were scraped free of paint and polished with metal cleaner, canvas plimsolls were blackened and brush polished, and all clothing, including issued underwear, folded to precise measurements using wooden or cardboard formers. Only two sets of civilian clothes were permitted, one smart and one casual (there was no room in the locker for more).

The group photo that I enclose shows Boy gunners of the Depot RA, together with their instructors (seated) at Woolwich between the wars, which fits nicely with your account. I have this in a much larger format if anyone would like it.
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Maureene » 03 May 2014 04:29

A very interesting account Frogsmile. Thanks for posting it.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby susancammas » 01 Feb 2015 13:20

Good morning

I have had a look at the exchanges concerning recruitement but can't find the information I'm looking for.

I understand that some boys/men managed to enlist by fibbing about their age, but what was the "official" recruitment age for the RHA? and were there any special qualifications (physical or academic)?

Can anybody help?

Thanks
Susan
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Frogsmile » 01 Feb 2015 15:15

susancammas wrote:Good morning

I have had a look at the exchanges concerning recruitement but can't find the information I'm looking for.

I understand that some boys/men managed to enlist by fibbing about their age, but what was the "official" recruitment age for the RHA? and were there any special qualifications (physical or academic)?

Can anybody help?

Thanks
Susan


There were two stages of entry, boy and adult:

1. Boys. Boys joined in accordance with the statutory school leaving age once it was introduced, but before that their age could even be in single digits.

2. Adults. Adults joined from age 18 (later changed to 17.5), but at various times, usually in war this has changed upwards by a year.

3. Education. There were no educational limits at that time as long as a man could make his mark in lieu of a signature. It was for this reason that all men had to attend the regimental school until they had achieved their third class Army Certificate of Education. By the late 1890s this was no longer necessary as most men had attended the new statutory schooling and were mostly literate and numerate to a basic standard. Men who could read and write well had better promotion prospects providing they were also abstemious and sober.

N.B. Any previous service with the Militia had to be declared and apprentices were not permitted to enlist until they had completed their period of indenture. To contravene either of these was an offence. Desertion and then re-enlistment using an assumed name was common, in order to keep claiming the cash bounty for enlistment. This was of course fraudulent and punishable with a prison sentence. During the earlier periods of your grandfathers service birth records were not as well maintained as today and young men could and did state falsely their age if it meant any advantage to them when enlisting.
Last edited by Frogsmile on 03 Feb 2015 11:08, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.

Postby Peter » 03 Feb 2015 08:09

Susan,

There were different physical requirements:

Certain corps being more difficult to provide with recruits than either cavalry or infantry of the line, by reason of a special standard of physique, or of technical qualifications, recruiting sergeants and others are instructed to adopt a regular sequence, so long as these special corps stand in need of men, in recommending corps, &c., to intending recruits, viz. : —

(a) The Foot Guards, Royal Artillery, and Royal Engineers;

(b) The territorial regiment of the district

(c) The regiments for which special exertions are required to obtain recruits.

(d) Any corps for which the regimental district is allowed to recruit, as notified from time to time.

(e) "General Service Cavalry," and "General Service Infantry."


Goodenough, WH, & Dalton, JC, The Army Book for the British Empire, London, H.M. Stationery Office, 1893, p 324

1862

The standard heights for the various arms are thus —

Cavalry,
Life Guards, and Horse Guards, 5 ft. 10 in. to 6 ft.
Heavy, 5 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 11 in.
Medium, 5 ft. 7 in. to 5 ft. 9 in.
Light, 5 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft. 8 in.

Artillery,
Gunners, minimum 5 ft. 7 in.
Drivers, 5 ft. 4 in. to 5 ft. 6 in.

Infantry,
Guards, minimum 5 ft. 8½ in.
Line, minimum 5 ft. 6 in.

Recruits for the cavalry, gunners in the artillery, sappers and infantry of the line, from 5 ft. 6 in. to 5ft. 8 in. in height, are required to measure 33 inches round the chest ; from 5 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 10 in. 34 inches; and those over 5 ft. 10 in. 35 inches.

Drivers in the artillery and engineers' train, men of the military and rifle battalions, must measure 34 inches round the chest.

(General Order, dated Horse Guards, 14th January 1862)

1886

Cavalry,
Heavy, 5 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 11in.
Medium, 5 ft. 7 in. to 5 ft. 9 in.
Light, 5 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft. 8 in.

Artillery,
Gunners, minimum 5 ft. 6 in.
Drivers, 5 ft. 4 in. to 5 ft. 6 in.

Infantry,
Guards, minimum 5 ft. 8 in.
Line, minimum 5 ft. 4 in.

(General Order, dated Horse Guards, (reported in The Times:) 21st January 1886)
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