The Citizens’ Army League – First Pals Battalion – First wave of enthusiasm
The Citizens’ Army League was established at a meeting on the 3rd September 1914 to stimulate recruiting for the Army. The Executive met the next day and made an offer to raise a Battalion of Infantry. The aim of the League was to “raise, clothe, equip, feed, house, train and administer the Battalion until the Army Authorities were prepared formally to take it over.”
The recruitment of men started on the 8th September at the Mechanics Institute. “Enthusiasm ran high. Employers gave quite extraordinary encouragement, employees were keen, men in small businesses on their own account were ready and anxious to sacrifice their personal interests for the service of their country.”
Attestation began on the 20th September and “the training of the men began on the following day at the Manningham Lane Skating Rink which had been transformed into a first class headquarters at a cost of £450.”
By the 26th September a full Battalion of one thousand and sixty nine men had been formed. The title of the battalion was determined by the war office to be the 16th (service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford).
The League under constant direction from Army Authorities contracted all the clothing and personal necessaries for the men and the building and furnishing of a hutment camp at Skipton. They were impeded by contractor delays and bad weather respectively but by the end of the year they were fully clothed and entered into camp life in January 1915.
The Citizens’ Army League later went on to help form the Second Pals Battalion as well as helping recruitment for the Battalions reserves. Their scope widened further as the war went on to help recruitment of all local regiments until they were finally disbanded in March 1916 when the Military Service Act came into force.
Report of the work of the Bradford Citizens’ Army League in assisting recruiting for the Navy and Army for service in the European War from Sept 1914 to March 1916 (1916) Bradford