The Spectator

The Spectator at war: The inalienable right to enlist

The Spectator, 29 August 1914:

“WE need all the recruits we can get,” said the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, and he said no more than every thinking man knows to be true. We need, not one hundred thousand, but at the very least five hundred thousand men, and as many more as will volunteer. That is the meaning of Mr. Asquith’s statement. Unfortunately, we have hitherto not gone the right way, but the wrong way, to get them. Under a voluntary system if you want half a million men you ought to ask for a million. No other way will certainly give you the proper result. When you are calling on men to make a great sacrifice, as soon as they think that other people have done the job, or nearly done it, and that there is no longer any fear of there being a failure in a necessary piece of work, being human, they hold back and wait till the need is more apparent. When the Government and Lord Kitchener came to the conclusion that they wanted at least five hundred thousand men, it was a still worse error to give the impression, as they did, that they were only asking for one hundred thousand. Can one wonder that, now the hundred thousand have been got, there is a very serious falling off in the flow of recruits? “You have got the men you asked for. What more do you want ? The job’s finished,” is the comment of the man in the street.

We are not, however, going to cry over spilt milk, and we fully realize that great allowance must be made for the War Office, burdened as they have been during the last three weeks with the need of mobilizing, equipping, and despatching the Expeditionary Force.

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