Laggards of Mid Lanark

By the end of 1915, the initial earlier waves of support from men enlisting for WW1 active service had started to fall away slightly. The horrors of battles being reported back to Britain and realisation of so many deaths and that this was going to take longer than thought, meant fewer men were signing up. Boy, were they needed!

In Lanarkshire, an idea was suggested that a travelling tramcar rented by military staff, could visit towns and enlist men ready to serve. In theory it was a good idea. A mobile recruitment office out for a whole week could potentially attract hundreds of men to army service. However, in practice, it was a disaster.

The immediate response from the recruiting tram appeal was not great. Touring through the populous centres of Mid-Lanark on behalf of the 6th Cameronians had been none too encouraging.

At Larkhall, Blantyre. Cambuslang, and Hamilton there has been nothing to complain of in the interest and enthusiasm which have been aroused by the car but the tangible result is that only two recruits of enlistable age in all those towns had been sworn in! Two men.

One surprising thing from the endeavour was how vocal woman had been about the car. They almost forcibly expressed themselves regarding the attitude of those of military age who were still hanging back, even taking opportunity to shame those menfolk still not signing up! This was fuelled by so many of their husbands, brothers, sons, cousins and uncles already away fighting, so why would other men want to stay at home?

The tram car ran during the last week of August 1915 and the press continued to report stories of the women of Mid-Lanark who stirred the laggards into activity.

Recruitment was an issue in the second half of WW1. It has been remarked by more than one recruiting officer that it would not be difficult to raise a battalion composed of Lanarkshire colliers. Age clearly mattered and another surprising effect was older men trying to sign up. One man who boarded the car at Larkhall was 55 years of age and his disappointment on being refused was clear. It was not uncommon for men of a certain older age to volunteer themselves if it meant putting their sons on a noble path which distanced itself from laziness or even cowardice.

The recruitment tram project failed spectacularly.

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