Belfast Recruiting


Sept 1914




All was in readiness at the Old Town Hall for the reception of Ulster’s latest recruits to his Majesty's forces. Military officers rubbed shoulders with the officers of the Ulster Volunteer Forces, whose principal leaders were prominently in evidence, including General Richardson, K.C.B, Colonel Couchman, D.S.O, Colonel Hackett Pain, C.B, and Captain Seriven, while the local medical gentlemen who had responded to the appeal for doctors to conduct the necessary physical tests were chatting in groups, awaiting the arrival of the North Belfast men.

Here was an eminent professor, with measuring tape over his shoulder, and there a leading practitioner, with stethoscope bulging from his side-pocket.


The men marched round to the back of the hall, being admitted in batches, and the first-all special service men-tramped in single file shortly before eleven o'clock.  All underwent a strict medical examination. They marched along the corridor to the right, on the ground floor, into a room where their U.V.F. cards were examined, and where they stripped to the waist, and removed shoes and socks.  Then in turn they passed through a series of rooms where various stages of the physical tests were applied, each man carrying his "togs" as he went, like so many swimmers interrupted in their dressing operations and hurriedly obliged to move their quarters elsewhere.




The Volunteers were all in excellent spirits, and submitted to the flitting process in the best of good humor.  After stripping in the "card room" the first step was across the corridor into the "paddock" department, a large compartment dotted with weighing machines against the walls. Here the height and weight of recruits were registered while a sight test was also applied.

The door of No 5 room- along the other corridor to the left-bore the inscription- "Heart, Lungs, Legs, feet, hernia, and varicose veins"-an intimation suggestive of the nature of the examination which was carried out therein by the group of medical gentlemen stationed in that department.


A couple of rooms were devoted to this important section of the examination process to expedite the operations, so that the next stage was reached in room No 5 where the colour of the eyes ,hair, the complexion, any body marks, were duly noted down by the staff of special clerks who sat around the tables. On emerging from room 5 the recruits passed upstairs into what was formerly the Council Chamber of the City Corporation, where they completed what must have been to them a strange and novel circuit.  Here was another numerous staff of clerks seated along forms, a group of civil magistrates and the approving military officers.  It was here that the attestation forms with their numerous queries-as inquisitive in point of personal detail as an insurance company's interrogations-were filled in.


Name, place of birth, age, trade or calling, address, former service (if any), religious denomination,etc,etc, had all to be registered, and other inquiries almost innumerable to be satisfied before the oath was administered by the magistrate, and solemnly taken by the volunteer. The recruit by holding up his hand or taking the Bible, made the following vow:-




Oath was administered.

I,-------/---------  swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George the Fifth, his Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend his Majesty, his Heirs, and Successors, in Person, Crown, and dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, and of the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God.

The first magistrates on duty were Messrs, J, S, Shaw, R.E. Herdman, J. J. Wilson, and James M'Creery, but these were relieved by other gentlemen through the day, Dr William Gibson, of Mountpottinger, who was present all day kindly undertaking the duties of "magisterial whip."


 Ex-R.I.R. Man leads the way.


The first U.V.F. man to enter the attestation room a recruit and emerge a soldier was William Hanna (44), of 42 Brussels Street,

To describe the same volunteer as a recruit is correct, yet paradoxical, for Hanna is a veteran, to whom the experiences of the hour came not as a novelty. He is an ex- Royal Irish Rifleman, who had previously served his country in the battlefield of South Africa and is ready to serve it again as he showed by his action and example to-day.

The first duty of the newly-enrolled soldiers was not an unpleasant one. It was to call in the pay office in the ground floor and receive two days' allowances, amounting to 3s 6d or 1s 9d per day. He then passed outside and will receive instructions as to the hour of departure on Saturday for Ballykinlar, where the men will proceed by special train. It was inevitable; of course, that a percentage of the men volunteering were unable to satisfy the physical requirements, but the proportion of rejections was comparatively small.


When a man failed to come up to requisite standard in any respect he did not precede further, but re-donned his clothing and left a keenly-disappointed man. It may be mentioned that the medical gentlemen lending their professional services held a meeting on Wednesday and arranged the hours of their duty in reliefs, so that their ordinary practices would suffer only the minimum of inconvenience. Amongst the professional gentlemen on duty this morning were Professor Sinclair, and Surgeon Kirk. Major Drage, the chief recruiting officer in Belfast, was the principal superintending officer at the Old Town Hall, and was assisted by a large staff; while the Ulster Unionist officials and officers co-operated in every possible way. Amongst the military approving officers before whom the Volunteers appeared immediately after swearing in process were Colonel T.E. Hickman, D.S.O, and the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton.

Recruiting Arrangements.

Recruiting proceeded briskly throughout the entire day, and the hall will be kept open until ten o'clock at night for purposes of enlistment. Provisionally, the arrangements for the various battalions are as follows:-


North Belfast -To-day and Saturday. 11th-12th

East Belfast - Monday and Tuesday. 14th-15th

West Belfast - Wednesday and Thursday 16th-17th

South Belfast - Friday and Saturday. 18th-19th

Young Citizens' Volunteers- Monday and Tuesday of following week.


It should be noted however, that these arrangements are tentative and are subject to alteration in accordance with the rate of enrolment during the next few days.

The period of enlistment is for three years or longer in accordance with the duration of the war, but if the war be over before that period the men will be returned and discharged at the earliest possible moment.

The Old Town Hall, to whose history as a building another chapter was thus added to-day, remained a center of interest and animation all the afternoon. There are scores of North Belfast men who on account of brevity of the notice were unable to participate in to-day's memorable and stirring parade, who attended at the hall later and became soldiers of the King. Sir Edward Carson, who had no other engagements of a public nature to-day, remained in the building the greater part of the afternoon.


The Uniform


Recruiting for the Ulster Division for Kitchener’s Army began early September 1914 and already 17,000 have been clothed and equipped from Ulster depot. This has been done; I have reason to believe, at a vast saving to the War office. There has been no graft; no placing of contracts for any reward, and the manner in which the department has been conducted adds another example to the many which Ulster has given during the past completeness of detail and thoroughness of organization.


There has never been a complaint about delay in the fitting out of the force. For example, the recruit is duly enlisted and leaves the recruiting station for the clothing department. When he enters he is asked where he wishes his civilian clothes sent. An address being given, these are dispatched free of charge to the recruit, and in half an hour he leaves the building in full soldier rig-out, complete to the

smallest detail. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Above. Belfast,Crumlin Rd Recruitng Office.


In one department he gets his shirts and other necessary articles of apparel, in another he is supplied with his uniform, in a third with belt and puttees, in a fourth with boots, in a fifth with kit-bag, and lastly he is supplied with a hold-all containing razor,soap,needles and thread, and every necessary requisite.


When one think of the moral effect of being able to fit out the new recruit within an hour of his enlistment, one can understand the pride with which the recruit will display to his own folk the uniform which he has received so promptly. One cannot feel surprised at the splendid spirit which pervades the ranks of the Ulster Division. The Ulster Volunteers have been determined enemies in the past of all those who have been hostile to Great Britain. They were formed into a force not of aggression but of defense. When this ghastly war broke out these men of Ulster racked as they were with the troubles and worries of the grim fight for which they had prepared, gibed at and flouted as they were by many, sank their bitterness of spirit when the Empire was in danger and came forward in their thousands to fight for King and country.


During the month of August 1914, before the formation of the Ulster Division several thousand Ulster Volunteers enlisted in the Army. Your own crack Territorial corps, the Glasgow Highlanders got a few and the Blackwatch has enlisted over 150 recruits for its 6th Battalion in Belfast alone. The spirit in Ulster just now is as keen as that of any portion of his Majesty’s dominions for a successful prosecution of the war, and the people of Ulster take a great pride in their Ulster Division, and are assured that it will gain laurels for itself and Ulster on the plains of Belgium and France.