The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
Including historical descriptions, maps and statistical analysis.

World War One


On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Britain had 247,432 regular troops. About 120,000 of these were in the British Expeditionary Army and the rest were stationed abroad. It was clear that more soldiers would be needed to defeat the German Army.


A man wishing to join the army could do so providing he passed certain physical tests and was willing to enlist for a number of years. The recruit had to be taller than 5 feet 3 inches and aged between 18 and 38 (although he could not be sent overseas until he was aged 19).

On his appointment as Secretary of State for War shortly after the declaration of the war, Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener issued a call for volunteers to increase the size of the army.

In August 1914 a new form of "short service" was introduced, under which a man could serve for "three years or the duration of the war, whichever the longer".

National Registration Act

By spring 1915 the flow of volunteer recruits was dwindling. The government, torn when it came to the question of compulsory military service, tried a half-way house scheme. The government passed the National Registration Act on 15 July 1915 as a step towards stimulating recruitment and to discover how many men between the ages of 15 and 65 were engaged in each trade. All those in this age range who were not already in the military were obliged to register, giving details of their employment details.

Your Country Needs You


The results of this census became available by mid-September 1915 : it showed there were almost 5 million males of military age who were not in the forces, of which 1.6m were in the "starred" (protected, high or scarce skill) jobs.

The Derby Scheme

On 11 October 1915 Lord Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruiting. He brought forward a programme five days later, often called the Derby Scheme although its official title was the Group Scheme, for raising the numbers. Men aged 18 to 40 were informed that under the scheme they could continue to enlist voluntarily or attest with an obligation to come if called up later on.

The Military Service Act 1916

Disappointed at the results of the Derby Scheme, the Government introduced the Military Service Act on 27 January 1916. All voluntary enlistment was stopped. All British males were now deemed to have enlisted on 2 March 1916 - that is, they were conscripted - if they were aged between 19 and 41 and resided in Great Britain (excluding Ireland) and were unmarried or a widower on 2 November 1915.

A system of appeals tribunals was established, to hear cases of men who believed they were disqualified on the grounds of ill-health, occupation or conscientious objection. Some trades were deemed to be vital to the war economy: the were called starred occupations

Recruitment in Clophill

This is information gleaned from the 'Ampthill News' for the period of the war. Click title to expand an item.

7th August, 1914

Lord Kitchener calls for 100,000 men to join British Army

Saturday, November 21, 1914

Young Scouts enlist

Saturday, November 28, 1914

Another young Scout enlists

Saturday, March 6, 1915

Fifty six men have enlisted

15 July 1915

The National Registration Act introduced

Saturday, August 21, 1915

Enumerators for Act appointed

Saturday October 2 1915

Recruiting meeting held

11 October 1915

The Derby Scheme

Saturday, October 23, 1915

Total enlisted rises to sixty six

Saturday, October 30, 1915

Recruitment meetings held on The Green and at the Cross Tree

Saturday November 6, 1915

Seventy now enlisted. Pressure on young men

Saturday, November 20, 1915

Recruiting drive attracts more

Saturday, December 4th 1915

The Derby Scheme gets results

Saturday December 11, 1915

The un-enlisted under pressure

Saturday , December 18, 1915

Some still "waiting to see"

27 January 1916

The Military Service Act

Saturday, February 19, 1916

More pressure on single men

Saturday, June 10, 1916

Military Service Tribunal applications

Saturday, June 24, 1916

Another Tribune appeal

Saturday, March 3, 1917

One hundred enlisted

Saturday, June 22, 1918

Three more enlist

Saturday, April 12, 1919

Re-enlisted after war ends