The Country believed that the War would be over by Christmas; Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum did not.
The day after Britain declared war on Germany, Lord Kitchener took over as Minister for War. On the same day, 5 August 1914, he issued orders for the expansion of the Army. He did this, as unlike the general public consensus of the time, he did not believe that the War would be ‘over by Christmas’, he believed that it would be long and costly. An insightful decision that was arguably vital to winning the War in the long run.
Kitchener decided to expand the regular Army by enlisting a new contingent of wartime volunteers. Each man would sign up for new “general service”. These Service terms dictated that every man who signed up would be bound to serve for three years, or for the duration of the War (whichever was the longer). On 6 August, Kitchener received his approval and Parliament sanctioned a long-term increase in the size of the Army.
On 11 August 1914 the call was made for the first 100,000 men to join this new Army. ‘Your King and Country need you: a call to arms’ explained the new terms of service. The target figure of 100,000 was reached within the first two weeks of the call being sent out. A follow-up order from the Army (324) on 21 August 1914 detailed how these new ‘volunteers’ would be organised. They were to be structured into six new Divisions that would be collectively known as Kitchener’s Army or K1.
Christmas 1914 duly arrived and there was no ceasefire in sight, and the casualties had started to mount. In 1915, the call was made to look for accommodation to house these severely injured young men that could not be cared for in their homes, but needed to be discharged from hospital to free up bed space. It was at this time that The Royal Star & Garter Homes was established.
The first of the K1 Divisions started to move abroad from May 1915 and by the end of the year many Divisions and Brigades of the new Armies were re-organised. This took place through the exchange of new units for those of the original Army. The idea behind this was that the old guard, the regular Army, would ‘stiffen’ the new Army battalions. By late 1915, the regular battalions had a large contingent of wartime volunteers from the divisions of Kitchener’s Army that had replaced the losses amongst the professional soldiers.
With mounting casualties at home and abroad, The Royal Star & Garter Homes opened its doors in 1916 and has been caring for the nation’s military family ever since. Back then, the average age of residents was 22, today it is 87. The Charity has continued to evolve over the years, but the core ethos of helping residents to live life to the full is something that has, and will always remain the same.
Chris Baker. (Unkown). Was my soldier in “Kitchener’s Army”?. Available: http://www.1914-1918.net/kitcheners.htm (archived 2nd October 2017).