On this day - March 2nd

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Conscription introduced

As 1915 neared its end, and the terrible toll of WW1 casualties mounted, even the five million British volunteers raised thus far were not enough for the generals as they calculated their loss/kill ratios. Conscription was deemed necessary for the successful prosecution of the war, so on March 2nd 1916, the Military Service (Compulsion for Unmarried Men) Act came into force.

Until that time, Britain's ability to rely on a volunteer army had been a source of pride, the stream of willing recruits lauded by Kitchener and Asquith.

When Prime Minister Asquith introduced the Compulsion Bill in the Commons it was noted how quietly he spoke, and that his speech was very limited in content.

At first only single men (other than widowers or clergymen) between the ages of 18 and 41 were called up; by May this was extended to married men; by the end of the war the age had been increased, with talk of clergymen losing their exemption.

Battles such as the Somme and Ypres claimed hundreds of thousands of these men, led by Haig whose military 'genius' produced a strategy built around the enemy running out of soldiers before he did.

Today's question — what was the upper age limit for conscription by the end of the WW1?

Click here for the answer

By the end of the war the age had been increased to 51

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