Devonshire Street Recruiting Office
7 Devonshire Street
In 1913, 7 Devonshire Street was home to T. Baty and Sons, cabinet makers, but during the Great War this building played a crucial role in Carlisle’s war effort. Upon the outbreak of war in 1914 there was a clear need to recruit men to serve in the armed forces and Lord Kitchener’s famous ‘Your Country Needs You’ campaign urged young men to sign up. An initial rush of recruits strained the resources at Carlisle Castle, the headquarters of the Border Regiment, and extra recruiting offices were deemed necessary.
The recruitment office on Devonshire Street opened on 21 September 1914 and began enlisting recruits a day later. Also in September 1914, Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, raised the 11th Service Batttalion of the Border Regiment, otherwise known as the ‘Lonsdale Pals’. Early recruitment to the regiment was slow, by mid-October 1914 only 345 men had been recruited, falling short of the requirement for 500 men. Carlisle Citizens' League began a recruitment campaign in the city, and across the county. Canon Rawnsley, a prominent clergyman and local politician, remarked:
“We in our quiet districts in the north have not yet realised what this war is about"
From late 1914 the reality of the war would become clear to the people of Carlisle. In October hundreds of Belgian refugees arrived in the city and were welcomed and housed by individuals across the city. In December the German navy shelled towns in the North East, hitting Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool. The local press became more vocal in their condemnation of German actions and stirring patriotic fervour in the region. By early 1915 recruitment was steady, many of Carlisle’s young men volunteered their services to the Lonsdales, who were seen frequently in the city, marching or carrying out exercises at their training base at Blackwell Racecourse.
However it was still felt that recruitment to the Lonsdales was slow in comparison to other regiments. In November 1915, W. Monkhouse wrote from the camp at Blackwell “Recruiting for the Lonsdales is still very bad the Border Regt. getting about ten men to each one we get… men going to Devonshire St. & wishing to join a Border Regmt are not persuaded to join the Lonsdales … The Lonsdale Bn is also out of favour at present as the 11th is still in England & I think we might do much better if we could advertise that 1000 men were required for the 12th Border Regmt and open up an office under that title”
The Lonsdales would leave for France later in the month, just over 1000 men left Carlisle on 17 November 1915. They were bound for the Somme and arrived at the front line in late December. 800 troops from the Lonsdale Battalion were engaged on the first day of fighting in the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. In this one day the battalion suffered more than 500 casualties, including 23 of 26 officers.
The Military Service Bill of January 1916 introduced conscription for single men aged 18 - 41, this was extended to include married men in May 1916. After this point recruitment would still take place, but recruits were assigned to regiments rather than having a choice of which battalion to join.