The Polytechnic and World War One: Recruitment
"[I] appeal with confidence to every member of the Polytechnic to take his or her share in the heavy burden which has fallen on the nation." JEK Studd, President of the Polytechnic
A key feature of early local recruitment drives was the creation of ‘pals battalions’ promising that men could serve with their friends. By November 1914 the Poly had already filled 2 regiments – the 12th London and the Kensington. In addition, by this date they had also established the Polytechnic Volunteer Training Corps with 400 new recruits comprising men who couldn’t enlist or were only able to fight on the Home Front. By April 1915 the Poly had over 1,600 men on active service.
The senior management actively publicised recruitment in the Polytechnic Magazine, whether it was for the Territorial Forces regiments, the Voluntary Training Corps, British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment or the Polytechnic Cadet Corps (for boys not old enough to fight). Alfred West’s Our Navy and Army films were shown daily at the Polytechnic’s cinema throughout the war to encourage enlistment, and recruitment marches took place on Regent Street. By the end of the war at least 4,800 Poly members had joined His Majesty’s Forces and at least 858 passed through the Training Corps, many of whom later enlisted.