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'On War Service' inc Volunteers - WW1 (United Kingdom & Ireland)

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'On War Service' ...Including Volunteers

WW1 (United Kingdom & Ireland)

See also

World War One: United Kingdom & Ireland exercise HQ

World War One: Armed Forces - Channel Islands
World War One: Armed Forces - England
World War One: Armed Forces - Ireland
World War One: Armed Forces - Scotland
World War One: Armed Forces - Wales
Participating British Women

The purpose of this project is to include those who were employed On War Service in WW1 - people who were volunteers or served in the services listed below - and link them to the World War One: United Kingdom & Ireland HQ.

WIP (Please add any services not yet listed)


Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs)

Many men were VADs carrying out voluntary positions such as including nursing, transport duties, and the organisation of rest stations, working parties and auxiliary hospitals. Male detachments were almost entirely in charge of transporting sick and wounded soldiers from ambulance trains or ships to local hospitals. They also ferried patients between hospitals.

Male volunteers were also frequently sent to France to work as ambulance drivers, often coming under fire as they transported men away from the Front. Others were Red Cross ‘searchers' who interviewed the wounded in hospitals for information about fellow soldiers reported missing.

(Women VADs can be linked to World War One: Participating British Women

The Volunteer Training Corps

... voluntary home defence militia in the United Kingdom during World War I. There was a popular demand for a means of service for those men who were over military age or those with business or family commitments which made it difficult for them to volunteer for the armed services.
WIKI Volunteer Training Corps (World War I)

"... Britain relied entirely on a voluntary system of enlistment and many men still held to the Victorian principle that it was the task of professional troops to fight a war whilst voluntary militias provided for home defence. Combined with the perceived risk of a German invasion, this resulted in the spontaneous formation of illegal "town guards" and volunteer defence associations around the country, often organised by former Regular Army or Volunteer Force officers. The government was suspicious of this movement, seeing it as potentially diverting men from volunteering for the armed services. The enthusiasm was, however, unstoppable; by September 1914, a central committee had been formed and on 19 November 1914, a renamed Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps was recognised by the War Office. William Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough Lord William Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough] became the President of the Association and General Sir O'Moore Creagh VC was appointed the Military Advisor."


The War Office

The War Office was a department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence. The War Office was forerunner of today’s Ministry of Defence. It was the organisational machinery responsible to the Secretary of State for War (often known as the War Minister). It was responsible for all military matters and was advised by the Army Council. Naval affairs were the separate responsibility of the Admiralty.
During the First World War H H Asquith appointed Lord Kitchener as Secretary for War, making him the first and only soldier to hold the post. The War Office declined greatly in importance after the First World War

Army Council

The Army Council was increased by three Military Members during the war:

  • The Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff in December, 1915;
  • The Director-General of Military Aeronautics in February, 1916, who ceased to be a member upon the institution of an Air Ministry;
  • The Permanent British Military Representative at the Supreme War Council, Versailles, in February, 1918, who ceased to be a member shortly afterwards, his name being omitted in the Letters Patent of 20th April, 1918;

and by two civilian members:

  • The Director-General of Movements and Railways in February, 1917, and
  • The Surveyor-General of Supply in May, 1917., a post which had been anticipated in December 1914, by the appointment of an additional Civilian Member of the Army Council to supervise Army Contracts.

Three Ministries sprang from the War Office (and the Admiralty) sprang three Ministries.

  • The Ministry of Munitions of War,
  • The Ministry of Pensions
  • The Air Ministry The Ministry of National Service in 1917 took over the task of obtaining men for the Army from the Adjutant-General’s Department (SEE BELOW)

Ministry of Munitions of War

The Minister of Munitions was a British government position created during the First World War to oversee and co-ordinate the production and distribution of munitions for the war effort. The position was created in response to the Shell Crisis of 1915 when there was much public criticism of the shortage of shells available.

Ministers of Munitions, 1915–1921

Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministry of Munitions, 1916–1919

Parliamentary and Financial Secretaries to the Ministry of Munitions, 1918–1921


The Ministry of Pensions

The Ministry of Pensions was created in 1916 to handle the payment of war pensions to former members of the Armed Forces and their dependants.


The Air Ministry

By 1916 the lack of co-ordination of the Army's Royal Flying Corps and the Navy's Royal Naval Air Service. The War Committee meeting on 15 February 1916 decided to establish a standing joint naval and military committee to co-ordinate both the design and the supply of materiel for the two air services. This committee was titled the Joint War Air Committee, and its chairman was Lord Derby.] It was also at the meeting on 15 February that Curzon proposed the creation of an Air Ministry.

The Joint War Air Committee was composed as follows:

  • Chairman - Lord Derby
  • Director of Air Services (Admiralty) - Rear Admiral C L Vaughn Lee
  • Superintendent of Aircraft Design (Admiralty) - Commodore M F Sueter
  • Squadron Commander W Briggs
  • Director of Military Aeronautics (War Office) - Major-General Sir David Henderson
  • Lieutenant-Colonel E L Ellington

Advisory Members were also appointed as required.


The Ministry of National Service


Summary of War Office departments

(With expanded notes following)

Office of the Secretary of State

  • Military Secretary's Department (1870–1964)

Department of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary

  • Directorate-General of Lands (?–1923)
  • Directorate of Lands (1923– )
  • Directorate-General of the Territorial and Volunteer Forces (?–1921)
  • Directorate-General of the Territorial Army (1921– )

Central Department (Department of the Secretary)

  • Department of the Chaplain-General
  • Department of the Judge Advocate-General
  • Publicity Section/Information Section

Department of the Financial and Parliamentary Secretary (Finance Department)

  • Directorate of Army Contracts (1924– )

Imperial General Staff

  • Directorate of Military Intelligence (?–1922)
  • Directorate of Military Operations (?–1922)
  • Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence (1922– )
  • Directorate of Military Training (1922– )
  • Directorate of Army Staff Duties

Department of the Adjutant-General

  • Directorate-General of Graves Registration and Enquiries (?–1921)
  • Directorate-General of Army Medical Services
  • Directorate of Mobilisation
  • Directorate of Organisation
  • Directorate of Army Personal Services
  • Directorate of Prisoners of War (?–1921)
  • Directorate of Recruiting and Organisation

Department of the Quartermaster-General

  • Directorate of Equipment and Ordnance Stores (?–1927)
  • Directorate of Movements
  • Directorate of Quartering
  • Directorate of Remounts
  • Directorate of Supplies and Transport
  • Department of the Controller of Surplus Stores and Salvage
  • Department of the Surveyor-General of Supply (?–1921)
  • Directorate-General of Army Veterinary Services
  • Directorate of Works (1927– )

Department of the Master-General of the Ordnance

  • Directorate of Artillery
  • Directorate of Factories
  • Directorate of Fortifications and Works (?–1927)
  • Directorate of Ordnance Services (1927– )
  • Department of the Chief Technical Examiner for Works Services

Directorate of Military Aeronautics (1913–1918)


Expanded notes

The Secretary of State for War

From March 1914: Rt Hon. Herbert Asquith (who held this position while he was also Prime Minister)
5 August 1914: Field Marshal Rt Hon. Horatio Herbert Kitchener
6 July 1916: Rt Hon. David Lloyd George
10 December 1916: Rt Hon. Edward Villiers Stanley, Earl of Derby
18 April 1918: Rt Hon. Sir Alfred Milner

The Permanent Under-Secretary of State for War (Civil Member of the Army Council)

At the outbreak of war in 1914 questions relating to the Territorial Force and individual members there of were transferred to the branches of the Office dealing with similar questions relating to the Regular Army and Special Reserve. The Territorial Force Directorate, however, retained the bulk of the Military Secretarial work of the Force.

Under-Secretaries of State

The Secretary of the War Office

In the Department of the Secretary a large section was necessary soon after the outbreak of war to deal with administration of casualties of the rank and file.

October 1916, a second (acting) Assistant Secretary was appointed, and a further temporary appointment, Assistant to the Secretary, was made in the same month, with the special charge of a central statistical department to collect and collate information bearing on the general state of the Army as a whole and of the Armies in the different theatres of war.

Secretary of the War Office throughout the war was Sir Reginald H. Brade See Reginald Brade No Geni Profile

Department of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

After the outbreak of war the requirements of Press, Postal and Cable Censorship as well as of Defence Security Intelligence caused an expansion of the Department of the CIGS.

Dec. 1914 - Home Defence was separated from from the Military Training Section and a Directorate formed under a Director of Home Defence.

Dec. 1915 - a Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff was created and appointed a Member of the Army Council.

Jan 1916 - a Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces was appointed. The Department of the CIGS was reorganised, some duties connected with Home Defence and Training were transferred to General Head-Quarters, Home Forces. The appointments of Director of Home Defence and Director of Military Training were abolished, the Director of Military Operations, whose duties had included Operations and Intelligence, became responsible for Operations only, and the Director of Military Intelligence, responsible only for Intelligence, was added.

The duties of the General Staff were arranged under three Directors: -

1. - Director of Staff Duties, in charge of -

  • staff duties,
  • training (except for the duties transferred to General Head-Quarters, Home Forces),
  • war organisation and
  • fighting efficiency;

2. - Director of Military Operations, responsible for -

  • strategical considerations in connection with the military operations of the Great War;
  • records of armed strength and fighting efficiency of British and Allied Land Forces;
  • liaison with Allied Armies;
  • home defence policy;
  • collection, collation and dissemination of information regarding India and British Overseas Dominions and Colonies;

France, Belgium, Russia and Italy maintained “Military Missions” in London, and officers of the armies of these countries were attached to the Military Operations Directorate for liaison duties.

3 - Director of Military Intelligence in charge of -

  • the collection, collation and dissemination of information concerning foreign countries,
  • Defence Security Intelligence, and
  • Press, Postal, and Cable Censorship. A Deputy to the Director of Military Intelligence was appointed and called Director of Special Intelligence, the title changed in March, 1918, to Deputy Director of Military Intelligence. A Deputy Director of Military Operations was appointed 1st May, 1918.

1917, as a result of the increased use of Tanks in war, a Director-General, Tank Corps, was appointed under the CIGS with charge of questions relating to the supply and employment of tanks and the personnel of the Tank Corps. The Directorate continued to 1st August, 1918, when its work was taken over by branches of the Staff Duties, Artillery and Organisation Directorate.

In May, 1918, a new section of the Staff Duties Directorate was formed to deal with questions of policy and to co-ordinate all questions concerning the Signal Service, an adjustment of duties being made with the Military Intelligence Directorate.

In August, 1918, a Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Education) was appointed to direct and co-ordinate into one authorized educational training scheme the various schemes of educational work which had for some time been unofficially in operation among the Armies at home and abroad.

Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) (1st Military Member of the Army Council)

1912: General Sir Charles Douglas
1914: Lt Gen Sir James Wolfe Murray
1915: General Sir Archibald James Murray, GCB, GCMG, CVO, DSO Lt Gen Sir Archibald Murray]
1915: ]
Lt Gen (Temp Gen) Sir William Robertson1918: Lt Gen (Temp Gen) Sir Henry Wilson See,_1st_Baronet Sir Henry Wilson, 1st Baronet No Geni Profile

The Adjutant General (2nd Military Member of the Army Council)

In August, 1914, the Directorate of Recruiting and Organisation was divided into two Directorates -

  • Recruiting
  • Organisation.

As then reconstituted the Directorate of Organisation was responsible for organisation and establishments (other than “war”) and for the administration of “other ranks” of Cavalry, Artillery, Engineers, and Infantry, together with the organisation and administration of Record Offices.

Adjutants General

February, 1915, a Director of Prisoners of War was appointed to deal with the policy and administration of enemy Prisoners of War. A Prisoners of War Information Bureau, as provided by Article 14 of the Regulation respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, had been created in August, 1914, to collect information from internment camps and to keep all records connected with those interned.

in July, 1915, a Graves Registration Commission was established at General Headquarters in France for the purpose of registering and marking all graves behind the line.

April, 1916, the control of the Territorial Force Medical Service was transferred from the Director-General of the Territorial Force to the Director-General, Army Medical Service.

September, 1917, the functions of the Directorate of Recruiting which were not transferred to the Ministry of National Service, were divided into two sections:

  • dealing with “intake” of men (not at first under any Director) was, in December, placed under the Director of Organisation
  • "discharges", transfers to the reserve of soldiers for work of national importance, and all questions connected with the civil employment of ex-soldiers, was taken over by the Directorate of Mobilisation. Later, the substitution of war-worn soldiers for fit civilians still in civil life was added to its duties.

At the end of May, 1918, the Directorate of Mobilisation was placed under a Director-General responsible to the Under Secretary of State.

The Quartermaster General (3rd Military Member of the Army Council)

The Quartermaster General throughout the war was Major General Sir John Cowans

In September, 1914, the Directorate of Supplies and Quartering was divided into two Directorates -

  • Quartering
  • Supplies (later named Supplies and Transport).

The office of Deputy Quarter-Master General was revived in March, 1916, combining the duties with those of the Director of Quartering. In the autumn of 1917 the two offices were separated, the Deputy Quarter-Master-General assuming also the functions of Inspector-General of Communications, the Forces in Great Britain.

February, 1915, a Board of Control of Regimental Institutes was formed to deal with all questions of administration in connection with Garrison and Regimental Institutes at home.

April, 1916, the canteen contractor was eliminated, and the powers and duties of the Board of Control were taken over by the Army Canteen Committee, which was later expanded into the Navy and Army Canteen Board, and subsequently again expanded into the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes.

In the autumn of 1917 a civilian official was appointed to act as the sole channel of communication between the War Office and the Navy and Army Canteen Board and the Expeditionary Force Canteen.

The Master General of the Ordnance (4th Military Member of the Army Council)

Early in the war an Assistant Director of Artillery was appointed to take charge of a branch formed to deal with the provision of high explosives in conjunction with the Committee on the Supply of High Explosives. In April, 1915, contract business relating to warlike stores was transferred to the Department of the Master-General of the Ordnance under the Director of Artillery.

Master Generals of the Ordnance -

The Director General of Military Aeronautics

At the outbreak of war the Director-General of Military Aeronautics, though not a member of the Army Council was directly responsible to the Secretary of State, but in February 1916, owing to the rapid growth and expansion of the Royal Flying Corps, he was given a seat on the Army Council.

Director Generals of Military Aeronautics

The Finance Member (Civil Member of the Army Council)

From December, 1914, to August, 1915, control of the Army Contracts Directorate passed from the Finance Member of the “Additional Civil Member” of the Army Council, an appointment created for the Supervision of Army Contracts. In August, 1915, control of the Directorate reverted to the Finance Member, but was again handed over, in May, 1917, to the newly created Surveyor-General of Supply.

Finance Members

  • 1914: Mr H. T. Baker
  • – : Mr H. W. Forster

The Director General of Movements and Railways

Questions connected with railways and transport belonged at the outbreak of war to the Department of the Quarter-Master General, but the growth of the work led eventually to the creation of a new department. Before the war there had been a Director of Transport and Movements, and afterwards Transport duties were undertaken by the Director of Supplies and Transport.

1915 - a Director of Movements was appointed.

August, 1916, Sir Eric Geddes was entrusted with an investigation into the transport arrangements connected with the British Expeditionary Force both in this country and overseas,
25th September, 1916, all papers and letters relating both to railway stores and establishments for overseas and to Inland Water Transport were passed to Sir Eric Geddes He was shortly afterwards detailed to act as deputy to the Quarter-Master-General in matters of transport with the title of Director-General of Military Railways, and was appointed also to direct and organise such services in France under the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the title of Inspector-General of Transportation. The supply of railway material and personnel and of Inland Water Transport was also handed over to him.

January, 1917, the Director-General of Military Railways ceased to be a deputy to the Quarter-Master-General and was authorised to report direct to the Secretary of State and to attend those meetings of the Army Council at which matters pertaining to his Department were under discussion. The Director of Movements was to report to him. The duty of setting all questions affecting the priority of moves of personnel, stores and supplies required to meet the demands of the various forces in the field was left to the Quarter-Master-General, the Adjutant-General and the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff in consultation, the Director-General of Military Railways being responsible for carrying out the movements.

March, 1917, the title of Director-General of Military Railways was changed to Director-General of Movements and Railways, and the holder became a civilian member of the Army Council. He dealt with all questions of movements at home and to and from the various theatres of war and elsewhere and the responsibility for all demands for transportation of personnel and material made from overseas. A separate Inspector-General of Transportation in the War Office for all theatres of war was appointed and charged with the general supervision of transportation by rail and water and through docks in the various theatres of war, so far as supervision was exercised by the War Office. He was to report to the Army Council through the Director-General of Movements and Railways.

Director Generals of Movements and Railways

The Surveyor General of Supply

References, Sources and Further Reading

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