The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)

'Sans Peur'   Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders red and white dicing 'Ne Obliviscaris'


A Soldier's View of Service in a Scottish Regiment

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)
a.k.a. "The Thin Red Line"

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders crest

Background Information to National Service in the British Armed Forces

On 27th April 1939, the British Parliament passed the Military Training Act. Under the Act, men aged 20 and 21 were conscripted to complete six months' military training.

By the end of 1939, conscription into the armed forces saw more than one and a half million men recruited for military service. The British Army took just over a million, while the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force took an equal share of the remainder.

A Schedule of Reserved Occupations was published by Parliament which protected young men in specified key occupations from being conscripted into the armed forces.

By the end of 1940, more than 200,000 men qualified under this Schedule for Deferment of National Service.

When the Second World War broke-out, Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act. This Act required that all men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable for conscription into the armed forces. A condition of the Act required that single men be called-up before married men.

Part of the legislation allowed for anyone to object to military service on moral grounds. Each case for objection was brought before a local Military Tribunal.

However, these Tribunals showed a wide variation in attitude towards these young men who became known as "conscientious objectors", and there was a substantial imbalance in the numbers of men having their case rejected.

It was reported that one of the Tribunal chairmen rejected an appeal on the grounds that, "Even God is not a pacifist, for he kills us all in the end".

Conscription of so many men created a severe labour shortage in the country, and on the 18th December 1941, an amended version of the National Service Act was passed by Parliament.

This legislation required unmarried women aged between 20 and 30 to be conscripted for essential specified work to help in the war effort.

Married women were later included, but pregnant women and mothers with young children were exempt.

  The vital work that women did included:-
  • aircraft factories
  • civil defence
  • driving trains
  • munitions factories
  • nursing
  • operating anti-aircraft guns
  • road transport
  • tank factories
At the end of the War, women were no longer required to be conscripted, but legislation required that men continue to be conscripted for a 2 year period of military service. The conditions previously set for deferment of National Service still applied.

Conscription of our young men to complete their National Service in the British Forces ceased in 1960. Anyone joining the British Forces after that date did so voluntarily and was enlisted as a full-time regular.

In 1958, the weekly wage for a 2 year conscript in the British Infantry was 21 shillings (1 guinea). By signing on to serve for another year, a soldier would be paid 3 guineas per week.

The cessation of National Service posed a substantial manpower problem to the British Armed Forces. Not only were they about to lose so many men, but they were also losing so much experience.

In order to stem the demobilisation of so many key men from the Armed Forces, the Government made an attractive offer of a financial bounty to all National Service personnel who signed-on to become regular soldiers.

This offer was taken-up by many, and the in-vogue cry, "Sign-on and drink the bounty!" could be heard echoing round every British military camp and N.A.A.F.I across the world. Here is the disturbing story of a young N.A.A.F.I girl called Lucy.....

Various options for periods of service were then made available to regular service personnel. It was now possible to sign-on for a term of 3 years, 6 years, 9 years, 12 years, 15 years, up to a maximum of 22 years.

From that point in time, the length of signing-on term was reflected in the scale of pay and pension rights offered to regular service personnel.

National Service, British Armed Forces Act, 1939 - grade card

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