I don’t want my son to go to war – must he?


Initially, men were enthusiastic about enlisting and there was an early rush to sign up. But by 1915, however, following heavy casualties in the trenches , the need for more troops emerged. This time, there was a marked lack of volunteers.

Research shows that Devon and Dorset appeared to be sending fewer men than other parts of the country, despite exhortations from the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Lord Fortescue, who was particularly angry about Devon’s tardiness.

It was Lord Fortescue who was at the forefront of the organisation of recruitment marches.


This task invites you to put yourself in a parent’s shoes. Can you understand the moral dilemmas, fears and concerns a mother or father may have about their son going to fight in the War?

What might their fears be? What conflicting thoughts may they have? How would they decide on the best course of action?


This task may work best as a stand-alone, class discussion.

Alternatively, it could be a written exercise exploring the sensitive issues around recruitment – or you could write a letter responding as an outraged parent whose son(s) have gone to War.

Finally, what about writing as a historian trying to weigh up the fairness of the imaginary headline in the earlier task: “Devon lags behind”.

Teacher Notes

This task will require students, probably Secondary level, to look at context (eg the Boer War was within living memory), the physical evidence of the casualties, press reports and the press management of war casualties (as a result of Defence of the Realm Act) (DoRA)


Tribunals Information Sheet

Recruitment Information Sheet

David Parker Press Notes