Britain, unlike its European neighbours had no history of compulsory military service and the idea of such a thing was simply not British! But voluntary enlistment into the services was simply not at a level which would sustain the war effort, given the mounting casualty rate and the ever widening areas of conflict. The National Registration in 1915 had shown that about half of the 5 million men eligible for military service had volunteered. Desperate to avoid conscription, the Government launched a special scheme to encourage men to enlist. The basis of the scheme was that if a man volunteered he would categorised according to his marital status and occupation and only called up when all higher grouped men had already been called. The idea was to ensure that single men were enlisted before married men. Men who signed up were given an armband and certificate as proof of their commitment. This was an important feature of the scheme as the white feather campaign was gaining momentum and no man wanted to be accosted in the street and publicly handed a white feather as evidence of his perceived cowardice!The scheme met with limited success, but for several local men it enabled them to enlist and show they were willing to do their bit. Many local men enlisted under the scheme, but one man, Henry Knight, a married bricklayer living in Cross Lane, there was a problem. He enlisted in December 1915 but by January 1916 had still not received his armband or papers, so he wrote to the Recruiting office querying why he had not yet received his enlistment certificate or his “enlisted men’s armband”. It is possible that Henry’s enquiry was prompted by him being presented with a white feather, or by seeing this happen to someone else when he was at work on a building job in Portsmouth. By early February Henry had received his armlet to wear indicating that he had enlisted pending his actual call up (which arrived in June 1916.)Henry Knight’s letter to the military ( Image courtesy of TNA).While Henry Knight was receiving his certificate and armband, his neighbour Henry Bennett received his call up. As a 23 year old single man Henry Bennett was called up just one month after he enlisted. In March 1916 compulsory military service was introduced. For local families who still had single men of military age at home they now knew that it was certain they would be called up to serve, whether they wanted to or not.