A soldier's life is glinting in the bottom of the glass
Saturday 01 March 1997
For the first time in more than 200 years, soldiers will be sent out with a brief to enlist young men between 18 and 26 by buying them a beer over a chat in their local.
Over 300 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment will be involved in the novel recruitment campaign which begins next Saturday.They will work in teams of four and go armed with a kitty to buy likely recruits a drink.
The regiment has targeted 88 pubs popular with young people in 15 Midlands towns which form their recruiting heartland. including Derby, Nottingham, Worcester, Redditch, Buxton, Newark and Chesterfield. The three-week recruitment drive has been approved by the Ministry of Defence and is being closely monitored by other regiments, who may take up the idea if it's a success.
"We are reverting to the old style recruiting methods of skirmishing used 200 years ago when barracks didn't exist and soldiers were billeted in inns which were a very fruitful source of recruits," said Major John Cotterill, who is in command of the operation.
"In those days soldiers led by a recruiting sergeant would buy boys a pint of foaming ale and leave a king's shilling in the bottom of the glass. Once the prospective recruit had finished his pint he was deemed to have accepted the king's shilling or enlistment bounty and the next thing they knew they had been whisked away on a troop ship to fight Napoleon," said Major Cotterill.
"We will not be kidnapping anyone this time. The idea is not to ply people with drink, knock them over the head and carry them away. Our teams will go into pubs wearing uniform and seek to engage boys of their own age in conversation," he added. "They will chat and seek to convince people this is the life for them and they ought to join their local regiment." He went on: "It won't be a matter of soldiers walking into pubs and saying `right the drinks are on the house'. They won't be distributing largesse to all and sundry.
"I suspect they will be buying people a pint of beer because its cheaper than whisky and you wouldn't get so much time to talk to a bloke drinking a short," Major Cotterill said.
The project is being financed by profits made from a snack bar the regiment ran during their six-month stay in Bosnia last year.
The regiment - motto "Firm" - was founded in 1694 and many soldiers are being sent to recruit in pubs in their home towns.
The regiment contains 700 soldiers and requires 100 new recruits every year. Officers are hoping this and other projects during the next three weeks will unearth all the recruits they need for the next year.
The armoured infantry battalion is based in Tidworth, Wiltshire and soldiers will spend much of this year training in Canada.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "This is obviously a very inventive, localised recruiting campaign which may or may not work.
"It will certainly keep the Army in the public eye in the area from which that regiment raises its manpower."
The battalion performs a ceremony unique to the Army on 20 September each year. A private is allowed to carry the regimental colours to mark the battle of Alma during the Crimean war in 1854 when every officer and sergeant in the regiment was either killed or wounded and the regimental colours were carried into battle by Private Keenan.
The regiment was the first in the British Army to cross the River Seine during the advance across France in 1944.
The last soldier to be wounded in Northern Ireland before the 1994 IRA ceasefire, Lance Corporal Nobby Clarke, was serving with the regiment in Crossmaglen.
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