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Derby Scheme poster of November 1915

The Derby Scheme was a voluntary recruitment policy in Britain created in 1915 by Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby. The concept behind the Derby Scheme was that men who voluntarily registered their name would be called upon for service only when necessary. Married men had an added incentive in that they were advised they would be called up only once the supply of single men was exhausted.

The scheme was also referred to as the "Group System" as men were classified in groups according to their year of birth and marital status and were to be called up with their group when it was required.

The scheme proved unsuccessful and was abandoned in December 1915, in spite of the fact that the execution of Nurse Edith Cavell by the Germans, on 12 October 1915 was used in recruitment rallies by Lord Derby. It was superseded by the Military Service Act 1916 which introduced conscription.

215,000 men enlisted while the scheme was operational, and another 2,185,000 attested for later enlistment. However, 38 per cent of single men and 54 per cent of married men who were not in 'starred' occupations failed to come forward.

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