In August 1915 the National Registration Act required local authorities to produce a record of all men who were, according to their age, eligible for military service. This information was needed to assess the strength of the nation as it prepared for war. Women were also registered, in order to assess the potential capacity for war work.
In the Urban Districts of Mitcham, Merton & Morden and the borough of Wimbledon, council staff compiled registers of all 15 – 65 year olds who were not already serving is His Majesty's Forces. Forms were left at each house and volunteer helpers, especially teachers, worked on compiling the necessary lists. In Wimbledon 13,146 men and 23,044 women were registered. This was followed by the development of a committee to induce people to undertake some form of National Service, apart from Military Service.
Carefully designed posters with stirring, emotive slogans, appeared around the streets. Local women were also encouraged to persuade their loved ones that it was in the national interest for them to be wearing khaki [uniform ].
A distinguished local soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Seton Churchill became the Wimbledon Recruiting Officer, a position he held from the start of the war in August 1914, to the introduction of conscription in the Spring of 1916.
Wimbledon Corporation proudly boasted that the district had given its full quota of recruits. Entrepeneur, John Mulholland, offered up a hall at the back of his Wimbledon Theatre, as a recruiting office and a large recruitment committee was formed with council support. The theatre itself was a major recruitment venue. During patriotic shows, popular music hall artistes such as Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley, led awestruck young men from the audience on to the stage, where a recruiting sergeant was waiting. Similar recruitment drives were held at Latimer Road Baths (now Wimbledon Leisure Centre), where leading politicians and army officers called on local men to "do their bit" for King and Country.
Recruitment Drives were also staged at Fair Green in Mitcham, where leading community figures gave rousing speeches to encourage prospective volunteers. It is thought that large public venues such as the Manor Club, the Masonic Hall and the Council offices on Kingston Road, Merton Park, would also have witnessed similar gatherings. Swept up by a wave of patriotic fervour, or simply unwilling to lose face in front of their friends, young men all over Merton eagerly volunteered for active service in a conflict that many believed would be over by Christmas.
Some men volunteered solely through national pride, others from sense of adventure and a desire to see the world. There were also many who volunteered out of economic necessity, in order to secure regular army pay and an improved diet. There was also an incentive for council staff to join up - they were told that their jobs would be held for them until their return from active service and the local authority would make up the difference between their military and civilian pay, up to the amount of £4,600 per year. At least 600 employees of Merton & Morden Urban District Council are known to have joined the King's army.
The majority of local recruits initially joined the London Regiment, the East Surrey Regiment or the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. However as the number of wartime casualties rose, so smaller surviving units were amalgamated. Merton men served in many different regiments and represented all branches of the service, including the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.