One of the techniques employed by the County of
London Territorial Force Association in preparation for the First World
War was to use the power of the theatre to encourage recruitment.
In 1909, the Adjutant of the London Cyclist Battalion, Captain A. H.
Trapman attended the first performance of a new play which pictured the
plight of England in the event of a surprise invasion.
prominently featured a cyclist and this spurred the recruiting spirit of
Captain Trapman immediately negotiated for, and
bought, the rights for advertising on the programme and filled the space
with recruiting advertisements of all Territorial units in the London
District, giving a whole page to the claims of the London Cyclist
The results were instantaneous. Territorial Recruiting
sergeants were given free access to the theatre and gained recruits in the
intervals between the acts.
The 25th staged displays at the Fulham
and Granville Theatres and, within a week was able to proclaim itself at
This was the first unit in the whole Territorial
Force to attain its establishment, followed twenty minutes later by the
You may well recall the film 'Oh! What a Lovely
War. This contained a theatre recruiting scene which may well have been
based on Captain Trapman's efforts. As an interesting aside, this musical
film was based on a stage play which premiered on 19 March 1963. In June,
the play transferred to Wyndham's Theatre - I wonder how many people at
the time recognised the coincidence. Some of 'The Londons' must have been
theatregoers and I am sure that the synchronism would not have beeen lost