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The Recruit, 1830 (c)

Oil on canvas by Henry Liverseege (1803-1832), 1830 (c).

In the interior of an inn, a bemused young man sits between his lady friend and a recruiting sergeant and his companion. He looks out of the painting, as if inviting the viewer to assist him in his decision between military and civilian life, although perhaps he is already too intoxicated to care. To the right, in another room, a disabled veteran sits alone. He still wears uniform, either because he cannot afford civilian clothing, or because the sight of limbless veterans in uniform could inspire charity. In contrast to the image of military life no doubt presented by the proud and smartly dressed recruiting sergeants, this was the reality for many soldiers after their discharge from the Army.

In 1858, J R Godley, Assistant Under Secretary of State for War, wrote, 'no thoughtful man can have observed the scenes that take place daily and nightly at the taverns frequented by our recruiting staff without feeling shame and disgust that such proceedings should form part of the recognised machinery of the British Military Service.

Drunkenness and poverty were the principle reasons for enlistment in the nineteenth century. Inns were a common location for recruiting sergeants to coerce potential recruits into joining up. Many a drunken man accepted the Queen's shilling, only to regret it once sober. Recruiting parties had the inducement of a fee for each man they enlisted, while cash bounties, which were sometimes as much as three pounds, were used to tempt civilians to join the colours.

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1964-02-42-1


Donated by Sir Alec and Lady Martin through the Art Fund (formerly the National Art Collections Fund or NACF).

Art Fund


National Army Museum, Out of Copyright


National Army Museum, Study Collection

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