This article studies the extraordinarily broad advocacy of military enlistment by India's political and intellectual elites during the First World War. Though often interpreted as politically motivated, it shows above all a preoccupation with the enlivening effects of military experience—in particular its development of courage and manliness. In this it followed an established pattern of Indian elite concern with martiality. It also reflected anxieties of Indian weakness and effeminacy—something elites indicted themselves for, but which, importantly, they assumed to be more generally prevalent. Sampling calls for enlistment in the public space throughout the war, the article focuses on Bombay Presidency—a region that gave rise to such prominent Indian voices for enlistment as M. K. Gandhi, B. G. Tilak, and M. A. Jinnah. Bombay's recent experience of relative exclusion from military recruitment, and from membership of the ‘martial races’, was representative of much of India. This article enables us to view the effects of such ‘demartialization’ away from the classic case of Bengal. It suggests that it helped to inspire the call to enlist, especially as public spokesmen for the ‘martial race’ ideology explicitly linked martiality with manliness. The concern for enlistment ultimately superseded political calculation even for so hard-nosed a politician as Tilak. And though elites were most obviously concerned for their own martial vigour and leadership, they were also concerned with the manliness of the bulk of India's population, especially in Gandhi's conception of war as a preparation for satyagraha.