Appealing Conscription during WW1: An insight from the North Riding Tribunal Papers.

WhereZoomType of EventTalk
WhenMonday 12th October 2020 at 7.30 pmTutorAngus Wallace

Angus explained how the tribunal papers had been ordered to be destroyed in 1921 except for those from the Middlesex and Peebles area, which were kept as examples for the future. However mistakenly the North Riding tribunal papers were not destroyed, and only rediscovered during a search at NYCRO for other documents to illustrate events of WW1.

A grant was obtained, and volunteers transcribed the five and half thousand documents, which are now available on the NYCRO website. Angus described how he was one of these volunteers, which led him to take an MA, and he has now obtained funding for a Ph.D. using his research into these documents.

At the start of WW1 men volunteered to serve in the army, but it soon became obvious, that in order to maintain a sufficient supply of men, conscription would be necessary. This was introduced in 1916 for all men between the ages of 18 and 41, who were unmarried or widowed. There were exemptions, such as ill health, certain occupations (although this altered over time), hardship, education and conscientious objectors. 

Tribunals were set up to deal with the appeals against conscription. The tribunal bodies consisted of local men deemed suitable to judge the applicants. If the appeal failed then the applicant could ask for it to be referred up to a higher county level. If there were still disagreements, then there was a central tribunal body, but this was only used at the request of the county tribunal body. 

There was a balance in each area to be considered between the need for fit, strong, young men, able to serve in the army, and the necessity of keeping essential services, such as agriculture and coal mining functioning. In the North Riding 60% of the applicants were successful. However at each tribunal there was a member of the military, to represent the War Office, who could challenge the tribunal’s decision.  These cases were then referred up to county level, sometimes causing conflict and friction between the tribunal members and the military representative. 

Angus’s talk was interesting and informative, and he kindly offered his website which is interactive and shows details of the individual appeals and their results:-

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