Poplar Military Service Tribunal Register
In January 1916, Prime Minister Asquith introduced the Military Service Act. The act came into force on 2 March 1916 and meant that all men between the ages of 18 and 41 who were single, childless and/or widowers could be conscripted into military service. As the war waged on and the need for more men increased, conscription was extended to married men in May 1916 and then the age was extended to 51 in May 1918.
Individuals had the opportunity to apply for an exemption from military service. A person could appeal on the grounds of ill health, serious economic hardship, or conscientious objection to the war, or if their education or employment was of national importance. In the later cases, the individual’s employer could appeal for exemption on their employee’s behalf.
Due to their sensitive nature, most tribunal records were destroyed after the First World War; however, some local authorities, including the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar (which included Bow, Bromley and the Isle of Dogs), preserved the records. Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives hasdigitised and indexed the Poplar military tribunal case register thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a team of volunteers.
The detail in each entry can vary, but generally will include
• Employer’s name
• Employer’s business
• Employer’s address
• Grounds of application for exemptiondesignated by letter of the alphabet. Here is a key provided to the letter system.
A -- on the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which he is habitually engaged
B -- on the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work which he wishes to be engaged
C -- if he is being educated or trained for any work, on the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that, instead of being employed in military service, he should continue to be so educated or trained
D -- on the ground that serious hardship would ensue if the man were called up for Army service, owing to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position
E -- on the ground of ill-health or infirmity
F -- on the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service
G -- on the ground that the principal and usual occupation of the man is one of those included in the list of occupations certified by Government Departments for exemption
• Application made by man or employer – the transcript will display this information as M, for man, or E, for employer.
• Date received
• Date of hearing
• Case serial number
All the above has been transcribed in an Excel spreadsheet.
In addition a flipbook of the whole document will provide you with further details of the hearing including the decision of the tribunal. The record will show if the applicant was temporarily, conditionally or absolutely exempt from service or if the appeal was refused.