British Military Service Tribunals, 1916-18: 'A Very Much by James McDermott

By James McDermott

Military provider Tribunals have been shaped following the advent of conscription in January 1916, to think about functions for exemption from army carrier. quickly, they received opposing but both unflattering reputations. within the eyes of the army, they have been gentle, obstructionist "old duffers". To lots of the males who got here earlier than them, they have been the unfeeling civilian arm of a remorseless grinding computing device.
This paintings, using a unprecedented surviving set of Tribunal files, demanding situations either views. Wielding extraordinary energy but acutely delicate to the contradictions inherent of their job, the Tribunals have been obliged, frequently at a conveyer belt’s velocity, to make judgements that regularly decided the destiny of fellows. That a few of these judgements have been capricious or perhaps flawed is undeniable; the sparse historiography of the Tribunals has too frequently centred upon the idiosyncratic instance whereas ignoring the broader, impression of obscure laws, executive hand-washing and momentary army exigencies.

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Extra resources for British Military Service Tribunals, 1916-18: 'A Very Much Abused Body of Men'

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60 Clearly, existing legislative measures (or, rather, their implementation via the Tribunal system) were not working. In December, the fall of Asquith’s administration and Lloyd George’s succession brought urgent efforts to formulate a longer-term, national service policy to allow the mobilization of the entire industrial workforce, but no formal new measures to secure men for the Army directly. 61 On 1 December, the Local Government Board instructed Tribunals to assume, when hearing applications made on employment or business grounds, that all men under 26 years of age rated fit for general service were of more use in uniform than in their civilian occupations.

A still-born provision, urged by Geddes at the drafting stage but dropped before the Bill went to the House, would have abolished the Tribunals entirely, replacing them with modified county advisory committees that would be far more amenable to official direction. indd 28 04/03/2011 14:00 The Tribunal system 29 impact of the final Military Service Act was limited beyond the brief period during which the BEF’s cohesion seemed threatened. On the Marne, the last of the German offensives was halted definitively in June; thereafter, British counter-offensives began to realize significant results, and pressures on manpower were further eased as significant numbers of American troops arrived on the Western Front.

60 CAB 37/160, 25 (28 November 1916); Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire, pp. 83–84. 61 For the medical categorization of recruits, see above, p. vii. 122 (1 March 1917). 63 Below, pp. 70–81, passim. 119 (30 January 1917). 65 Below, pp. 112–120, passim. 66 Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire, p. 84. 67 Below, pp. 186–188. C. 93:1551; Mercury, 3 August 1918; see also p. 5 below. 69 Below, p. 202. 136 (23 June 1917, revised 8 September 1917). 71 Grieves, ‘Recruiting Margin’, pp.

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