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Terms of service in the BEF during the war.


chris.wight

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I was looking through the National Archives of Canada's database of Soldiers of the First World War recently, and one entry I looked at brought about this question. During the war, were regulars in the BEF discharged when their term of service ended? If so were they subject to conscription when that came about in Britain?

I had thought that the war would bring an automatic extension of the terms of service but this individual showed otherwise. He had served with the Royal Warwickshire Regt for seventeen years leaving Sept (?) 21, 1915. After this he emigrated to British Columbia, Canada, then volunteered for the CEF in February 1917. It would be interesting to know why he chose to rejoin the army, especially for someone who had paid his dues as one of the "Old Contemptibles".

If anyone is interested, they can see his attestation papers here.

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Guest Simon Bull

Chris,

I think they must have been discharged. My great-grandfather, Albert Banner, was a regular in the Boer War and a reservist at the time of the outbreak of the Great War. He was immediately recalled and served with his former Regiment, Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, but he never went abroad and in 1916 he was discharged and returned to civilian life. The date of his discharge coincided with the end of his period of eligibility for recall from the Reserve. Thereafter he does not seem to have been conscripted. I know of no reason why he he was unfit for War service -- indeed it just seems that he was relatively elderly and was used as a trainer for raw recruits and then was allowed to go when he wanted to go. Personally I'm extremely surprised by these events.

Simon Bull

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During the war, were regulars in the BEF discharged when their term of service ended? If so were they subject to conscription when that came about in Britain?

I had thought that the war would bring an automatic extension of the terms of service

For a full explanation see my article in Stand To! a few months back.

David Langley

A regular was always liable for an extra year in war or if overseas with colours. After that, the contract ended and he was free. However, if fit and not too old, when conscription came in, in mid 1916 he was again liable. Anyone still in after that date sweating on their discharge got a furlough and a handout to compensate.

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Thanks for your answers!

Simon, how old was he when he was discharged?

David, I'll see if that issue is available as a back issue as I'd like to read more about the topic.

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My maternal grandfather enlisted at Birmingham on the 5th October 1898, with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

He was discharged in consequence of "Termination of his period of engagement" para 392 (XXI) K.R. on 4th October 1915, after serving 9 years 163 days with the Colours, and 7 years 202 days in the Army Reserve.

He was aged 35 years on final discharge.

Regards

Richard

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It seems odd to me to dispense with the services of such men with valuable experience. They would have made fine instructors.

Was 35 considered elderly during the war? Of course these days with people living longer, 35 is young, but then it may have been different.

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Well, a class I conscript in the CEF was defined to be single, childless age 20-34, so I guess that 35 would be considered old. After all, if Canadians, hearty breed that they are, stopped at 34 .... ;)

marc

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Guest fbdownes

Hi further to finishing while the war was on. My grandfather signed on as a regular with the HLI in 1903 for 3 years service and 9 on reserve. He was called up in 1914 with the 2cd Batt and went to France in August, was wounded in November, was sent back to England to recuperate and returned to France to the 2cd Batt on Aug 15th 1915. His servic was terminated on 1st June 1916 as follows from army form B200.

HLI Depot - Age on Enlistment 19years 4 Months

Enlisted for 3 years army service 9 years reserve service

Service towards limited engagement reckons from 15th May 1903

Joined at hamilton 19th May 1903

Discharged termination of Engagement 1st June 1916.

So as I understand it because they had signed a contract for 12 years it was binding on both sides, the army could not compell a man to stay after his time.

Which is perhaps a good thing or I might not be here to put the message on.

One last strange thing on his discharge form B268(difficult to read) it says clean sober and smart and then underneath " Was machine gun man" not to sure just what that entailed. Take care fbdownes

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Guest Simon Bull

Chris,

I cannot at the moment lay my hands on the records relating to my Great Grandfather. However, give or take a year he would have been 36 at the time of his discharge. Not that old!

Simon Bull

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