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Understanding Military Tribunal Reports


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I hope this is the right place to post this.


As part of my lockdown research I am trying to understand the reports in my local newspaper of the various meetings of the local Military Tribunal. The reporter clearly used language that the readers of the time, fully immersed in the situation at the time, would understand, but some of the phrases had me unclear what the various outcomes were.

I think I have got my head around some of these phrases now, but would like any experts out there to confirm if I've got it right. In addition there is one batch of results that I am still struggling to understand.


If I have it right these military tribunals met to consider appeals from men as to why they should not be called up.  Thus when on the 23rd February 1917 the result of one case is "Appeal dismissed" I think that means that the man lost his appeal and was therefore called up for service.


In another case the newspaper report states "Certified occupation - granted exemption". My interpretation is that this man was in a reserved occupation and he was granted an exemption from being called up and so did not serve in the military.


Other cases conclude with phrases such as "Refused - not before May 31st" - my interpretation is that the man lost his appeal and would be called up but not before the given date.


I have also found reports such as "Conditional exemption".


The two I am still struggling with are "Certificate withdrawn" - does that mean an exemption was withdrawn or that the call up was withdranw? And then from 17th August 1917 a whole block of men are named under the heading "The names of the 40 men in respect of whom their employers raised no objections  to the variation of their certificates are listed below:" This seems to relate to an application from the Military Representative for certificates of absolute exemption to be made temporary to 1st Oct."  Letters had been written to the employers of 50 men and in 40 cases no objections had been raised. Did that mean that these men were then called up and served in the military?


So far I have only tried to disentangle what was meant for the 1917 reports but any help anyone can give would help me understand better what the process was and whether I should then spend time looking for service records for some of these men.


Thanks in advance



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I think you have it basically right.   The regulations were tweaked to catch a few more men as the war progressed-badly.  The 2 best general introductions to this that I know are the excellent stuff on Long,Long Trail under Conscription, Derby Scheme,etc. Very useful

    The destruction -by order from the centre- of the records soon after the war ended does not help- but the records of at least 2 have survived (as well as bits in various archives)-  those for the Middlesex Tribunal held by The National Archives and those for Lothian, held by the National Library of Scotland. I think Essex,for example, have some digitised stuff for at least some of their area-and I know one of my fellow booksellers sold off a volume of records from somewhere else which went off the an institutional library in the United States.  The TNA website has a nice little write-up about the Middlesex Tribunal which I expect you know- but the illustrations of the paperwork  are interesting.

   At:  https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/middlesex-military-service-appeal-tribunal-1916-1918/


    It does get intriguing when you can work out who the man before the tribunal actually is-  there are some places where name of man, name of employer,etc are given in the local newspaper but occasionally a face fits even if the details are anonymised.   Where I live and for where I thump away at a local Roll, I am intrigued that one Borough (East Ham) had one of my local casualties- where as Borough Treasurer  he volunteered for a newly-raised battalion in early 1915 and was,literally, waved goodbye by the Mayor without a second thought. The next Borough, Ilford was different-  As the tribunals were composed of local great and good, especially from local government, the first thing the borough council did was apply for exemption for all it's town hall non-manual staff.  Some records were retained, but giving no names-save one, whose tribunal outcome letter had been returned.  What they do contain -still- is a bag of half-crowns and florins that were the balance of their petty cash float at the end of the war-  One of the expenses the local worthies on the tribunal voted themselves was the provision of cigars out of public funds- I have always found the notion of telling a man that he had to go and face death in France,etc-while treating yourselves to cigars to be utterly morally obscene.


       Service records-burnt docs. etc-do not to my knowledge contain any tribunal records.  One can work out from date of enlistment whether someone was part of the Derby Scheme-or when they should have been conscripted under MSA-Chris Baker's table of the Groups and dates on Long Long Trail is very useful.  What you can tell is if a man has likely been before a tribunal.  The last local casualty I have done is an example= His dates were reported in the local paper after he was killed.  He was Edgar Noel and a bank clerk with Glyn Mills,Currie and Co in the City.

   " When war came, Edgar Noel did not rush to the Colours. As a man of 33 on the day war started, recently married with a young daughter and a responsible City job, there was little expectation that he should. Yet he and his 2 brothers both signed into the Derby Scheme- whereby men agreed to serve if the supply of single men volunteers ran out. Given the heavy losses of 1915 and the imminence of the introduction of conscription, Edgar Noel and his brothers were called upon to serve and all 3 brothers attested for the army at Stratford on 9th December 1915.  Edgar Noel was immediately given one day’s army pay, a ringlet to wear as evidence that he had volunteered and posted to the Army Reserve to await call-up.

    Edgar Noel was called up to serve on 13th February 1917 and attested to serve at Duke’s Road in central London. Under the Derby Scheme, men were called up from the Army Reserve in groups defined by age and whether single or married. Married and born in 1881,Edgar Noel was in Group 40 and should normally have been called up in April or May of 1916. His late call-up suggests that he had obtained a deferral or deferrals before a military service tribunal of at least 6 months either through  personal circumstances or,more likely, his utility to Glyn,Mills, who would have applied for deferral on his behalf"


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48 minutes ago, bmbab said:

"Appeal dismissed" I think that means that the man lost his appeal and was therefore called up for service.

Yes, lost his appeal, so presumably would be called up.


48 minutes ago, bmbab said:

Refused - not before May 31st" - my interpretation is that the man lost his appeal and would be called up but not before the given date.


48 minutes ago, bmbab said:

Conditional exemption

Ongoing exemption granted on condition that the man remained in the [exact] same employment.

If he move say as a lafourer from one farm to another, it could be deemed that he was not then exempt.

(In my experience in this rural area, most appeals involved agricultural labourers.)


Rather than read second hand reports from local newspapers, that often displayed the political bias of the proprietor, why not read some actual documents from that time?

In the 1920s, HMG ordered all surviving appeals documentation to be destroyed, but  2 county sets were ordered to be saved, Middlesex and Lothian & Peebles.


However, some wise people in Cardiganshire saved the documents for this county and deposited them in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and thanks to the efforts of volunteers (ahem) the papers have been digitised and are available to read online, free of charge:


Edited by Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
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Forget LLT. I would strongly advise "Conscience and Politics" by the late Dr John Rae in which  the author gives a thorough review of the tribunal system. Copies of the book are available on the internet at reasonable prices. Absolutely first class.





Edited by Terry_Reeves
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Many thanks for all the replies. I'm glad I had understood things and thanks for the web site and book suggestions. I will look into those.


The newspaper reports I was reading are all for named individuals and it's fascinating to see what is happening. One I had found was the village sexton who was exempt for a while because it was said that he was the only person who knew the layout of graves in the churchyard.


My comment about the service records was that there are some men named who had their appeals dismissed and hence I would have expected to find them serving, however I can find no trace of medal roll index cards or service or pension records for them. I know that many service and pension records didn't survive WW2 and that men who served at home would not be on the medal rolls but I would have expected to find some of them serving. 


My hunt for some of these men goes on, but thanks again to all who responded - it has helped to keep me on the right track.




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