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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Reason for no service in 1917


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I have a man who got married, age 23, in June 1917 and is not listed as part of any military service on his marriage certificate. He was a wire worker in Musselburgh - does anyone know if this is the kind of thing that would have been a reserved occupation? Could he have already served and been discharged? Maybe he was physically unfit? If he was a conscientious objector, is there any way to confirm that? His name was William Blaikie Smith - I'm just wondering what people think is the most likely of the above options?

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1 hour ago, LChapman said:

He was a wire worker in Musselburgh - does anyone know if this is the kind of thing that would have been a reserved occupation?

If he did not volunteer for military service in the voluntary period, which incidentally to December 1915 was the peak period for enlistment in Scotland with 26.9% of men of military age enlisting, he would come within the provision of the Military Service Act.

He could seek a certificate of exemption from military service from the Local Tribunal.  The original list of 'certified occupations'  granted reservation under the Act was published on the 7th July 1916.  I cannot see 'wire worker' specifically listed but all classes of workmen engaged in steel manufacture could claim a certificate of exemption, especially if they had the support of their employer.  Also exempt were those working iron and steel rolling mills and puddling furnaces.There were no age limits applied for either single or married men.

Having seen this NLS video of Bruntons in Musselborough (1930) https://movingimage.nls.uk/film/0438 it looks very much like manufacture to me. 

The list was amended as the war continued but there could have been other reasons for non service other than occupation.  The cynic in me suggests his marriage cemented his position as there were different regulations for single and married men.  The final Military Service Act was enacted in April 1918, which further whittled down the exemptions, but the war ended before all its provisions could be implemented.

From January 1916 just 14.6% of men in Scotland aged 15 - 49 enlisted in the Army.  It is therefore more likely he did not serve in the Army than he did with less than half the men of military age in Scotland (41.4%) being mobilised.

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Came across a piece on the Bruntons Wire Works in a recentish edition of The Scotsman - basically a plan to refurbish it into housing.  It was a going concern from 1876 to the 1990's according to the article which makes much of it's contribution to the war effort in WW2. It does however mention that "the first aeroplane to cross the Atlantic directly – the Vickers Vimy – was fitted throughout with wires made by the firm.". https://www.scotsman.com/business/historic-ww2-lothian-wire-mill-site-to-become-140-home-development-3200684

As the flight took place in 1919 with a modified WW1 bomber, you could see how the firms products might be deemed essential to the war effort, and skilled men retained.


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I assume that they could also have been producing barbed wire for no-mans land and also telecommunications wire all of which, I would have thought, would have made it a reserved occupation.

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