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Remembered Today:

level of fitness needed for service


tony gray
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Hi guys

Just wondering if the level of fitness needed for service went out the window as the call for more men increased.

I have just found my grate uncles service records and was surprised to find out that he joined up on 1st Feb 1915 lying about his age (saying he was 19 when he was only 16) He joined the 2/3th Essex Batt RFA Reg. No886 for three months until he was discharged medically unfit for service due to a hernia.

This was a surprise as I have a doc dated 14th July 1919 listing him missing since 15th April 1918 and concluding that his death had taken place on the on the 15th April 1918. He was serving with the 2/6th South Staffordshire Regiment and his name is listed on the ploegsteert memorial.

Any thoughts on this anyone?

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By the end of the war, mid 1918 ish, men upto the age of 50 were being called up. Although called up, a man would be graded for the type of service he was suited for. At the time of the Great War, a hernia was a common condition among manual workers and was not treated with routine surgery as now. There was no such thing as routine surgery at the time, anaesthesia was more of an art than a science. There were many jobs behind the lines or on LoC where a man who was far from in his prime could usefully be employed and release a younger or fitter man for more arduous duty. Unfortunately, the German breakthrough of March, led to many men of this category being caught up in the fighting.

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My Gt.Uncle Rfmn J.Ford had One Lung,and He Was Passed Fit by the Medics.He was KIA at High Wood in 1916,but prior to His Death He was Reigning Battn Boxing Champ in 17th Londons,and also a Local Boxing Champ in Southwark and Bermondsey.

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In 1916 - Following a complaint made at the New Mill Military Tribunal that army doctors were “passing anything now” the Holmfirth Express reported that concern had been voiced about the medical examinations at Halifax Barracks, the nearest regular army depot to Holmfirth. On April 1st the paper published a resolution passed by the Colne Valley Advisory Committee which stated “That this Advisory Committee, in meeting assembled, resolves that the attention of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, London, be drawn to the system of medical examination by the medical board at Halifax, and from information received by this Committee, it is of the opinion that the examination is being carried out inefficiently, and that many cases of physically unfit men are being passed into service.”

By May 1916, men who had already been medically rejected could now be re-examined. By September 1917, (and probably earlier) medically discharged ex-servicemen could be re-examined and then recalled for service if found to be medically fit. At this stage we get men described as wounded ex-soldiers appearing before the local Military Tribunals and appealing for exemption from conscription. This also applies to time-expired men who had been discharged earlier in the war, and were still inside the age limit for service.

I have a distant relative who was a pre-war territorial, and discharged as time-expired in 1916. He was later conscripted and was subsequently killed in 1918.

Tony.

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Reminds me of a funny story....

Back in 1990 when the first Gulf War broke out, me and my friends were 18, and we were convinced that the third world war was going to break out and we would be called up to fight in the desert. (OK, we were pretty stupid at the time!).

So we had a plan to avoid getting called up we would get as unhealthy as possible....so we went on a big beer drinking and pie eating binge for several weeks....

Trouble is my friends stopped when they realised that we were not going to be called up....but I kept going for.... about 18 years so far.... ;)

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  • 8 years later...
On ‎23‎/‎05‎/‎2008 at 08:33, Tony Lund said:

In 1916 - Following a complaint made at the New Mill Military Tribunal that army doctors were “passing anything now” the Holmfirth Express reported that concern had been voiced about the medical examinations at Halifax Barracks, the nearest regular army depot to Holmfirth. On April 1st the paper published a resolution passed by the Colne Valley Advisory Committee which stated “That this Advisory Committee, in meeting assembled, resolves that the attention of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, London, be drawn to the system of medical examination by the medical board at Halifax, and from information received by this Committee, it is of the opinion that the examination is being carried out inefficiently, and that many cases of physically unfit men are being passed into service.”

By May 1916, men who had already been medically rejected could now be re-examined. By September 1917, (and probably earlier) medically discharged ex-servicemen could be re-examined and then recalled for service if found to be medically fit. At this stage we get men described as wounded ex-soldiers appearing before the local Military Tribunals and appealing for exemption from conscription. This also applies to time-expired men who had been discharged earlier in the war, and were still inside the age limit for service.

I have a distant relative who was a pre-war territorial, and discharged as time-expired in 1916. He was later conscripted and was subsequently killed in 1918.

Tony.

Tony

 

Sorry to be following this up a mere 8 years later - but do you have any records of the seriousness of injuries of discharged men who were nonetheless conscripted and sent back to France? I'm working on the BBC radio drama TOMMIES and I am keen to have a character who has been wounded sufficiently to be discharged (in the arm for preference) but then returned. As he was a signaller, this could be to Lines of Communication duties that might subsequently be overrun in March 1918.

 

Do you have any thoughts or leads? Jonathan

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MoonMonkey has not been back to the forum since Sept, 2008. You could maybe try a PM, then again.....

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2 minutes ago, johnboy said:

MoonMonkey has not been back to the forum since Sept, 2008. You could maybe try a PM, then again.....

 

Hi

I'll PM, must be half asleep

ta j

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Jonathan

There are examples in the casualty lists in the newspapers, and lots of opportunities for drama including a protest by ex servicemen in Trafalgar Square following the Military Service (Review of Exemptions) Act.  The Act caused great resentment especially when fit men could claim exemption on occupational grounds.

 

 Generally the men who were recalled were medical category B.  An example is one eye, or illness as in the case of Wiiliam Murray joined up in 1914 discharged due to illness recalled to the colours as an ASC despatch rider had three brothers serving.

Perthshire Advertiser June 6 1917

 

Other men were recalled having been discharged following other campaigns, for example Gallipoli.  I've seen papers of men suffering from malaria stamped ' for duty in France only'.

 

 

Does your man have to be previously wounded?

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

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Hi Ken

 

Many thanks for this beacon of hope for this plotline.

 

Think I might as well give you too much info rather than too little. My drama is TOMMIES, real-time story of WW1 signallers: we are on the WF, Mespot, Paris, Salonika, E Africa etc. We borrowed a character from HOMEFRONT, another BBC daily offering which is set in Blighty.

 

He - Kenny Stokoe - was a signaller in the Tyneside Scottish, and we were always going to give him back to HOMEFRONT when we'd completed our Somme season. (We're going back there for the 'Last' Day of the Battle of the Somme, 18 Nov 1916, but he has already been wounded and sent home.) So he's now back in Blighty to take part in a plot line they'd developed for him, a bloke who'd lost an arm but was taken on by the Lord Roberts Memorial Fund.

 

I had a brainwave, tho, and asked if we could have him back in 1918 to indicate the demands that the comb-out at home was having on the quality of soldiers, and then kill him to complete the drama of it. He wouldn't need to be 100% fit, as an experienced signaller could be deployed in a non-physically taxing job behind the lines, which could be overrun in March 1918.

 

Ah-ha, I hear you say, missing an arm, that's just too much, and I agree with you. (Although missing an eye is quite startling - I'd be very grateful for that man's name, please - is he part of the Perthshire Advertiser article?)

 

But here's the thing, the HOMEFONTers haven't gone into the studio yet, and their audience hasn't heard anything about Kenny's fate from them or us. So at the moment, within reason, the HOMEFRONT people don't mind what is wrong with him so long as the injury is bad enough to get him discharged, and yet not disable him so much they can't do their Lord Roberts plotline.

 

So the eye bloke may be just the ticket, or something similar. The standard I use on TOMMIES so far as accuracy is concerned, is that if what we say happened also happened to someone real who was in broadly similar circumstances (same year, same theatre of combat, that sort of thing) then it can happen to one of our characters.

 

What do you think? Name and documentary evidence for someone discharged with something we might think of as a life-long disablement but yet recalled to the army for service in France?

 

jonathan

 

Forgot to say, HOMEFRONT can cover all the protests at home by ex-Servicemen

j

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Jonathan

 

As you know from other threads I have listened to both series, but am losing patience with Homefront, though I did enjoy the Tribunal episodes.  Turning to the plot development I don't think your plot will work.  I may have misled you as the man with one eye I referred to had not previously served, I even found one with a 'cork leg' who had his appeal rejected but again not previously served.

 

As to be expected the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act 1917 was controversial and enacted in April 1917.  There was so much agitation that from the initial Bill so many concessions were allowed that by January 1918 those championing the objections were able to say that it amounted to a 'virtual' repeal of the Act.

 

I don't think the scenario you describe would fly, especially as an amputee.  There are a number of reasons for this:

The original Bill stated that where a disabled man has at least three months service with the colours or where his disablement has been caused or aggravated by military service no notice shall be given to him till after the expiration of a year from the time when he left or was discharged.  So if your man was wounded on the Somme he would not be called for examination under these original provisions until, at the earliest July 1917.

 

This meant, for example:- 

The Gloucester Journal Saturday June 23 1917 reported on the Gloucestershire Appeal Tribunal where the military appealed against the exemption given to a man aged 22, married and employed as a chauffeur who was wounded in the retreat from Mons and in medical category C2 and had been recalled to the colours.  The military won the appeal. No details of wound given.

 

Another article stated men in medical category C1  or C2 had been sent to France but only after individual examination.

 

In July 1917 the Army Council announced disabled,  discharged men who had served overseas who on medical examination were in Category A, B1, B2, or C1 were liable to be recalled to the colours.  Men assessed to be in category B3,C2, or C3 should be allowed to return home for reexamination in six months.  Those in Category A should return to their old corps,while the others should be directed to other Corps such as RAMC, ASC and the RFC.

 

However in a written answer reported in August 1917 it was stated that a man of military age discharged from the Army on grounds of disablement or ill health is liable to be called up for medical re-examination and for service if he is passed fit in any medical category unless he belongs to any of the following classes:-

 

1. A man certified as engaged in agricultural work of national importance on March 31 1917

2. A man discharged s the result of wounds or gas poisoning received from the enemy, or certified neurasthenia resulting from service in the present war

3. A man examined under the Act and found to be permanently and totally disabled for service

4. A man discharged on grounds of health who has served overseas in the armed forces of the Crown.

 

The first three are expressly excepted by the Act and the exception was extended by agreement to the fourth class.

 

It was announced any men who were compulsorily posted or service under the Act if they had previous service overseas were to be discharged if they so desired it.  So there is a chink as it was left to fit men to to enlist again if they wished to do so, but an amputee was hardly a fit man.

 

The concessions were eventually extended to those who had not served overseas and had been discharged and to time expired men who had been wounded but discharged as time expired.

 

I'll continue looking but I don't think it will work, both the examples I found so far, in this post and the previous one were originally discharged, or at least placed sick or wounded, in 1914, not 1916 and neither were amputees which would I imagine come under Category 3 above, even for a signaller.

 

Anyway it's an insight as to how the Act operated so thank you for that.  You might be able to get something out of it that fits your criteria.  

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

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Hi Ken

 

Thanks for all that work.

 

Have had what I hope is a brainwave - I'm asking the HOMEFRONTers if they can tell me today a typical disablement they had in the Lord Roberts people and then we can work that back. That way we can satisfy them and not have to have Kenny as necessarily an amputee. I don't think post-June 1917 is going to be a problem.

 

Will keep you posted

 

Jonathan 

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Hi Ken

 

OK. We've moved forward. What we need is an injury that would get you sent home and demobbed (my brain refuses to supply the right word, end of a very long day) round the time of the Somme 1916.

 

Those are the sort of people who went to work for the Lord Roberts organisation, all the amputee stuff was just the originally founding intention, evidently.

 

So all we need is someone with that sort of injury - sent home and demobbed - documented as being recalled and sent to France - front line, LofC wherever.

 

That's it. Busted shoulder, dodgy knee, something more serious or less serious, it doesn't matter.

 

Key things: sent home, thought his war was over, sent back.

 

Any thoughts?

 

atb

 

jonathan

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Jonathan

 

A soldier wounded and discharged would not receive a notice until a year after his medical discharge.  The Act came into force in May 1917 so men discharged earlier in the war could be called for medical examination.  The clarifying statement that no man would be compulsorily called for service in the Army if he fulfilled the conditions above was issued on July 31 1917.

 

Therefore unlikely a man wounded on the Somme would be called and compulsorily placed in the Army in 1917.  The Act was repealed in April 1918 under the provisions of  the Military Service Act 1918 but the exceptions were carried forward.

 

I guess the key word is 'compulsorily'.  In one case cited in Parliamentary debate the case of an officer who had lost an eye convinced a medical board to pass him fit for active service and was later killed.

 

Men who were wounded in 1916 were less likely to be discharged and therefore subject to recall but were patched up and found themselves in the Labour Corps or on Home Service elsewhere.  So a dodgy knee etc wouldn't warrant a discharge.  Looking through the service records men with serious wounds were often retained, recently looked at a TF man who went out in 1914,  was hospitalised 1915 and served at home for two years as C2 and then combed out in 1917 and sent back to France, but he never left the Army.  (It was the comb out of 70-80000 men like him in early 1917 that led to the Review of Exceptions Act which was primarily intended to backfill men for support roles.

 

In one discourse on the Act it was said medical boards were calling for examination 'the maimed,  the halt, the blind, the mute, the mad and even the dead.' Discharged men had been bullied and sworn at.  Although denied by the Government there must have been some evidence.  However it was acknowledged men who had been discharged were unlikely to be fit enough to serve in any capacity.

The Times  June 22 1917

 

So we're not saying it was impossible, in the war anything was possible, but difficult to fit a man wounded on the Somme into the timeline of sent home (medical treatment) , discharged, and recalled.  

 

No problem with that timeline for a man discharged in 1914-15, and no problem if we remove the element of compulsion though probably a bit too Steve McQueen for Homefront.

 

Ken 

 

Edited by kenf48
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Ken,

 

Thanks as always.

 

I am a bit concerned about how much we're beginning to stretch things – I'd rather not do it than push these things past the breaking point of historical credibility.

 

However, the idea of compulsory/non-compulsory reenlistment has got me thinking. I take your Steve McQueen point but see what you think of this:

 

Let's say our man has multiple gunshot wounds on 1st July 1916. Hospitalised in France and England, they won't heal. His broken limbs give him a limp. He's discharged. Goes home, signs up to the Lord Roberts organisation.

 

Then his health improves, he exercises, he's like someone getting over a serious car crash.

 

Decides to re-enlist voluntarily – he misses the life and his pals.

 

Could we reasonably say that if was wounded on 1st July 1916,  the whole process of medical treatment, discharge, time at home, recuperation, re-enlistment and sending out to France could elapse before 11th November 1918?

 

I know those parameters are ostentatiously wide, but they might be all I need to know for the moment for the inevitable BBC deadline I'm up against.

 

what do you think?

 

Jonathan

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Jonathan

 

Having listened to both surely there's scope for dramatic licence as well as historical credibility.  Th. Act and its implementation was controversial and the Federation of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors, formed in response, stated they had 'thousands of letters from discharged men suffering great hardship'.

 

 

I suppose oneof those 'thousands' could easily have been wounded on the Somme.  Opponents, as previously mentioned, claimed the Medical Boards and the military recruiters did not respect the exemptions within the Act.  Once men were in the Army anything could happen to them.  If they had been wrongly drafted they could appeal to their CO, but as they say, good luck with that!

 

 

Many men were recalled and sent to France following implementation of the Act.  Discharged earlier and with no change in their condition many were graded Class A, or fit for service.  It would be even easier to put them in third echelon or loc roles.  One concession is that they were reinstated in their previous ranks D although not specifically stated probably their trade.

 

However, as Devil's advocate forbemployment in Lord Roberts Workshops (for maimed and crippled soldiers) would a limp qualify?  As you say they specialised in one armed amputees, though it could have been another serious injury that stopped him working elsewhere, but a limp, probably not.

 

If you don't mind me saying so it's the attempt to link the same man to both series that seems to be making it so tortuous.  Most of these recalled discharged men had civilian occupations, employers were encouraged to recruit veterans to release able bodied men and the Act was as disruptive to them as to the soldier.

Why does it have to be Stokoe?  

 

Any other soldier would be quite straightforward and make the point, e.g. Volunteered 1914; went to France 1915, served four months wounded at Loos,gassed at Ypres whatever; discharged comes within ambit of the Act 1917; posted to old regiment sent to IBD France Base details posted to a Signals  unit; killed.  He could even be that charCter the 'new guy' in your merry band.

 

Equally I guess the 'war lover' scenario would work but it was fit men who were encouraged to re-enlist.  We know a one eyed officer did and was killed, why not a signaller but again the problem is the link with the Lord Roberts workshop.

Would they employ a fit man?

 

A couple of examples:-

the Groom family in Luton, father, time-served, four sons all serving, two oversea, one in England and one shown as discharged and recalled.
Another especially tragic example was a Corporal O'Farrel discharged three times, served in South Africa. A reservist when war declared was at Mons and was later 'gassed and poisoned by water'. Spent seven months in hospital, medically discharged.  Twelve months a civilian recalled under the Act sent to France and killed five days after his brother suffered a similar fate. (Liverpool Echo October 17 1917.


Ken

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Evening both, and excuse me for butting in :) I was having a think about this.

 

Am I right in supposing that the Lord Roberts' Memorial Fund supported soldiers with any form of dlsability?

 

How about a hand injury of a significant rather than a major kind? say to the right / rifle-firing hand. It might at first appear to have resulted in permanent damage but, with time and use and exercise, the hand could recover to be usable, even if not to the previous standard. I think I'm right in saying (proviso: not a medic!) that a completely-severed muscle or tendon would not recover, but that a damaged one might mend or have the damage masked by other muscles/tendons compensating for the lack.

 

Just an idea, for what it's worth.

seaJane

 

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All very interesting stuff, only had time to skim read, many many thanks! I'm now at a conference and won't be able to grapple with this now till next week. Think we're getting there tho 

 

atb jonathan

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8 hours ago, seaJane said:

Evening both, and excuse me for butting in :) I was having a think about this.

 

Am I right in supposing that the Lord Roberts' Memorial Fund supported soldiers with any form of dlsability?

 

 

No problem we're tying ourselves in knots, in the name of 'historical credibility '!  All suggestions welcome, I was hoping for other contributions but it seems strangely quiet! 

Yes, you're right they did support soldiers with any form of disability who could not work.  A severed tendon seems authentic. 

 

Ken

Edited by kenf48
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Sorry about disappearing off the radar like that, I'm back now from the conference. And welcome, SeaJane.

 

I think as Ken suggested we're better off using almost anyone else on earth than a bloke who needs to be sufficiently disabled to be discharged and taken on by the Lord Roberts, and then get better, as SeaJane's rather cunning tendon injury might have allowed us. I'm sorry not to link up with Home Front again but this is all getting very complicated.

 

So here's the new plan - one of the characters we met quite fleetingly in the 1914 season is wounded in the same way as any of Ken's examples (one-eyed like the officer, the hapless Groom brother from Luton, or Cpl O'Farrel). Then we have infinitely more flexibility.

 

I see the Liverpool Echo October 17 1917 will do us for Cpl O'Farrel, any thoughts on leads for the Groom chap or the officer, please?

 

all the best

 

jonathan

Edited by Sturmey
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Hi Jonathan,

 

I'll dig out the references over the weekend.  I wonder if anyone has researched more immediate examples

 

Ken 

btw I see from the Home Front thread they're in trouble with their 'historical credibility '  ;-)

 

 

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