Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

level of fitness needed for service

Recommended Posts

  • Admin



The Groom family are pictured in the Luton News may 31 1917.  No other details as to the circumstances of the discharge/ recall of Pte J W Groom and unfortunately with such a common name I can’t be certain of him in the records.


The Western Times, on May 9 1917 gave the following report:-


Honiton Tribunal


Three months exemption was granted to Wilfred H Clapp 23, married B2 the newly appointed manager of World's Stores.  Applicant who had been engaged in canteen work in France for five months and had been sent home unfit, and he had since been recalled to the colours.   He had only got one eye and was replacing a man from the Honiton Branch who was joining the colours. 



I can't find him on the medal rolls either, However it is interesting that the Army considered a man with one eye was medical category B2.  That is ‘B’ “free from organic disease, able to stand service on lines of communications duties in France,etc” and ’2’ able to walk five miles and see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes.


Which tells us having one eye was not a bar to service in France.  Though there does seem to be some sympathy for one eyed men and it was unusual enough to attract publicity e.g. "Nineteen years of age, C2, with only one eye, 5ft in height and weighing only 8st 7lbs was the description given to the Birmingham Local Tribunal…three months exemption, final”.  However that was a final exemption, and he was only fit for service at home.


We have to be careful when dealing with the Act as so many concessions were granted, it was the ‘Review of Exceptions’ which meant men who had previously been rejected, as well as those who had served were recalled for medical examination. 


An ‘amusing’ exchange at the County Durham Appeals Tribunal was a man who was a wholesale fruiterer and claimed he had been rejected six times and now passed fit.

Sir Frank Brown said, “This shows his health has improved.  He must have been eating his own fruit in the absence of potatoes.” Appeal dismissed.


A more tragic case was reported in Hull where a man discharged from the Navy with a weak heart stabbed himself twice in the heart with his pocket knife after being called for the Army.  The Coroner was scandalised and said, “It ought to have been obvious to anyone but an Army doctor he ought never to have been in the Army at all….If this man was an isolated case it might be excusable but it had been repeated and was being repeated daily.  It amounted to a public scandal, simply prompted by a desire to have every man in the Army as long as he was of military age and could walk about.


As a Bounty was offered many time expired men especially in the TF re-enlisted under the provisions of the original Act(s).  These men were not called under the Review of Exceptions but enlisted voluntarily.  Many had been sick or wounded, as previously mentioned a large proportion were Gallipoli veterans especially as the TF formed a large contingent of the troops in that theatre.  


One such was CSM James Sturgeon 2222 KOSB who was wounded in the head and ankle on the Peninsula and after evacuation was discharged as time expired but recalled to the colours and went to France in January 1917 and was kia 2nd June 1917.


There must also have been TF men in similar circumstances who had previously served in France.


I have a couple more examples,including a man with TB,  Private Arthur Walters Sherwood Foresters, discharged February 1916, recalled in June 1917 , died of consumption September 1917 and given  a full military funeral at home.


 I think the point is that many previously cast men who had been sick or wounded were subject to recall for medical examination and went on to serve and die in France. Mindful of the concessions and the repeal of the Act a year later there is no doubt many men were caught up by the provisions therein.  Some may have tried to get out of it, but no doubt many others did not.  There were advantages to being in the Army especially if they found it difficult to work or settle into civilian life.  I think which ever way you go you can retain ‘historical credibility’ within that narrow window.



One final example that I found particularly touching was reported in the Reading Mercury August 4 1917.


“Mr H. G. Lawrence who has been permanent way foreman of the Maidenhead District G W R has been presented by the permanent way men with a radio, wristwatch and some tobacco.  He has been recalled to the colours having served for a short period in the Railway Section of the Royal Engineers soon after the war broke out from which he received his discharge owing to a weak ankle.”  He sounds like a good candidate, no mention as to his fate, substitute say telegraphist, and your 1914 man is back in the Army!


Ankle, hand, eye or heart, even TB though the last was supposed to be a rejection not least because of the danger of infection in barracks, I think you can take your pick.    They could be recalled for medical examination, placed in Category B, which seems very subjective and sent to France on line of communications duties.

I would think a signaller at HQ or base would fit into that category.




Link to post
Share on other sites

End of another week and I still haven't been able to get to this - it all looks really promising, please don't mistake silence for lack of enthusiasm and gratitude.


Going to have to park it for the weekend, looking forward to proper read next week





Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ken


Sorry to hear you've been in hospital. Especially as your spare time has been spent reviewing FWW hospital cases, oh the irony.


We seem to have taken a great step forward. The info you have turned up seems to cover us admirably on almost any option, now that we've slung out the particularly awkward Lord Roberts+discharge requirements. What I find fascinating in your research is how injured you could be, as least to my eyes, and still be B2.


Here's a proposed plan for two TOMMIES characters we've previously met.


First, Edwin Dolland, regular army signaller, last heard of on 11th November 1914. He could follow a plan you laid out a couple of posts ago. Served four more months, wounded in the eye at Neuve Chapelle, discharged, comes within ambit of the Act 1917; posted to L of C as B2 in 1917/1918.


Sound about right?


Second, Horace Greenwood was a Post Office engineer and TF signaller rushed out in 1914 (as many were to help after many casualties among signallers in the Retreat from Mons). After many upsetting incidents we weren't party to, we heard him have a unspecified nervous breakdown in the 21st October 1914 episode of TOMMIES . And we've heard nothing from him since.

Let's say he was kept on at the depot at Aldershot on light duties as a bit of a 'soft-in-the-head' man, who was then caught up by a sweep for B2 men and sent back to France. That seems to fulfil my dramatic purposes. But I have to ask: would being discharged with 'shell shock' still make you eligible under the 1917 act? I'd like to keep my options open.

What do you think?

Appreciate all this labour you're putting in.


Edited by Sturmey
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Admin

Hi Jonathan


Yes I think Edwin Dolland sounds about right and he would be likely to receive a notice under the Act. 


As for Horace Greenwood if he was kept on on 'light duties' or 'base details' he would not have been discharged, therefore with continuous service he would not come within the ambit of the Act.  

Under Section 1 (b);-

"The Army Council may, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, at any time by written notice require any man who is for the time being excepted from the operation of the Military Service Acts 1916, (b) a man (in this Act referred to as a disabled man) who has left or been discharged from the naval or military service of the crown in consequence of disablement or ill-health..."


As previously mentioned if a 'disabled man'  had three months service with the colours or where his disablement was caused or aggravated by naval or military service no notice will be given until after a year from the time of discharge.


The Act makes no distinction as to the cause of disablement so 'shell shock' would mean a notice could be sent if the other criteria were fulfilled.  He would in the language of the time have been one of the 'mad' as cited in my post 15.


It is certainly possible a man on home service would be 'combed out' but that would be in response to the manpower crisis rather than the Act.  Though from a dramatic point of view ( and ignoring any dramatic cliche around 'shellshock' as I'm sure you will) I see no problem  with a home service man being combed out.  To my mind it seems to emphasise the desperation of the authorities to get men out to France.  I have already cited one example of suicide following receipt of a notice, but if he was kept on he may have just been delusional.


hth, thank you for your good wishes, just about B2!




Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ken


Thanks to you I think we're on to two individuals coming back over to France.  And I think the differences between them will introduce a more subtle understanding among our listeners of the 'big comb out' than usual.


I'm just completing the last touches to the late 1916 scripts which we record over the next two weeks. I'll be planning the sweep of 1917/1918 as winter draws on. So - and you've guessed this already - I'll probably be coming back to you if I may to dot i's and cross t's with these two characters. And I'll certainly work in all that lovely colour you've given me about the tribunals and the remarkable case histories.


Hope you progress soon from B2 up the fitness tree!


atb Jonathan



Edited by Sturmey
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

Sturmey: Have you considered the possibility of a Gallipoli soldier who according to a newspaper article had an arm amputated in Oct.1915, and apparently not being discharged but volunteering to return to his unit after convalescing and then D.O.W in 1918 in Belgium.  It sounds unbelievable and his service records records do not appear to be available..  Possibly the newspaper article is a misprint?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Momsirish


Thanks for coming back to us on this


Your man is a very interesting proposition - can I take it you have the original newspaper article? And that you've done the basic searches?


Be very interested to find out

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
On ‎25‎/‎10‎/‎2016 at 04:26, momsirish said:

Sturmey: Have you considered the possibility of a Gallipoli soldier who according to a newspaper article had an arm amputated in Oct.1915, and apparently not being discharged but volunteering to return to his unit after convalescing and then D.O.W in 1918 in Belgium.  It sounds unbelievable and his service records records do not appear to be available..  Possibly the newspaper article is a misprint?


Did you have any luck finding the original article?

Would love to see it



Link to post
Share on other sites



A soldier was classified on enlistment or commissioning and also after some medical boards.  The grades changed with time.

That used in the early part of the war was:

·          General Service

·          Field service at home

·          Garrison service abroad

·          Garrison service at home

·          Labour

·          Sedentary  work [cook, clerk, stores, batman etc]


In May 1916 they became:

·          A     General Service

·          B1    Abroad                   Garrison service

·          B2                                    Labour

·          B3                                    Sedentary work

·          C1   At home                  Garrison service

·          C2                                   Labour

·          C3                                   Sedentary work


By Army Council Instruction by 1st July 1916 further changes were made:


A             able to march, see to shoot, hear well and stand active service conditions


1                     fit for dispatching overseas, as regards physical and mental health and training

2                     as 1, except for training

3                     returned Expeditionary Force men, ready except for physical condition

4                     men under 19 who would be GradeA1 or A2 when aged 19


B              free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service on Lines of Communication, or in garrisons in the tropics


1                     able to march five miles, see to shoot with glasses and hear well

2                     able to walk five miles, see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes

3                     only suitable for sedentary work


C             free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service in garrisons at home


1                     As B1

2                     As B2

3                     As B3


D             unfit but likely to become  fit within six months


1                     Regular RA, RE, infantry in Command Depôts

2                     Regular RA, RE, infantry in Regimental Depôts

3                     men in any Depôt or unit awaiting treatment.


E              unfit and unlikely to become fit within 6 months


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...