6-12 June 1916: Battersea Council Exemptions

c 1914 (C) Wandsworth Heritage Service

c 1914
(C) Wandsworth Heritage Service

The Battersea Borough Council meeting of 7 June started by acknowledging the death of Lord Kitchener, and expressed their sorrow at his loss by all standing as a mark of respect. The meeting then moved on to discuss the Council and Military Service, and how to deal with potential exemptions from military service.

Three clerks of military age in the Council had received complete exemption from military service, on account of being indispensable. Overall there were 28 officers and clerks of military age working at the municipal buildings (Battersea Town Hall), 17 of whom were permanent and had occupation based exemption.  Three temporary clerks were medically unfit to service, and one had actually been discharged as medically unfit.  There were 5 who were not yet called up – either due to only just being 18 or to being in later groups under the Derby scheme.  It was argued that there was a great deal of extra work in the Council due to pressures from government and that there was no doubt that all the men who had obtained exemptions could not be spared.  Eight of the permanent staff in the borough accountant’s office had joined the army, and six from the Town Clerk’s department, with six exemptions granted across both offices.  Exemption certificates had been obtained directly from the recruiting officer, rather than going before a tribunal – a fact which caused some controversy as the Councillors (9 of whom also made up the tribunal members) felt that exemption was a personal matter which should be dealt with by each man individually and they did not wish the employees of the Council to receive special privilege.

The Council had already decided that employees who wished to serve should gain the permission of the Council to do so, and at this meeting they granted that permission to E T Taylor, a temporary clerk in the Town Clerk’s office, and W Worrell, a sewer flusher. Presumably the loss of the clerk made it even more important that they were able to keep the remaining staff in order to carry out the work of the Council.

The Tribunals this week, as reported in the South Western Star, appear to have been granting more exemptions than usual – although the corresponding minutes show that this was not the case and the majority of cases were disallowed.  W J Baldwin of Rollo Street was a widower with one child, who claimed he would have to sell his home to ensure they were looked after – and that he objected to vaccination.  The Tribunal said that his child would be cared for by the country if he went and disallowed his claim, the Star headlined this with “The Poor Law for a Soldier’s Child”.

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/16

Battersea Military Service Tribunal minutes, ref: MBB/2/25/2

South Western Star available on microfilm

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28 March–3 April 1916: COs at the Battersea Tribunal

The Battersea Military Service Tribunals meeting on 28th March was one of several – they met on Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday.  The Tribunal seemed to be in reasonably sympathetic form, going by the reports in the South Western Star, but that did not make them any more likely to allow a claim for exemption.  The grounds for application for exemption were normally classed by a letter, which would denote which type of application it was i.e workplace or health, but occasionally a longer explanation is added.

G H Jarratt of Eversleigh Road applied for exemption as “E & Conscientious” [E was “ill health and infirmity”] – a claim which was disallowed. Unusually, the South Western Star, doesn’t mention him in its coverage of the tribunals, and it also ignores Frank Newnham, whose grounds are “objection to killing”, but it does mention J H Hollowell of Stewarts Road, whose application came under “religious”.

James Henry Hollowell was a dispenser’s assistant (described as a “pill maker” with the British Drug House in the 1911 census), and lived with his parents, three siblings and grandmother. According to the report in the Star, he objected to the killing of mankind, but was willing to undertake RAMC or sanitary work.  The Tribunal objected to this, saying that a conscientious objection could not be considered if the man was already attested.  Hollowell was then praised for being “reasonable”, as he had tried and failed to get in to the RAMC and “didn’t want to trouble you if I could possibly avoid it”.  Impressed with this, the Tribunal then promised to recommend him for the RAMC, whilst disallowing his claim for exemption.

This recommendation did not get him very far, as his army medal card shows that he served in the Rifle Brigade and the Kings Own Royal Rifle Corps – although details of what he was doing are not specified. He survived the war, however, marrying in St George’s Battersea in August 1918 his occupation is described as “soldier”, and he lived to be 71.

The coverage of the Tribunal also includes a note that Mr Tennant is “inquiring into the allegation” that one of the military representatives had referred to the Non-Combatant Corps as the “No Courage Corps”. This was not an unusual attitude, as this article explains.  It’s not clear who Mr Tennant was, he was not a member of the Tribunal and the newspaper does not give any further information – presumably, everyone at the time knew!

Battersea Military Service Tribunal minutes, ref: MBB/2/25/2

South Western Star available on microfilm

More about Military Service Tribunals can be found here.

22-28 February 1916: Tales from the Battersea Tribunal

After the controversy over the No Conscription Fellowship having their hall booking cancelled a couple of weeks ago, and the introduction of the Military Service Act on 27 January, it might be expected that the Tribunal meetings this week would be particularly keen to disallow claims. Conscription did not actually start until March, so all those coming before the Tribunal were still coming through the Derby Scheme.

Neither the meeting of 22nd January or that of the 24th granted full exemption to any of the applicants.  The write up of the Tribunal in the South Western Star does not supply the names of the majority of claimants, but it gives enough information that the details in the minutes can be matched up and a fuller picture can be put together of the men before the Tribunal.

Cases before the Tribunal included that of Arthur Bridge, a Battersea alderman, who was applying on behalf of his son, Arthur Stanley (known as Stanley). Bridge was a coal merchant who supplied Morgan Crucible’s Battersea works – which were engaged on munitions work.  He said that they were so short-staffed that they did not have enough men for their craft, his son had been apprenticed and was able to be second hand on a barge or tug.  In the 1911 census Stanley is listed as  clerk at the coal merchants, so had obviously had to do extra duties due to the war, the Tribunal minutes list him as a “manager” and his solicitor claims that he manages the transport.  His claim was disallowed and went to the appeal, reported back on at the Tribunal of 18th March.  The appeal only gained him three months, presumably as this was considered enough time for someone else to be trained in the work.

Several of the cases before the Tribunal were ones in which employing women instead was suggested. Dr Pearson of Bolingbroke Grove applied for exemption for his chauffeur, John Hayler, as he needed him for business and his “wife objects to a lady”.  The newspaper reports that the Tribunal were unsympathetic to this claim and laughed at the objection, saying that the country needed his man – the claim was disallowed.  John Hayler’s military service record survives, showing that he was married and had three children, which should have allowed him to go into a later Group.  A man seeking exemption for his son, who was a driver, said that “women are not a success as drivers of motor cars”, which was not queried by the Tribunal, instead they pointed out that his son had papers stating him to be medically unfit and therefore the matter was already taken care of.  The Tribunal also suggested that A I Biscuits should hire women in the factory when they refused exemptions for a mixer and a brakesman – although the firm’s owner, Mr Dunmore, argued that women were not able to do the work as it involved bags of flour weighing two cwt.  Price’s Candle Factory argued that their export ledger keeper could be replaced by a woman but it would take two years to train and that there was no-one else suitable for the role, the firm was carrying out important contracts for the Government but the application for exemption was disallowed.

 

Battersea Tribunal minutes, ref: MBB/2/25/2

18-24 January 1916: The Military Service Tribunals and Tooting

The Tooting and Balham Gazette of 22nd January 1916 carried several columns by the owner/editor of the paper, A J Hurley, on the lack of a Tooting representative on the Wandsworth Military Tribunal.  Hurley was one of the councillors for Tooting, and last year was vocal about the levels of pay in the Tooting workrooms in the paper, so often used it as an extra platform to promote his area with the Council.  The Prime Minister and the President of the Local Government Board had given assurances that the Tribunals would be made up of men with local knowledge – but there was no representative for Tooting on the Wandsworth Tribunal, although Hurley described it as “that densely populated portion of the borough which has given such a huge proportion of its male population to the service of the country”.

Appeals to the Tribunal made from Tooting men had been rejected “by men who possess no local knowledge of Tooting” – although as this post on the Battersea Tribunal shows, many appeals were rejected by that Tribunal.  Representations were made to the Local Government Board and the Tooting Recruiting Committee unanimously agreed that Alderman Mellhuish should represent the ward.  The Mayor interviewed the Alderman and obtained his consent to serve, but the Council’s General Purposes Committee rejected it.  TheGazette also objected to the timing of the Tribunals – they were held during the day, usually in the mornings – as it was bad for workers and for employers, suggesting that members of the Tribunal “were only prepared to meet at times convenient to themselves” and that they should be prepared to make a sacrifice for the war effort and meet at other times of day.  Cllr Hurley also said that if he were Mayor, “my resignation…would have been both prompt and emphatic”.  At a Special Meeting of the Council on 9th February, Alderman Mellhuish and Cllr Garrett – one of the Balham Ward councillors – were added to the members of the Tribunal, so the Gazette’s campaign was a successful one.

Elsewhere in the local papers, the main Tooting-related story this week was the story of Robert Lubbock – reported in the Wandsworth Borough News. Robert was 17 and ineligible for military service due to poor eyesight so was the mess-room steward on a Government employed ship, currently moored in a semi-tropical harbour.  One of the fire-men fell overboard into shark infested waters, Robert and one of the ship’s apprentices dived in to try and save him.  According to the paper “The Fireman was unfortunately killed by a shark, but happily both boys got back to the ship unharmed”, and the paper was clearly proud of the local boy’s efforts.

Tooting and Balham Gazette and Wandsworth Borough News both available on microfilm.

Minutes of the Wandsworth Military Service Tribunal, ref: MBW/2/30/1

11-17 January 1916: The First Military Service Tribunal

On 11 January 1916 the Battersea Local Tribunal met to consider cases for the first time. Present at the meeting were the Mayor, W J Moore, who was chairing, W Hammond, H G White, W Watts and A Winfield, as well as military representative Captain Briggs and his deputy Lieutenant Jones.

37 men who had attested (meaning they had an obligation to come if called at a later date) were applying to be placed in a later group or were in a reserved occupation. Call up was done in groups, with the lowest numbered groups being called up first, so being placed in a later group gave more time to make arrangements at home if required.  There were then 46 more claims which the Military Representative objected to for some reason.

Of those 46 claims, the Tribunal agreed to defer 9. One claim was withdrawn, that of Fred Fordy.  He was a greengrocer’s assistant at S J Smith, 158 Battersea Park Road – the application to the Tribunal was actually made by his employer.  Fordy was 18 and had been working for Smith since he was 14, possibly earlier, as he is listed as a greengrocer’s assistant on the 1911 census.  He was killed in May 1917 and is recorded on the Arras memorial.

George S Parry of Broomwood Road was one of those deferred to a later group, possibly because of his occupation – which is listed as a Cadet with the Officers Training Corps. He was put into Group 10, which was mobilised on 29 Febuary 1916 – in his case, as part of the local 23rd County of London regiment.  Sadly he was killed in September 1916, just a few months after mobilisation.

Tribunal decision column 14 JanOf the four cases adjourned for a later decision, three claims were placed in later Groups the following week, and the fourth case a week after that. None of the claims were successful, and the Tribunal passed un-reported in the local newspapers (although later Tribunals are reported in detail, and we will come back to the Tribunal in future weeks).  As is clear from this the majority of the appeals were “disallowed”, a pattern which is maintained throughout all the Tribunals.  There did not seem to be any difference between the 18 men whose employers had made the application and those who made it themselves – they were just as likely to be unsuccessful.

Several of the men came from outside Battersea, including one from Hammersmith, one from Hounslow and one from Croydon. All of them worked for Battersea employers, F J Maidment was a Railway Despatch Clerk for Aplin & Barrett Ltd (a dairy on Parkgate Road, then known as Park Road), but resident in Hammersmith.  S J Finch was a butcher from Hounslow, who worked for F North on St Johns Hill and L J J Wright came from Albert Road, Croydon every day to work as a clerk for CGT Butler’s insurance brokers on Northcote Road.  All of them appear to have survived the war, as it has not been possible to match them to records on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.  The Tribunal does not record their full names, and none of them are easy to trace on the 1911 census either.

Tribunal page 14 Jan

Battersea Local [Military Service] Tribunal minutes, ref: MBB/2/25/2

30 November – 6 December 1915: Military Service Tribunals

6 December saw the first meeting of the Battersea Local Tribunal, also known as a Military Service Tribunal. This was just a meeting of the Tribunal members, with no cases to hear as yet, but would act for the next almost three years – deciding whether or not applications to defer or be excused from military service would be permitted or not. The same week, on 1st December, Wandsworth Borough Council agreed a committee to act as the Local Tribunal – after some debate within the Council, it had been agreed that one of the members of the tribunal would be a shop-keeper who would understand the needs of small businesses. The minutes do not record which of the members that was.

The Battersea meeting agreed that the Tribunal would be formed of those present, the Mayor [William Moore], W Hammond JP, A Winfield, H G White and W Watts, with a quorum of 3 people – meaning the tribunal could not act unless at least three of them were present. Present at the first meeting was also Lieutenant Gost, who was the recruiting officer for Battersea and was later replaced by a military representative, Captain Briggs, to argue the case for the Armed Forces.

Tribunals were set up after the National Registration Act, which was passed in July 1915 – partially to boost recruitment but also as a way of establishing how many men were in each occupation. Certain occupations were exempt from being called upon for military service, as they were deemed of national importance themselves. Following on from Registration, the Group Scheme of recruitment was devised, where men were encouraged to sign up and be placed into a particular group, which would mark when they were to be called up for service. A much more detailed explanation of the scheme can be found here, with links to articles on how to research this further for particular soldiers.

After the war, the records of the Military Service tribunals were supposed to be destroyed, with only the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal being kept officially for England, and the Edinburgh and Peebles Tribunals kept for Scotland (see here for more information). Several of the local ones survive however, with both Battersea and Wandsworth having kept their minutes. The Wandsworth minutes are largely just minutes, with the names of the men who came before the tribunal having been kept in a separate register – which has not survived. The Battersea minutes do list the cases heard, and we will be coming back to the registers in future weeks.

Battersea Military Service Tribunals, 1915-1918, ref: MBB/2/25/2-4

Wandsworth Military Service Tribunals, 1915-1918, ref: MBW/2/30