In September 2015 the Everyday Lives in War Centre held an event which looked at the role played by the military tribunal following the introduction of conscription in 1916. You can see the unedited film of the day here.
Below are links to some edited clips to give you a flavour of what was discussed (figures in brackets refer to the starting point of each talk)
You can also see a short report of the event at https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/?p=860
A second event was held in May 2016 to look at the very particular issue of conscription and a film of that day will be posted on the website soon.
Introduction – Dr. Jim Beach (University of Northampton)
- Jim Beach is a military historian with a particular interest in the field of military intelligence. In his introduction to the day, he sets out the plan for this first workshop which explores the story of the Military Tribunals within their local communities.
Why Conscription (23 mins) – Dr. Jim Beach (University of Northampton)
- Why does Britain decide to compel its men to serve their country? That decision sets the context for all that follows.
- By spring 1915 there are real concerns in government over the possibility of sustaining long-term recruitment
- An assumption by the government that the war will be won by 1916 is challenged by the fact that everything goes badly in 1915 for the allies
- The war escalates and the British government has to rethink its position on relying on a volunteer army.
The Other Side of the Desk: Tribunals from the Tribunalists’ perspective (58 mins) – Dr Jim McDermott
- Jim McDermott’s research has focussed on the role of the Tribunals within their communities and the ways in which the Tribunalists coped with the demands of an evolving system of conscription. He is the author of British Military Service Tribunals, 1916-18. In this first clip he discusses how the Tribunals were set up and how they had to learn very quickly what central government required of them
- Why tribunals did not consider conscience to be a special case and an idea of their busy workload and the range of personal and commercial circumstances upon which they had to decide.
- The Tribunal’s use of the press in issues such as the white feather campaign or the removal of responsibility for the medical examinations of enlisted men from military doctors.
Using tribunal materials for Home Front History (147mins) – Dr. Sally Sokoloff
- Sally Sokoloff is a former Head of History at the University of Northampton. She has worked extensively with the excellent records which survive from the Northamptonshire Appeals Tribunal. In this first clip she shows how an application for exemption based on a number of grounds failed to impress.
- The ways in which those appealing expressed themselves in forms, petitions and letters to the Tribunal, a valuable insight into the lives of ordinary men and women.
- The ways in which the cases which Sally has explored has changed her understanding of the Home Front, offering insights into alternative ways of thinking about patriotism.
The Decisions of the St Albans City Tribunal and their Effect on Local Business (177mins) – Patricia Broad & Jon Mein, (St. Albans Home Front Project)
Jon and Patricia are both members of the St. Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society. They are two of a group of volunteers who have been working on the story of the Home Front in St. Albans during the First World War, helped by the survival of the Register and Minute Books of the St. Albans City Tribunal. A book showing what they have discovered will be published in September 2016 – St Albans: life on the home front, 1914-1918 (University of Hertfordshire Press)
- Jon Mein discusses how the team were able to draw on the surviving tribunal records to gain an insight into the way businesses were affected by the war and the introduction of conscription.
- Considers how the tribunal members were part of the local community and how that made their role a very public one.
- St Albans was a centre for the manufacture of straw hats, but the various companies engaged in this business experienced different outcomes.
- Patricia introduces the experiences of a local printing company, Gibbs & Bamforth, publishers of The Herts Advertiser.