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Thousands of conscription appeal records made available online by the UK National Archives

Posted  23 January 2014 in News  
By Kate Clements
A certificate of exemption

The National Archives has made the digitised records of over 8,000 individuals seeking exemption from conscription into the Army in Middlesex during the First World War available online.

The conscription appeal records are from the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal which, between 1916 and 1918, heard appeals from men who had applied for exemption from compulsory military service.

The records include case papers of thousands of individuals, as well as administrative papers reflecting the changing policy towards conscription as the war progressed.

It is one of only two complete surviving collections of tribunal records. This sample from the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal records provides a unique insight into the impact of the First World War on families, businesses and communities far from the battlefields.

Chris Barnes, Records Specialist at The National Archives, said:

“The conscription appeal records provide a different perspective of the First World War away from the battles, revealing the impact the war had on the Home Front. Digitising this collection opens up the records to allow people across the globe to discover the lesser-known stories of First World War for themselves.”

The records reveal men seeking exemption on medical, family or economic grounds as well as the relatively small proportion wishing not to fight on moral grounds as conscientious objectors.

Of the 11,307 separate appeals heard between 1916 and 1918, only 577 were conscientious objection cases, just over 5%. The majority of appeals were dismissed and many people did go on to see war service. However, in some cases exemption was granted.

Find out more about The National Archives’ programme of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War on First World War 100.

Hear from men who appeared before military tribunals in Voices of the First World War Podcast 37: Conscientious objection.

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