At the beginning of January 100 years ago a bill was enacted early in 1916 deeming all able bodied men of the right ages to have joined the armed forces.
The first Military Service Act came into force 100 years ago today on 2nd March 1916 and compelled ‘eligible’ men to join the armed forces. Initially it affected single men between the ages of 18 and 41 and a second Act in May 1916 extended liability for military service to married men. Eventually a third Act in 1918 extended the upper age limit to 51.
The Act included exemptions such as those for the medically unfit, certain classes of industrial workers and clergymen and it also included an exemption for reasons of conscience. Conscientious objectors refused to fight on religious or moral grounds, although the proportion of conscientious objectors to men in uniform was very small.
A new system of Military Service Tribunals was subsequently set up to hear the cases of men wishing to avoid service for a range of reasons and for those men who lived in Broadway their cases were held in Evesham and reports of the Tribunals were published in the Evesham Journal.