During the First World War, the passing of the Military Service Act in January 1916 enforced compulsory military service. As a result, single men and widowers without children aged 18-41 years were now liable to serve in the Army as long as they were not in a reserved occupation. The Act was extended in May of that year to cover both single and married men and in 1918 was extended to include men up to 51 years of age.
As a result of compulsory conscription, a series of Military Service Tribunals were established to hear applications and appeals for exemption from those with reasons not to serve in the Army. For men in Broadway, the Tribunals were held in Evesham.
The reasons for seeking exemption needed to fall in one of seven categories; employment or educational studies that were of greater national importance, domestic circumstances, conscientious objection and medical reasons.
William Joseph Keyte (1884-1974)
In 1917, following compulsory conscription, William Joseph Keyte of Broadway, who was 33 years of age and working as a jobbing builder and decorator, finally passed his army medical with a Grade 3C. William had previously been rejected by the Army on three occasions. He was now considered fit for service but only for clerical duties. Represented by Mr J.W. Roberts, William appealed his conscription on the basis that he would have to close his business if he enlisted as he had already lost one of his men to the war.
William appeared before Lieutenant Shelmerdine (who served with the RFC during WW1) at a Tribunal in Evesham. William stated during his appeal that there were a number of C3 single men in Broadway who did not have their own businesses who had not been called up and that he was married with three young children to support. William’s cousin, Harold Keyte, also a jobbing builder employed by many of the farms in Broadway, had passed Grade 1 fitness, however, he had received total exemption. William went on to explain that his cousin, Harold, would in spite of his employment be unable to support William’s family in his absence.
The Tribunal granted William full exemption from service during the war. His younger brother Charles Hubert Keyte, had served with the 3rd Battalion, Worcetershire Regiment, and was killed in action in France on 22nd August 1916 and is commemorated on the Broadway War Memorial.
William Stephens (b. 1886)
Aged 31, William Stephens of New Cottages, Leamington Road, Broadway, had been granted exemption on November 29th 1916. At the time he was working as a rabbit catcher for Mr Jackson in Broadway. His certificate of exemption was reviewed in 1917 at the request of the local National Service Representative as he was known to be no longer engaged in the same occupation. At his Tribunal, William stated that he was still catching rabbits and that he could get plenty of work on the land in and around Broadway. William who was single had passed Grade 2 at his medical. William lost his appeal and his exemption from service was withdrawn.
It is not known where or with which regiment William served. William was the son of Thomas and Louisa Stephens of Buckland.