Conscription

Discussion in 'General' started by drailton, Oct 5, 2010.

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  1. drailton

    drailton Senior Member

    I am trying to find exactly when conscription started in WWII. I understand that the National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposed a liability to conscription for all men aged 18 to 41. Can anyone tell me exactly when this came into effect.

    I have an instance of someone signing on in the RAFVR on 25 May 1941 when aged 18 years 9 months and wondered if he should have already been called up by that time.

    David
     
  2. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    I know that the 2nd Proclamation was 1st Dec 1939, and the 3rd was 1st Jan 1940, but for the life of me I cant find my copy of the 1st.

    The second proclamation was for men aged 20 onwards, the third proclamation dropped this to men aged 19, so I think the 4th Proclamation probably drops it to 18.

    I'm sure someone will confirm the date of the 4th Proclamation.

    Remember though that reaching 18 didnt mean automatic call-up, it was up to the Ministry to call people up when it thought they would be needed.

    And....was he actually drafted, or did he volunteer?

    Pete
     
  3. drailton

    drailton Senior Member

    He wasnt drafted - he volunteered but my question is why had he not been drafted by then. Once he volunteered he was then sent home to wait for a further 5 months before being called for basic training.

    David
     
  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    David - that doesn't surprise me that he was sent home to wait as most call-ups were all scheduled to meet training systems - this took a bit of sorting out at times- and vounteers were frowned on as upsetting the system - by 1942 all systems were working and the Army was calling people forward every six weeks to start their training - six weeks of Infantry training and pyschological testing and sorting out where you were needed most to fit in to try and avoid the square peg syndrome- didn't always work as the casualty rate was not on the same timetable...
    Cheers
     
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    David

    In my case, I was 19 years old on the 16th of August 1942 and was called up on the 1st of October the same year, which was 6 weeks after the then call-up age.

    At the time I was living in a small village in Bedfordshire and commuting daily to London.

    In my railway carriage was a group of my friends, all of a similar ages and each week one of us would get the "You are required to report to xxxxxxxxx baracks". I found this completely soul destroying and equivalent to treading water and simply not going anywhere.

    I couldn't wait to "get in", but, respecting my parent's fears and concerns, they already had two sons serving, I did not volunteer to get in at an earlier age.

    I wrote about this period on the BBC Archives,
    After about six months or so in Hove, the bombing eased temporarily and Dad decided to move us back to London, to a house in Sandringham Road in the Dalston area. We stayed here until the blitz really hotted up again when prudence demanded another change of address; we moved first to Dunstable in Bedfordshire and then finally to the nearby village of Houghton Regis
    For about a year we lived in a small house bang opposite the village pub and Dad and I commuted every day to the factory in Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. If my memory serves me rightly, the routine to get to work and back was pretty horrendous by any standard.
    We would rise about 5am, get the 6.l5 bus into Luton, a journey of six miles, then catch the 6.45 train to Kings Cross, changing at St Albans and arrive in London at about 7.45. From there it was a tube ride to Old Street station and finally a trolley bus ride to Great Eastern Street where we would arrive ready to start work at 8.l5 the latest.
    Repeat this process to get home at night and you will get the message that travel in wartime was not much fun.
    Dad would normally get in a carriage with his cronies and they would soon have a card school going, while I would equally try to get in a carriage with young people of my own age group.
    We were all waiting to be called up into the Forces, and although I managed to keep pretty busy work-wise, apart from being an Air Raid Warden in the evenings, I eagerly awaited call-up to get out of the rat-race in which I found myself. Deliverance came on Thursday October lst, l942, when I received a summons to report to the Beds and Herts Infantry Training Regiment at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.


    Ron
     
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    My mate's Dad volunteered early in the war for the RASC , that way he could avoid the infantry.
     
  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    I am trying to find exactly when conscription started in WWII. I understand that the National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposed a liability to conscription for all men aged 18 to 41. Can anyone tell me exactly when this came into effect.

    I have an instance of someone signing on in the RAFVR on 25 May 1941 when aged 18 years 9 months and wondered if he should have already been called up by that time.

    David

    David not sure if this helps
    My Father joined up Sept 1940 aged 28

    World War Two - Conscription
    World War Two - Conscription

    Conscription literally means compulsory military service.

    Unlike other European countries, Britain had always relied on volunteers to fight in times of war. Conscription had been introduced in 1916 when more men were needed to fight in the trenches, but it was abandoned when the war ended.

    During the 1930s some men still chose to enter the armed forces after leaving school and in 1937 there were 200,000 soldiers in the British army. The government knew that this was not enough to fight a war with Germany and in April 1939 introduced the Military Training Act. The terms of the act meant that all men between the ages of 20 and 21 had to register for six months' military training. At the same time a list of 'reserved occupations' was published. This listed occupations that were essential to the war effort and stated that those employed in those jobs were exempt from conscription.

    Reserved Occupations

    Dock Workers
    Miners
    Farmers
    Scientists
    Merchant Seamen
    Railway Workers
    Utility Workers - Water, Gas, Electricity



    When war broke out in September 1939, some men volunteered to join the armed services, but Britain could still only raise 875,000 men. Other European countries had kept conscription between the wars and were able to raise much larger armies than Britain. In October 1939 the British government announced that all men aged between 18 and 41 who were not working in 'reserved occupations' could be called to join the armed services if required. Conscription was by age and in October 1939 men aged between 20 and 23 were required to register to serve in one of the armed forces. They were allowed to choose between the army, the navy and the airforce

    As the war continued men from the other registered age groups received their 'call-up' papers requiring them to serve in the armed forces. In 1941 single women aged between 20 and 30 were also conscripted. Women did not take part in the fighting but were required to take up work in reserved occupations - especially factories and farming - to enable men to be drafted into the services.

    Men who were too old, young or not completely fit joined the Home Guard, known as Dad's Army



    Conscientious Objectors

    Conscientious objectors were men who, for moral or religious reasons felt unable to take part in the war. The government set up tribunals and those who objected to taking part in the war had to apply for Conscientious Objector status and give their reasons before a panel of officials. The panel had the authority to grant full exemption from any kind of war work, to grant exemption from military service only or to dismiss the application. Approximately 60,000 men applied for Conscientious Objector status. Of those around 18,000 were dismissed.


    CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION

    Conscription

    In May 1939, war looked increasingly likely, and in Britain the Military Training Act was passed. This meant that men aged 20-22 could expect to be called up for 6 months military training; there was just one call-up before war was declared on September 3, 1939. On that day all men aged between 18 and 40 became legally liable for call-up under the new National Service (Armed Forces) Act. After extensive loss of life at the various battle fronts, the age limit was raised to 51 at the end of 1941, when single women between 20 and 30 also were required, for the first time, to do some kind of war service.

    The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, had himself served on a tribunal (the panel interviewing COs to assess their request to be exempted from military service) in the First World War. He said that people asking for unconditional exemption should be respected. 'It was a useless and exasperating effort to attempt to force such people to act in a manner contrary to their principles.' If the principles were 'conscientiously held, we desire that they should be respected, and that there should be no persecution'.

    COs were once again required to face a tribunal, but this time the panel members were better chosen, and at least intended to be more fair. The chairman had to be a lawyer (usually a county court judge, not wearing judge's robes). Every tribunal panel had to have a trade union member on it, and, if the CO applicant was a woman, a woman member as well. There was no 'military representative'.

    As in the First World War, the tribunals had the power to allow full exemption from military service, without conditions; or exemption conditional on doing alternative civilian service; or exemption only from combatant duties in the army. Otherwise they could dismiss an application altogether. COs had the right of appeal against their tribunal's decision; the appeal ('appellate') tribunals were chaired by a High Court judge.

    There were a number of organisations which supported the COs, and all of them were represented on the Central Board for Conscientious Objectors (CBCO), set up in 1939 with government recognition as the organisation to consult on everything to do with conscientious objection. Many veteran COs from the 1914-1918 war manned about 100 CBCO groups which worked throughout the country to advise and inform COs, keep records (as the No-Conscription Fellowship had done in the previous war), monitor tribunals, lobby Parliament and generally protect the interests of COs. There was also the Pacifist Service Bureau (given a licence to operate by the London County Council), which worked to find suitable employment for COs who had been allowed conditional exemption.

    About 60,000 men and 1,000 women applied for exemption from armed service. Nearly 3,000 were given unconditional exemption. Around 18,000 were turned down altogether as not 'genuine'. The remainder were either allowed exemption conditional on doing alternative civilian work, or put on the military service register as non-combatants. About a third appealed against the decisions; subsequent appeal tribunals revised about half of these after re-examination.

    Of the COs who took up non-combatant duties, 6,766 ended up in the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC). This was set up in August 1940. It was divided into 14 companies mostly commanded by army veterans or reservists; 465 of these COs volunteered to specialise in bomb disposal. Others worked in army-run medical units or on other projects 'not involving the handling of military material of an aggressive nature'.

    Civilian work regarded by tribunals as most useful was agriculture or forestry, hospital work, and social service; towards the end of the war coal mining was added to the list. Civil defence was also favoured by tribunals, but a number of COs resisted it because of its closeness to military activity. For some COs alternative civilian service meant being ordered to stay in their present posts (for example, in education, scientific research or on the land), but many tribunals were keen to despatch applicants to work away from home, so that they made some sacrifice, as fighting men did.

    Each conscript woman was given the choice between the women's military services (no use of any 'lethal weapon' without her written consent), civilian defence, or work in industry, often in armaments factories. Women COs, it turned out, often had to appeal to gain exemption under conditions they could accept. Some women managed to make their own informal arrangements which were accepted as satisfactory, but these weren't listed in the records.

    By the end of the war, about 5,000 men and 500 women had been charged with offences to do with conscientious objection, and most of them were sent to prison. A further 1,000 or more were court-martialled and given prison sentences for refusing to obey military orders.
     
  8. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    I am trying to find exactly when conscription started in WWII. I understand that the National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposed a liability to conscription for all men aged 18 to 41. Can anyone tell me exactly when this came into effect.

    I have an instance of someone signing on in the RAFVR on 25 May 1941 when aged 18 years 9 months and wondered if he should have already been called up by that time.

    David

    Dear David,

    Bear in mind that the Emergency Powers Act only required men to register for potential service. There was often a considerable delay between registration and call-up, and during the delay it wasn't unknown for men to volunteer - possibly for patriotic motives, but also because volunteers had more control over the arm of service that they were sent to. It's not really all that surprising that someone of such a young cohort had yet to be called up.

    Best, Alan
     
  9. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    House of Commons debates, 1 September 1939

    Part of N Chamberlains speech.
    I do not propose to say many words tonight. The time has come when action rather than speech is required. Eighteen months ago in this House I prayed that the responsibility might not fall upon me to ask this country to accept the awful arbitrament of war. I fear that I may not be able to avoid that responsibility.
    .
    .
    .
    So much for the immediate present. Now we must look to the future. It is essential in the face of the tremendous task which confronts us, more especially in view of our past experiences in this matter, to organise our man-power this time upon as methodical, equitable and economical a basis as possible. We, therefore, propose immediately to introduce legislation directed to that end. A Bill will be laid before you which for all practical purposes will amount to an expansion of the Military Training Act. Under its operation all fit men between the ages of 18 and 41 will be rendered liable to military service if and when called upon. It is not intended at the outset that any considerable number of men other than those already liable shall be called up, and steps will be taken to ensure that the man-power essentially required by industry shall not be taken away.
     
  10. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    Can anyone shed any light on when 18 year old were included - best I can find is the 1st Jan 1940 for 19 year olds.

    Pete
     
  11. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    Can anyone shed any light on when 18 year old were included - best I can find is the 1st Jan 1940 for 19 year olds.

    Pete

    The exact registration dates for each cohort are in HMD Parker's Manpower (HMSO, 1957), the official history of wartime man-management, but I don't have a copy right at hand.

    Best, Alan
     
  12. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Soon after my 18th birthday in 1942 I was called upon to register for the forces. Having spent some years with the ATC I elected to join the RAF but was told there was a nine month wait for aircrew, so chose the army instead. Considering the casualty rate of the RAF it was a better choice, I came out without a scratch. I was called up in October.

    Jim
     
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The legislation enacted in May 1939 as the Military Training Act was the vanguard for national service and as has been said was for an anticipated 6 months.I think that same acts,as amended, covered postwar national service until it ended in the early 1960s.

    Digressing,I had a friend who was called up for this service but due to events being overrun by the international situation found himself in the colours until 1946.His time was spent largely in Burma and he experienced the retreat up to India.Was in the RASC and related to me the destruction carried out on the Burmah Oil company installations to prevent their use by the Japanese.There was an unsuccessful legal case after the war when the Burmah Oil Company tried to sue HM Government for the destruction of their assets.

    Interestingly, the shortage of British manpower was never as accute as that of the Germans who in the end recruited and inducted youths hardly into their teens.Whilst in Alsace,I saw a memorial on the heights above Obernai to those who had lost their lives while in compulsory service in the German armed forces and was not too surprised to see that by 1944,the Germans were calling up Alsaciens in the class of 1928 for service.
     
  14. jainso31

    jainso31 jainso31

    The National Service (Armed Forces) Act passed on the 3rd September 1939 made all men between the ages of 18 and 41 years old liable for conscription.I believe this what you ewnted to know.

    jainso31
     
  15. Drayton

    Drayton Senior Member

    Bear in mind that the Emergency Powers Act only required men to register for potential service. There was often a considerable delay between registration and call-up, and during the delay it wasn't unknown for men to volunteer - possibly for patriotic motives, but also because volunteers had more control over the arm they were sent to.



    This is true except that, as has been stated elsewhere on this thread, the relevant Act was the National Service (Armed Forces) 1939, as amended from time to time. The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, although crucially important, dealt with entirely separate matters.
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The National Service (Armed Forces) Act passed on the 3rd September 1939 made all men between the ages of 18 and 41 years old liable for conscription.I believe this what you ewnted to know.

    jainso31

    If this is the case ref the age range does anyone know why no one under 19 years of age was allowed to deploy to France in 1939/40?

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    A brief reminder that for one part of the UK there was no conscription - Northern Ireland.
    As a result anyone from Ireland - north or south - who served in British forces, was a volunteer.
     
    Drew5233 likes this.
  18. Drayton

    Drayton Senior Member

    If this is the case ref the [call-up] age range [18-41] does anyone know why no one under 19 years of age was allowed to deploy to France in 1939/40?



    I have no specialist knowledge on this particular point, but my historical knowledge suggests that this was a conscious following of the precedent set in 1916 that no conscript under the age of 19 would be sent into combat. The reasoning was that no-one more than two years below the then age of majority (21) should be compelled either to kill or to risk being killed.

    Since the point has been raised, it may be worth mentioning that in more recent times the UK was less squeamish about slaughter by and of under-age youth. In the Falklands War in 1982 two of a number of 17-year-olds knowingly deployed were killed, and a third on his 18th birthday. In the First Gulf War in 1991 two more 17-year-olds were killed. An odd comment on the supposed progress of the 20th century that what was unacceptable in the dire straits of 1916 and 1939 became acceptable in the steadier times of the 1980s and 90s.

    Not for the first time in history the UK has now had to be carried kicking and screaming into the 21st century by being required under international pressure to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, whereby no-one under 18 may be engaged in hostilities. (The UK is the only European country regularly recruiting from age 16, and binding such recruits into a minimum term up to age 22.)
     
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers,

    There was a 17 year old straight from basic in my troop in Iraq (2003). He had to have his parents written permission to deploy or he stayed in Germany as rear party. I think there was a couple of 17 year old girls in the Sqn too that deployed.
     
  20. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    This is true except that, as has been stated elsewhere on this thread, the relevant Act was the National Service (Armed Forces) 1939, as amended from time to time. The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, although crucially important, dealt with entirely separate matters.

    Well, as I understand it, the EP acts (of which there were several) were the legal basis for the wartime government's right to conscript. So you could say that the Military Training and National Service Acts were specific applications of the general powers granted by the EPAs.

    If this is the case ref the age range does anyone know why no one under 19 years of age was allowed to deploy to France in 1939/40?

    A distinction between law and policy, I think. It's not that the army couldn't send nineteen-year-olds to France: it just chose not to.

    Best, Alan
     

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