On 27th January 1916, the first Military Service Act, introducing conscription for single men of military age, became law. All British single or widowed males aged 19-41 were deemed to have enlisted with effect from 2nd March 1916.
Men who were due to be called up for military service were able to appeal against their conscription. Throughout the country, a very large number of men appealed. In the Badsey region it was usually because of the nature of the man’s job which was overwhelmingly in connection with market gardening; at the time of the 1911 census, 80% of households had been involved with market gardening.
Applications for exemption were heard at the weekly Evesham Rural District Tribunal meetings. Men could apply on the grounds of work of national importance, business or domestic hardship, medical unfitness and conscientious objection, requesting either absolute, conditional or temporary exemption under one or more of seven different grounds.
Most were initially given some kind of exemption, usually temporary (between a few weeks and six months). A number of men came before the tribunal or the Worcestershire Appeals Tribunal on more than one occasion. Some men gained exemption on the condition that they joined the Volunteer Training Corps for part-time training and home defence duties.
The act was extended to married men by a second Military Service Act on 25th May 1916. The lower age limit was also dropped to 18. A further extension of the Military Service Act on 10th April 1918 reduced the maximum age of recruitment to 50 and allowed soldiers aged 18½ to be sent overseas as long as they had six months’ training.
As is the case with so many parts of the country, tribunal documents no longer exist (the official records of the Tribunals were destroyed during and after the Great War because of the sensitive nature of the issues involved). The Evesham Journal, however, was a regular source of information, sometimes reporting verbatim. The table below gives information on military tribunals which has been extracted from the Journals of 1916-1918 by Tom Locke, Chris Smith, Maureen Spinks and Peter Stewart.