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Evesham District Military Tribunal of 11th July 1916

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.  Details of men from Badsey and Wickhamford who appeared before Tribunals are given in the section Military Tribunals.

The Evesham Standard and West Midland Observer of 15th July 1916 gave details of twenty-four cases heard by the Evesham District Tribunal of 11th July, which was held at the Board Room of Evesham Workhouse.

Those present were, Messrs J. Smithin (Chairman), C.A. Binyon, F. Cope, T. Bubb, H. Knight, J.H. Bomford, and Mr A Butler (the Board of Agriculture Representative) and Mr E.H. Wadams (Clerk). Canon H. Clifford was the Military Representative.  Most of the Members were local farmers or market gardeners.

This Tribunal took place less than two weeks after the start of the Battle of the Somme on the Western front.  Military Service Tribunals heard appeals against conscription and took place all over the country. By the time of the Tribunal reported here, over 750,00 men had applied to them, whilst 770,00 men had joined the Army.  The cases presented for exemption from conscription reported below, cover mainly market gardeners and others working on the land.  All of the cases resulted in exemptions, most of a temporary nature, until the end of the growing season. ‘Conditional exemption’ meant that the men were not conscripted unless their circumstance changed in the future. Some appellants represented themselves, others were represented by family or employer and some by lawyers.  The nature of the appeals included conscientious objection, poor health, the presence of brothers already in the services and the shortage of men to work the land.

At the start of the session the Clerk stated that Alec Hubert Price (22), market gardener, and Charles Mason Bowen, both of Offenham, whose cases had been heard at the last Tribunal, had both since been rejected as medically unfit. Exemption certificates would therefore be granted.

The Tribunal then proceeded to hear the cases for exemption from military service from 24 men, as follows:

Henry Halford (23), market gardener of Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford was represented by Mr. Geoffrey New.  He was a single man with five acres of land.  At the outbreak of War, he served one year and seven days on active service including 158 days in France, before being discharged.  While away, his brother Charlie looked after his land.  His brother Frank, who helped him would go in July.  He took the land three or four years ago and if he went there would be no one left to look after his land and he would have to give it up. He was also looking after his brother Horace’s three acres of land as he had joined up soon after war broke out. He had four brothers in the Army now and Frank was going soon.  Conditional exemption was granted.

Charles Robert Mason (37), married with one child, of Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford, a market gardener with 3½ acres of land held for 9 years. He stated that he had a bicycle accident in 1913 and suffered from deafness and headaches as a result and did not think he would pass a medical.  Dr Harthan wrote that the applicant fractured his skull and was in an unconscious state in the Cottage Hospital for three weeks in 1913.  Mason said that he had not been before the Medical Board at Worcester because he did not think he would be called up.  The case was adjourned for him to be medically examined by the Military Authorities.  (See Appendix)

Lionel E Horne (35) a married man of Bretforton Road, Badsey, had been a market gardener for 16 years and had 17½ acres of land. He appealed as a conscientious objector.  He would not take part in military service either as a combatant or non-combatant.  He also claimed as being of certified occupation, but for him conscientious objection came first.  Canon Clifford asked him if he would wage war against Germans who were outraging a Belgian Nun, but his reply was evasive.  Mr Cope asked if it was immaterial to him on which grounds he obtained exemption?  He replied that he had a wife and family and certain obligations he ought to consider.  Conditional exemption was granted as he was a market gardener.  Horne then asked what was the Tribunal’s decision regarding his appeal as a conscientious objector?   Mr Cope refused to discuss the matter further and Horne thanked the Tribunal for the courteous way they had treated him.  (See Appendix)

Charles William Halford (35) of Wickhamford, (represented by Mr A. H. Cross), was a married man with three children had 7 ½ acres of land since 1906. He was the brother of a previous appellant.  His man had gone and was left to work the land alone. He looked after his brother’s land and that of a man called Willoughby while they were away.  His brother, Frank, had been medically rejected for service. (See Appendix).  Conditional exemption was granted.

Horace Hartland New (35) lived at 38 Lime Street, Bengeworth and an appeal was made by his wife, Mrs Amelia New. He was a market gardener’s and dealer’s foreman, employed by his wife and trading as New and Co.  She was represented by Mr A. H. Cross.  She said her husband was the only man to look after 4 acres of land at Aldington.  She also had a wholesale fruit and vegetable business with a turnover of £3,000 a year.  Two men had left her employ and her husband dealt extensively with the market and had bought four fruit orchards. She was under the doctor. The Chairman said that it was apparently a dealing business and asked Mrs New if she considered it of national interest?  She said that it did and he responded by asking “Where does it come in? You don’t produce the stuff; you buy it in. It is for your financial benefit.”  Mr Cross said the appellant was a distributor of produce for the benefit of the grower and that it was not a small business.  In reply to the Military Representative, Mrs New said she did not tell the Sub-Advisory Committee that she had recently transferred the business, but that it had always been her business.  Exemption was granted until 1st August, with no appeal without leave.

Henry Dolloway (38) was a market gardener’s labourer and his employer, Mr Frank White of Great Hampton, appealed on his behalf.  Dolloway was a married man, with two children, living at 22 Peewit Road, Hampton.  Mr White said that a part of 25 acres was his and the other part Messrs White Bros.   Dolloway was the only active man employed who understood the work and business and that he had lost four men.  He was three men short and employed two boys and four women.  Exemption was granted until 1st October.

Hubert Thomas Hunt (32) was represented by Mr W. S. Whitehouse, of Messrs Whitehouse and Burrill, Sedgeberrow.  Hunt was their carter and drayman, who was married with two children.  Mr Whitehouse said that Hunt was very useful and did all of their drilling on 75 acres of land.  He only had two men now, two having done as well as his partner.  He was also looking after 8 acres belonging to a man who had been killed.  Conditional exemption was granted.

Charles Heath, a stockman for his father, Mr John Heath of Larkboro’ Farm, Bretforton, who was there to represent him.  His son looked after the cows and did odd work.  His other son, a carter, had obtained until 1st November.  He had no one else on the 160-acre farm apart from a boy.  Exemption was granted until 1st September.

Clinton Halford (18) was represented by Mr J. W. Stanley of Bretforton.  He was a carter and general workman on his 24 acres of market gardening and farming land. Two of his other men had joined the Colours and this was the only man he had left – he would be 19 in August.  Mr Stanley said that it was absolutely impossible to obtain labour and that Halford was also an under-waggoneer and that his brother had left to join the Army.  Exemption was granted until 1st November.

Leonard Hitchman (31) was married and a carter for Mr S. E. Jelfs, a market gardener and farmer of Bretforton, who was appealing on his behalf.  Mr Jelfs farmed 123 acres and also worked 7½ acres of market garden.  He had only one more man and two boys besides Hitchman.  Conditional exemption was granted

Frederick William Cleaver (26) a married market gardener of Bretforton with 3¾ acres of land, appealed.  He had served nine years in the 8th Worcestershire Regt. and had come home in April after doing 12 months in France, in the trenches.  His brother, who used to work the land, had joined the Army last December.  Conditional exemption was granted

Charles Proctor (31) a farmer at Downrip Farm, Broadway, working 70 acres, appealed.  A married man, with one child, he only had one man to help him on the farm – last year he had two men.  He did all the dairy work himself and his one man, who was his nephew, had been granted exemption until 1st September.  Conditional exemption was granted

Thomas Meadows (25) was an oxman at Spring Hill Lodge, Moreton-in-Marsh, who worked a team of oxen.  Mr J. Harbridge, bailiff for Mrs Knox of the farm appealed on his behalf.  He said that when the war broke out, they persuaded all the men they could to join the Army, with the result that they had very few men left.  The carters could not work the oxen.  Mr Harbridge was farming four farms for Mrs. Knox and it was impossible to get on with the work without the oxen.  If they went, two or three teams of horses would be needed.  Exemption was granted until 1st September

Frank Knight (35) a market gardener, of New Cottages, Broadway, cultivated two acres of land.  He said that he had a wife and three children and that his father (76) and mother (68) were partly dependent upon him.  They had had the land for six years.  Exemptions were granted until 1st October, with no appeal without leave.

Walter James Knight (38), living at Broadway, was a married market gardener, cultivating three acres of land and he also kept pigs.  He said he was the local manager of the only sand and gravel pit in the district, which he managed for Miss Smythe.  He was married with two children and the brother of the previous appellant. It was pointed out to him that gravel and sand were not necessities at the present time, to which he replied that repairs were going on.  Exemption was granted on the condition that the looks after his brother’s land

Stephen Styles (34) was a market gardener and basket maker of Wickhamford. He was a married man working six acres of land in the parish and in Murcott.  He had two sons and had been afflicted with deafness for the past 15 years.  He had been to the Public Hall, Worcester, the previous week and was passed for labour work only.  He only did basket work when he could not get on the land. (See Appendix)  Conditional exemption was granted

Raymond Cook (20) was a market gardener’s labourer in Littleton, whose father Mr John Cook appealed on his behalf.  He worked 11 acres of land and his son had been rejected by the Royal Navy on account of deafness.  Mr Cook stated that it was impossible for him to work the eleven acres by himself, although his wife and two daughters did assist him.  Exemption was granted until 1st October.

Arthur Beachey (36) was a working foreman and stockman at Battleton Lodge, Evesham and his employer, Mr. Joseph William Clarke, appealed on his behalf.  Beachy was married and living at Haines court, Bewdley Street, Evesham.  Mr Clarke said that he had four acres of land, 1,000 head of poultry, and pigs and cows, and that he was understaffed.  Beachy had seven children.  He had been to Worcester that morning to be medically examined and was passed for garrison service abroad.  Exemption was granted until 1st December as a market gardener’s labourer.

Albert William Retherdon (37) was an Account Secretary of Sedgeberrow, who was asking for six months’ exemption.  He was represented by Mr. Geoffrey New, who said his client was a married man with two young children, who had been passed by the Medical Board for field service at home.  At the present time he was working at Dumbleton Estate Office and living with a relative.  Exemption until 1st November; appellant to join the local Volunteer Training Corps.

Frank Banner was a publican and fruit and vegetable grower of the Sandys Arms, Wickhamford.  Mr Geoffrey New appeared on his behalf and the appeal was held in private.  Exemption was granted until 1st September (See Appendix).

Phillip Charles Rose (37) was a carman in the employ of Mr G. W. Knight, of Broadway, who appealed on his behalf.  Mr Knight was the local carting agent employed by the Great Western Railway Co.  He said that Rose was medically rejected for service, by Dr Gordon Evans, the previous year.  The case was adjourned for Rose to be medically examined by the Medical Board.

Adrian Frederick Allen (26) was a grocer, butcher, corn and flour dealer and a provision dealer of Bretforton.  This was a renewal application.  He said he supplied half of the population of Bretforton and he was a married man with three children.  Exemption was granted until 1st November.

Henry John Knight (24), a market gardener’s carter, was employed by his father Mr. Charles Henry Knight, who appealed on his behalf.  The appellant had 12 acres of ground and this was a renewal application  Exemption was granted until 1st October.

Harry Burrows (28), unmarried, was a cattleman employed by Mr F. D. Field of Sedgeberrow who had over 70 head of cattle.

John Benjamin Hackett (37) was a farm carter also employed by Mr Field.

Both men had been called up but had not gone yet.  The farm was 200 acres and besides these two men, Mr Field had only a roadster and a boy on the farm.  Both were granted conditional exemption

Appendix:  Appellants from Wickhamford and Badsey

Charles Mason attended a second hearing, on 31st July, after he had been examined, and he had been passed as fit for service.  He was given a temporary exemption until 1st November 1916, but was eventually exempted from military service on medical grounds. The letter from Dr Harthan, produced at the Tribunal, has survived and is shown below.

Charles Mason Dr Harthan

Lionel Horne was eventually exempted from Military service.

Henry Halford was exempted from Military service, later in 1916, as he had already served overseas.

Charles William Halford was eventually exempted from Military service.

Stephen Styles was eventually exempted from Military service.

Frank Banner had a second hearing, on 2nd August, and was given a final exemption until 31st October. He then joined the Devonshire Regt./ Labour Battalion. The reason for his hearing on 11th July being held in private is unclear.

Tom Locke, September 2022