Following the implementation of the Military Service Act almost all unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 41 were expected to join the military after 2nd March 1916. Many appealed and a series of tribunals were set up by local authorities to hear their cases. Due to the sensitivity of the subject very few records were kept after the war, but many hearings were covered by local newspapers. Names were not published but details of the applicants circumstances were reported in surprising detail. The papers not only reported on local tribunals but the more notable cases around the country.
The majority of cases were on economic grounds, most of the applicants were businesses and men claiming they are the sole breadwinners for dependent parents. Many were given a deferral of between one and three months to make other arrangements and others were refused.
Unusually, Wellington Urban District Tribunal had decided that its transactions should be private. Reporters were asked to leave, they pointed out that this was the only tribunal known in Shropshire to take this view and that they regarded it as a matter of public interest. The Chairman replied that in a small place like Wellington, even if names were omitted, a description of the applications might lead to the identification of the applicants.
The following week the Wellington Journal reported that it was once again excluded from proceedings. It reported that applicants had voluntarily explained their positions, “they were desirous that it should also be known that they should not be branded slackers or shirkers but had genuine grounds for at least temporary exemption”.
Many conscientious objectors were given exemption from military service and ordered to non-combatant roles such as medical support staff. Those with a conscientious objection were subjected to rigorous examination as this example from the Shrewsbury Tribunal shows.
This applicant was told to provide written evidence of his membership of the Christadelphian Church.