In late 1915, in an attempt to stimulate the recruitment of men for the Army, Lord Derby introduced a scheme whereby men between the age of 18 and 40 could enlist voluntarily with an obligation to join up if they were called for.
However, the scheme did not bring in the numbers hoped for so, on 27 January 1916, the Military Service Act was passed and voluntary enlistment stopped, apart from in Ireland. All British males were now conscripted if they were between the ages of 18 and 41, were residing in Great Britain and were unmarried or a widower on the 2 November 1915.
This did not mean that every man was immediately called up as there were various reasons for which a man might be precluded from enlistment. Certain trades, called “starred, badged or reserved occupations”, were vital to the war effort and men employed within these were initially exempt from being called up.
A network of Tribunals was set up to review the appeals of any man called up who believed that he had just cause for not joining the Colours. The first tier was at local town or district level, then came the county tribunal, where men unsuccessful with their appeal at local level had the right to a further review of their case.
The Raunds Tribunal dealt with the majority of the cases of the town’s workers although those living elsewhere, but working in the town, sometimes chose to appeal to the Rural District Tribunal based at Thrapston. On rare occasions, town cases would be referred to the Rushden Tribunal when there was a perceived conflict of interest between the appellant and the Raunds committee.
Here follows the published reports of the various meetings of the Raunds Tribunal and, where “Rance” men were involved, those of the County and other local Tribunals, as they appeared in the local newspapers:
On Tuesday, 18 January 1916, the final meeting of the previous incarnation of the town’s Tribunal, set up to deal with “Derby Scheme” appeals, was held. In addition to dealing with a small number of cases involving “badged” men, the initial make-up of the new Tribunal that would be required under the forthcoming Military Serve Act was agreed upon, as per regulations issued by the Government.
Mr John Adams, CC, would be the first chairman, assisted by Messrs A Camozzi, G E Smith, J Hodson and W Agutter, with Mr W F Corby acting as clerk. Significantly, all of these good gentlemen were also members of the Raunds Urban Council, a situation that would cause some difficulty from time to time in the coming months.
The Military Service Act 1916 became law on Wednesday, 9 February. Now the work of the tribunals would begin in earnest!
At the Urban Council meeting of Monday, 21 February, several councillors expressed the opinion that the Tribunal should be enlarged, and on the motion of Mr J Hodson, seconded by Mr W Asbery, the name of Mr Walter Gates was added.
The first meeting of the new Tribunal, as constituted under the Military Service Act, was held in the clerk’s office on Wednesday evening, 23 February. The first item of business was to confirm Mr John Adams, CC, as chairman. Fifteen appeals were then considered, several of which were granted full exemption, as being under certified occupations, while others were given exemptions extending from one to three months, when they could come up for further revision.
On Thursday, 9 March, it was announced that, much to Lord Derby’s regret, married men up to 35 years of age would be included in call-ups from on or about 17 April, this was long before he had hoped that they would be needed. It was also revealed that a special Cabinet Committee had been formed to revise the list of “reserved occupations”.
At the Local Tribunal of Wednesday, 22 March, a clerk in a factory was given three months exemption as he was deemed indispensable, owing to his technical knowledge. Also allowed three months were a pork butcher, a baker, and a hairdresser. However, several other appeals were refused.
On Monday, 27 March, the committee met again in the clerk’s office and eight appeals were presented, one of which was held over until the appellant’s group was called up. In each of the other cases, the employers put in a strong appeal that the men were indispensable to them if they were to fulfil the Government orders they had on hand. Consequently, exemptions were granted in each case varying from two to three months.
At the County Tribunal on Friday, 31 March, Mrs Streather, of the “Globe Hotel”, appealed for her son, Leonard B Streather, who assisted her in the business. Mr Newton appeared in support and stated that there was a younger brother in the house, but he could not say whether he had been called up. The appeal was disallowed.
The next Local Tribunal was on Tuesday, 4 April, when five cases were considered: one was adjourned awaiting further particulars, in the other four cases, exemption was granted for a fortnight, one month, two months, and three months respectively.
On Thursday, 25 May, the Military Service bill received its Royal Assent. The Local Tribunal also met at the Council School today, when 29 cases were presented for consideration, all of which related to persons employed in the shoe trade.
A partner of a firm appeal for their managing director, who had the sole charge of the business – six months exemption was granted. The same employers appealed for a laster, single, on sea boots. This man had previously been granted two months exemption. A further two months was granted to enable the employers to finish the contract.
Another employer appealed for his general factory manager, his cashier and chief clerk, and a hand laster on Government work, all married – six months, two months, and three months exemption respectively was granted. Many other similar claims for shoe hands on Army work were allowed, two to six months being granted.
A Raunds appeal was heard at the County Tribunal on Friday, 26 May. John Mitchell appealed for exemption as part-proprietor and manager of the Palace Theatre. The appellant said that, if he were taken, the business would close down, and he and his partner be thrown into bankruptcy. He was 27 years of age and had been married for six years. He asked for the case to be heard in camera. His appeal was dismissed but he was given leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal.
The first Local Tribunal of June met on Thursday evening, 1 June, when the Recruiting Officer, Captain Wright, asked for cases in the boot trade to be adjourned; the single men’s cases for a week; the married men’s cases for a month pending an arrangement with the manufacturers and military authorities being satisfactorily come to.
The Clerk mentioned he had not received any instructions with regards to the unattested married men beyond a notice that the Bill had gone through.
A letter was read from the War Agricultural Committee pointing out that they viewed with alarm the number of indispensable men the Tribunal were taking from the land and urged them to be more lenient.
Six agricultural cases were considered and three were given conditional exemptions on them remaining in their present occupations, the three others were given two to three months. The same applied to the appeal from the Thrapston Union Guardians regarding their 41 year old, married, superintendent of the Children’s Home.
A builder/plumber/decorator appealed for his man, and was given two months exemption but the military representative thought there were a number of wounded soldiers who could do the work. The manager of a boot factory, also secretary of the Independent Order of Rechabites, married, 38, received six months exemption. A single man, with a widowed, invalid mother, dependant on him, received three months.
The Co-operative Society appealed for their manager/buyer of the drapery and men’s outfitters, married, 36, and their slaughterman, 25, married. They had fifteen employees (men) of military age, of which eight had enlisted and two had been rejected, and employed women where possible. Both men were given three months exemption.
At the Thrapston Rural Tribunal, held at the Workhouse on Wednesday, 21 June, a Chelveston shoe laster, 40, employed on Government work at Raunds, appeared before the panel. He had had a badge up to the first Saturday in June, when working on hand sewn work, although badges were not granted to lasters. As he had nine children, he was given absolute exemption.
Thursday, 22 June, saw the next meeting of the Raunds Tribunal, at which the following varied line-up of appeals were considered: Farm Workers – three men were each given three months exemption, and a horsekeeper (14 horses) received conditional exemption as long as remained in this occupation; Butchers – two were given conditional exemptions, and one three months; Co-operative Society – three men received three month exemptions, and their foreman-baker conditional exemption; Two men in the Cycle Trade were each given three months; Boot Trade – several single men had claims dismissed, whereas a boot manufacturer’s chauffeur and gardener was given a final two months, to enable the employer to make other arrangements.
“For The Colours – Boot Trade Operatives to be Released” ran the headline on Saturday, 8 July, telling how the boot manufacturer’s associations throughout the country had been warned by the Government that in all probability it would be necessary for them to release at the end of August all single men up to the age of 36 and all married men up to 25 years “who are fit for service abroad”. Many operatives in the boot trade were at present in designated “reserved occupations”. The date named for the suggested withdrawal would probably coincide with the completion of the huge orders for boots for the Russian Army which were now being carried out.
The Local Tribunal met again at the Raunds Council School, Thursday, 20 July, when a cartage contractor, 30, married, was granted three months exemption; the case of a boot laster, 38, married, was for adjourned one week; a coal carter’s man, 35, married, was given final exemption to 1 September; two men appealed on personal grounds, but as they had been released by their employer, both were dismissed.
The Urban Council appealed for their surveyor, sanitary inspector and waterworks engineer, however, the military authorities suggested that as the members of the Council and Tribunal were the same men, the appeals should be considered by another Local Tribunal, and it was agreed that their cases should be presented at Rushden.
The Raunds Gas Light and Coke Co Ltd appealed for their gas stoker, married, 39, and he was given conditional exemption subject to remaining in the present occupation. Messrs Palmer’s Stores appealed for their chauffeur mechanic who assisted in the warehouse, and also their grocer’s assistant. They were employing women in the stores and several of their employees had joined the forces – exemptions of two months and one month final respectively were granted.
The Rushden Tribunal were called upon to consider a Raunds case on Friday, 4 August, when the Raunds Urban Council appealed for its surveyor, a 26 year old single man. After due discussion, the man was granted 3 months exemption.
The next Raunds Tribunal took place on Thursday, 17 August, when there were a number of claims from local tradesmen. A milk vendor, serving 320 customers, twice daily and a poultry rearer, 28, married, with 4 children, appealed on grounds of serious hardship if called up – if he had to go his business would stop; he was given exemption to 17 October.
A farmer appealed for his man, single, 21, as he only had an old age pensioner and casual labour on his 150 acre farm. Previously granted exemption, this was extended to 17 September (final).
A smallholder, 27, 14½ acres arable and pigs and poultry, previously given 6 months, received an extension to 17 October (final). A watchmaker, jeweller and optician, married, 35, with 2 children, one of whom was “very delicate”, and a grocer and provision dealer with a country business, married, 29, 2 children, were both given 3 months.
A fruiterer and a confectioner, married, 30, previously exempt on grounds of the ill-health of his wife, who was away, received 2 months, as did a hairdresser and tobacconist, 31, married, with two shops.
An organist, choirmaster, music teacher and dealer in musical instruments, married, with 4 children, nearly 41, his eldest son, 18, serving with the Colours in Mesopotamia – was given exemption to 30 November. Finally, the case of the Gas Company fitter, the only one who could do the work, was adjourned to the next meeting.
The integrity of the Raunds Tribunal was the subject of a case at Thrapston Police Court on Tuesday, 22 August, when Isaac Clark, a town coal merchant, was charged with a breach of the Defence of the Realm Regulations, by making a statement likely to prejudice the recruiting, training, discipline or administration of His Majesty’s Forces, at Raunds on 25 July.
Walter Asbery, cabinet maker, a member of the Local Tribunal, said that on 20 July the defendant made an appeal to the Tribunal in respect to a man named Hales, and the man was given one month (final). On 25 July, the witness went to the Conservative Club, of which he and the defendant were members. The defendant was putting on his coat after playing bowls and the witness wished him a good evening. The defendant remarked “I shall never be cool any more after coming to your Tribunal last time”.
The defendant then began abusing the chairman of the Tribunal (Mr John Adams), saying he was a man who would rather see his (defendant’s) son shot than lose an order for one pair of Army boots. The witness told him that was a malicious statement to make. The defendant added that the chairman told him he was no good to his country; the witness told him not to be foolish. The defendant then began abusing him, and said that the Tribunal were “nothing but a lot of dirty curs and murderers!” He called the Tribunal dirty curs many times. This went on for 25 minutes. The defendant was much excited and said “If you will come outside and take your coat off I will show you what I will do!”
Edward Beal, steward at the Conservative Club, corroborated, and said that the defendant had been suspended from the club until he apologised, but he had not done so.
The defendant said he sincerely regretted having this altercation with Mr Asbery and was prepared to apologise there to the committee of the club, and he expressed his regret to the chairman of the Tribunal.
The Chairman of the Bench, however, was unimpressed, and told the defendant that he had had one month to apologise but had not done so. He would therefore be fined £10.
“Time to get in the Harvest” was a thread running through many of the appeals made to the Local Tribunal on Thursday, 31 August. A letter was read from a smallholder, who was given exemption to 1 October at the last meeting, asking for a further right of appeal if, owing to the weather, he had not cleared up at that time – the request was granted.
A farmer appealed for his general labourer, 29, married, previously given 2 months, and was given an extension of one month to help get in the harvest. Another farmer appealed for his two sons, 18 and 22, both single, he had two farms. The eldest son managed one and was the horsekeeper, the youngest son was stockman on the other. He was giving up one farm at Michaelmas next. Both men were given exemption to 11 October, but it was suggested that the farmer might release one son to make the case for the other stronger. A third farmer appealed for his milkman, 27, married, who previously had been a whitestone labourer, having only worked here for a few months; the man also was given until 11 October.
A plumber, painter and decorator appealed for his son, his only employee, as if he had to go, his business would drop; a laundryman and smallholder appealed on his own behalf, since his last appeal he had lost his man, and had both brothers serving; as did a carter, married, 39, 4 children – all three were granted 2 months exemption although it was also suggested that the carter should help a farmer so as to free up a single man for service.
The Co-operative Society appealed for their manager/buyer of their drapery/outfitting department, 36, married, and their slaughterman, married, 25; both were given 2 months although it was suggested that they find an older man in place of the slaughterman.
A firm of Government boot manufacturers appealed for their sole attacher, 32, married, who had only recently started working for them – he was granted exemption until 25 September. Finally, a builder appealed for his carpenter, joiner and machinist, married, 34, and a boot manufacturer appealed for his chauffeur/gardener, married, 37; both received 2 month exemptions.
At the County Tribunal at Northampton on Friday, 1 September, the farmer employer of Albert Chapman Summonby, a farm hand of Raunds, appealed for his further exemption, he being the only man employed on his farm, except an old age pensioner, who did very little. The farm consisted of 180 acres, with several acres of corn, 42 head of cattle, 5 horses and 171 sheep. The farmer said that it was impossible to get any other labour. Final exemption to 30 September was granted.
The next Local Tribunal was held on Thursday evening, 14 September, when the appeal from the Gas Company for their manager/secretary was withdrawn as the man had now been given a war service badge. Normal business then followed:
A farmer, with over 500 acres, appealed for his horsekeeper, his only man, who had already been exempted twice. He received a final month’s exemption to help complete harvest operations. A heel manufacturer, 31, married, was given a further 2 months.
The Co-operative Society appealed for five of its employees: their coal carter, 27, married (also a member of Raunds Fire Brigade); the managers of two of their grocery and provisions stores, both married, 39 and 32 respectively; their baker and bread deliverer, married, nearly 41; and their slaughterman, who also delivered with the cart, single, 22. The secretary stated that they employed females where possible, and were also advertising for men in all their departments. They had recently lost the manager of their butchery department, and if the slaughterman had to go and they could not get another, they would have to close that department.
One month’s exemption was granted for the single man, and 2 months for the rest. The Tribunal decided that in the case of the single man and the younger of the grocery managers, no further appeal would be allowed except on application to the County Tribunal.
A boot manufacturer appealed for three young men who had reached the age of 19 since the agreement arrived at between the manufacturers and the military authorities. Two received exemptions until 7 October and one until 1 October. Finally, the manager of a grocery and drapery store appealed for his chauffeur/mechanic, who also assisted in the warehouse and delivered goods. The man was given 1 month and requested to be examined by the Army Medical Board in the meantime.