The National Registration Act, passed in July 1915, required men and women to complete National Registration forms by15th August 1915. These forms were collected by Local Authorities. An Area Registration Office was set up at the Royal West Kent Regiment Barracks in Maidstone. Information on men aged between the ages of 18 and 41 was copied onto pink forms, with men in essential industries 'starred' for exemption from military service. These pink forms were sent to military authorities for recruitment purposes.
January 1916 saw The Military Service Act passed by Parliament. This imposed conscription on all single men aged 18 to 41. Exemptions were made for men in essential war work, those declared medically unfit, religious ministers, and conscientious objectors. (The period of conscription was in force until 1919).
Following the introduction of the Act Local Tribunals met to hear applications from men applying for exemption from Military Service. In March 1916, The West Kent Appeal Tribunal was set up at Sessions House, Maidstone, to deal with appeals from men whose applications for exemption from Military Service had been turned down by Local Tribunals in West Kent. This month also saw the first meetings of the Cranbrook Recruiting Tribunal.
Rupert Inglis provides one insight into how exemptions were viewed. On Tuesday 21 March 1916 he wrote:-
‘The tent here is a Y.M.C.A; there are two ladies and a certain number of men – civilians - who I don’t like seeing here. Some of them look as if they might be doing other things; they say they have all been passed as unfit. One of them was very anxious to play the piano for me at the Parade Service on Sunday; I couldn’t have anyone who was not in uniform. I should like to see all the huts run by wounded soldiers. The soldiers have no respect for a young man who has got a soft job.’
In May 1916, The Second Military Service Act, extending conscription to married men, became law in Great Britain.
In October 1916 the Cranbrook Recruiting Tribunal received a personal application under new agricultural rules and granted exemption to Arthur Relf (39), a widower, and farmer and woodman, of Poplar Cottage. An application from George Wood, wood-reeve, was adjourned.
In April 1918 The Third Military Service act was passed in the British Parliament. Military age limit was raised to 50, and Conscription extended to Ireland with effect from 18 April.
RESULTS OF CRANBROOK RECRUITING TRIBUNALS
UNDER THE MILITARY SERVICE ACTS (As reported in the press) - Download.