World War I records show Harlesden man was exempt from military service due to domestic hardship

John Gordon Shallis appeal documents

John Gordon Shallis appeal documents - Credit: Archant

Details of a Harlesden man who avoided conscription during the First World War has been released online by the National Archives.

In the document seen by the Times, John Gordon Shallis who lived in Ranelagh Road successfully appealed against compulsory military duty on grounds of domestic hardship, having lost four of his brothers during the war.

In making their decision, military officials took into account John’s mother is described as a “cripple” on his appeal form, having broken her leg, and his father was away carrying out Home Defence duties with the Territorial Force.

The records of Brent man, who worked as a Carpenters Mate, is just one of thousands of individuals from the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, which have been digitised as part of events to mark the centenary of the war.

Papers from the tribunal, which heard appeals between 1916 and 1918, include administrative papers reflecting the changing policy towards conscription as the war progressed.

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They showed that men sought exemption on medical, family or economic grounds as well as the relatively small proportion wishing not to fight on moral grounds as

conscientious objectors.

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Of the 11,307 separate appeals heard between 1916 and 1918, only 577 were conscientious objection cases, just over 5%, new figures show.

The majority of appeals were dismissed and many people did go on to see war service.

Chris Barnes, Records Specialist at The National Archives said: “The conscription appeal records provide a different perspective of the First World War away from the battles, revealing the impact the war had on the Home Front.

“Digitising this collection opens up the records to allow people across the globe to discover the lesser known stories of First World War for themselves.” The collection is one of only two complete surviving collections of tribunal records due to the sensitive issues that surrounded compulsory military service during.

After the Great War, with only a small minority of the tribunal papers survive the Government issued instructions to the Local Government Boards that all tribunal material should be destroyed.

The only exceptions were the Middlesex Appeal records and a similar set Lothian and Peebles in Scotland, which were to be kept as a benchmark for possible future use.

A sample of records from the Central Tribunal were also retained, which are also part of the MH 47 series.

The appeals documents can be found on the National Archives website:

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