Devoran men and Conscription tribunals

Here are a few Devoran related tribunal mentions in local newspapers of 1916 regarding conscription. Conscription came into force during 1916, first for single men, then shortly after for married men.

After all the attempts at recruiting or attesting volunteers throughout 1914 and 1915, the shortage of men in uniform forced the UK government to intervene in the working lives of many men and their families in a way not seen since the infamous pressgangs and Militia Acts  Napoloeonic Wars. 

In March 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker. A second Act passed in May 1916 extended conscription to married men. Conscientious objectors – men who objected to fighting on moral grounds– were also exempted, and were in most cases given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front.

Cornish Tribunals

Miners Claims at Truro.

West Briton, March 11th 1916

Is a sexton of national importance?

Truro Rural Tribunal met on Saturday, Mr T. Trudgian presiding.  (West Briton, March 11 1916)

According to the Kelly’s Directory for Cornwall 1910, George Dungey was sexton in 1910, parish clerk and sexton and part of the family firm of carriers. Who I wonder was sexton in 1916?

A builder, single, Devoran, aged 36 years, applied for exemption, and stated that worked on jobbing and contract. There was no one with him in business. He had reared the family for 16 years. His duties included those of sexton.

The Chairman: Is there anyone who could take your place?

Applicant: There is no one.

Mr. I. Roskelley (military representative): What is his objection?

It was stated that applicant set as his objection that he felt he could not take part in military service. It was never right for one man to kill another. He did not feel he could take up arms against his brother man.

Further it would entail hardship on his mother and two sisters, who were dependent on him. He considered his work as a sexton of national importance. (Laughter) He also considered his business of national importance.

The Chairman: He is a National man. (Laughter)

Exempted until April 14th 2016 and then the case will be reconsidered.

The Chairman: (to applicant) We hope by that time your conscience will be a little more straight.

Applicant: My conscience is straight enough.

The Chairman: When you come up again you will be able to tell us whether your brothers have joined up or not.

In the leader column by Argus on the same page, Argus notes of Conscientious Objectors that “a few members of tribunals have gone so far as to ridicule conscientious objectors” West Briton Monday March 13, 1916, page 2.

Who was this 36 year old Builder / Sexton? Who were his brothers, were they siblings or fellow men of conscience? Was this Sexton  a Dungey?  It appears that already by 1916 both an A.E. or E  Dungey (Private 10 DCLI) and a C. Dungey (Private, Australian Expeditionary Force) are already listed in the 1915 lists on the Roll of Honour as recruits.

The Case of Alfred Scott Mansell

Mr. A. J. Mansell, baker, applied for exemption of his son Alfred Scott Mansell, 26, of Carclew View, Devoran, who was engaged in  the bakery business. Mr. Mansell said his son was the only practical help he had and [if?] he could not retain him he should have to give up part of the work.

The Advisory Comittee recommended that the claim is not allowed and that the man join up on May 15th [1916].

Mr Roskelley: We saw a demonstration of ploughing yesterday by women and I think it would be better to place some of them in bake houses where they might do something useful.

The Mayor: if they didn’t bake bread better than some of them ploughed well.

Mr Goodfellow remarked that bread baking was a certified occupation and it was a question of whether a man could be relieved of civil employment.

Mr Mansell said a man he employed was called up at the beginning of the war, and for the past eight or ten months his wife had been in the bake house every day ; she was there when he left that evening.

Three of his five daughters were helping in the bake house. Temporary exemption until July 1st [1916] was granted, when another claim might be made.

Reported in the 10 April 1916 edition, West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – Truro, Cornwall, England

Editor’s note: Alfred Mansell’s name does not appear on the Devoran Roll of Honour, suggesting that he was granted continued exemption or that his service is recorded elsewhere.

In a Follow up report, the mockery by Mr Roskelley about women ploughing at Chyvelah and women and men baking appears to have been challenged at the TRURO RURAL TRIBUNAL,  RECENT AGRICULTURAL DEMONSTRATION. Truro Rural Tribunal met on Saturday, Mr. Coulter Hancock presiding. There were also present: Messrs. H. H. Williams and Mr Roskelley (military representative). W. E. Graves. W. Hearle … reported on the 27 April 1916 in the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – Truro, Cornwall, England

The Case of Edward Pope,38

Again in June 1916 in front of the military representative (Mr. Roskelley), the agricultural representative (Mr. T. M. Michell), and the clerk (Mr. J. Bray) …

June 8 1916 – Edward Pope (38) married, traction engine driver who was appealed for by his employers messrs W.F. Simmons Hodge and Co, Devoran  was exempted for two months and then to be  reconsidered.

July 31 1916 – West Briton – Mr W.F. Simmons Hodge, Devoran appealed for Edward Pope, 38, Perran Downs, Perranwell station,  engine driver at the brickworks and handy man. Three single men had to come up for reexamination. [Exemption until ] September 30th 1916 and then to be reconsidered.

Edward Pope’s name does not appear on the Devoran Roll of Honour. He may be recorded elsewhere if he was finally conscripted.

The case of James Henry Williams, 32, Perranwell

Messrs. W. Visick and Sons, Devoran, wrote stating that they regretted the decision of the local tribunal to order James Williams, of Perranwell, to join up on August 1st [1916]. He was their painter of bombs and he cold not possibly be spared, as there was no else to put in his place. He painted sixty bombs per week. The Tribunal decided not to reconsider the case.

12 June 1916 – West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – Truro, Cornwall, England

Mr James Henry Williams, married, 32, builder contractor and wheelwright, Perranwell Station appealed against the decision of the Truro Rural Tribunal. Appellant stated that for the past six weeks he had been engaged in munition work and working in the national interests.

He was employed two full days a week by Messrs W. Visick’s and Sons, Devoran in painting, lettering and putting distinguishing marks on bombs. He considered the ruling of the local tribunal very unfair seeing that he had given three days a week for the national interest. He had completed work on 600 bombs up to the present and had taken a contract for painting etc 60 bombs a week.

Messrs Visick’s wrote regretting the decision of the local tribunal and stating that he could not possibly spare the appellant there being no one else to take his place.

Appellant, in reply to a question said he commenced the bomb painting work at Easter and also had farmers’ building contracts in hand. The tribunal upheld the decision of the local tribunal.

J.H. Williams’ name does not appear to be on the Devoran Roll of Honour; it may be recorded elsewhere.

This bomb painting work according to photographs in Cornish archives appears later in the war to have been undertaken by women at engineering works like Visick’s.

The Case of William Retallack, 31

Mr William Retallack, 31, married, of Tolverne Farm, Carnon, Perranwell , farmer, appealed and said he farmed 16 acres and milked five or six cows. He took over the farm 15 months ago. Exemption to the middle of September 1916 and then join up.  West Briton June 29 1916.

Retallack’s name does not appear on the Devoran Roll of Honour; it may appear in the records of surrounding villages.

The Case of William John Stephens

See also West Briton for July 24th 1916   Devoran man, widower with frail child,  shop assistant William John Stephens of Point,  Devoran – applied for exemption, ordered to join up. His name is listed on the Devoran  Roll of Honour and he thankfully survived the war.

I will tell more of Stephens’ story, Truro shop assistant,  in another blogpost. His name appears on the Devoran Roll of Honour.

The Case of Norman John Dunstan

July 31 1916, West Briton – Norman John Dunstan, farmer, Carnon Downs, who was previously ordered to join up on September 29 [1916] that it was decided to recommend to the County Tribunal who referred the case back, that in view of the doctor’s certificate  regarding the father’s health, the case should be postponed for three months and reconsidered for exemption.

The name of N.J. Dunstan does appear  in late 1916 (as private in the Royal Engineers) amongst those who served on the Roll of Honour, suggesting he changed his mind and was conscripted or was no longer exempted.

We will add more information and names as we come across them in local paper reports of tribunals and exemptions.

Posted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, November 2016.


1 thought on “Devoran men and Conscription tribunals

  1. Jim McLeman

    Sorry for the slow response in forwarding to you a picture taken on November 13th in Yangon, Myanmar where a Commemoration Ceramony was held just outside the city. It commemorates the loss of each individual lost on board KN584 on Sept 7/1945. The plane was lost and only after two months were the remains recovered and buried in a Communal Grave in the village of Mewaing in the hills Myanmar.

    I along with my son attended the Ceremony and laid wreaths on behalf of our families. We were unable to visit the village of Mewaing as there was still unrest in the area. I thought you might like an update on the Commemorative Ceremony. Regards. Jim McLeman




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