Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Online Resources for Radical Historians (1)

1. Appeals Against Conscription in Scotland, First World War

Some Military Service Appeals Tribunal records are now available on ScotlandsPeople, as follows:
"Now available to search are 7,977 index entries relating to the Appeal cases of 5,820 men seeking exemption from military service between 1916 and 1918. Fully searchable by name, address, grounds, and occupation, the index is FREE* to search, offering access to a little-known series of records which are of importance to family and military historians alike. Each record is a full colour facsimile of the Appeal case documents, and for an introductory period, are only 10 credits (2.33GBP) to view. Find out more about the Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records.

*Index for Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records is free to search. Images are chargeable and can be viewed for 10 credits per document until 3 December 2015, and will cost 20 credits per document thereafter. "

[Unlike the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal records, these are unfortunately not free to download. Credits can be purchased on the website in batches of 30 for £7.]

"The Military Service Tribunal system was set up under the Military Service Act 1916, which set down the terms for mandatory military service and came into force on 2 March 1916. The new Military Service Act required all adult males, aged 18-41, to register for military service unless they were married, widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in a reserved occupation. From 1916, volunteers and conscripted men seeking exemption from military service could apply to Tribunals for temporary, conditional or permanent exemption. The Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records cover the Local Tribunal areas of Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Borders. Other chance survivals exist, including papers from the Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland (Lewis Section) Appeal Tribunal, which are preserved as part of Stornoway Sheriff Court records."

"Each set of case papers should include an appeal form, local tribunal application form and a notice of decision form which confirms the final decision of the Appeal Tribunal. The appeal application form gives the address, age and occupation in most cases. Some appeals papers include additional correspondence in support of the appeal. For some entries the appeal papers themselves do not survive, but related applications for medical re-examination have survived. This will be indicated in the relevant index entries. Applications for medical re-examination include the name of a person, address, occupation, age and the result of the examination."

"A minority of the cases were appeals made by conscientious objectors..."
Among the sample case studies presented on the website, one or two are of particular interest in relation to other material on this blog, on opposition to the war:-

 Robert Logan, a 21 year old coalminer from Tranent, was a conscientious objector. Applications on the ground of Conscientious Objection had to be supported with proof of ‘genuine conscientious conviction’ as set out in an official form. (Robert Logan, HH30/28/1/20)
In support of his appeal, Robert Logan wrote:
“In claiming exemption from Military Service I do so because as an International Socialist I believed it is immoral for man to take from his fellow man that which he cannot replace or return & as this presently applies to all human life I regard all such life as sacred & war immoral in the extreme. I believe in International Brotherhood not as an idle dream but as a social ideal possible of achievement. The workers of the world are bound by all the ties that bind kindred & more. They have the same aspirations & the same ideals & co-operate together with one another to add to the worlds store of happiness. No matter how perfidious Governments or our iniquitous press may disguise these facts & no matter how successful they may be in temporarily for their own material motives (Witness the "Secret Treaties" published by the Russian Bolshevik Government) in persuading certain groups of workers to hate one another & to act viciously towards one another & to act viciously towards one another I will not be a party to their crime against humanity.”
 This passionate expression of his ethics was effective. The Tribunal were unanimous that his convictions were sincere and he was granted exemption from combatant service on 11 May 1918. He died in Tranent in 1943, aged 49. 
[Robert Logan does not show up on the Pearce Register online]

Thirty-six year old Malcolm Martin was originally from Stornoway but by 1916 was working as a shepherd in Punta Arenas, South America. A temporary holiday back to the Isle of Lewis led to Malcolm’s appeal submitted 25 February 1916. (Malcolm Martin, SC33/62/1/34) 
“The appellant is a shepherd who came to Lewis on a visit shortly before the outbreak of the present war. He was not therefore ‘ordinarily resident’ in Great Britain on August 15 last and the Military Service Act does not apply to him. Further, he was engaged in his occupation as a Shepherd at Punta Arenas, South America and when making said visit to Lewis his intention was and is to return to Punta Arenas where he has a troop of horses and other property – all his property and interests are situated there and Some are now requiring Appellants personal attention”.
As he was not ordinarily resident and his business remained in Argentina, Malcolm applied for absolute exemption on grounds of serious hardship. His appeal was refused on 31 March 1916 “in respect that applicant doesn’t come within the exceptions specified in the first schedule to the Military Service Act 1916”.
Martin’s appeal was unsuccessful and he subsequently drowned with many other returning soldiers* when HMY Iolaire sank in The Minch, close to its destination, Stornoway, off the north-western coast of Scotland on 1 January 1919.
[*In fact most of the men lost were sailors who had been serving in the Royal Naval Reserve.]

Case studies as above are accompanied by images of extracts from the relevant documents.

Permanent Play Preferable to Patriotism

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
But not being patriotic, I’m afraid I don’t agree.
For if I had a motto I am sure that it would be
Melius et dulcius est – semper ludere.

13-year-old schoolgirl in the Nicolson Institute Annual (Stornoway, Isle of Lewis) 1961.
(Latin: melius = better; dulcius = sweeter; semper = always; ludere = to play)

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