During WW1, the Brandon Rural District Council had an additional task. Following the introduction of conscription in 1915 some of the town’s councillors sat on the local Tribunals. A Tribunal was a court where a man, or his family or employer, was given a chance to argue against a man’s conscription. They would need to have a very good reason for him not to go because each Tribunal had a military representative attached to it, ensuring the man went off to war no matter what reason was given. Two-thirds of all cases were refused.
The cases below were reported by the Thetford & Watton Times, now the Thetford & Brandon Times, during WW1. I have only included those referencing Brandon, although the Brandon Rural District Tribunal covered cases from outlying villages – Hopton, Honington, Euston, Market Weston
February – 20 cases were dealt with by the tribunal for the Brandon district, and the members present were Messrs. A.W. Rought Rought, W. Durrant, H. Plummer, H.W. Winter, J. Balaam, C. Jones, W.R. Johnstone, A. Cackett and J. Pickering. Mr A.W. Rought Rought was elected Chairman, and Earl Cadogan attached as assistant military representative. To sum up the result of the three tribunals’ investigations, it may be stated that about 16 total exemptions were granted out of something over 60 appeals.
March – A meeting of the tribunal for the Brandon Rural District was held at Thetford on Friday. Mr A.W. Rought Rought presided, and the other members present were: Messrs J Carter, J Balaam, A Cackett, W.R. Johnstone, C.W. Jones, J Pickering, H.W. Winter, H Plummer and W Durrant, with the Clerk (Mr J Houchan).
“NO SHORTAGE OF LABOUR – Application was made by a Brandon farmer on behalf of his stock-man, aged 25, who was in Group 8. The military representative objected, and said there was a fair amount of labour on the land. The employer said he could not do much on the farm himself owing to a heart condition which often laid him up.
The military representative – “Have you been trying to replace the man?”
Applicant said he had been advertising. Earl Cadogan said a lot of farmers came up to the tribunals and said they had been advertising, but it was not enough to say that. He had a letter from the Labour Bureau at Bury St Edmunds to the effect that they had a large number of workmen of all classes on their register. Men who were ineligible for military service. There was no shortage of labour there, male or female, and the writer did not consider any young unmarried men of military age were indispensable to their employers in any industry. The application was refused.“
May – 21 applications for exemptions were heard by the Brandon Tribunal at Thetford, and Mr W Durrant presided, and there were also present Messrs H Plummer, G.W. Jones, J Pickering, J Balaam, H.W. Winter, J Carter and W.R. Johnstone, with the Clerk (Mr J Houchen), and Earl Cadogan and Captain Willoughby (Military representative).
“FARMER – A Brandon farmer and coal merchant applied for his cowman and yardman, who milked ten cows and after heifers. There were only two men on a farm of 293 acres and the applicant had a coal business as well. Captain Willoughby contended that women should be brought in to do the milking.
Applicant said he had a woman a fortnight ago, but she only stayed about five minutes. Conditional exemption was granted and the military representative stated that he should appeal against the decision.”
The proprietor of a Brandon laundry was exempted on condition that he did not employ any eligible man.
Similar exemption was granted a Brandon printer, stationer, etc., who was in a one man business and appealed on financial and domestic grounds.
June – 34 appeals were dealt with by the Brandon Rural District Tribunal, which met at Thetford, and Mr H Plummer presided, and there were present as military representatives Earl Cadogan and Captain Willoughby.
Conditional exemption was given the works manager for a hatter’s furrier, a dairyman and coal merchant, and a grain porter and cart-man, all of Brandon
In applying for a farm bailiff (26) at Brandon, the employer said this man had charge of the whole of the farm work. The military thought this young man should be released and the application was refused.
A journeyman baker, who would be over military age in September next, was conditionally exempted.
A hairdresser, town crier, billposter, etc. of Brandon was also conditionally exempted.
The Brandon Co-Operative Society, through their manager, appealed for their head baker (24). The application was refused.
Application was made for the manager of a coal merchant’s branch business at Brandon. The military objected as there were two ineligible lads employed in the business. The central manager said if this man went the branch would have to be closed. Application refused.
A Brandon contractor and jobmaster appealed for a mail van driver, who lived at Swaffham. Applicant said the greater part of the work had to be done in the dead of the night and it was next to impossible to get a suitable, capable and trustworthy man for the job. Captain Willoughby said he understood there was a difficulty in getting men for this work and he did not press his objection. Conditionally exempted.
A Brandon mail contractor and driver appealed on his own behalf and said if he was compelled to join he would be obliged to sell up his business. He said he was losing money at present, but had to look to the future. The military objected to the appeal. Applicant stated that he was working 20 hours a day and doing more than two men’s work. A tribunal member replied, “He must have had a good sleep last night. He looks fresh enough on it. (Laughter).” Two months exemption was granted.
A whiting manufacturer, of Brandon, who was also assistant overseer, and held many other responsible offices, was conditionally exempted.
August – This Tribunal sat at the Thetford Town Hall, Mr A.W. Rought-Rought presided.
“SOLD THE MOST VEGETABLES IN BRANDON – A market gardener of Brandon, who worked for himself, applied for conditional exemption. He stated his was a ‘one man business’, as he did most of the work himself. He cultivated 12 acres of land and nine of it was used for solely growing vegetables. If he had to leave it would mean he would lose the whole of his capital. The Military agreed to temporary exemption till October 1st, with leave to apply again.
Applicant said he started this business 15 years ago and had worked it up himself, which was supported by a Tribunal member who claimed the gardener sold more vegetables in Brandon than anyone else.
Conditional exemption was granted, provided he joined the V.T.C.”
“EXCEPTIONAL DOMESTIC HARDSHIP – On account of exceptional domestic hardship a Brandon farm labourer (29) applied for conditional exemption, and the Tribunal granted him until October 1st. It was stated that the man was at present engaged on harvest work.”
“A SPECIAL CONSTABLE AND VOLUNTEER – A builder, of Brandon, who was also part time surveyor to the Brandon Rural District Council, appealed on account of his business. At present he held four contracts, he was chief engineer to the Brandon Fire Brigade, and was doing duty as a special constable and volunteer. Conditional exemption.”
“NEITHER FIT FOR GENERAL SERVICE – Two brothers carrying on business at Brandon as builders and contractors again came before the Tribunal. The Clerk explained that at a previous sitting these cases were adjourned in order that the applicants might appear before the Medical Board. It was thought one of the men should go, but both applicants produced their classification cards, which showed that neither were fit for general service. A member of the Tribunal stated that both men had been members of the V.T.C. since it started. The Tribunal gave conditional exemption in each case.”
September – The Chairman (Mr A.W. Rought-Rought) presided over a meeting of the Brandon Rural Tribunal, held at the Guildhall, Thetford, Earl Cadogan was the military representative. Before proceeding with the cases, Earl Cadogan pointed out that Tribunals in most parts were extending the exemptions granted agricultural workers from October 2nd to November 1st, owing to the lateness of the harvest. He suggested that this Tribunal should do likewise, which was agreed to.
“A CHANGED OCCUPATION – An appeal was made in respect of a woodman (39) who was engaged in cutting pit props. A recommendation was received from the firm, pointing out this man was employed in tree felling, and was therefore in a certified occupation. The military considered this man was unskilled at his present work and the application was refused.”
“FIVE SONS SERVING – Appealing for his son, a Brandon blacksmith said he assisted him in his business, and he could not possibly carry it on without him. Five of his sons were already serving with the Colours. Conditional exemption was granted, provided he joined the V.T.C.”
October – The Brandon Tribunal sat at the Thetford Town Hall and dealt with thirty-three applications for exemption. Mr A.W. Rought-Rought presided. Earl Cadogan (military representative) was unable to attend, and the Tribunal decided to hear the cases in his absence.
“TRANSFERRED – A Brandon butcher appealed in respect of his assistant (27). The Clerk explained that this case came before the Thetford Tribunal and was refused. Applicant’s son having joined the Army, the military were approached for their consent to have the case transferred to the Brandon Tribunal, as the Mundford branch business had been closed and the assistant taken into the Brandon business. A member said there had been a lot of dissatisfaction in the neighbourhood about this case. Applicant in making the appeal said he had lost five men out of his butcher’s business. The tribunal gave temporary exemption for two months, and impressed upon applicant the advisability of getting an older man.
Applicant – “If I can get another man I will release this one at once.”
The Chairman – “Well, do your best.”
November – Some twenty-three cases were adjudicated upon by the Brandon Rural District Tribunal, which sat at the Town Hall, Thetford. Mr A.W. Rought-Rought presided, and there were present: Messrs W.R. Johnson, H.R. Plummer, A.J. Cackett, J Pickering, W Durrant, John Carter, J Balaam and H.W. Winter, with Earl Cadogan as military representative.
“IN SOLE CONTROL – Appealing on behalf of the Brandon Co-Operative Society for their general manager, Mr A.J. Winter said the man had been medically rejected, but had since passed in C3. He was 40 years of age, and had sole control of the business, which had a turnover of almost £10,000 a year. The military assented in conditional exemption, which the tribunal granted.”
“ASSENTED TO – The military assented, and conditional exemption was given, to a foreman and expert skin sorter (26), who was formerly in the territorial Force, from which he was rejected. He had, however, since been classed B2.”
“PIT PROP CUTTING NOT GOVERNMENT WORK – A representative of a firm appealed in respect of four Brandon woodmen (37, 39, 39, and 34 years), who were engaged in cutting pit props. Earl Cadogan remarked that the firm should get three men badged if they wanted them, and enquired why they were temporarily exempted to September.
The Chairman – “That was to give them time to get these men badged.”
Earl Cadogan – “That is just what I wanted to know.”
When asked if these men had got badges, the representative replied in the negative.
Earl Cadogan said this was not Government work.
A member pointed out that if not Government work it was very important work, as it was very necessary for them to have home coal. Temporary exemption to March 1st was given two of the men, and the application in respect of the other two was refused.”
“HALF HIS BUSINESS WOULD HAVE TO GO – A Brandon butcher appealed for his foreman and slaughterman (36), who he stated was a very essential man in his business. He had already lost four men and his son, and could not possibly carry on his business without this man. This case, the Chairman said the tribunal had agreed to give conditional exemption to this man provided he released the younger man, who had been given temporary exemption.
Applicant – “Well, if that man has to go half my business will have to go, that is all. We can’t do impossible things.”
Conditional exemption was given, providing the younger man was released.”
“PASSED TO THE RESERVE – A licensed victualler and coal merchant (27), of Brandon, stated that he had been passed C2. He was previously rejected. The military thought applicant should be at their disposal by being placed in the Army Reserve. The Tribunal agreed.”
“OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE – Appealing for a cart-man who was in charge of a bulk oil depot, the employer stated that the man was engaged on work of national importance delivering in bulk oil for agricultural and military requirements. The man was in charge of the whole depot, and also attended to three horses. To take the oil from the tanks required expert knowledge. Temporary exemption was granted to March 1st.”
“A NECESSARY MAN – When appealing for a saddler and harness maker (30), a Brandon widow handed in a document signed by tradesmen and farmers in the district stating that it was necessary that this man should be retined in the district. She said this was the only man she had to carry on the business for her.
Earl Cadogan – “Could not you and another sadler join hands until after the war?”
Applicant – “I am afraid not, sir. We do such a large business in the town and district.”
Conditional exemption was granted, provided the man joined the V.T.C.”
“NO JURISDICTION – With respect to the case of a young man who was serving in the Army, the military authorities wrote that a man who was in class W could not be appealed for to a tribunal, neither had the Tribunal any authority. The man was in the Army, and must be treated as such.”
March – A meeting of the Tribunal sitting for the Brandon Rural area was held at the Town Hall, Thetford, on Friday. Mr A.W. Rought-Rought presided, and Earl Cadogan was present as military representative.
“HAD LOST 40 OF HIS MEN – A Brandon furrier in appealing for his foreman (27) stated that he had already lost forty of his men and had only applied for exemption for two. He considered his foreman was engaged in work of national importance, as they were all doing export work. The military representative assented to conditional exemption, and the Tribunal concurred”
“APPRENTICES MUST SERVE – Appealing for his apprentice, a Brandon chemist said he was anxious that the lad (18) should serve his apprenticeship, which ran out in about six months. If he was taken applicant could not give adequate attention to his National Insurance work.”
June – The Chairman (Mr A.W. Rought-Rought) presided over a meeting of this Tribunal, which was held at the Guildhall, Thetford, on Friday. Earl Cadogan and Major Kennedy were the military representatives.
“The certificate of exemption granted a Brandon carter (29), passed B1, was withdrawn, but Major Kennedy said he would not call the man up for three months. Applicant said if he was called up it would ruin him, he was a carter for the Railway Company, and was engaged on shells. Major Kennedy said the Army wanted ‘B’ men, and he thought this man should go and be replaced by a man passed in a lower category.”
“In the case of a Brandon harness maker (30), who had been given exemption, a widow who carries on the business said this was her sole support. The man did the whole of the work in the shop. The certificate was withdrawn, the man to join up on August 8th.”
“The military reviewed the certificate of exemption granted to a Brandon hairdresser (40) who had been passed ‘A’. Major Kennedy remarking that he thought he would be better employed cutting the locks of soldiers than cutting the locks of Brandon men. Applicant said he considered he was doing work of national importance.
Major Kennedy – “Is cutting hair national importance?”
Applicant – “I am farming about an acre of land and four days a week I go pit prop cutting.”
The Tribunal varied the certificate to temporary exemption for 3 months.”
“The certificate of exemption given a Brandon stationer and printer (36) was also reviewed by the military. Major Kennedy said this man was passed ‘A’, and he claimed him for the Army. Applicant said his was a one-man business, and if he was taken away he would have to close down, and 12 years of work would be thrown away. He was ordered to join up on August 8th.”
October – This Tribunal sat at the Guildhall, Thetford, on Thursday week, the Chairman, Mr A.W. Rought-Rought, presiding, Earl Cadogan and Captain Spencer Willoughby were the military representatives.
“HE WAS NOT A SHIRKER – Reviewing the certificate of exemption held by an assistant overseer and registrar of Brandon, Captain Willoughby said this man was no longer assistant overseer, for which occupation he was exempted by the Tribunal. He was an ‘A’ man, which was a category greatly needed by the Army. Respondent said he was still assistant overseer for two parishes, and the reason he gave up the assistant overseership for Brandon was on account of his health. He was working too hard.
Captain Willoughby – “The Royal Army Medical Corps doctors thought you were quite fit, and anyhow the work you have got in hand is work that can be done by a man not in class ‘”A’.”
Respondent – “I don’t stand before you as a shirker. If I am wanted for the Army I must go. It would be a serious thing for me. I am a hard-working man, and hold a lot of important positions. I am still assistant overseer for two parishes, and a coal merchant and whiting and lime manufacturer, besides being engaged on a great deal of honorary work such as secretary to the Brandon War Savings Association.”
Captain Willoughby – “I appreciate your work in that direction, but your work could be done by a man not fit for general service.”
Respondent – “Mine is a one man business.”
Captain Willoughby – “You are a partner.”
Respondent – “Yes, but my mother is 72 years of age.”
The Chairman said respondent was a very hard-working man, and a regular attendant at the V.T.C. drills.
The certificate of conditional exemption was not varied by the Tribunal.”
“A BARGAIN – The Brandon Co-operative Society sustained their application for conditional exemption in respect of their bread maker, who had been classed C3. The manager stated they turned out 1,700 loaves a week, which represented 10 sacks.
Captain Willoughby – “If we let you retain this man would you be willing to assist another baker in Brandon?”
The manager – “Yes.”
Captain Willoughby – “Would you be willing to make and bake, say, a hundred loaves of bread a week?”
The manager – “Yes, we will do anything we can.”
The Chairman said on those conditions, and provided he joined the V.T.C., the man would be granted conditional exemption.”
October – BRANDON RURAL TRIBUNAL – A meeting of the Brandon Rural District Tribunal was held at the Guildhall, Thetford, on Tuesday 8th October, with Mr A.W. Rought-Rought presiding.
A Brandon engine driver and electrician (21, Grade 1), was given three months temporary exemption.
A tobacconist and stationer, who was also the chief boot repairer in Brandon, was given temporary exemption till 1st January.
An engine and gas plant attendant, of Brandon, was given six months’ temporary exemption.
A builder and undertaker (44, Grade 1), of Brandon, asked for total exemption from any form of service, “because God is his King, and he acknowledged no other.”
The Chairman – “What time do you ask for?”
Applicant – “I demand a certificate of total exemption.”
The Chairman – “The Tribunal has decided to give you six months’ temporary exemption.”
The applicant _ “I am sorry. I can’t accept that.”
The Chairman – “If you don’t accept it you will have to go into the Army.”
The applicant – “I wont do that. I can’t swear to serve another man.”
The Chairman – “Well, that is the decision.”
Applicant – “Well, may I appeal again?”
The Chairman – “Yes.”
Applicant – “Very well, that will do.”
“Appealing for a man aged 51, B2, a Brandon gentleman said he wished to strongly emphasise the undoubted fact that the military authorities had gone out into the hedge-ways and bye-ways to hunt up the older men and leave the young men to kick their heels. The National Service representative said the Ministry did not make the laws, they were fixed by Parliament, and every man, whether he was 18 or 51, had to be medically examined, and on being placed in a medical category and called and had to put in an appeal if he required exemption.
Applicant – “There are other men hanging around Brandon not doing a thing, and this man is doing useful work.”
The National Service representative – “Do you know why they are hanging about Brandon?”
Applicant – “I don’t know.”
The National Service representative – “Have they not exemption?”
Applicant – “I don’t know.”
The National Service representative – “Have they agricultural vouchers or a certificate protecting them from some other department?”
The Chairman – “They must be protected or something of that part.”
The Tribunal gave temporary exemption for six months.”
“An insurance agent, of Brandon, who had been so engaged for 26 years, and since mobilisation has acted as recruiting sergeant in Brandon and district, applied for exemption. The National Service representative pointed out that Insurance Committees could get protection certificates if these men were doing work of national importance, and the case was adjourned in order that applicant might make the necessary application.”
Six months’ temporary exemption was given a licensed victualler (47) of Brandon, who was serving as sergeant-major in the Volunteers.
November – At the signing of the Armistice, proceedings at all Tribunals were ceased.