The Redditch Military Service Tribunal Project: Records and Resources

  • 3rd March 2021

Introduction to the Records

In 1921, the records of the Military Service Tribunals were ordered to be destroyed, except for the Middlesex Tribunal whose records were kept as a sample. Despite this some records survived elsewhere including records of the Redditch Military Service Tribunals. We are lucky to have the all the administrative registers covering the whole period of operation from 1915-1918 in which each application was logged and tracked by the Clerk of the Tribunal, G. Hobson who was also Clerk of the Redditch Urban District Council and a local solicitor. It is in the archive of the council in which we find these records. We also have letters sent to Hobson about the Tribunal mixed in with letters relating to his other. This provided us with a fantastic resource and allowed us to uncover all the local Redditch men who needed to apply to the Tribunal for exemptions from conscription.

Military Tribunal Register - front cover

Military Tribunal Register – front cover


About the Project

The Redditch Military Tribunal Project was developed as an additional project to compliment the work of the Worcestershire World War 100 project which came together in 2011 to make sure plans were co-ordinated across all the of organisations and individuals who would be interested in commemorating the centenary of the First World War. This project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as it was then known. Whilst that project officially closed in March 2019 this additional project was considered important to ensure that these vital records, which are currently uncatalogued were accessible and known to the public.

Similar projects and activities have developed in other regions with surviving records, including Mid-Staffordshire, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick District, Poplar, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. The nature of these projects however has depended on what records survive, which varies from registers, correspondence, application or appeal papers. There is a list of surviving documents available to download from The National Archives on their Military Service Tribunal page.

In early 2020 we were able to train 6 volunteers to first transcribe the registers of the Tribunals and then to conduct some research in order to find out more about these men.

Worcestershire World War 100 logo


So, what did we produce?

Firstly, we transcribed the 6 registers which cover all the applications to the Tribunal so everyone can access the information at home. These are all available as pdfs so they can be downloaded and searched at home.

Redditch Militray Service Tribunal Register

Redditch Militray Service Tribunal Register page BA10917/16/2

We have also listed all the correspondence we could find relating to the Tribunals. This includes a brief synopsis of the content of the letter, who it was from and who it was about.

To allow us to research more efficiently we created an index in which every individual is listed along with all their numbers and personal information from the registers. We found that there were about 990 individuals who applied over the course of the war for an exemption. Index gives the employers and occupations of all the men from the registers too so we can see where applicants were working. As the war continued the men being called up included older age groups and men previously exempt due to their occupations. There was an increasing pressure for businesses to find replacements for men from non-combatant groups such as women, older men, and discharged soldiers. 

The registers tell us what the applicant was applying for, the outcome and whether they appealed the decision. Most cases were for reserved occupations particularly the needle industry but also hooks, springs, the motor industry including the Enfield Cycle Co. and agricultural workers.

Because the Tribunals required men to apply repeatedly to extend their exemption certificates the same names reoccur throughout the volumes. Each time they applied their application was given a new number known as a ‘serial number’ so lots of the applicants have multiple numbers.

We have included our index with our registers so that you can now use it to track an individual through all their numbers, we have also added if we found them in other sources in which we researched. So, it gives you an overview of everything we found.

Our volunteers took the names from our index and looked for them in the 1911 census, which allows you to see what they were doing before the war, where they were living and how many people they were living with. We found about 80% of the applicants on the census, those we were unable to locate may have been due to difficulty determining which individual was the right one when we had lots of search results, some men may also have been visiting elsewhere at the time of the census or only moved to the area after 1911.

1991 Census Redditch Military Tribunals Josiah Court

1911 Census Return for Josiah Court © Crown Copyright courtesy of The National Archive

Because exemptions were mostly temporary, we then looked for military records for everyone. We located 173 out of the 990, which is about 17% but this is not necessarily comprehensive due to the survival of military records from the first world war. Unfortunately, the War Office where soldiers’ records were kept was destroyed by a German bomb in 1940 leaving only 40% of the records intact. We used the Electoral Register Absent Voter lists to try to locate some of the individuals as this includes military service details like number, rank, and Regiment.

George farr military record

The National Archives, ref. WO363 George Frederick Farr

We have created pdfs for each of these resources which you can download at home too.  We have also created a guide to help you use them. We have created a project website for you to access these resources.

Our website will also host an online exhibition of our findings, including case studies of some of the men involved in the Tribunals. This is currently under development so look out for a blog announcing when it is available our keep an eye on Our Explore the Past social media feeds.

I hope this has introduced to our project resources and the type of information you can get from them. If you have any questions about using these resources, please contact us.


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