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Mid-Staffordshire Military Appeals Tribunal Index, 1916-1918


This collection contains over 2,700 case papers from the Mid-Staffordshire Military Appeal Tribunal, which between 1916 and 1918, heard appeals from men who had applied for exemption from compulsory military service. The indexing and digitisation of this collection has been made possible through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, opening up a valuable resource, which was formerly poorly-described and consequently under-used.

Due to the sensitivity that surrounded compulsory military service, following the war, the Government issued instructions to Local Government Boards that all tribunal material should be destroyed, except for a collection in Middlesex and Lothian and Peebles in Scotland, which were to be retained as a benchmark for possible future use. A sample of records from the Central Tribunal at Westminster was also retained. This makes the discovery of the Mid-Staffordshire Appeal Tribunal papers particularly significant.

The reasons for exemption provided by applicants vary, including moral grounds (conscientious objectors), medical (disability), family (looking after dependents) and on economic grounds (preserving a business). The papers reveal stories that are both fascinating and tragic; providing a unique insight into the tensions created between Government and society during the First World War, and is of interest to social, local, military and family historians alike.

Some records relating to the Local Tribunals are also held with Staffordshire Archives, and will be made available via a searchable index later in the year. You can find out more about the project and read case studies from some of the papers on our project blog;

https://staffsappeals1918.wordpress.comNote: Links to external sites will open in a new window.

About this index

Most records contain multiple handwritten or typed pages, and provide a wealth of personal information relating to the applicants, their jobs and families. The evidence provides a direct insight into the impact of total war upon individual households in Staffordshire.

Each case typically includes a Blue Local Tribunal Application and Pink Notice of Appeal, giving personal details, the grounds for appeal, local tribunal summary and the decision of the appeal tribunal. The Notice of Decision form confirms the final decision of the Appeal Tribunal and conditions of exemption if granted. Additionally, many of the case papers have surviving evidence attached to them. These range from letters, medical certificates or statements and religious pamphlets to business information.

Where identified on the case papers, this index will provide;

  • Year and Month of the application: Where possible this has been taken from the Notice of Appeal paper.
  • Local Tribunal: The first tribunal the applicant attended, usually held in individual towns.
  • Applicants Surname, Forename and Age: Man whom exemption is being applied for.
  • Place: Typically the town or village of residence for the man whom exemption is being applied for
  • Voluntarily Attested or Not: Whether or not the man had voluntarily agreed to join the army when called to do so under the ‘Derby Scheme’ in October 1915.
  • Appellant Surname and Forename: Who submitted the application; either the man himself, his employer, family member, legal representative or Military Representative (MR’s had the right to contest the decision of the Tribunal, and were later renamed National Service Representative’s).
  • Appellant Business: Where applications are submitted by a company or MR.
  • Grounds for Appeal: The legislation (Military Service Act 1916 ch. 104) stated seven grounds for exemption. The papers themselves provide written statements, but for indexing purposes we have provided a letter which relates to each of these seven grounds as follows:
    1. On the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work which he is habitually engaged
    2. On the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work which he wishes to be engaged
    3. If he is being educated or trained for any work, on the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that, instead of being employed in military service, he should continue to be so educated or trained
    4. On the ground that serious hardship would ensue if the man were called up for Army service, owing to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position
    5. On the ground of ill-health or infirmity
    6. On the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service
    7. On the ground that the principal and usual occupation of the man is one of those included in the list of occupations certified by Government Departments for exemption

(Please note that Grounds for Exemption differed between the Local and Appeal Tribunal – The Local Tribunal did not include (e) or (f) - For consistency on the Index, the above list from the Appeal Tribunal has been used for all the case papers in the collection)


The project benefited from the work of a dedicated team of Staffordshire Great War volunteers, who went through each of the case papers, collating searchable information and removing pins and other tags so that each sheet could be scanned individually. They also repackaged the collection to maintain the individual identity of each case. This volunteer work was invaluable in the process of making the collection more accessible.