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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

War conscription stories revealed

Items from the North Riding Appeal Tribunal Papers archive

The stories of men from the North Riding who appealed against World War One conscription can now be told thanks to the lottery-funded opening of a rare archive by North Yorkshire County Record Office.

And members of the public are being invited to volunteer to work on the project to help to uncover these hidden tales and learn what happened to the men behind them.

An £8,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant has enabled the Grounds for Appeal: the North Riding Appeal Tribunal Papers 1916-1918 project to get under way.

The project will explore and open up access to the North Riding military tribunals' appeals records from the period.

Compulsory military service – or conscription – came into effect 100 years ago with the Military Service Act of 1916. Thousands of men appealed against conscription on economic, employment, medical or conscientious grounds.

With few exceptions, the records created by the appeal tribunals were destroyed after the war but, by oversight, the North Riding records survived and have remained undisturbed ever since.  As one of only a handful of known appeal tribunal collections, this is an important and valuable archive, which includes the cases and histories of more than 6,000 men.

Although the project is just beginning, many compelling stories are already emerging about men’s personal and family circumstances.

As the project develops, these stories, and that of the work of the tribunals, will be told in a travelling and online exhibition that will enable communities to gain a greater understanding of the sensitive issue of conscription, the work of the tribunals and the social and working conditions of the time. A detailed online listing of the papers will allow everyone to discover stories from their family or local area.

The project is being led by record office record assistant Ruth Rising, who is seeking volunteers to help with listing, indexing, repackaging and digitisation of the papers. Many more fascinating stories will emerge and volunteers will be encouraged to research the lives of some of the men to discover what happened to them after the tribunals made their fateful decisions.

County councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for the archive service, said: “This is an important archive, which will reveal the many issues that led men to appeal against conscription during the First World War in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to open up this fascinating archive to everyone, including family historians and those interested in the effects of the First World War on the Home Front.”

Fiona Spiers, head of the lottery fund in the region, said: “The impact of the First World War was far-reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £70million in projects large and small that are marking this Centenary.

"Our small grants programme is helping to bring previously unexplored parts of our First World War heritage to light, allowing communities to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help to open up access to the papers should contact Ruth Rising at the North Yorkshire County Record Office, Northallerton. Email or telephone 01609 777585.

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