On this day in history : 27th January 1916 – The British government passes a legislation which introduces conscription in the United Kingdom….

Known as the Military Service Act the Bill had been introduced by Prime Minister H.H.Asquith and came into force on the 2nd of March 1916…. It was only ever enforced in England, Scotland and Wales due to the political situation in Ireland….


Before conscription the government had relied on volunteers….now all single men between the ages of 18-40 years old were liable to be called up for military service…. There were exclusions – widowed men with dependent children and ministers of religion…. However, there was also a system of Military Service Tribunals which examined claims of exemption…. Claims such as performing civilian work of national importance, domestic hardship, health issues and conscientious objection were all taken into consideration – although the latter with very little sympathy….


By the end of June 1916 748,587 men had applied to tribunals – whereas some 770,000 had joined up…. In the beginning married men had been exempt but this changed in June 1916…. The age limit was raised to 51 in 1918 – and there were changes made to laws in recognition of work of national importance. Towards the end there was even support to call up clergy…. Conscription ended in 1919….

WW1 – British soldiers marching to the Somme. Photo credit: Anders via Flickr

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