The tool and instrument of the military? : the operations of the military service tribunals in the East Central Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire and those of the military service boards in New Zealand, 1916-1918 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University

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The Military Service Acts that implemented conscription in Great Britain and New Zealand during 1916 permitted appeals for exemption to a Military Service Tribunal or Military Service Board respectively. Although claims lodged on the grounds of hardship or occupation were by far the most common, historians have overwhelmingly focused on that distinct minority of individuals who cited conscientious objections. Furthermore, there has been no attempt to compare the structure, or the workings, of the exemption systems in these two countries. By employing a ‘British World’ approach, this thesis compares the operations of the Tribunals in the East Central Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire with those of the Boards across New Zealand. It investigates the relationship between the appeal bodies and their respective governments and militaries, to assess how far each claim was judged on its merits. It also analyses the appointment of personnel and the attitudes that the Tribunal and Board members adopted during their hearings. Finally, this thesis considers the proportion of men who appealed, or were appealed for, and the likelihood of them receiving a favourable verdict. The operations of the Tribunals and the Boards exhibit some striking differences. Large numbers of Tribunals were established with diverse and locally chosen memberships, whereas the personnel for the handful of Boards were appointed according to a prescribed formula. Moreover, the Tribunal members received a plethora of ambiguous directions, which, when combined with a tendency to prioritise the needs of their communities, led to significant inconsistencies of procedure and decision. In contrast, the New Zealand Government exerted strong centralised control, an approach that coincided with the Board members’ desire to achieve uniformity. Despite these significant discrepancies, appellants in both the East Central Division and New Zealand were more likely to be awarded some period of relief from military service than to have their conscription simply confirmed.
Listed in 2015 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
Military Service Act, 1916, Military Service Tribunals, Military service, Yorkshire, Military service, New Zealand, Military service exemptions, West Riding, Yorkshire, Conscription, Military service, World War One, Military service, First World War, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses