Home Front News

A selection of articles from local papers in April 1916

The Military Service Act was approved on the 24th of January 1916, however it was not until two months later that it finally came into force and conscription was introduced into Britain. From this time onwards, all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called up – later this was to extended to include married men and those aged up to fifty. Exemptions for reasons of health, demands of home, employment or work of national importance were included, as was a clause for conscientious objection. 

In this month 100 years ago, Merton's local newspapers were commenting on such societal changes in various ways, including articles, reviews of local tribunals and publishing open letters. The content reflected a range of responses towards conscientious objectors (or ‘conchies' as they were nicknamed), a selection of which are included below.

Mitcham & Tooting Mercury – 21 April 1916 

T he article goes on to state the stock phrase, adopted in many cases, as "I object to the military machine." According to the author of this article, most men feel that this objection should not be recognised by the State, whereas it is believed that the conscientious objection against taking a life, even in defence of the country, is intelligible. 

The article ends with, "We must remember that men are not merely individual units; they are part of the social organism, and in return for protection and opportunities for earning a living, they owe themselves to the State when the State is in danger."

In response to the article, the Mitcham &Tooting Mercury published this letter (above) in their next edition.

Elsewhere in the borough, on the 1st of April the Wimbledon and District Gazette published this long letter from local resident, John P Blackford, on the subject of the illegal arrest of his son, a conscientious objector.


The letter goes on to question whether the military authorities are above all law and if they aren't "exercising the worst powers of that Prussian militarism which our armies are ostensibly out to crush!"

Within our collection of local newspapers there is a wealth of reporting on local tribunals. At times these reports are very detailed and include the conversation between the members on the tribunal board and the individual in question. Below is one such example.

Mitcham Advertiser - 7 April 1916

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