Tag Archives: national service act 1939

The First Of The Many

1 Jul

On the 26th June 2013 was the 71st anniversary of the first National Serviceman to be called up in 1939. His name was Rupert Alexander and he was conscripted into the Middlesex Regiment with his army number being10000001. Rupert was the first of the many young men who served their country with distinction. The sad part of it all, thousands of these conscripted young men, lost their lives in the service of their country.
At the outbreak of war, on 3rd September 1939, the Government brought in the National Service Act. This act imposed an order to conscript of men 18 to 41 years old. Obviously some men could be rejected for medical reasons also men who were engaged in vital industrial work were put on reserved occupation. Some young men were directed to work down the coal mines these were called Bevin Boys. Conscientious objectors had to justify their action to a tribunal, who had the power to allocate the applicants to one of three categories: unconditional exemption; exemption conditional upon performing specified civilian work like farming and forestry service some conscientious objectors were put in Non-Combatant Corps or in some other non-combatant unit such as the Royal Army Medical Corps. Where I lived conscientious objectors manned the smoke screens along a beach road. One has to remember families lost fathers and sons during the war. Consequently at that time people had no respect for the objectors and they were always called Conchies. Eventually by early 1940 all British subjects between 18 to 51 years old, as well as all females 20 to 30 years old resident in Britain, were liable to be called up. Only a few categories were exempted: Those days the British people were genuinely in it together
Men under 20 years old were initially not liable to be sent overseas, but this exemption was lifted by 1942. Men called up before they were 51 years old, but reached their 51st birthday during their service were liable to serve until the end of the war. People who had retired, resigned or had been dismissed from the forces before the war were liable to be called back into service if they had not reached 51 years of age. Britain did not completely demobilise after the war ended in1945. The conscription continued after the war because the men who had served in the forces during the war were given release dates determined by length of service Obviously military strength had to be kept and National Service was continued. National Service continued as a peacetime conscription was formulated by the National Service Act 1948. From 1st January 1949, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the Armed Forces and this continued until 1960 when the last National Servicemen were conscripted (called up).
I personally was called up in February 1960, twenty one years after Rupert Alexander. History will recall Great Britain was rich with young men who were rallied to the call when their country was in need both at home and abroad. Alongside the regular services they served in many conflicts around the world. The National Servicemen did not get full recognition or credit by successive governments, for the part they played in the service of their country, all those years ago.
Alan

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