The “Military Service Tribunal” System

To ensure that any man claiming exemption would get a fair hearing, the “Military Service Tribunal System” was designed in three “layers”: –
  1. The “Local Tribunal”, which heard the claims of local men and local businesses and made the decision as to their right to exemption – in Bexhill this Tribunal was held in the Town Hall.
  2. The “County Tribunal”, which was formed from County Councillors, and to whom those unhappy with the Local Tribunal’s decision could appeal. This Tribunal moved around the County so as to make it easier for those discontented men to be heard.
  3. The “Central Tribunal”, with members appointed by the Crown, where a final decision would be made. This was based in London

The next two Tribunals were generally known as the “Appeals Tribunals” as their basic function was to re-hear claims for exemption and make their judgement on the cases before them. Government departments could also grant certificates of exemption to men in their employ, where it was more convenient for this to take place than by individual application to a local Tribunal.

Certificates could be absolute, conditional or temporary.  In the case of those in education, training or on financial hardship grounds, the certificate could only be temporary. If the conditions under which an exemption was granted changed, it was the duty of the person to inform the authorities. A fine of up to £50 could be applied if he did not do so. False statements or misrepresentation at the time of application for exemption could lead to imprisonment with hard labour for up to six months.

The Local Tribunal (Bexhill)

The “Bexhill Tribunal” met at the Town Hall under the presidency of the Mayor Alderman F. Bond. Other members included Alderman J. A. Paton  J.P. (Deputy Mayor),  Alderman J. Gibb, Councillor A. G. Wells, Mr. W. H. Croucher, and Mr C.Veness, with the Town Clerk Mr. T. E. Rodgers and at least one Military Representative.

The following comes from the Saturday, March 11th 1916, edition of the “Bexhill Chronicle”.

“The chief interest during the past week has centred round the Tribunal, which has had an exceptional “trying” time. There is no pun intended. The difficulties are very great indeed, and anyone who has attended the Tribunal cannot help being struck by the absolute fairness with which all the cases have been inquired into by the Town Clerk and dealt with by the Mayor and the other members of the Tribunal.

Of course there are hardships. There have been many already, and there will be many more; and it is impossible to even suggest comment in individual cases. The only thing one can do is to wonder what Bexhill will look like in the course of, say, two months’ time, and how – but we had better leave it at that.”

 The Sussex County Tribunal (Appeals)

The “London Gazette”, published on the 29th February, 1916, reported as follows:

“The KING has been pleased, in pursuance of the provisions of the Second Schedule to the Military Service Act, 1916 (5 & 6 Geo. V, cap. 104), to appoint Appeal Tribunals to act within the under-mentioned areas, and consisting of the persons named:”

And then followed: –


Joseph Adams, J. P. , of 7, High Street, Rye.

Daniel Maule Birkett, J. P. , of Leigh Holme, Bexhill.

Revd. William Robert Buchanan-Dunlop, of “The Vicarage”, Turner’s Hill, Sussex.

John Benjamin Burton, of Wilting Farm, St. Leonards-on-Sea.

Harry. Bertram Elliott, of 58, Crescent Road, Brighton.

Stephen Newcome Fox, J. P. , of Inglenook, Bolsover Road, Eastbourne.

George Mallows Freeman, K. C. , of The Grey Friars, Winchelsea.

Edward Joseph Gorringe, J. P. , of C’hyngton, Seaford.

Frederick James Huggett, of 14, Northiam Road, Eastbourne.

Tom Pargeter, of 12, Railway Road, New- haven.

William Perrins, of 48, Nelson Road, Hastings.

William Stevens, J. P. , of 26, Marlborough Place, Brighton.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Sutherland-Harris, J. P. , of Burwash Place, Burwash, Sussex. (Chair)

Charles Thomas-Stanford, M. P. , J. P. , of Preston Manor, Brighton.

Major Robert Lawrence Thornton, J. P. , of High Cross, Framfield, Uckfield.”

Not all of the above members would serve on a tribunal at the same time, and in addition, there would be at least one military representative and a Clerk”.

On 11th March 1916, the “Bexhill Chronicle” reported that the Appeals tribunal had decided to go “on circuit” – in order to ensure that all men would be able to be heard, irrespective of where they lived. The Tribunal would meet in various places around the county. The report was as follows:-


The recently appointed Tribunal from military service appeals in East Sussex met at the County Hall, Lewes, on Monday. The members present were: – Major R. L. Thornton, D  L.; Mr J. Adams, J. P.; Mr J. B. Burton; Rev W Buchanan Dunlop; Mr H. B. Elliott, Mr S. N. Fox, Mr G. M. Freeman, K. C.; Mr E. J  Gorringe, J. P.; Mr F. H. Huggett; Mr T. Pargeter; Mr W. Perrins; Mr W. Stevens, Lieutenant-Colonel; A. Sutherland Harris, J. P.; Mr C. Thomas Stanford, M. P., and Mr D. M. Birkett, M. A.. Major Thornton was elected to the chair.

The Chairman explained that when they met before it was that there would be only one way to cover the County adequately, and that was by committees, and the Local Government Board had adopted that suggestion.


Colonel Sutherland Harris moved that the County be divided into three districts. Mr Pargeter suggested an adequate representation of Labour. Mr Stevens advocated, the formation of five districts, but the Chairman explained that the Committees would not be able to meet in one place only but have to go on circuit.

It was unanimously agreed to form three Committees.

Mr Montagu Harris was elected Secretary to the Tribunal, and it was agreed that five should form a quorum for a full tribunal.


The Chairman outlined the districts, and his suggestions with regard to this district were: –

Eastern Area, – Hastings and Hastings Rural, Rye and Rye Rural, Bexhill, Battle Urban and Rural, Ticehurst Rural.

It was afterwards decided to choose six members, plus the Chairman, to serve on the Committee for the Eastern Area. They were: Colonel Sutherland Harris (chairman), Mr Adams, Mr Burkett, Mr Burton, Mr Perrins, and Mr Huggett.

It was agreed that on these Committees three should form a quorum, and the days of meeting was arranged to be on Wednesdays from the Eastern area.


The Chairman pointed out that applicants in making appeal must give the grounds of their application when sending it in or the committee could refuse to hear them. In the event of any omission in this respect, he thought the Secretary should be authorised to tell the applicant so, thereby avoiding delay.

The suggestion was adopted.

Mr Burton, who is a member of the local Tribunal, asked the chairman if, in the event of the case coming before him at the Appeal Tribunal, which he had previously heard at the local Tribunal, he should sit.

The chairman said that he should not do so.

The Central Tribunal (Final Appeals)

The Central Tribunal was located in London and was the final “court” where those men who felt very strongly that neither the Local nor the County Tribunal had really considered their cases fairly.  It was set up to deal with those cases where the claimant felt strongly aggrieved that his claim had not had the consideration he believed it justified and that the judgment made was grossly unfair.

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