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Conscription and the Attlee GovernmentsThe Politics and Policy of National Service 1945–1951$

L. V. Scott

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198204213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198204213.001.0001

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(p.280) Appendix 3 Summary of 1947–1948 National Service Scheme

(p.280) Appendix 3 Summary of 1947–1948 National Service Scheme

Conscription and the Attlee Governments
Oxford University Press

All men were required to register at the local offices of the Ministry of Labour between the ages of seventeen years eight months and seventeen years eleven months, although provision was made for earlier registration and call-up at seventeen years six months. Those who were able to defer their service (see below) were required to register. Men were allowed to express preferences as to which service they would join. After medical examination which eliminated the unfit, the conscripts were called up, usually four to six weeks after registration. Men were called up at age eighteen until June 1948, when the age was raised to eighteen years three months; it remained thus until February 1951, when it was reduced to eighteen years two months.

The legislation applied to all British citizens resident in the United Kingdom, and to citizens or nationals of the Dominions (including Eire) who had been resident in the United Kingdom for at least two years and who chose not to return to their own countries. Liability for service was extended to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man in 1949.

The period of full-time service was initially designed at twelve months; it was extended to eighteen months and eventually to two years. The total liability was initially seven years with the part-time service consisting of a total of sixty days. As full-time service was extended, reserve liability was reduced to three and a half years by 1950.

Liability for service extended up to age twenty-six. This was raised by the 1948 Amendment Act to thirty years to ‘catch’ doctors and dentists. Those who were able to defer their service beyond this time were thus exempted. Certain industrial categories were exempted, particularly coalminers. So were agricultural workers, although after December 1951 the conditions under which they were allowed to defer their service were tightened. Merchant seamen were able to avoid military service, together with, after June 1950, seagoing fishermen who were prepared to join the Royal Naval Reserve. Men were also exempted on grounds of individual hardship (e.g. only sons of dependent widows) which had traditionally applied. Provision for exemption on grounds of conscientious objection remained as under wartime legislation.

Although not entitled to avoid service, apprentices, students, and those undertaking courses of professional training were allowed to defer their military training until their studies were completed.