Staffordshire World War One documents made public

Some men across the country and the region objected to going to war Credit: Staffordshire council archive

Stories of conscientious objectors from the region who fought back against being sent to war are amongst a rare collection of Military Appeal Tribunal records due to be published for the first time.

Conscription was first used by the armed forces in 1916 and those who requested exemption were brought in front of Military tribunals to explain themselves.

Staffordshire objector Jack Basham, aged just 23 was among many who were willing to suffer for their right to object, writing in a statement:

A poster demands the services of those who were not fighting on the front line Credit: Staffordshire council archive

The local tribunal were not satisfied that Jack had honestly objected to front line combat service and he was later sentenced to nine months hard labour at a court martial.His story is one of many now due to be made available by the council in an online archive.

Documents were destroyed by order after the war however an oversight meant some still survive Credit: Staffordshire council archive

After the war, the Ministry of Health ordered that all tribunal records be destroyed however an oversight meant much of Staffordshire’s collection survived.

Now, exactly one hundred years later, Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent Archive and Heritage Service have published this rare collection, making them available online.

It’s believed the tribunals were held in County Buildings in Stafford and the records were hidden away there only to be discovered many decades later.

Over 20 thousand individual cases for the 'Local and Appeal Tribunals' reveal the lives of the men called up to service and the stresses and strain it had on their work and family lives, often leading to many being cast aside by their communities and in some cases, family and friends.

Reasons provided by applicants were varied with many citing their own personal moral feelings as grounds not to go to war.

Other common reasons for appeal included medical, religious, economic and family grounds.

Conscientious objectors documents are set to be made public Credit: Staffordshire council archive

Gill Heath of Staffordshire County Council is responsible for archives and is pleased the documents are now available to all:

The story of the regions objectors will be retold in a new exhibition set to tour the region after over 40 volunteers helped to put together the archive.

The full collection of documents can be viewed here.