Reserved occupations WW1

I'm half way through "The first casualty! by Ben Elton which is a good read, but one of the main planks of his story is a police inspector imprisoned for refusing to be conscrupted, the book opens in Oct 1917, the chapter dealing with the Inspector's trial is set 'some time earlier'.

The question I have is was the police force a reserved occupation? If so it makes the book a good read, but not confidence building as reguards accuracy, unlike the Flashman series.

Any comments would be appreciated, as I know some of my older friends were in reserved jobs in WW2 miners, fire brigade, police, etc.
Much as I don't find much of Elton's piece all that persuasive, he is apparently right about police officers not being in excepted from conscription in the latter part of the First World War. A succession of Military Service Acts were passed (the first of which took effect from January 1916) which narrowed the way that exceptions could be identified. Rather than list specific occupations, the Acts said that exceptions had to be for work of national importance. Generally, being a policeman didn't fit this description. Policemen who were military reservists had been called up at the start of the war.

The more formal use of 'reserved occupations' in the Second World War did include policemen. However, manpower shortages by 1942 meant policemen under 25 were conscripted.

Would be nice to think Mr Elton is interested in any of that. He seems to revel in making the military look half witted. Maybe could retaliate with a book about smart alec drama student whose parents are both respected academics, but who wants to make out he was brought up under a hedge in Sarf London all the better to show how he hates Fatcher.


From the Great War Forum:
In October 1915 about 30 north east policemen attested for the Coldstream Guards and were immediately placed on the army reserve, and their army forms stamped with an official stamp, RESERVED OCCUPATION. They were all mobilized in April 1918 during the German March offensive.
It is possible they were placed on the reserve because the Chief Constable of Durham complained to the army authorities that over 40% of his force were with the colours, and he asked if for the time being that no more were allowed to sign up. This did not appear to help him as many more joined up, ending up with 420 men serving out of a force of 950, and he then had to cover the Durham area with special constables.

The status of 'reserved occupation' is a remarkably difficult to ascertain. According to official statistics, the term applied to farmers, coal miners and ancilliary employees, shipbuilders, steelworkers, railway staff, etc. Yet the various Military Service Acts, whilst accepting the above, were rather at odds with what has been generally accepted as being 'exempted men'. It would appear that the major criteria for service in the Armed Forces, apart from age and fitness, was 'trade' either skilled or unskilled, and if your job (even as a vital component in the machinery of national war effort) could effectively be done by one or more other individuals (for example, the harvest on a farm could be aided by the employment of two older men or women as opposed to the farmer's twenty year-old son alone) then...'boy, you're a soldier now'!

On a personal note, I cannot find any of my WW1 Clydeside family serving in WW1 and suspect it was because they were involved in shipbuilding
There's another article here:

This explains the Military Service Act 1916, and lists, in a broad sense, the reserved occupations but remember that the definitions are very loose so an 'essential occupation' could, with the right circumstances, be just about anything.

If you Google ''Military Service Act 1916" there is quite a lot to be found, non of it very conclusive though!
Thanks for that it has been very informative.

As far as Elton's street cred goes I do recall in an episode of "Filthy Rich and Catflap" the passing comment,

"They may be figures of fun for stand up comedians, but when your house is robbed you wouldn't want a couple of alternative comedians rolling up at the front door instead of a brace of coppers."
Elton didn't even get the uniform details correct (thinking that an officer could just remove his rank badges to look like a ranker, for instance. The hours spent sewing them back on would be a bit boring.). Credibility in that book is pretty low.
It is a reasonable read, 5/10 as a yarn. What annoys the feck out of me though is that a teensy-weensy bit of research or a half decent "military" editor could have made it a 7/10. Well you can't make a silk purse...

It annoys me so much I may have to go to the pub - even though I'm trying to work! Trying to work with if the truth be told as well...

Similar threads

New Posts

Latest Threads