Thomas Jones lived at and worked in our area during 1915 and 1916.
In 1916 he was lodging at 46 Nunthorpe Road. Thomas had not lived in York long, having moved to York from Sheffield. We have no idea what brought him to York, but while he lived in York he worked for T Cooke and Sons in Bishophill as an assistant costs clerk. In late 1915 or early 1916, Thomas, in common with his workmates at Cooke’s, was issued a badge to wear to indicate that he was doing essential war work. These badges were issued by the Ministry of Munitions to protect non-uniformed men from accusations of shirking the war.
When the Military Service Act was introduced in 1916, Thomas applied for absolute exemption from Military Service on the grounds of conscience even though he was exempted from conscription because of his employment. In his appeal, Thomas wrote that he felt unable to ‘assume the responsibility of inflicting death upon any individual’ He was at that time quite prepared to continue working on work of national importance. (T Cook and Sons supplied the military with lenses, rangefinders and surveying equipment at that time). One can surmise that Thomas felt his work as a costs clerk had little direct connection with ‘inflicting death’.
By May 1916, the number of ‘badged’ employees had far exceeded the number originally predicted by the Ministry of Munitions and the country required as many men as possible to actively engage in the war. Consequently, towards the end of 1916 the categories of worker who qualified for badges was reviewed and many employees had to forfeit their badges. Thomas was one of these men.
On January 27 1917, Thomas was ordered by the Army to attend a medical examination but did not go. His non- attendance at the medical contravened the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act and he was arrested. He appeared at York City Police Court on 15 February 1917and the case was dismissed, partly due to some confusion about whether Thomas had been given sufficient notice to attend the medical and partly because Thomas’s original appeal against military service was still pending.
In 1917 his appeal against military service was refused. The military representative at the appeal took a dim view of the fact that Thomas had on the one hand said he would not engage with the war and on the other hand had been happy to wear a badge that signified he was doing work of national importance. It seems that they did not look at their paperwork too closely as by then Thomas had left his employment at Cookes and on his appeal papers he explains doing work of national importance compromised his pacifist beliefs. By the beginning of 1917 Thomas was unemployed and living back with his parents in Sheffield.
The Tribunal took his beliefs on board and on 22 March 1917 said that he must find work on a farm. Thomas managed to find work at Hall Farm, Totley, near Sheffield. We do not know how Thomas would have fared in his Army medical, had he attended, but the farmer had to let Thomas go after only four weeks, as he was not physically up to the job. Thomas was then unemployed for a further 4 weeks until he secured a job as a clerk for local brick manufacturers. The Tribunal felt this was satisfactory employment as it was work of national importance. Thomas’s new employers were Messrs J Grayson Lowood and Co Ltd of Deepcar and they manufactured high-grade bricks and refractory materials. It is not possible to establish how directly Messrs J Grayson Lowood and Co were involved in World War 1 but one would have thought they had at least as much connection with the war as did Cookes of Bishophill.
So Thomas had now gone full circle – he was back as an office worker at a firm that was accepted by the appeal tribunal as a firm that did work of national importance. It appears that Thomas was forced by circumstances to reach a compromise about his employment. We do not know how long he stayed at the brickworks or what inner struggle he had between expediency and his convictions.
We do not know if he ever returned to York.
Tulloch-Marshall, Tom (2001) ‘ "On War Service" Badges, 1914-19 The Official Issues’ at http://www.tomtulloch-marshall.co.uk/index.html accessed 11 November 2017
1911 Census (ancestry. co)
North Yorkshire County Records Office WW1 appeal tribunal papers.