Rare tribunal records reveal First World War impact on Leigh

Leigh Journal: An example of the rare records that should have been destroyed (picture courtesy of Wigan Archives) An example of the rare records that should have been destroyed (picture courtesy of Wigan Archives)

AFTER the Great War, records that documented the tribunals of men appealing against conscription into the army were ordered to be destroyed.

But by luck the records from the Leigh Tribunal are some of very few that survived to give an invaluable insight into the impact of the First World War on people's lives on the home front.

The Wigan Archives and Local Studies team is currently in the process of transcribing and digitising the records and is in need of volunteers to get involved.

Alex Miller from the archives team said: “These documents are incredibly rare. One set was kept by the National Archives for reference if a similar process would ever have to be used again but all the rest were ordered to be destroyed.

“This was probably because the government realised the impact they could have on families that had lost someone in the war and might lead them to ask questions about why their relative was sent when someone else may have been excused.

“For some reason the records of around 4,000 Leigh cases survived and the documents don’t just reveal information about the war.

“There are hundreds of supporting documents that tell us about employment in the area - like an agricultural machinery firm was granted temporary exemptions for all their employees because they argued that it was an essential industry.

“Reasons range from conscientious objectors for religious purposes to people who owned their own business or were carers for sick or elderly relatives.

“Once all the records are digitised we want to analyse them and see whether there were any patterns on trends on who was granted an exemption from service and those sent to fight.

For more information, contact Alex Miller, 01942 404 430 or visit facebook.com/WiganArchivesService.

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