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                    Opticians and Military Service Tribunals in 1916


During the Great War there was concern throughout 1915 that not enough men were volunteering for military service and that the manpower that total war required was becoming hard to find. Lord Derby set up a scheme to see if enough volunteers could be found and if not, the Government would need to consider bringing in conscription to force men into military service.

The National Registration Act 19151 provided for a register of all persons, taken on the 15th August 1915, between the ages of 15 and 65, who were not members of the Armed Forces. This enabled the Government to analyse manpower and enabled the military authorities to discover how many men of military age were civilians. Men could enlist directly in the Army or under the “Derby Scheme” he could voluntarily attest to serve.

In November 1915 a Reserved Occupations Committee was set up and the Board of Trade began advertising in newspapers that an Inter-Departmental Advisory Committee was engaged in preparing lists of reserved occupations from which enlistments should be restricted. Employers were asked to make representations to the committee about those classes of labour that they considered to be indispensable and irreplaceable.

The Yorkshire Evening Post2 reported that: “With the exception of analytical chemists, no professional men. such as solicitor, doctors, clergymen, or businessmen with technical knowledge, were mentioned in these reserved occupations.

There were many occupations that were submitted to the Committee. Many businesses submitted the names of occupations as they were desperate not to lose key workers, bakers, cotton workers. The newspapers regularly reported the changes to the list of reserved occupations.

Eventually in February 1916 the Government issued notes to aid the administration of the Group and Class system that the Tribunals were dealing with.

This listed occupations such as “Glass Maker, Chemical Engineering and Optical”.

The position of Manufacturing Opticians was made clear when in May 1916 the Government issued a document entitled: Comparison of Previous List of Certified Exemptions3 with list of 4th April 1916, showing the material alterations apart from Age Limits.

This reserved list included Instrument makers, including makers of Optical instruments of precision but specifically excluded the occupation of spectacle Maker.

Men who were in occupations that the Government deemed to be of “National Importance” were placed in a list of “Reserved Occupations”. This meant that the original registration forms from 1915 were examined and those men who had given their occupation as one that was work of National Importance had their forms annotated with a star. These occupations were considered essential occupations that benefited the war effort.

The profession of Ophthalmic Opticians and Opticians were not considered essential occupations. Those who were in the trade of dispensing medicines, styled as Chemists, were to be given the status of being in a reserved occupation and indispensable for the needs of the population if and only if the Military Representative  had reached an agreement with the Insurance Committee for the area or if recommended by the National health Insurance Commission and that recommendation was approved by the Army Council.

All doctors under 41 years of age were expected to enrol in the Central Medical War Committee or the Scottish War Emergency Committee for commissions in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Those who had not done so with 7 days of 4th July 1916 or refused to enrol were to be treated by the Tribunal as non-medical members of the civilian population.

The calling up or exemption of Medical Practitioners was to be processed by a Professional Committee. It was for this Committee to make a recommendation to the Tribunal about which doctors could be spared for war work. Any certificate of exemption was not issued by the Committee but only by the Local Tribunal who were expected to take the Committee recommendation as binding.

If a doctor was not granted exemption, he could appeal to the Local Tribunal. However, if he appealed on the grounds of conscientious objection then the decision was the sole remit of the Tribunal. If he appealed on other grounds the Tribunal were to refer the case back to the Committee for consideration.

This suggested that the health of the nation was secondary to winning the war. Many trades were listed as being ones that were capable of being done by women and the trade of lens edging in Optical Instruments was one of these.

All men aged 18 to 41, not in a “starred” occupation were required by the so-called Derby scheme to make a public declaration. Each man’s details from the National Register were sent to the local constituency's Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. These used local men to canvas these eligible men. The canvassing was often an intimidatory activity. Each man was asked directly by a canvasser if he would or would not attest to join the armed forces. If he stated that he would attest, then he was to go to a recruiting office within 48 hours.  There they would be sworn in and on the following day they were transferred to group B of the Army Reserve to await call-up. He could then return to his normal occupation until his specific group which was determined by age and marital status was called up by Royal Proclamation. Attested men were assured that if called up they would have the opportunity of having their claims requesting adjournment of their call up heard by independent Tribunals who would adjudicate on the validity of the claim. The claim could be made by the man or by an employer on behalf of the man.

As time went on it was revealed that 38 per cent of single men and 54 per cent of married men had publicly refused to enlist. As a result, a conscription Bill was introduced in January 1916.

It came into force on 2 March 1916. The Military Service Act of 1916 4 imposed the compulsory military conscription on all men aged between 18 and 41, unless they were married, widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in one of a number of reserved occupations who were not eligible for exemption. The decision to bring in conscription in 1916 caused considerable concern for several opticians who were running their own businesses. Calling up notices were sent to all men born in 1897.

A man who felt he should be exempted from military service could apply for his case to be made before a local Tribunal. At the Tribunal they could apply for absolute, conditional, or temporary exemption.

Across the country around 2000 Military Service Tribunals were set up to listen to the pleadings of men who were requesting exemption from Military Service.


The six general grounds of exemption were.

a) Men who are better employed in their usual work (such as in food supply or the export trade),

b) Work that is more suited elsewhere for the war effort (such as in agriculture or engine drivers),

c) Youths being educated or trained,

d) Financial and domestic obligations,

e) Ill-health or infirmity

f) Conscientious Objection.

The Tribunal was usually populated by an all-male selection from the community such as the Mayor of the town, clergyman, bank manager and councillor. Each Tribunal had a Military Representative, often a retired military officer or the local recruiting officer. His role was to speak for the Army, and these Military Representatives were usually hostile to conscientious objectors. Their military experience meant that they saw the world through a lens focussed on duty to God, King and Country, as a result, they found it hard to accept the beliefs of such objectors and probably saw conscientious objectors as men who veered to cowardice.

If the Local Tribunal refused exemption, then a man or his employer might make an appeal to the Central or County Tribunal for a final decision.

Only a small minority of the tribunal papers survive because the cases dealing with compulsory military service during and after the First World War contained information and detail that was deemed to be sensitive.

Post-war the Government issued instructions to the Local Government Boards that all tribunal material should be destroyed. An exemption to this was the Middlesex Appeal records and a set for Lothian and Peebles in Scotland. They were retained on the basis that they might serve as a possible benchmark for any future emergency recruitment.

The Middlesex Appeal records are held by the National Archives at Kew 5. It has been possible to identify those cases in this set that were those of men engaged in optical work or who gave their occupation under the general term “Optician”. Each of these cases has been analysed and further refined by adding information from publicly available family and military service information.


1. Herbert William Beyer.

Herbert William Beyer, age 32, of 63 Palmerston Crescent, Palmers Green, London was an Ophthalmic Opticians’ Assistant with C. K. Dixey & Son of 20 Wellbeck Street, Harley Street, London and he had been with them since 1909.

He had not attested and on June 5th, 1916, he was appealing to the Local Tribunal for an Absolute exemption from Military Service. The grounds for his appeal were:

i) It was in the national interest that he continues to be employed in work that he had been habitually engaged in.

ii) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

iii) On a personal basis he had a letter from his doctor confirming his wife had Asthma and advanced Pulmonary Tuberculosis, lived in the country and the allowance of 12s-6d was insufficient for her keep and medical costs. Her life was in danger if she could not pay the doctor. He was graded B1 at his medical and if sent abroad would be hard to get back to see his dying wife.

iv) Engaged in the measuring and fitting of glasses to the public, several whom were in the military and very dependent on spectacles. He added that the business was necessary to the health of all stations and ages of human life, if eyesight was defective.

On the 10th July 1916 the Tribunal dismissed his appeal on the basis that despite sympathising with him over his wife’s’ illness, and no hardship would ensue. His wife was living with her mother at Southampton and the Separation Allowance was enough to ensure her keep and medical costs were met. He was currently living with his parents and no home would be broken up when he enlisted. The Military Representative was equally dismissive.

His case was heard by the Central Tribunal and dismissed on 13th July 1916. 5

He was born in Kentish town in June 1884.

He was conscripted for Military Service, enlisted at Tottenham on 3rd August 1916 and accepted for service in the Royal Army Service Corps, Swaythling Remount Depot, Southampton on 9th August 1916. He became Private RX4 215100 Herbert William Beyer. On 19th September 1916 he was transferred to the British Expeditionary Force and left Southampton on S.S. Courtfield for Le Havre, arriving on 20th September 1916. He was initially in 32 Remount Depot and was the posted to No.3 Base Remount Depot at Dieppe. He stayed there working with horses until 12th June 1919. He was awarded the British war and British Victory medals. His wife died in 1920 and he died in 1963. 6 By posting him to work with horses showed the military authorities had no understanding of how his civilian skills could have been utilised within the Royal Army Medical Corps.


2. John William Butterworth.

John William Butterworth Was born on 21st April 1895 in Halifax. In the 1911 census he is living with his family in a 3 roomed house 18 Bell’s Wood House, Carlin How, Cleveland. His parents Frank, age 42 and Marth age 38 had been married for 20 years. John was working as driver in an Ironstone mine. He had three brothers working in the mine, Robert, age 19, Frank, age 18, and John age 14, and two sisters, Maggie, age 8 and Hannah, age 1.

He lived and practiced at 30 York Street, Twickenham. He worked as a Pharmacist & Optician. He married Elsie Sarah Bunker on 3rd May 1917 at Twickenham, Middlesex, he was described as a Chemist on his wedding certificate. 6

He had attested for military service and was seen by the Twickenham Military Service Tribunal on 24th April 1918 and given a conditional exemption certificate on the grounds:

i) of hardship owing to the business having to close as it was impossible to obtain a substitute and was a one-man business.

On 3rd May 1918 he applied for further exemption as a pharmacist / optician but due to a controversial Royal Proclamation he was no longer able to claim on the basis of occupation. On the 16th May 1918 he went before Twickenham County Tribunal. They took some time to decide on his case but then wrote on 22nd May that due to the proclamation known as the “Clean Cut Order”, dated 20th April 1918 they had no legal jurisdiction to deal with the case. 5

This sealed his fate, and he was called up for service. He became 199789 Airman 3rd Class and Trade was given as Miscellaneous (Pharmacist) on 20TH June 1918. He was posted to Cranwell. He had attained proficiency described as “Satisfactory” by 21st January 1919. On 23rd March 1919 he was discharged to the Reserves. 6

3. Alfred Edward Byworth

Alfred Edward Byworth was born 20th December 1886. In 1901 he was age 14, living with his parents at Eton Villas, Uxbridge. His father Alfred was age 40 and a Watchmaker, his mother Florence was age 38. He had one sister Emily age 12. He married Alice Ellen Lane on 26th   December 1914.5 His occupation was described as Watch and Clockmaker, Jeweller and Qualified Ophthalmic Optician. He had voluntarily attested at Uxbridge on 11th December 1915. His occupation was manager of the “Practical Watch and Clockmakers Shop” at 27 High Street, Uxbridge. At the Uxbridge Local Tribunal, he was granted a series of further 3-month exemptions on 16th May, the 1st September 1916 and 5th December 1916. He stated that he had been in a similar business for the last 15 years but had returned to Uxbridge to assist his mother Florence Byworth who owned the business. She stated that since the 5th of December 1916 she had been unable to find a manager to take hers son’s place and that if he was called up, she had no idea how she would carry on the business. She had no other option and because there was a ban on the importation of watches, clocks and materials.

On 14th March 1917 he was granted further exemption until 14th June 1917, on the grounds of serious hardship would ensue if he was called up for Military Service, owing to exceptional business obligations. The Military Representative had appealed on 10th March 1917 on the basis that it was not in the national interest that Byworth should remain in Civilian employment and that no serious hardship would occur if he were called up. He took this to County Tribunal on 11th April 1917.

The County Tribunal heard the appeal of the Military Representative on 16th April 1917 and disagreed with him that Mr Byworth should be called up and varied the existing certificate of exemption to 31st May 1917. On 21st May 1917 Mrs Byworth wrote in desperation to the Tribunal and presented a letter from a surgeon confirming Mrs Byworth had undergone breast cancer surgery in 1901 and was thus unable to carry out the work she had been doing. She pointed out that she had become a widow in 1914 and had ploughed her late husband’s estate into stock in her shop. She had taken on a 22-year self-repairing Lease on her business premises and had been told that the lessor would not release her from the legal obligations of the Lease. If her son was called up, she would have nobody to do the work and would have to close the business and the Lease obligations would ruin her financially. She had done everything in her power to resolve the issues. If she could find someone to replace him or sell the business or dispose of the Lease she would contact the Military Authorities with a view to her son joining up.  

On 24th May 1917 the Central Tribunal wrote to say that the Tribunal were not prepared to allow her to make any application.5

He eventually served in the Army Ordnance Corps as 031789 Acting Corporal Alfred Edward Byworth. 6

He was awarded the British War and Service Medal. 6

In 1939 he was living at 8 Carston Drive, Watford with is wife Alice, age 48, and one married daughter Joan Waters, age 25, who was a student. Alfred was described as an Optician, Ophthalmic and Dispensing.5

He was living at 184 Coates Way, Garston, Watford when he died on 30th March 1961. At probate he left £5669-10s-0d to his son-in-law Gordon Waters. 5

4. Frank James Crawley

Frank James Crawley, age 27, 3& 4 Barrett Street, Oxford Street, and 134 Butler Road, Harrow, was a Manufacturing Optician of spectacles and eyeglasses. He did not attest and appealed to the local tribunal for absolute exemption from Military Service on the grounds that:

i) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

ii) Conscientious objection to combatant service as a Christian.

iii) Sole supporter of his widowed mother.

iv) His work in manufacturing spectacles was such that it increased the efficiency of war workers by ensuring they had good vision.

His appeal was refused on 9th March 1916. He appealed to the Central Tribunal enclosing a letter from The Optical Trades Committee at the Northern Polytechnic, Clerkenwell. This recommended that he be exempted on the grounds that his occupation was starred as a certified occupation and he was the only man left to train new labour coming in to replace conscripted men.

The Central Tribunal met on 21st March 1916 and during the hearing he was tasked over his reasons for exemption. He told them that conscience was the first thing. The Chairman told him that conscience was the last thing in the Military Service Act. Crawley replied that as a Christian he did not feel able to take up arms and he had belonged to the Brethren for four years. The Chairman asked him if he had considered the objects of the present war and Crawley replied that he considered himself as being outside as a Christian. The Chairman asked him if he had considered the causes of the war and Crawley stated that it was the “avarices of mankind”. The Chairman asked: Whose avarices they were, and Crawley said that “They were the Germans, primarily”.

They dismissed the appeal which was reported in the Harrow Observer.7

He was born on 4th July 1888 and went to Moreland Street School on 23rd August 1892.

In 1891 he was living with his parents, John, age 47, a Coffee House keeper and Emma, age 46 and three brothers, John, age 19, a Lead glazier, Henry, age 9, Charles, age 7, at 6 William Street, St. Pancras.

In 1901 he was a scholar and lived at 9 Popular Road, Islington. His father had died and his elder brother Henry, age 20, was a spectacle frame maker. Charles was a Sheet glass embosser.

In 1911 he was, age 22, living at Longfield, Harlesden Road, Willesden Green, Middlesex with his mother. Charles was a Blacksmith; Frank and his brother Henry were spectacle makers.

He was a single man when conscripted, and enlisted at Mill Hill, and served as G/22129 Private in the 16th Battalion Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment. He was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. He was buried at Thiepval, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France. He was awarded the British War and Victory medals. His mother was sent a War Gratuity of £3 and backpay of £2-1s-7d. 6


5. William Daniel

William Daniel was born on 27th February 1872 at Whittlebury, Northampton. He married Annie Amelia Andrews on 15th April 1897 at St Johns, Leytonstone, Essex.

In 1907 he had two children baptised at Bayswater, William Charles and Frederick Trevor, he was living at 19 Archer Street, Bayswater and was working as a Watchmaker.

In 1901 they were living at 1 Nemours Road, Acton. William was age 29, a Watchmaker and employer in a shop. Annie was age 29, with no listed occupation. They had a son, William C., age 2 and a daughter, Kathleen M., age 1. William Charles had lost his left eye for some reason.6

In 1918 he was described as a Consulting Optician, Watchmaker and Jeweller, of 23 London Road, Enfield. He was medically examined on 10th May 1918 and then called up sometime in May 1918. He appealed to the Enfield Local Tribunal on 14th May 1918. He applied for Temporary Exemption on the grounds of serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position. He had been medically graded as 1 and had not attested. He had been married for 21 years.

He stated:” Mine is a one-man business and if I am called up entails closing down entirely & leaving my wife (who is in delicate health) & family without means. The only assistance I have is that offered by an apprentice whose services I shall lose”. He had been employed in this line of work for 29 years. On 7th June 1918 the appeal was adjourned because they thought that he was in a Scheduled Employment and could thus get a Protection Certificate. The Military Representative disagreed with the Local Tribunal on the basis that the man was medical Grade 1 and had given insufficient reasons to be exempted. The Military Representative appealed to the County Tribunal. The case was to be heard at the County Tribunal on 27th June 1918. He told the Tribunal that: “ This man is passed for Grade 1 and as his occupation was not of National Importance and he started this business since the war, he saw no justification for the Tribunal to adjourn the case to enable him to get a Scheduled Employment Protection Certificate. The County Tribunal agreed with the Military Representative and withdrew his exemption certificate on 2nd July 1918. The Military Representative agreed that he would not call him up for 21 days from 27th June 1918.To date it has proved impossible to determine if he served but it is highly probable that he did serve in the Great War as the Tribunal documents show that he had no further appeals.5


6. Karl Ledshan (Ledsham) Darter

Karl Ledsham Darter was was born on 1st October 1887 and worked as an optician trading as Charles Ledsham, 455 High Road, Tottenham.

He was called up for Military Service in June 1916. He had not attested for military service.

He appealed to the Tottenham Military Service Tribunal on 9th June 1916, applying for Absolute Exemption from Military Service on the grounds:

i) It was in the national interest that he should, instead of being in the military, be engaged in other work in which he was habitually engaged.

ii) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

He was holding contracts for the supply of spectacles to:

Tottenham Education Committee

The Surgical Aid Society

Hospital Saturday Fund

Royal Small Arms Factory.

If conscripted, he stated that the whole business would have to close down. A valued and established practice would be entirely lost.

He sent in two letters in support of his appeal:

Tottenham Education Committee wrote an impressive letter on the 9th June 1916 emphasising that he had been working at the Eye Clinic established by the Committee. In the last year he had supplied the Tottenham School children with 800 pairs of spectacles. His services were described as most valuable, and they hoped he would be allowed to continue.

The Hospital Saturday Fund wrote to the Chairman of the Local Tottenham Tribunal on May 13th, 1916, explaining that Ledsham had served as Optician to the Fund for nearly ten years. His various assistants had been called up and if Ledsham was called up his business would have to close. It was explained that through the Fund Ledsham had supplied many workmen at the Small Arms Factory with spectacles, in addition he had provided spectacles for the families of these men. They emphasised that there was nobody to replace him and hoped the Tribunal would give his application favourable consideration.

On 23rd June 1916 he was given a temporary certificate of exemption for 6 months with the usual conditions of drilling with the Volunteer Training Corps.

He was called up again in December 1916 and appealed to the Tottenham Local Tribunal for a continuance of his temporary exemption. He sent in two letters in support of his appeal.

The Hospital Saturday Fund wrote to the Chairman of the Tottenham Tribunal on 23rd January 1917. The repeated that he had worked with the Surgical Appliance Committee successfully for the last 10 years. He had kept his prices static. They emphasised that he was attending to the needs of Munition workers, especially at Enfield. If conscripted the Fund would have difficulty in finding someone to do the work as well as Ledsham had been doing. They stated that there was a shortage of skilled opticians in the area, and it would be impossible to replace him. They asked the Committee to consider his application favourably.

Tottenham Education Committee wrote to the Chairman on 10th March 1917 stating that Ledsham was employed by the Education Committee to supply spectacles to children found to have defective vision by the Eye Specialist. It was important that these prescriptions were made up correctly. If conscripted the loss of his services to children would be seriously felt.

On 21st March 1917 the Local Tottenham Tribunal decided that his exemption not be withdrawn so he could continue providing with his services. The Military Representative disagreed. On 26th March 1917 he appealed to the County Tribunal against the Local Tribunal decision.

He stated that in view of the age, 29 years, and medical condition, B1, conditional exemption was not justified. He stated that the Local Tribunal had been influenced by the fact that this man who was an uncertified optician did a great deal of work for Tottenham Education Committee supplying glasses to school children at little profit.

The County Tribunal considered the appeal on 18th April 1917 and agreed with the view of the Military Representative. It was agreed that the Military Representative would not call Ledsham up until 21st May 1917.5

On 28th May he was conscripted into the Royal Naval Air Service for the duration of hostilities becoming F29751 Karl Airman 2nd Class Ledsham Darter. He was noted to have bunion on his right foot and the tip missing on right middle finger.

He served on H.M.S. President II from 28th May until 26th June for initial training and on 27th June was posted to R.N.A.S. Killingholme. On 28th November 1917 he was promoted to Airman 1st Class. On 31st March 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force at Killingholme with a new number-229751. His civilian occupation was described as Scientific Instrument Maker. His role in the Royal Air Force was given as Labourer.

On 8th November 1918 he was medically graded as B1. He was transferred to the Royal Air Force Reserves on 7th November 1918 and Discharged on 14th December 1918. He was then living at 77 Woodling Avenue, Winchmore Hill, London.6

Post-war he returned to his optical work. In November 1924 at the age of 40, he obtained his Fellowship of the British Optical Association, examination No. 3315, Membership No.1743, with his Certificate being sent on 3rd March 1925. 8

In December 1924 he was living at: 455 High Road, Tottenham, London N17.

In 1939 he was living with his wife at 7 Village Road, Enfield and working as an Optician Ophthalmic Dispenser, and in January 1951 was working at 443/5 High Road, Tottenham, London N17.

He died on 21st August 1960 while living at 7 Village Road, Enfield, Middlesex. At Probate he left £9106-8s-6d to Peter Karl Ledsham Darter.6

7. Herbert Griffiths

 Herbert Griffiths of 5 Fairfax Road, Bedford Park, Chiswick. Occupation: Ophthalmic Optician. He was born on 4th June 1893.Herbert Griffiths, a single man, age 24, had given his address on the National Register as 21 Athelstan Road, Cliftonville, Margate. He had attested at Kensington. He had been called up for Military Service in July 1916.He appealed to the Local Chiswick Military Service Tribunal on 1st August 1916. His profession was given as: “Ophthalmic Optician. Engaged in examining & testing the human eye, detecting diseases, diagnosing and prescribing for all refractive errors, prescribing and fitting artificial human eyes. he had been engaged in this work since around 1912. prior to that he had worked for Mr E. J. Issolt, 12a King Street, Margate.  His present employer was Frederick Bateman & co., City Office, 34 Aldersgate Street, E.C. He was applying for Temporary exemption until he had sat and passed the Final Examination. He stated: “The examinations demand long and careful study, and the knowledge is of great benefit to the General Public. ”The Tribunal refused his application. On 10th August 1916 he was once again before the Chiswick Local Military Service Tribunal where he confirmed that he was single and had been graded medical grade C.1 at Hounslow. He explained he was sight testing and had his final examination in November 1916, and he was studying for that now. The Chairman asked if he could take the examination when he came back after the war. The Military Representative saw his chance and told the Tribunal that after the examination Griffiths would not be a doctor, his services after passing the examination could not be termed of National Importance. He appealed to the Middlesex County Tribunal and his case was heard on 14th September 1916. Prior to the hearing the County Tribunal wrote to the Middlesex Tribunal explaining that there was no difficulty with Griffiths sitting the examination later and they had now discovered that Griffiths had proposed to sit the examination in May 1917.The Middlesex Tribunal wrote to Griffiths on 18th September 1916 to him to confirm their decision of refusal. 5

He almost certainly served during the Great War but to date no record of service has been found.

He obtained his Fellowship of the British Optical Association by Supplementary Exam held in Cardiff December 1923. Examination No. 2938, he had already received his Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Spectaclemakers, He became British Optical Association Member No.1568, admitted February 1924 and his Certificate was sent 20th May 1924.8

In February 1924 he was living at 63a Queen Street, Newton Abbot, Devonshire. In January 1938 he was at: c/o E. Williams & Son, 69 Queen Street, Newton Abbot, Devon.6

In 1939 he was living at 18 Willake Road, Newton Abbott, Devon, with his wife Daisy. He was working as an Ophthalmic and Dispensing Optician. He was also an Air Raid Precautions Warden and his wife was an Air Raid Precautions Ambulance worker at Newton Abbott.6

8. Stephen Wright Harrison

Stephen Wright Harrison (Junior), of 154 High Road, Chiswick. Occupation: Chemist and Optician. He had married on 7th July 1913. He had attested for Military Service. He was a qualified Chemist (Pharmacist) and had been working as such since August 1902.

He was called up in February 1917 and was seen by the Chiswick Military Service Tribunal on 7th February 1917. The Chairman told him that in a family business where a son was called up the father had to take over the business. Harrison told the Chairman that his father was unable to run the business. When he was asked if they could not get a female dispenser, he said that his sister had been working there but had to give up due to cardiac issues. The case was adjourned while he was seen at Hounslow for a medical. He returned to the Tribunal later that day and was re-examined.

He told them that he had been medically graded B.1. The Tribunal told him that conditional exemption was only possible if he had been lawfully and habitually engaged in dispensing medicines that were indispensable for the needs of the population. In addition, he had to be in the list of certified occupations.

His case was reviewed on 24th April 1917 and his father had appealed on behalf of his son to the Chiswick Military Service Tribunal. His son was not present. Mr Harrison (Senior) gave four grounds for appealing for conditional exemption for his son from Military Service.

i) His son was indispensable and practically managed the business, as his father was 62 years old and had sciatica and a bronchial condition which made him unfit

ii) The business carried out National Health Insurance Dispensing as well as Private Dispensing

iii) His son for whom he sought exemption suffers with a throat affection and was bothered with varicose veins

iv) He would have to close the optical side of his business

The Tribunal confirmed that the son had been taken off the list of dispensers.

The Chiswick Military Service Tribunal decided on 24th April 1917 that Harrison Junior was until recently in a certified occupation as a dispenser of medicines on the recommendation of the National Health Insurance Commissioners, but his name was no longer on the list to do this. They considered that there were a considerable number of chemists in Chiswick and more than was necessary for the needs of the population. He had been medical graded as B.1., was 35 years old and married with no children. They considered that the father could continue the business to a restricted extent. No question of financial hardship had been raised. The father told the Tribunal that his son would be of little use to the army. The Military Representative objected stating that from the medical he was considered fit for Military Service. Harrison told the Tribunal his son was a vegetarian and he did not know he would get on with that in the army. The Military Representative countered by stating that: “He would probably learn to be a carnivorous man. He looked a very healthy sort when he came in before us himself.”

As a result, they refused to grant any exemption to his son, and he was told he would not receive a call-up notice for 14 days.

His appeal was heard by the Middlesex County Tribunal on 9th May 1917 and was dismissed. He was told that he would not receive any call-up papers for four weeks from 9th May 1917. 5

He served as 118382 Private Stephen Wright Harrison R.A.M.C. No service record can be found.

His Medal Index Card and Medal Roll show he was awarded British War Medal and the India General Service Medal with AFGN (Afghanistan) NWFF (North West Frontier Force) Clasp. He thus served in India. He applied for the British Victory Medal on 23rd February 1924 but does not appear to be granted it. His medals were sent to 154 High Road, Chiswick.6

He qualified as a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Spectaclemakers in November 1950 and was still practising in the 1950 and 1953 lists at the above address.8



9. Albert Jones

Albert Jones, F.S.M.C., F.I.O., age 39, (25 Feb 1877), was living at 113 High Road, Kilburn and later 40 Montrose Avenue Kilburn. He married Frances Sarah Spackman at Quex Road Methodist Church, Kilburn, Middlesex on 11th June 1903. They had five children together. He was described as a “Sight-Testing Optician” in a business that was an Opticians & Jewellers.  He had not attested and was called up for Military Service in May 1916. On June 3rd, 1916, he applied to the Willesden Tribunal for Absolute Exemption on grounds of.

i) It was in the national interest that he continues to be employed in work that he had been habitually engaged in.

ii) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

iii) Ill-health or infirmity

He had been given a military medical on 25th May 1916 at Mill Hill. He was passed as fit for Garrison duty abroad.

He told the Tribunal he was the only employee qualified to undertake sight-testing, which he considered Work of National Importance. If conscripted it would entail the closure of their sight-testing business. He had offered one day a week in February 1916 to the Director of the Army Spectacle Depot. He had a wife and four young children. Even taking civil liability payments into account his family would suffer serious financial hardship. Medically he had a hernia and wore a truss for the previous five years, as well as a varicocele.

On July 14th, 1916, the Tribunal granted temporary exemption until 14th September 1916 owing to the employer’s exceptional business position. Their reasoning was that his father was in the business with another son who is beyond military age. There were five other assistants in the business. The optical work done by Jones took up 25% of the working week. The conscripting of Jones would cause some inconvenience but would not necessitate the closure of the business. Jones had failed to prove that any serious steps had been taken to find a replacement for him in the event of being conscripted.

On 5th August 1916 he was asked to attend a further medical examination at Mill Hill on or before 9th August 1916. On 14th August 1916 the Willesden Tribunal dismissed his appeal. The Military Representative did not support any of his appeals. 5

On 11th October 1916 he became 301956 Private Albert Jones and served in the Royal Air Force until being transferred to the Reserves on 22nd February 1919 and was discharged on 30th April 1920. On 1st October 1918 he was serving as a Hospital Orderly and became an acting Lance-Corporal on 25th January 1919, his Character was described as “Very Good” and his Proficiency was described as “Excellent”. He served in the Air Candidates Medical Board.6


10. Charles Victor Mander

Charles Victor Mander of 161 High Road, Kilburn. Occupation: Optician

He married Grace Ellen Mansfield on 3rd June 1912 at Hendon.

He was called up in May 1916 and was granted two months temporary exemption by the Willesden Tribunal On 11th May 1916 the Military Representative opposed the Tribunal decision.

He was called up for Military Service in July 1916 and he appealed to the Willesden Local Military Service Tribunal.

He was age 32, married with two children and living at Belle Vue, Edgmore. He had attested for Military Service at Hendon. He was working as an Ophthalmic Optician working in his own business at 161 High Road, Kilburn as the London Spectacle Company. He appealed to the Hendon Tribunal on the ground that Military Service would result in serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position. He explained he was a qualified Ophthalmic Optician and had invested a great deal of money in his business and it was practically impossible to find a skilled man to replace him if he was sent to serve in the military. The Tribunal deferred a decision and transferred the case to the Willesden Tribunal because the business was in the Willesden area.

He was granted an exemption on 18th August 1916 by the Willesden Local Tribunal conditional upon him joining the Volunteer Training Corps with 7days.

On 8th September 1916 he wrote to the Tribunal enclosing his Certificate of Exemption and requesting that following their agreement over the telephone, they endorse it to allow him to serve as a Special Policeman instead of the Volunteer Training Corps.

On 8th December 1917 the Military Service Representative appealed to the Willesden Tribunal over the exemption granted. He appealed that in view of the medical grade of Mr Mander, an attested man and considering his other circumstances the exemption should now be withdrawn.

On 21st January 1918 Mander appealed to the Local Willesden Tribunal through his solicitors, Lickfolds of Bedford Row. They explained that he was 34 years of age, married with two children and was medically graded as A. He had many dependants including a wife, his two children, a sister and her husband together with their four children. His professional work was of great National Importance.  Many of his patients were poor people and a large number were from the Hendon Aircraft factories. He had invested the whole of his savings of around 1000 in his single-handed business. His brother had been helping him but had now joined the forces. He could not find a manager or sell the business.

On 31st January 1918 the Willesden Tribunal explained that his rental was 90 per annum. He was contributing 4 per week to his brother-in-law and their family of four. The Tribunal stated that he was a Class A man and ought to make arrangements with a man over military age or a discharged soldier to carry on his business while Mader joined the army. He was given two months exemption to organise this, and this exemption was not renewable without the leave of the Tribunal.

He appealed to the Middlesex County Tribunal and his appeal was dismissed on 28th February 1918 and he was not to be sent call-up papers for two months. His lawyers, Lickfords, sent a letter in to the Middlesex Tribunal on 4th April 1918 explaining that he had found a purchaser for the practice. The buyer was under contract as Manager but could not begin to take over until the 27th of May 1918. The sale was dependant on Mr Mander continuing to work in the practice to maintain the good-will until the sale was completed. Consequently, Mander was asking for the time for his call-up to be extended to 1st June 1918.

The Tribunal took this on board and wrote to the Military Service Representative on 12th April 1918 asking that Mander not be called up until 28th May 1918. 5

No service record has been found indicating that may not have served in the Great War.

In 1939 he was living at 298 Friern Lane, Finchley and was a Company Director.6

13. Alfred George Melhuish

Alfred George Melhuish, He had been born on 13th July 1885 (age 30), 68 Meadvale Road, Brentham, Ealing. He married Grace Mary Parfeet on 13th August 1906. In 1911 he was working as a Dentists Attendant. He had started working as an Optician in 1913, he was engaged in dispensing prescriptions & fitting spectacles, eyeglasses & optical instruments of various descriptions. Employed by Theodore Hamblin, 5 Wigmore Street, London W., Dispensing Opticians, dealers & Manufacturers of Scientific Optical Instruments.

He had not attested. He was called up for Military Service in June 1916.

On the 8th of June 1916 he had applied for Absolute Exemption from Military Service on the grounds of:

i)  serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

and applied for Temporary Exemption from other service under Military Control on the grounds of:

ii)  a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service.

Because of his claim of being a conscientious objector the Tribunal required him to answer ten complicated questions about that aspect of his life. He had been a conscientious objector for 12 years. He requested that the non-combatant work he be given should be work for which he was qualified to do. He was studying at the Northampton Institute and Military Service would interrupt that. (Presumably he was studying a course allied to Optics).

He was exempted from Combatant Military Service by the Ealing Local Tribunal on 19th June 1916 this meant he was expected to serve in the Military in a non-combatant role. His medical revealed he was able to see 6/12 Right eye and 6/18 Left eye unaided. On 17th July 1916, he was accepted (not enrolled), and deemed to have joined at Hounslow with Medical Grade C1, as 2125 Private Alfred George Melhuish, Non-Combatant Corps. Initially he was in No.5 Eastern Non-Combatant Corps and transferred to No.6 Company on 19th July 1917.

On January 20th, 1917 he was tried by District Court Martial and sentenced to 6-month imprisonment with hard labour. He had been charged with being on active service and failing to obey a lawful command given by his superior officer. He was in Guard Detention Waddington and then taken to Wormwood General Prison on 1st February 1917.  He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 10th March 1917.

On 6th February 1917 the Central Middlesex Tribunal wrote to the Ealing Tribunal enquiring about the case of Melhuish and requesting sight of the papers in the case.

The Central Middlesex Tribunal explained that Melhuish had been Court-martialled and sentenced to imprisonment.

These were sent to the Central Middlesex Tribunal on 13th February 1917 with the Tribunal to decide if his conscientious objection to military service was bases on religious or moral grounds..

On June 18th, 1917, the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal wrote to Melhuish to say that because the Central Middlesex Tribunal had his case under consideration in February 1917 it could not be dealt with by the Ealing Tribunal they had forwarded his request to the Central Middlesex Committee.

On 25th June 1917 the Central Tribunal wrote to the Ealing Military Service Tribunal explaining that Melhuish had been sentenced for a breach of discipline. While Melhuish was undergoing sentence the Middlesex Tribunal investigated his case and as a result he was given work under the control of the Committee on Employment of Conscientious Objectors. Melhuish complained to the Central Tribunal about the allowance his family were getting. The Middlesex Committee explained that they had no authority to revise his Certificate and that it was the Ealing Tribunal that could only consider any application from Melhuish. It was not an application for a revie but an application for a re-hearing. men who had joined the Army could not have a rehearing without the consent of the Army Council.

On 22nd June 1917, Mr Philip Snowden, M.P., asked the Home Secretary in the House of Commons if Melhuish who was in Princetown could be transferred to the to the Army Optical Corps of the Royal Army Medical Corps, as he was by profession a dispensing optician. The Home Secretary Mr Macpherson replied that personnel of the Royal Army Medical Corps were liable at any time to be transferred to a combatant Corps and are enlisted for general service. Melhuish could not be transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps under any other conditions.

On July 17th, 1917, Melhuish wrote to the Chairman of the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal claiming a review of his Certificate on the grounds that the conditions have not been satisfied or observed by the Military Authorities. He felt the Tribunal would have been aware that the evidence he gave should have entitled him to Total Exhibition.

On 3rd September 1917, the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal wrote to Melhuish to explain that they could not review his Certificate of Exemption.

On 10th January 1918 Melhuish wrote to the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal explaining that further to his last letter from Princeton he had now left employment under the jurisdiction of the Home Office Committee, and he proposed that if his case could not be settled he would appeal to the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal over their refusal to review his Certificate from 23rd June 1916. He also considered that there was mal administration by the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal

On 16th January 1918 Melhuish wrote to the Chairman of the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal explaining that he had been advised by Walter Davies the National Service Representative that he could bring an application to the Tribunal on 28th January 1918.

On 25th January 1918 he appealed to the Ealing Local Tribunal for Absolute Exemption from Military Service. He pointed out that a Non-Combatant Certificate was not recognised by the Army Optical Corps, and the Non-Combatant Corps were now expected to load ammunition. He considered this to be a part of Combatant Warfare.

On 28th January 1918 the Ealing Military Service Tribunal rote to him explaining that they had decided that they could not vary the decision made by them on 16th June 1916.

They forwarded a letter that he could present to the Committee on Work of National Importance. This explained the background to the case, explained that he had been in the Non-Combatant Corps and had been transferred to the Army Reserve and had re-applied to the Ealing Local Military Tribunal for Absolute Exemption from Military Service. The Tribunal could not grant this request and had referred his case to the Committee on Work of National Importance.5

On 31st January 1918 the Committee on Work of National Importance rote to Melhuish to find out what work history he could provide so that Work of National Importance could be sanctioned by the Ealing Tribunal. 5

He was recalled from Army Reserve on 15th February 1918 to No.6 Eastern Non-Combatant Corps.6

On 1st March 1918 the Committee on Work of National Importance wrote to the Ealing Local Military Tribunal in reply to a letter they had sent on 25th February 1918 asking if Melhuish could be found Work of National Importance and allowed to leave the Army. The Committee on Work of National Importance had written to the Ministry of National Service to enquire what steps had to be taken to get Melhuish released from the Army. On the 26th of February 1918 the Ealing Tribunal wrote to Melhuish at No.8 Camp,6th Eastern Non-Combatant Corps, Perham Down, Nr Andover, asking him to return his Certificate exempting him from Combatant Service which they would exchange for a Certificate of Exemption from Military Service, conditional on him being engaged in Work Of National Importance approved by the Local Tribunal Committee.5

Melhuish had written to the Ealing Tribunal asking for his Certificate to be amended as a result of him “experiencing 19 months of the treatment meted out to conscientious objectors who were willing to perform work of real social value.”. He pointed out that the conditions under which men were accepted for the Non-Combatant Corps were not circulated to the Local Tribunals until 25th August 1916.The requirement to be “loading ammunition was considered to be a distinct breach of faith”. He also claimed that very few Tribunals could consider ammunition work of any description to be reconcilable with a claim for exemption on conscientious grounds. He was happy to undertake work of National Importance. The restrictions on his earning capacity had caused considerable hardship for his family.5

He was called up for Military Service in June 1918 and appealed to the Middlesex Military Service Tribunal and was written to on the 4th July 1918 by that Tribunal and advised that he had to get examined by a National Service Medical Board by the 16th July 1918. If he failed to get the examination for medical grading carried out the Tribunal warned him that they would assume he was Medical Grade 1.

Ealing Local Tribunal on 6th June 1918 and he was granted exemption from Combatant Service only.

The Military Representative appealed against the decision of the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal on 7th June 1918. He had discovered that Melhuish had in fact turned up for the Hearing having absconded from the Dartmoor Work Centre.5

Melhuish appealed against the decision of the Ealing Local Military Service Tribunal on 19th June 1918. He considered that the decision by the Tribunal to withdraw the certificate of conditional exemption granted on 25th February 1918 was made without the proper consideration of the facts and the grounds of the appeal by the Army Representative were irregular and based upon regulations not contained with the Acts, (M.S.A. 1916-1918)

His case was heard by the Local Ealing Town Hall on 19th July 1918. The Tribunal decided to exempt him from Combatant Service only.

A Hearing was held by the Middlesex Military Service Tribunal on 12th September 1918 as a result of an appeal by the Military Service Representative.5

He was discharged as Services being no longer required “on 29th October 1918. In total he served at Home from 17th July 1916 to 29th October 1918, a total of 2 years 105 days. He had been imprisoned for 91 days.6

14. Herbert Francis Parker

Herbert Francis Parker lived at 187 Summers Lane, North Finchley, London. He had not attested. He had been before the Finchley Local Military Service Tribunal in October 1916. He appealed on the grounds of his work being of National Importance. He was granted 3 months temporary exemption conditional on attending drills with the Volunteer Training Corps. He was called up for Military Service and appealed to the Finchley Local Military Service Tribunal on 24th January 1917. He was working as an Opticians Assistant for Mr A. J. Boyce, 35 High Road, North Finchley, London, and had been working as such since 1912. His employer was appealing on his behalf. He appealed on the grounds of serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position. He was medically graded B1.

His employer, Mr Boyce, stated that:” The work, my optical work is very skilled work, can only be done by skilled men. It is not possible to replace Parker. Glasses are an absolute necessity as a few letters enclosed show our work is not just for Finchley people but for people in all parts of England.”

He was granted temporary exemption for 3 months on the grounds of serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position, conditional on him remaining in the same employment and attending drills with the Volunteer Training Corps. The Military Representative disagreed with the decision.

On the 9th March 1917 the Military Representative appealed on the grounds that it was not in the national interest that a man of 27 passed as medically graded B1 should be given further exemption for 3 months with the employer and appeal again. Two previous periods of exemption having already been allowed.

On Tuesday 3rd April 1917 an appeal by the Military Representative was heard by the County Military Service Tribunal was upheld.

On 5th April Herbert Francis parker was told that his temporary certificate was withdrawn, and the Military Representative agreed he was not to be called up until 15th June 1917.5

He was deemed to have been enlisted up on 12th June 1917 at Wood Green, his occupation was given as Watchmaker / Opticians Assistant. He was aged 28 years and 6 months. He became 335602 Private Herbert Francis Parker, Army Service Corps, Military Transport.

His medical revealed he had bad teeth, and his acuities were R 6/24 and L nil.

Remarkably he was taught to drive and was sent to France on S.S. Duchess of Argyll on 9th October 1917 and arrived at Le Havre on 10th October 1917.

He served in the 5th Auxiliary Petrol Company. On 2nd July 1918 he was admitted to Hospital with defective vision and discharged from hospital on 30th July 1918.

He was discharged on19th February 1920. Post-war he moved to Newport, Wales.

He was awarded the British War and the British Victory medals. 6

In 1939 he had abandoned optics and was living at 137 Stoneleigh Avenue, Sutton& Cheam and as a Foreman Chronograph Specialist. He died on 1st May 1947 at Oxford.6


15. George Henry William Pawsey

He was born 1st May 1882, son of George Pawsey, a Warehouseman and Eliza Pawsey of 6 Great Percy Street, London and baptised on 11th June 1882.6

He married Elizabeth Gertrude Collett on June 7th, 1908, in London, his occupation was given as Optician and his wife was listed as a Glazer.  In 1911 he was living in a four-roomed house, 48 Asmunds Place, Garden Suburb, Hendon. They had no children, and he was worker as Glazer / Optician.6

 He attested on November 18th, 1915 at Holborn Hall. On 19th September 1916 he appealed to the Hendon Military Tribunal for Total exemption from Military Service. He described his occupation as Ophthalmic Lens Grinder & Fitter. His employers were Groos Ltd, Verulam Street, Grays Inn, London.

He claimed he had been examined on 18th November 1915 and rejected for having a double hernia and for short sight. However, he had been passed by the Holborn Medical Board on 24th August 1916 and medically graded B1. He felt he was unfit and although he had been a member of the Volunteer Training Corps since November 1914, he had found the training had not improved him and the Corps had granted him light duty. His claimed his work was of National Importance, and that his abilities in the Volunteer Training Corps was as much as his health would allow. On 26th October 1916 the Tribunal dismissed his appeal.

He must have sought legal advice because on the 30th October 1916, Lickfold, a firm of Solicitors wrote to the Hendon Military Service Tribunal enclosing the appeal papers. The Hendon Military Tribunal Representative was opposed to the granting of an appeal.

On the 29th of November 1916 the County Military Service Tribunal heard the appeal and granted temporary exemption for 14 days on the grounds of hardship would be caused if he was called up for Army Service owing to his exceptional domestic position. He was in the Royal Flying Corps from 6th December 1916.5

He became 50626 Airman George Henry William Pawsey. His civilian occupation was given as Optician. He was posted to 34 Kite Balloon Section, Royal Flying Corps. He was in France from 12th February 1917 onward and was transferred to Royal Air Force 1st April 1918 His role in the R.A.F. was given as Labourer.

On 16th October 1918 he was admitted to Canadian General Hospital in France, and on 25th October 1917 he was transferred to England.

On 27th October 1918 he was transferred to No.2 Balloon Training Wing, England and on 26th July 1919 he was transferred to R.A.F. Depot P Section. On 19th February 1919 he was graded medically B1. He applied for his medals on 13th September 1921, and they were sent 19th September 1921.

He was awarded the British War and British Victory medals.

He was transferred to the Royal Air Force Reserve on 19th February 1919 and deemed Discharged on 30th April 1920. He suffered no wounds from his war service and his hospital admission must have related to an illness.6

16. Walter Clement Purdie

Walter Clement Purdie F.B.O.A., F.S.M.C.  was born 7th February 1876 son of Edwin Charles Purdie, a Silversmith and Ann Purdie of Thornhill Crescent, London. He was baptised on 16th July 1876 and was educated at Bishopsgate Ward Schools. In 1881 he was still living at 14 Thornhill Crescent, Thornhill, London. In 1891 he was living at 5 Sun Street, Shoreditch, London. His father and brother were Gold/Silversmiths, and one other brother was a Chemist. In 1901 he was at the same address and as working as a Photographer. In 1903 married Julia Alice Bond in Hackney. In May 1910 he was at 30 Popleton Road, Leytonstone.6

In 1911 he was a patient at Prince of Wales General Hospital, The Green, Tottenham, and was employed as a Shop Assistant in an Opticians.6 He sat his Associate DBOA examination in May 1910 and became Member No. 712 of the British Optical Association, his certificate being issued in January 1911. By end of October 1913, he was at 218 Risley Avenue, Lordship Lane, Tottenham, Middlesex.8

He was age 40 in 1916 and living at 16 Berkshire Gardens, Palmers Green. He did not attest and was called up for war service and appealed to the Local Tribunal at Southgate on June 19th, 1916 for total exemption from Military Service on the grounds that:

i) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

ii) his work in sight-testing was work of national importance.

He gave his profession as Sight-testing Optician, F.B.O.A., F.S.M.C., and stated he had been working as such since 1911. He was working for Aitchison & Co Ltd, 38 Bucklesbury E.C. & Branches, “Opticians to H.M. Government / Ministry of Munitions”.

His reasoning for requesting exemption was that he had a wife and two dependent male children aged 6 and 11. In addition he had financial obligations:

Mortgage on house:  £26-16s-0d per annum, ground rent £7-7s-0d, rates and taxes £17-14s-9d, insurance premiums £3-17s-4d, these amounted to £55-15s-1d per year. This amount did not include “usual household expenses”.

He considered his work as a sight-testing optician over the last two years had enabled at least 200 men to become more efficient at their war work. By remaining at his work, he would be of more use to the army than he would be in uniform. His knowledge was acquired at considerable expense and time. As a soldier he “would be just one, and a poor soldier at that, being 40½ years old and having had no physical training”. On these grounds he did not feel he was being unreasonable in applying for total exemption.

His appeal was dismissed, as his financial obligations were covered by the allowance for civil liabilities. The application was not supported by the Military Representative.

He appealed to the Central Tribunal, but this appeal was not proceeded with as he withdrew his appeal. He served through the war, but no service records appear to have survived that give any information on his military history.6

His B.O.A. certificate was suspended during the war and suspension continued into April 1919 when he cleared his membership fee arrears. He obtained his F.B.O.A. by supplementary examination in November 1923.8

He appears to have moved around considerably for some years between 1919 and 1924, living in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In 1930 he was at Bank Chambers, 1a Alderman's Hill, Palmers Green, and in 1938 he was 354 Green Lanes, Palmers Green, London N13.6

In 1939 he and his wife were living at 43 The Walk, Potters Bar. He was an optician.6

He is on the 1950 and 1953 Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers Diploma List but with no address.8

 He appears to have been involved in photography in Essex before the war with some of his work of various Football teams taken between 1904 and 1907 held by the National Archives at Kew.9

He died in the 1st quarter of 1946 at Edmonton and at Probate his estate was valued at £339-15s-3d.6


14. Arthur Samuel Charles Sawyer

Arthur Samuel Charles Sawyer was born in July 1872 and lived at 27 Larch Road, Cricklewood .

He had not attested for Military Service. He was called up and went before the Willesden Local Tribunal requesting Absolute exemption on 23rd February 1916. He described himself as a “Sight-testing Optician and Spectacle Fitter”. He was working for S. R. Butcher, Ophthalmic Optician,168 High Street, Watford. On his National Registration form he had stated that he was requesting Absolute exemption on the grounds that he conscientiously objected to assisting in any war. He stated to the Tribunal that: “I cannot, for conscientious reasons, take any part in this war. War is simply cold-blooded murder & whatever the consequences I distinctly refuse to increase the slaughtering efficiency of this or any other nation. I cannot accept any alternative service as this would be indirectly used to help in the war. My claim is based not on strictly religious grounds but as a Humanitarian.”

He appealed the decision on 19th March 1916, requesting he have a re-hearing on the grounds:

i) He was conscientiously opposed to giving any assistance to the war

ii) The Tribunal had not given any reasons for refusing his application for exemption for three months from Military Service

iii) The Tribunal vote on his exemption request was only lost by one vote

iv) The Tribunal had not given any Absolute Exemptions on the grounds of conscientious objection

The above suggested to Sawyer that the Tribunal was unaware they could grant such exemptions to conscientious objectors. On 15th April 1916 the Local Willesden Tribunal stated that they had refused him because his conscientious objection was not based on religious grounds. Beyond mentioning that he is a member of a political organisation, a tenet of which is opposition to militarism, there was absolutely nothing in the case presented by him to impress the Tribunal with the sincerity of his convictions or the consistency of his personal adherence to the point involved.

His case was heard by the County Middlesex Tribunal on 1st May 1916 when his appeal against Military Service was dismissed. He had written to them to explain that his employer had been granted a conditional exemption on his behalf by the Watford Local Tribunal. This was due to exceptional circumstances that had arisen in connection with his business. He said that: “I shall for the time being reluctantly take advantage of this conditional exemption granted. I re-affirm my conscientious objection to any service in connection with the war.”

It is likely he and his employer had decided to play one Local Tribunal against another. He had married his wife Annie Elsie on 1st May 1917 at Watford. They had a child, Freda on 28th September 1917.5

Notwithstanding these protestations he found himself eventually in the Royal Flying Corps on 3rd January 1918 as 116753 Airman 3rd Class in a Kite Balloon Section. His role was given as labourer. He was then transferred to the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. 6

On 4th January 1918 the Kensington Post reported that he had been charged with being an absentee from His Majesty’s forces. He had been called up in June 1917 but had failed to turn up. The police were unable to trace him until 31st December 1917. Prosecuting solicitor asked that Sawyer be fined and handed over to the military authorities. He was remanded and handed over to the military authorities.10

On 22nd January 1918 he was court-martialled for disobeying a lawful command from a superior officer. He was awarded 6 months imprisonment with Hard Labour.5 He was transferred to the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918.5

Post-war he obtained his Diploma from the British Optical Association, by Examination in November 1919, Exam No 1987. He applied on 31st October 1919 to sit the examination with bonds being provided by Standard Optical Company and Lawrence & Mayo’.8

He was admitted as British Optical Association Member No. 1105 in January 1920. He was at: Commerce Chambers, Parliament St, Nottingham (presumably practice address).8

By late 1919 he is already resident at The Bungalow, Wilford, Nottinghamshire, then sometime between 1920-1924 he moves to 27 Larch Road, London NW2 and also at one point his address is given as c/o A. J. Rawling, 18 Buttermarket, Ipswich, Suffolk.8

He obtained his Fellowship of the British Optical Association by supplementary examination, May 1924. Sometime between 1924 and January 1927 he moved to: Blacks, 5 Imperial Arcade, Brighton, Sussex. In October 1929 he moved to Murray House, Vandon Street, Westminster, London SW1 and was still there in 1960.8

He died 26th May 1974 at 32 Raphael Road, Hove, and left £1604 at Probate.6

 15. Michael Henry Solomons

Michael Henry Solomons was born August 13th, 1880, and lived at 48 Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill, he and had married on 2nd February 1898.6 In 1900 he was manager of the Globe Artificial Teeth Institute, Reading. He was featured in an unusual court case at Liverpool in October 1903. It appears that he had supplied his aunt, a Mrs Rose Solomons with artificial teeth in 1900 as a present. In June 1901 he requested a loan of £20 against a promissory note. She lent him the £20 but could not get any satisfaction about the return of the money and so she resorted to taking action through the courts. Michael Solomons then responded with a counterclaim of 21 guineas and £2 costs. The judge decided that the teeth were in fact a present and found for Rose Solomons with costs given for her claim and the counterclaim.11

The 1911 Census records him as working as a Dentist & Optician, albeit unregistered.6 In 1916 he was working as an Ophthalmic Optician at H. Michaels Opticians, 48 Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill. In addition, he travelled widely and attended rooms at Victoria Road, Surbiton, J. Wearing M.P.S., Woking, T. G. Caswell, Chemist, Addlestone, L. Goss, Regent House, Weybridge, Church Street, Cobham, High Street, Staines, Mr Penny’s, The Crescent, Leatherhead.5

He was called up in 1916 and applied for exemption from the Military Service Act on 20th June 1916.

He gave his age as 36 years and 10 months, occupation as “Competent Sight Testing Optician Ophthalmic Optician on own account”. He stated that he had a large number of country clients worked from Dukes Avenue as main address and several consulting rooms at Chemists outside London. In addition, he was “Competent in Surgical & Mechanical Dentistry” but had not practiced dentistry for several years owing to shock from motor vehicle accident. He applied for Absolute exemption owing to exceptional financial and business obligations and exceptional domestic position. he claimed he was sole head of his business and had eight female dependants to support. He believed was given the full amount of grant under the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Committee and the usual soldiers’ pay there would be serious hardship to his family. He explained that his wife was staying in Bournemouth and was chronically sick and need constant care, needed an operation and he had her medical bills to pay. His father was in an institution and he contributed to his care. He had four daughters in private education. He was also supporting his mother. He had a mortgage and insurances to pay. He was working six days a week and had not had a two-week holiday in 15 years. He explained that sight testing was of great public usefulness. He asked for the Tribunal to hear his case in private as he did not want his family and business affairs discussed in public. 

He was seen by the Hornsey Local Tribunal on 11th August 1916 and did not gain exemption from the Military Service Act. On 12th August 1916 he writes a notice of Appeal to the Tribunal. He had not attested and describes his occupation as “Optologist”.

In his appeal he commented on “certain observations upon entering the Tribunal Chamber” and “being conscious of unkindly treatment on the commencement of the war by the Mayor of Hornsey and several councillors”. It appears that Solomons had organised a public meeting in Hornsey at the start of the war in connection with a Patriotic Public Scheme and the Mayor of Hornsey and Solomons had some degree of disagreement. As a result, he had told the Local Tribunal members that they might be prejudiced in dealing with his case.

The Local Tribunal dismissed the case and quite rightly referred it to the County Tribunal, stating that he had been somewhat defiant and refused to answer certain questions and had threatened the Local Tribunal with a higher court and as a result they considered he should be referred to the County tribunal.

The County Tribunal heard his case on 21st September 1916 and deferred it to 30th November 1916 for a medical to take place but that he had to in the meantime, join the Volunteer Training Corps within 7 days and complete drills with that Corps.

On 20th November 1916 he was given a medical at Whitehall and passed as fit for Sedentary Service at Home”.

On 1st December 1916 the Tribunal exempted him temporarily for 4 months to 1st April 1917 but made conditional that he:

i) Continue in the Volunteer Training Corps, carrying out as many drills as he as capable of doing.

ii) Submitting a report from the Commanding Officer to the local Military Representative each month certifying that membership was ongoing and regular drills had been completed.

The Tribunal accepted that his grounds of serious hardship would be caused if he was made to serve in the Army.

On 29th January 1917 he wrote to the County Tribunal explaining that he was finding life hard financially and needed to work for 14 hours a day and offered to provide his work diary as proof.

He was finding the drills with the Volunteer Training Corps somewhat problematic. They began at 5 p.m. and included Sundays which he was unable to do because of his family obligations. Since he was under a condition to perform these drills he was wondering if he could join the Special Constabulary instead. As he could carry out these duties more easily as the shifts were 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. This was he considered work of National Importance that he could do in addition to his regular business work. He asked if the Tribunal could arrange this or to put him on night work of national Importance. On 31st January 1917 the Tribunal agreed that he could work as a Special Constable in lieu of being in the Volunteer Training Corps.

On 26th March 1917 he applied for leave to re-appeal to the County Tribunal, this was granted on 4th April 1917. He wrote a letter explaining he was Medical Grade C3. He was not well and stated that he had 40 income tax due and around 200 liabilities to pay. He stated he was working day and night and averaged 17 hours a day. His work as a Special Constable meant he was on duty from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. He felt he was doing useful national work.

On April 14th he submitted a further appeal to the County Tribunal requesting renewal of exemption on the basis he was in the “same position now, or worse as when granted”. He had been engaged in the work of an optician for 15 years. He maintained that the hardship situation was the same for both his business and domestic situations, He had several thousand patients who depended on him.

The Tribunal heard his case again on 1st May 1917. On the 2ndt May 1917 the Tribunal wrote to him to explain that his appeal had been adjourned to 23rd May 1917, so that he could be seen for a further medical examination at Mill Hill.

On 7th May 1917 he sent in a letter to the County Tribunal from his doctor dated 5th May 1917, stating that Solomon’s was suffering from “Neurasthenia’ and was unfit for Military Services. As a result, the Tribunal requested that a second medical be carried out at Whitehall.

On the 17th of May 1917 he was informed that his re-appeal would be heard before the Tribunal again on 23rd May 1917. This was adjourned until 13th June and the County Tribunal anxious to aid the war effort wanted him to undertake work of National Importance in a Munition Factory, Controlled Establishment, or otherwise, such work to be approved by the Tribunal Committee. He had to complete 24 hours per week of approved work. They clearly did not consider that being a Special Constable was of work of National Importance. to the war effort. He wrote to them on June 3rd, 1917 to confirm he had found such work in the manufacture of shells and was prepared to start on 12th June 1917. He also asked the Tribunal to provide him with a letter that would permit him to resign from his position as a Special Constable.

On 14th June 1917 the Appeal Tribunal granted exemption conditional on him undertaking work of national importance at Collis and Sons, Engineers, of Grays Inn Road, London. Collis & Sons wrote to him confirming a discussion they had with Solomons to work 24 hours per week on Munitions of War beginning 12th June 1917, they pointed out that they worked 24 hours per day 7 days a week.5

In 1939 he was living at 29 Churchfield Road, Ealing and working as an Ophthalmic and Dispensing Optician. It is interesting to note that he was also undertaking a role as Air Raid Precaution Warden.29 Churchfield Road, Ealing M.B., Middlesex, England.6

He does not appear to have served during the Great War and died in April 1958. 6


16. Francis James Swinfen

Francis James Swinfen was born on 7th August 1886. He lived at 21 Kirchen Road, Ealing as a boarder and married Elizabeth Alderton in Ealing on 6th August 1911, his occupation was given as Jewellers’ Manager.  In 1916 he was living at 17 Howard Road, Tottenham.6

In June 1916 the Tottenham Military Service Tribunal heard an appeal made by the employer Karl. Ledsham Darter, 455 High Road, Tottenham,on behalf of Francis J. Swinfen. The appeal was made on the grounds of:

i) It was in the national interest that he should, instead of being in the military, be engaged in other work in which he was habitually engaged.

ii) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

He was given a 6-month temporary exemption from Military Service.

With the expiry of his temporary exemption of 6 months, he re-applied for temporary exemption on 23rd December 1916. With that application he included a financial declaration outlining his earnings and financial commitments. He was earning £3-0s-od per week and he gave his wife £2-10-0d per week as housekeeping including the rent for their home. He also gave his 65-year-old mother 5/- per week. There were also various annual insurances amounting to £4-16s-2d.


The business Swinfen was engaged in was described as Ophthalmic Optician (Holding contracts for the supply of spectacles to:

a) Tottenham Education Committee

b) The Surgical Aid Society

c) The Hampstead and North West London Hospital

His employer, Karl Ledsham Darter, stated that Swinfen had been a branch manager at 135, Stoke Newington Road since January 1915. If Mr Swinfen was called up the branch would have to close down. Swinfen also attended at 455 High Road, Tottenham as relief to enable Darter to attend the Clinic for the fitting the local school children with spectacles as well as helping manufacture of spectacles with the new machinery that had been purchased. This has meant the practice could continue the work without increasing the contract prices. The employer explained he had closed one branch in West Green road due to staff shortages. He now had three establishments staffed by himself, two managers and one female assistant.

The Tribunal considered it was in the national interest that Swinfen be retained in his present employment rather than in Military Service and granted two months further postponement from the 17th January 1917. On 15th February 1917 there was an appeal by Military Representative who wanted the certificate issued by the Tribunal withdrawn.

The Chief Military Representative made a case that it was not in the national interest that he should remain in civil employment. On 6th June 1916 he had been granted 6 months exemption and had been granted a further two months - not final. He considered the Tribunal decision unreasonable as his occupation should be filled by a man disqualified for Military Service or by a woman. The employer, Karl Ledsham Darter, appealed at Enfield for another man on the same grounds and was granted 3 months exemption. He saw no reason why this exempted man could not help the employer with his work. The Military Representative also considered that the shop at Stoke Newington be closed so that the employer could carry on his main business at Tottenham and still meet his contractual obligations for contract supply of spectacles. He considered the business at Stoke Newington as not important.

The appeal was upheld, and the Military Representative undertook not to call Swinfen up for three weeks from the 15th February 1917.5

Francis J. Swinfen was enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on 17th March 1917 as an 68523 Airman 2nd Class and then became an Airman 1st Class on 1st February 1918. His civilian occupation was given as Sight Testing Optician. He was medically graded as A1. He was transferred to the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. His role in the Royal Flying Corps was that of an Instrument Repairer. He was sent to France on 2nd May 1917 until 7th February 1919. He applied for his medals on 11th October 1924 and was awarded the British War Medal on 18th October 1924. He was transferred to the Royal Air Force Reserve on 13th March 1919 and deemed Discharged on 30th April 1920. He suffered no wounds from his war service.6

Post-war he obtained his Fellowship of the British Optical Association by Examination in November 1927 and became Member No.2306 in 1928. In 1930 he was at 22 King Street, Berkshire and between 1938 and 1960 he was working for E. Bateman Ltd, 22 King Street, Reading, Berkshire.8 He died on November 4th, 1973, and left £26,399. 6

17.  John Syer

John Syer age 21, born 21st August 1895), of Stanmore Hill, Stanmore, who described himself as a “Sight-Testing Optician”, had not attested and was called up for war service in April 1916 and appealed to the Local Tribunal when he was granted a one-month extension on 17th April 1916.. He was graded as B1 medical fitness. He appealed on June 6th, 1916, to the local Holborn Tribunal for total exemption from Military Service on the grounds that:

i) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.

ii) His employer was at R. S. Newman at 72 New Oxford Street, London.

He submitted a letter outlining his position. Since his father had died, he had been sole supporter of his mother and sister. His sister was in poor health and unable to work. He earnt £3-10s-0d per week and gave them £2-2s-0d. He pointed out that since his last appeal he had passed the examination of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and was now a qualified optician.

His mother was running a small Needlework shop at a loss.

The Holborn Tribunal referred the matter to the Stanmore Tribunal on 23rd June 1916. The Military Representative did not agree and appealed the decision on 6th July 1916

His appeal was heard on 23rd August 1916 by the Hendon Central Tribunal and was adjourned for 14 days in order for the Tribunal to determine if opticians were in demand by the Army. The Military Representative did not support his appeals.5

No military service records can be found that confirm if he served during the war. It is likely that he did based on the tribunal documents.5

Post-war he obtained his Fellowship of the British Optical Association by Supplementary examination at Leeds in April 1924 when he was living at 6 Salisbury Street, Blandford. He had previously obtained his S.M.C. at some stage. He became B.O.A. member No.2999 in December 1929. He moved to 49 King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 in January 1930.8

 In 1939 he was living at 60 Old Bank, The Hill, Harrow, a single man, working as a Dentist and Ophthalmic Optician. He was an S.M.C. member through 1950 to 1953. He died in the 2nd quarter of 1971.6

18. Robert Brown Tainsh

Robert Brown Tainsh was born 6th July 1879, he had married on 28th August 1909 and attested at Whitehall on 20th July 1916 for Military Service. In 1917 he was living at 9 Elmwood Gardens, Acton Hill. He was working as an Optician and had been doing so since 1897. In 1915 he was employed by H. L. Truscott 25 King Street, Acton. Before that he had been working at The Civil Service Company Stores, Draymarket Street, London.

He was called up for Military Service and appealed to Acton Military Service Tribunal on 17th April 1917 for Conditional exemption. He was appealing on the ground that Military Service would result in serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position. In addition, he explained that his right eye was “practically of no use having defective vision”. He also stated that the business was being run by him as Mr H. L. Truscott was serving in the forces. As Tainsh was a sight testing optician, he had many clients working in Munition Factories for whom he tested for defective vision and supplied with spectacles.

His case was heard on the 27th of April 1917 and he was granted temporary exemption for six months conditionally:

a) upon him continuing in his present occupation.

b) reporting to the Military Representative at the end of three months

c) joining the Middlesex Volunteer Corps within 7 days

d) carrying out not less than 12 drills per month

e) obtain his proficiency badge within 4 months

f) submitting a report from his Commanding Officer each month to show the conditions had been met and that he was still a member of the Volunteer Corps

Their decision was based on the ground that it is expedient in the National Interest that the man should instead of being engaged in military Service, be engaged in other work in which he wishes to be engaged. At the hearing the Military Representative had opposed the granting of Conditional exemption because the Advisory Committee to Tribunals recommended no exemption.

On 3rd May 1917 the Military Service Representative appealed against the Tribunal decision. On 16th May 1918 the case was heard by the Middlesex Tribunal. They dismissed  the appeal of the Military Representative and ordered a Certificate of exemption be issued.5


19. Harold Lane Truscott

He was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire on 2nd October 1881.6 His father was established in the town as a Goldsmith and Optician, crafts which had been followed in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire for several centuries by members of his family. Mr. Truscott received his early education privately. and later he attended the County School at Tenby. During this latter period his eldest brother passed the first examination held by the Worshipful Company of Spectaclemakers, his name appearing fourth on the pass list, he was graded as passing with honours. This inspired Harold and he determined to follow his brother. In 1905 he went to London and studied for the Spectacle Makers Company examinations, taking the original certificate in 1905, and the sight-testing later in the same year. From the day that his son passed his S.M.C. examination not a single pair of ready-made spectacles were sold in his father’s practice.

He joined the Institute of Ophthalmic Opticians in 1907 and was one of the first members of the first Local Association founded by that body —the N.W. and W. London. He was chosen as its first chairman, a position hold for three years, and at one of the Institute Council elections, held during this period, he was nominated and elected.12

He was made a Freeman of the City of London on 14th May 1907 by Redemption in the Company of Spectaclemakers.6 In 1913 he was living at 29 Churchfield Road and opened a practice in Acton. This enabled him to practice as a member of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers with the suffix; S.M.C.8

At the age of 31, on 2nd October 1913 he married Edith Ruth Mary Herne, age 27, a spinster, of 93 The Vale, Acton at Acton Parish Church. He had an Ophthalmic Practice at 25 Kings Street, Acton.6

Under the Derby Scheme he had been declared medically unfit to serve in the Army in December 1915 but was placed in the Reserves in June 1916. In 1916 to his surprise he was called up under the Military Service Act and wrote to the Local Tribunal and he explained that since had been graded medically unfit he assumed he was never going to be called up and had invested in an Ophthalmic practice. If he had to close it down, it would cause considerable hardship to him and his family and he had invested all his savings in the business. He had applied to join the Special Constabulary and was on the waiting list for a position. He attended drill regularly an on being given exemption from Military Service would be sworn into the Constabulary.

On 29th September 1916 he appealed to the Local Military Service Tribunal at Acton for exemption from service.

In 1916 he had been given a medical for military service and declared to be medical grade C1 for Home Services. He was called up under the Military Service Act and wrote to the Local Tribunal and  he explained that since had been graded medically unfit he assumed he was never going to be called up and had invested in an Ophthalmic practice. If he had to close it down, it would cause considerable hardship to him, and his family and he had invested all his savings in the business. He had applied to join the Special Constabulary and was on the waiting list for a position. He attended drill regularly an on being given exemption from Military Service would be sworn into the Constabulary. His wife could not run the business. His mother and father were dependant on him to the extent of 10 shillings per week. His business premises were on a 15-year lease as well as the flat he lived in.

He argued that among his customers were many military men, munition workers and others all of whom depended on him in so much as he held the records and prescriptions for their sight and glasses. They would be totally disabled without this aid. He had been in his profession since 1896.

He was applying for Total Exemption the grounds:

i) It was in the national interest that he should, instead of being in the military, be engaged in other work in which he was habitually engaged.

ii) Serious hardship due to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.


His appeal was dismissed on 12th October 1916 and so he appealed to the County Tribunal on 16th October 1916. On 17th October the County Tribunal annotated the hearing papers that they found no grounds for granting of exemption and maintained this view at the Appeal Hearing on 31st October 1916. On 2nd November 1916 he was informed that his appeal had been dismissed.5

On 22nd November 1916, age 35 he was living at 93 The Vale, Acton, London and he attested for military service at Hounslow in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had one child Peggy Edith, born 3rd March 1916.6 

At the age of 35 he was called up for Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 22nd November 1916 and was posted to the R.A.M.C. on 1st December 1916. His medical examination on 30th August 1916 showed he was 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall, weighed 130 lbs and had a 35-inch chest with 3 inches of expansion. He had grey eyes and each eye achieved 6/6 Snellen. He was noted to have a scar on his left cheek, upper dentures, and flat feet. His left arm had 3 vaccination marks. He was revaccinated three times before 4th December 1916 and 12th December 1916. His medical Category was rated at Category C1.

He was posted to 307th Home Counties Field Ambulance at Blackpool. He was hospitalised on 20th December 1916 for a haemorrhoid operation and was not discharged until 5th February 1917

He was revaluated on 30th September 1917 and raised to Category B1.

On 5th March 1918 he was at Blackpool and was found to be in “Neglect of duty” as he was found to be unshaved on Company Officers Inspection Parade at 9 a.m. He was punished with an order to be confined to barracks for two days.

He had served in the reserves for 151 days and then at Home for 2 years 144 days until 14th April 1919. He served with the 307th Home Counties Field Ambulance until he was posted to the Army Spectacle scheme. He was sent to Chatham.

He was originally to be posted out to the East on a hospital ship when he was suddenly transferred on the recommendation of Mr Sutcliffe to the Army Spectacle Depot. The hospital ship on which he was originally due to have sailed on was torpedoed and sunk. As a result, he was grateful to the superintendent of the scheme, Mr Sutcliffe for this transfer. He was then appointed to be the Optician at Fort Pitt Military Hospital, Chatham on 5th March 1918.6

He obtained the Fellowship of the British Optical Association by Supplementary Examination in 1923. He was member No. 1550 in 1924.8

On his return to civil life, Mr. Truscott developed the practice, at 25 King Street, Acton and, in conjunction with his brothers-in-law, opened additional establishments at Wembley and Bognor.6

In 1939 he was living with his wife at 80 Horn Lane Acton and his occupation was given as “Qualified Consulting & Dispensing Optician, Registered for Optical Services”. He was still there in 1950 and moved to 44 Sandall Road, London W5 in 1953.6

He was sadly killed, along with his wife, in August 1955 in a road traffic accident with two armoured tracked military vehicles. The incident occurred at East Wretham when he and his wife were holidaying in Norfolk.13



In 1916 through to 1918 the need for men to serve was paramount. The Military Tribunals were designed to determine if there were any circumstances that would exempt a man from serving. The Local Tribunals appear to have been more accepting of the reasons men claimed exemption. At the Local Tribunals the Military Representative would invariably object and take the case to the County Tribunal who were in general less accepting of reasons for exemption.

The Military Representatives were determined that any man who was fit should serve. Being Military, they had no concept of the services that opticians were providing. All that mattered was that they were male and graded medically fit. The ophthalmic needs of society were considered secondary, as was the investment many of these opticians had made in buying and developing their practice and premises.

The Military Representatives had no concern for the impact that would be had on the public need for ophthalmic services by conscripting opticians. The work done by opticians was not seen as being of “National Importance”, the Military Adviser had no sentiment about ophthalmic businesses having to close. This was often not considered as causing financial hardship since the optician would receive an income from the military services. Several opticians unsuccessfully tried to claim that they should be exempted because they were “men who are better employed in their usual work”.

The Military Representatives saw no difference between an ophthalmic optician, an optician and an ophthalmic technician. The Military Representatives only function was to keep the supply of men into the military services at a steady stream and provided the optician had been graded medically fit these opticians were seen as potential sailors, soldiers, and airmen essential to winning the war. Many practices simply closed and never re-opened, a few were staffed by female opticians, and a few were staffed by opticians coming out of retirement. A few opticians were sent to fill posts in the Army Spectacle Depots, and the Royal Army Medical Service but the majority were sent to the various branches of the Armed Forces. The majority of claims and appeals by those working in the optical trade were rejected or given conditional or temporary exemptions.

The Middlesex papers reflect only what took place in Middlesex but are probably representative of the treatment given to those in the optical trade by other Tribunals. As far as I am aware there does not appear to be a Memorial commemorating the service of those who were working in the optical profession between 1914 and 1919 and who had to give up their practices when conscripted and died either on active service or were killed in action.

© Peter Garwood 13 February 2024.


I would like to thank Dr Neil Handley, Curator at the British Optical Association Museum for his 0utstanding help identifying some of the individuals.



1. National Archives: Online: [] Accessed October 2020

2. The Yorkshire Evening Post, Monday 22 November 1915, Page 3.

3. National Archives (List continued from MH 47/142/4/1: Instructions and Circulars, 1915-1916)

MH 47/142/4/2. Accessed October 2020

4. National Archives, Book, Booklets, Pamphlets 1916, The Military Service Act of 1916, MH 47/142/1. Accessed October 2020

5. National Archives, Central Tribunal, Supplementary Report, Selected Case Papers MH47/3. Accessed October 2020.

6. Military and Family Records online at Ancestry. Accessed October 2020

7. Harrow Observer, Friday 31 March 1916, Page 8.

8. British Optical Association Museum Records

9. National Archives, Photographs taken by Walter Purdie, Clement COPY 1/505/167, COPY 1/501/236, COPY 1/489/42, COPY 1/482/435, COPY 1/478/126, COPY 1/471/371.

10. The Kensington Post, 4th January 1918, Page 2.

11. The Salisbury Times, 12th June 1903, Page 5.

12. The World’s Workers For Optometry, (Reprinted from The Refractionist, 1st October 1926.” Acton Gazette,   26 November 1926, Page 8.

13. Bury Free Press, 19th August 1955, Page 7.











Occupation Given to Tribunal




Tribunal Date


Other Findings

Died in service

Herbert William Beyer

Ophthalmic Opticians Assistant




10th July 1916

RX4 215100



John William Butterworth

Pharmacist and Optician





24th April 1918

Not known

Came under Clear Cut Order 1918


Alfred Edward Byworth

Clockmaker, Jeweller, Qualified Optician





24th May 1917

031789 Acting Corporal Army Ordnance Corps



Frank James Crawley

Manufacturing Optician




9th March 1916


Middlesex Regiment

Conscientious objection to combatant service as a Christian

Killed 1st July 1916

William Daniel

Consulting Optician, Watchmaker and Jeweller




14th May 1918

Not known



Karl Ledsham Darter

Ophthalmic Optician






9th June 1916


Royal Naval Air Service



Herbert Griffiths

Ophthalmic Optician






1st August 1916

Not known



Stephen Wright Harrison


Chemist and Optician






7th February 1917

118382  R.A.M.C.



Albert Jones

Sight Testing Optician




F.S.M.C., F.I.O. 


14th July 1916

Not known



Charles Victor Mander

Ophthalmic Optician







Not known



Alfred George Melhuish






? F.S.M.C.?


8th June 1916

2125 Non-Combatant Corps

Conscientious Objector



Herbert Francis Parker

Opticians Assistant






October 1916

335602 Royal Army Service Corps



George Henry William Pawsey


Ophthalmic Lens Grinder & Fitter




19th September 1916

50626 Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force



Walter Clement Purdie

Sight Testing Optician




F.B.O.A., F.S.M.C.


19th June 1916

Served but unit not known



Arthur Samuel Charles Sawyer

Sight-testing Optician and Spectacle Fitter




23rd February 1916

116753 Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force

Jailed for A.W.O.L.

Conscientious Objector

(not on religious grounds)


Michael Henry Solomons

Competent Sight Testing Optician Ophthalmic Optician




11th August 1916

Did work of National Importance



Francis James Swinfen

Sight Testing Optician




13th May 1916

68523 Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force



John Syer

Sight Testing Optician






6th June 1916

Served but unit not known



Robert Brown Tainsh

Sight Testing Optician






17th April 1917




Harold Lane Truscott*

·        Worked at Army Spectacle Depot


Qualified Ophthalmic Optician


F.S.M.C., F.B.0.A., F.I.O., London


29th September 1916

98908 Royal Army Medical Corps





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