A project has been launched to digitise the UK National Archives’ MH47 record series.
The Federation of Family History Societies says: “The National Archives, the Friends of The National Archives and the Federation of Family History Societies have embarked on a joint project to digitise and transcribe the MH 47 record series.
“The project was launched at the National Archives, Kew with a short presentation of the new records to the media and a small audience of participants and sponsors including the Friends of the National Archives and The Federation of Family History Societies who were represented by Chairman David Holman, Beryl Evans, and Francis Howcutt our Archives Liaison Officers, David Lambert, Legal Advisor and Stephen Benson, Publicity Officer.
“Beryl has worked closely with the Friends to bring this project to fruition after it was started last year by Roger Lewry. We feel that the records are now being made available at a time when they will have most significance as we approach the commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War.
“This was a difficult time for those men who were troubled about taking part in the War by conscience and religious convictions and the prevailing mood of jingoism was typified by women handing out white feathers to those men not in uniform.
“These men were often unfairly vilified as cowards but equally there were outstanding displays of courage and personal sacrifice by conscientious objectors working under fire as medical orderlies and stretcher bearers. The series is a key collection of First World War records, including records of around 10,000 men who did not wish to see Army service, for a variety of reasons.
“The files contain the minutes and papers from the Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal as well as some selected papers of the Veterinary Tribunal and a printed set of minutes from the Central Medical War Committee.
“These tribunal records include some fascinating and touching stories including a real life ‘Saving Private Ryan’, a butcher who was needed to help introduce meat rationing and a violinist from Poland. It is hoped that the digitisation of these case papers will help to open up these stories and stimulate new discussion about conscientious objection.
“For more information on the project, visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/conscription-appeals.”