July 20th, 2012

Medical Exemption from Conscription in WW2 UK

This is the most brilliant and useful community! Last time I posted a question here I had a fantastic response and got pointed in the direction of my answer, so I'm hoping for the same again.

My story is now heading into World War II. The characters are English and in England. One was born in 1901, but he's a doctor and therefore in a protected occupation (though if anyone knows the procedure for registering/government checking that then I would be interested to know that, too). The other was born in 1900. In October 1939 he would therefore be under 41 and could therefore be called up to join the army if required. By 1942 all male British subjects aged 18 - 51 were liable to be called, so that would still include my character.

My character is still suffering untreated PTSD (shell shock) from the first World War and he works for a doctor (but has no medical training which would put him in a protected occupation). I therefore need him to be exempted on medical grounds. My worry is that if he was exempted on account of his 'nerves' then he might have been incarcerated in a mental hospital, and I need to avoid that. I'm hoping that the GP will be able to help to exempt him on medical grounds, while keeping him out of institutions.

What I need to know (in short) is what the procedure was for medical exemption to conscription. Was there a board before which one had to appear? Did it have to be an army doctor who passed you unfit at the medical (I know that's one way of doing it, but I'd prefer an alternative), or could a GP fill in some forms or use a certificate to get someone out of military service? Did you have to wait to be called up and then prove you couldn't do it, or could you get yourself a guarantee of exemption in first?

I've looked in some memoirs which cover the period, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, ww2talk.com, the parliament.uk article on ww2 conscription, and the BBC timeline. Of course, I checked previous questions on this community, too.

I googled and yahoo-ed "what constituted unfit second world war british exemption conscription medical" and variations on that using "world war 2", "world war two", "ww II" and "UK", "GB" and less words and the words in a different order. I read the article on "Conscription in the United Kingdom" on Wikipedia.

The most detail I seem to be able to get is: Men were rejected for medical reasons.

He could just declare his homosexuality at the army medical and get out of it that way, but it would be totally out of character and would open up a whole new can of worms which I need to stay tight closed. In practice, those over 40 don't seem to have been called up until 1941, but would the populace have known that would be the case in 1939, or would the threat have been hanging over them?