Military Monday: Farm Exemptions

A few weeks ago, I got the bug to look up all of the Canadian men in my family tree who would have been of an age to have fought in World War One. Library and Archives Canada has an excellent and easy to search database of service files of people enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I idly wondered why some families had only one son who went overseas, because I had learned about conscription back in school. That thought kind of sat on the back burner for a while, until I ran a search through the archived newspapers available on Manitobia. I had been looking for news on the Irving family in Brandon (obituaries in particular) when I saw this:

(Article from the Brandon Daily Sun, November 21, 1917. Click on the headline to read the article, or read the transcription below the “more” cut at the end of this post.)

The Irvings were one of the families I had been wondering about. John Irving (Agnes Irving Dunn’s brother) had four sons. Both George and John Robert would have been too old in 1917 to be conscripted. Frank enlisted back in October of 1916. Why hadn’t James? In addition to running a farm, he likely had to support his mother, who was already in her late 60s. He must have wondered who would help his mother care for the land when his name came up in the draft. Then the tribunal offered a chance for exemption, and he took it.

Men were exempted from military service for a variety of reasons: health, farm or business obligations, or religious beliefs. (This is a good timeline with focus on Mennonites of conscientious objection in Canada.) However, by 1918 the military had nowhere near the number of soldiers it had hoped because up to 90 percent of the conscripts they called up found an exemption. The act was amended to allow no exemptions.

I’m not sure how common it was to publish the names of claimants in the paper, but it may be worth a look at their local papers between August 1917 and spring 1918 to see if you can find that Canadian relative who didn’t go to war.


(From The Brandon Daily Sun, November 21, 1917. Accessed on manitobia.ca, shared under a Creative Commons license.)

Farmers Allowed Exemptions If They Serve Best On Land

Most of the claimants before the Exemption Tribunals on Tuesday were bona fide farmers, and as such the majority were given leave of absence from military duties to engage in the important national work of production. In a few cases where a man could be spared, he was denied exemption and will be drafted for military service. As will be seen below, it is not always that the members of the tribunals agree and soon there will be work for the appeals court.

Disposition of Cases

The disposition of each case that comes before the tribunals is stated in the form of figures marked on the papers. For instance, the paper marked (1) indicates that the applicant’s claim for exemption is disallowed. The explanation of other figures is as follows:
(2) Disallowed by default when the applicant does not appear personally.
(3) Exemption allowed until a specified date.
(4) Postponement until a later class is called out.
(5) Allowed until applicant ceases to be employed in present occupation.
(6) Allowed, conditional that applicant secures employment within specified time, and until he ceases to be so employed.
(7) Until he completes education or training.
(8) Allowed for reason of financial obligations until specified time.
(9) Business obligations.
(10) Allowed by reason of domestic position.
(11) Until the services of men in medical category are called.
(12) Until physical fitness is finally determined.
(13) Exempt on account of religious belief.
(14) Exempted from combatant service under the War Time Elections Act.

Grounds For Exemption

(1) Present occupation; (2) prospective employment; (3) education and training; (4) financial obligation; (5) business obligation; (6) domestic position; (7) ill-health or infirmity; (8) conscientious objectors; (9) disfranchisement under the War-time Elections Act.
By referring to the figures given above, it will readily be seen upon what grounds the applicant based his claim for exemption.
The following are the claims and dispositions thereof:

Tribunal No. 4

Alfred H. Neuert (1 and 6); exemption allowed until the 20th of May, 1918. Brother at the front.
Fred Roehl, Moosehorn, Man. (1); disallowed.
Elmer B. Kinnie, clerk, Brandon (7); C3 man: allowed until men in his medical category are called.
H. Harvey, Moore Park (1); allowed until he ceases to be a farmer.
R.C. Gray, R.R. 3, Brandon (1); Tribunal disagreed, case to go to higher court.
John Edward Condon, Moore Park (1 and 2); allowed until he ceases to be a farmer.
John McLean, jr., Moore Park (1 and 2); allowed until he ceases to be a farmer.
George M. Steiner, Terence, Man. (1); tribunal disagreed. Case will be submitted to higher court. This man has one brother at the front.
Allen H. Armstrong, Moore Park (1 and 2); claim disallowed by default.
William J.S. McKie, Hayfield (2); sent up for medical examination, which will determine decision of tribunal.
Robert Stibban, Forrest Station (2); allowed while engaged in farming. This man has four brothers at the front and one in munitions factory. One has been killed.
James E. McConichy, Hayfield (1); allowed while he remains at farming.
Herbert Coates, Brandon (1 and 6); ordered up for medical examination.
Hector A. Eyres (1), and A.L. Eyres (1), R.R. 3, Brandon; both claims allowed while farming. Brother at front who left his farm two years ago. These men are working his land and their own.
J.E. Pitfield (1 and 6); allowed while he continues to be employed on farm.
James A. Irving, Brandon (1); allowed as a farmer. Brother at the front.
Alex McLean, Douglas (1 and 2); will continue farming. Has two brothers at the front.
James McIntosh, Brandon; medically unfit.
Edward B. Maley, unfit.
Arthur R. Magee, Alexander (1 and 2); allowed until he ceases to work on farm. Brother at the front.
Orville Frank McFadden (7); medically unfit.
William Riordan, R.R. 2, Brandon (1); allowed while he continues farming.
A number of claims were postponed in order to secure further evidence.

Tribunal No. Three

A.E. McIntosh (1 and 6); claim disallowed.
D. Carl (1 and 6); allowed because of domestic circumstances.
E.J. Cooper (1 and 3); claim allowed.
F.G.C. Stone (1, 2, 5, 6 and 7); allowed while he continued in his present employment.
J.R. Chambers (1); allowed until he ceases to be engaged in present employment.
H. Watt (1, 2, and 6); allowed under decision No. 5 (while he continues in his present employment).
H.G. Prowse (1 and 6); decision 5.
L.J. Courtice (1); decision 5.
Alex. Wiggins (1); decision 5.
E.S. Mansfield (1); decision 5.
C.H. Curtis (1); decision 5.
P.M. Guoy, medically unfit.
A.W. Lewtes (1); decision 5.
J.E. Neithercut, unfit.
J.C. Cheasley (1); decision 5.
Charles Best; disallowed.
H.W. Rankin, unfit.
J.A.L. Broadhurst; decision 5.
Wm. Grieg; claim disallowed.
W.A. Arthur (1); decision 5.
B. Irwin (1); decision 5.
A. Neason (1); disallowed.
George Henry (1); disallowed.
G. Roderick (1); decision 5.
B.R. Roderick (1); decision 5.
W.J. Roderick (1); decision 5.
R.H. Pattenson (1); disallowed by default.
E.D. Mitchell, unfit.
J. Rutter, unfit.

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