Archibald Sneddon and military conscription

The Next of Kin story of Archibald Sneddon reveals the relationship between Scottish war industries and the Military Service Act, brought into effect 100 years ago.

Until 1916 Britain had relied on voluntary recruitment, but this was not sufficient to meet the continuing demand for military manpower. In February 1916 the government introduced compulsory military service for single men between the ages of 18 and 41.

Archibald Sneddon worked at the Beardmore engineering factory in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, making munitions for the front lines. When conscription was introduced he was exempt because this was a ‘reserved occupation’. The military requirement for millions of men had to be balanced against the need to keep industries vital to the war effort going.

Main image

Sneddon in uniform, 1919. © National Museums Scotland

The need for military manpower grew further and in April 1917 the Act was modified to include a revised list of reserved occupations. Sneddon became liable for military service and was given his ‘leaving certificate’, releasing him from employment at the factory.

1. Sneddon certificate

Certificate recording Sneddon’s release from ‘reserved occupation’ status. © National Museums Scotland

Sneddon served in the army at home and was at a camp in Invergordon, Ross-Shire, when he received a telegram from a family member letting him know that his mother had died. One month later he received an army telegram ordering his return.

6. Sneddon telegram 1

Telegram sent to Sneddon regarding his mother’s death. © National Museums Scotland

By early 1918 Sneddon was a Lance-Corporal with 10th Battalion Cameronians on the front line. His book of psalms and hymns, sent to soldiers by the Church of Scotland, reveals his location in May 1918. Vimy was the scene of repeated heavy fighting on the Western Front.

9. Sneddon hymn book

Sneddon’s book of psalms and hymns, marked ‘Vimy Ridge May 1918′. © National Museums Scotland

Sneddon and his wife emigrated to the United States in 1923, taking with them a collection of objects as a reminder of his war service. One of the artefacts on display in the Next of Kin  exhibition is a model tank made by a German prisoner of war, bought by Sneddon in Scotland while still on home service.

5. Sneddon tank

Wooden model tank made by a German prisoner of war. © National Museums Scotland

 

 

 

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