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On 27th April 1939, Parliament passed the Military Training Act. This act introduced conscription for men aged 20 and 21 who were now required to undertake six months' military training.
Parliament also passed legislation that protected some occupations from national service. After consulting with business leaders, in November 1938 the government published the Schedule of Reserved Occupations.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, under which all men between 18 and 41 were made liable for conscription. The government also published details of the reserved occupations if they exceeded the stated age. For example, lighhouse-keepers were reserved at eighteen, whereas physicists were reserved at twenty-one.
Employers were also able to ask for individual key workers employed in one of these key occupations not to be conscripted into the armed forces. By the end of 1940 more than 200,000 men had been granted deferment at their employers' request.
My husband had wanted to go in the navy, but he had spondylitis in the spine, which is a form of arthritis, so they wouldn't take him in. He was shattered really, because he'd set his heart on getting into the navy. Which they found he had spondylitis, they couldn't give him any treatment, so he had to just pet on with it. He had to give the pub up and go and work on the docks, repairing ships. It was horrible, he'd never done anything like that in his life, you see, and it nearly killed him. He had to climb rigging and climb over ships' sides and things like that. Then, after the children were born, he had to go and work in the Royal Ordnance factory, making guns on shift work, and he hated that as well. But he wouldn't go on the disabled list, not with the sort of jobs they offered you then. So he stuck it out actually.
Although he couldn't go to the war, he'd get a lot of women saying, "Why aren't you fighting for us? My husband's out fighting for you." Well, you just don't bother to answer; and these were the same women who were carrying on with all kinds. This was the abuse they used to get, men that were working during the war, a lot of abuse from women and other men.
Reserved Occupations and Exemptions
As discussed previously not all men went to war. Those who were eligible to go but didn’t generally had failed their medical test and were declared exempted as ‘medically unfit for duty’. Some medically-healthy men however, were purposefully held back in ‘reserved occupations’.
Definition: A reserved occupation, also known as a ‘scheduled occupation’, a ‘starred’, ‘certified’ or ‘badged’ occupation or an ‘essential service’, is an occupation that is considered by the government to be paramount to the running of the country, and a job that could not be performed by another. People employed in such occupations would therefore be exempted from military service, in some circumstances even if they wanted to enlist! What classified as a reserved occupation depends on the needs and circumstances that surround each war.
With the advent of Kitchener’s ‘New Army’, the military expanded at such a rate that it could not be supplied and great a strain was placed on essential industry as men working in industries and occupations supplying the war effort were permitted to volunteer. Historian Juliette Pattinson for instance wrote that:
‘…in just two days in early 1915, 30,000 miners from Rhondda in South Wales enlisted. They had to be recalled from the trenches in late 1915 and brought back to produce coal. Men were also returned from the front to resume roles in other key industries such as agriculture and munitions.’
For the First World War reserved occupations included (but were not limited to), a selection of clergymen, farmers, doctors, teachers, certain classes of industrial worker e.g. coal miners, train drivers and those working in the shipyards, those in the iron and steel industries especially in factories which were producing vital ammunition and equipment for the front lines.
In a context whereby encouragement to enlist was strident those who were exempted from military service were issued with papers and/or a special badge to prove they were undertaking war work on the Homefront. Again, this was important due to the rising societal pressure for men to be seen to be ‘doing their duty’ those remaining at home needed to adequately demonstrate they were working in the national interest and constantly validate the reasons for their being kept back.
On War Service Badge circa. 1915. Badges like the one above, were awarded to acknowledge the effort being made by those on the Homefront and arguably defended civilian men in reserved occupations against accusations that they were ‘shirking their responsibilities’.
Let's begin with the most obvious choice, but far from the only one, for a history major. Historians study personal letters and diaries, newspapers, photographs, and other resources to research the past. They gather, analyze, and interpret information. Historians make presentations and write articles and books on their findings and theories.
Governments, businesses, historical associations, and non-profit organizations employ them. They also teach in colleges and universities. Most jobs require a master's degree or doctorate.
Number of People Employed (2016): 3,300
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 6 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)
Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 200
Reserved occupations, Second World War
Labour controls were introduced during the Second World War to meet a crisis in manpower and to administrate between the needs of the armed services and industry. Manpower regulations affected the individual liberties and touched the day to day activities of Australians perhaps more than any other executive operations of government throughout this period.
The first significant regulation introduced during the first two years of the war was to reserve occupations from military service. Occupations reserved were those which were essential for the production of equipment and supplies for the war effort. In 1940, the Minister for State of Defence Coordination published a List of reserved occupations (provisional) to ensure maximum manpower for the war effort. The list was devised to prevent the voluntary enlistment of skilled workers from essential services, such as munitions production. The list was not mandatory and it was open to anyone to seek release from their reserved occupations.
In early 1942, however, during the crisis of the Japanese advance in the Pacific, more than 100,000 men were called up for full-time service. The list of reserved occupations was not strong enough to administrate the demands of the services against the demands of industry and a labour crisis began to emerge.
So, in January 1942 a Manpower Directorate was established and took over responsibility for the List of reserved occupations. In March 1942 the list was replaced by a Schedule of reserved occupations and industrial priorities. The Director-General of Manpower was able to exempt any person from service in the armed forces to declare that industries were “protected” and require that a permit be obtained for any change of employment. From March all labour required by unprotected establishments needed to apply for labour through the National Service offices and all unemployed persons were to register within seven days of becoming unemployed.
From the first of April 1942 all engagement of male labour was controlled and a national registration of both male and female labour was completed. The government had the power to say what every man should do whether in the armed services, war industry or civilian industry. The powers under the Manpower Regulations included:
Wouldn't it be better to have an actual list of reserved occupations, rather than list of notable people which doesn't even specify what their job was! In fact I'd consider this trivia.
This is also basically a UK specific article, presumably other nations had something similar. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gymnophoria (talk • contribs) 23:56, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
It also doesn't mention that some professions were "reserved" in that their members had to serve in the RAF instead of the army - this happened to, for instance, James Herriot - at least according to his books. Totnesmartin (talk) 15:34, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Removed the list, as on analysis it was random trivia (no clear inclusion criteria and a potentially vast pool of people who could warrant inclusion), and mostly wrong (Bevin Boys were conscripts, not in a reserved occupation that prevented conscription). Mauls (talk) 15:29, 28 January 2019 (UTC)
"as both agricultural students and farmers were exempt from conscription, as were students." Is that saying the same thing twice or is "agricultural students" redundant as being included in all students? 18.104.22.168 (talk) 13:13, 5 April 2019 (UTC)
Reserved Occupations - History
The job of most men during World War 2 was that of a soldier.
As so many men were called up to serve, Britain depended on women to carry out much of the war work. Some jobs, however, were protected occupations meaning the men doing them were exempt from being called up to join the army.
During the Second World War it was considered essential that a male workforce was kept back from active military service to be employed in certain jobs. The following jobs were done by men during the war as they were protected occupations (important skilled jobs needed for the survival of the country):
- Merchant Seamen
- School teachers
- Railway and dock workers,
- Utility Workers - Water, Gas, Electricity
(The list above is also known as the reserved occupations in World War 2)
Some men were not fit enough or were too old to join the army so they volunteered as fire fighters (fire workers), ARP wardens or joined the Home Guard.
What did fire workers do in world war 2?
The duties of fire watchers were not to ‘watch fires’ but to look out for
incendiaries and extinguish them before a fire could take hold. A law in September 1940 required factories and businesses to appoint employees to watch for incendiary bombs outside of working hours.
Incendiary bombs were quite small. They were dropped, hundreds at a time. On impact they ignited and burned.
Fire Watchers were issued with a bucket of sand, a bucket of water and a stirrup pump.
What did munitions workers do During the world war 2?
Munitions workers worked in munitions factories. They made weapons (guns) and ammunition (bullets, hand grenades and bombs) needed by the armed forces. It was a very dangerous job and the hours were long.
Because of the risk of explosions, nobody was allowed to take anything into the workshops that could cause an explosion. This meant no matches, coins, hairpins, rings or anything metallic. Despite these precautions, accidents did sometimes happen and workers were killed or seriously injured in the explosions.
What did female workers (women) do in world war 2?
Women were called up for war work from March 1941.
For a list of jobs visit our Women in World War 2 page
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Finding An Ancestor’s Occupation
When researching your family tree, it is usually fairly easy to discover what your ancestors did for a living, as work has often been something used to define the individual. As such, occupation is an often listed entry in birth, marriage and death records, as well as census records, voter lists, tax records, obituaries and many other types of records. Sources for information on your ancestors' occupations include:
Census Records - A good first stop for information on your ancestor's job history, census records in many countries—including the U.S. census, British census, Canadian census, and even French census—list the primary occupation of at least the head of household. Since censuses are usually taken every 5-10 years, depending upon the location, they may also reveal changes in working status over time. If you're U.S. ancestor was a farmer, the U.S. agricultural census schedules will tell you what crops he grew, what livestock and tools he owned, and what his farm produced.
City Directories - If your ancestors lived in an urban location or larger community, city directories are a possible source for occupational information. Copies of many older city directories can be found online on subscription-based websites such as Ancestry.com and Fold3.com. Some free sources of digitized historical books such as Internet Archive also may have copies online. Those that can't be found online may be available on microfilm or through libraries in the area of interest.
Tombstone, Obituary and other Death Records - Since many people define themselves by what they do for a living, obituaries generally mention the individual's former occupation and, sometimes, where they worked. Obituaries may also indicate membership in occupational or fraternal organizations. Tombstone inscriptions, while more brief, may also include clues to occupation or fraternal memberships.
Social Security Administration - SS-5 Application Records
In the United States, the Social Security Administration keeps track of employers and employment status, and this information can generally be found in the SS-5 application form that your ancestor filled out when applying for a Social Security Number. This is a good source for the employer's name and address of a deceased ancestor.
U.S. Military Draft Records
All males in the United States between the ages of 18 and 45 were required by law to register for the World War One draft throughout 1917 and 1918, making WWI draft records a rich source of information on millions of American males born between about 1872 and 1900, including occupation and employment information. Occupation and employer can also be found in World War II draft registration records, completed by millions of men living in America between 1940 and 1943.
Wills and probate records, military pension records, such as Civil War union pension records, and death certificates are other good sources for occupational information.
How many different occupations were classified as 'reserved' during World War Two?
20 year member
Currently voted the best answer.
Reserved occupations included (though these were subject to review):
* Dock Workers
* Merchant Seamen
* Railway Workers
* Utility Workers - Water, Gas, Electricity
* teachers and university lecturers
* Doctors (Unless in the Territorial Army)
* Police officers
* Certain Civil Servants
* Students (Only for the duration of their studies. Undergraduates were deferred, but not fully exempted. They could be conscripted at the end of their studies, unless they had a criminal record or ill health)
* Priests, monks, nuns and anyone in Holy orders
* Journalists (Though they may have been sent to the front, even running the risk of being shot or held by the enemies as spies)
Some artists involved in propaganda work
Other media workers (especially those involved in technical roles, such as lighting engineers, electricians, cameramen, photographers, sound engineers, etc)
Anyone running a small business, including government and local council contractors and their employees.
Local authourity employees
Bank employees and employees of insurance companies
Reserved occupations WW1
I'm half way through "The first casualty! by Ben Elton which is a good read, but one of the main planks of his story is a police inspector imprisoned for refusing to be conscrupted, the book opens in Oct 1917, the chapter dealing with the Inspector's trial is set 'some time earlier'.
The question I have is was the police force a reserved occupation? If so it makes the book a good read, but not confidence building as reguards accuracy, unlike the Flashman series.
Any comments would be appreciated, as I know some of my older friends were in reserved jobs in WW2 miners, fire brigade, police, etc.
Much as I don't find much of Elton's piece all that persuasive, he is apparently right about police officers not being in excepted from conscription in the latter part of the First World War. A succession of Military Service Acts were passed (the first of which took effect from January 1916) which narrowed the way that exceptions could be identified. Rather than list specific occupations, the Acts said that exceptions had to be for work of national importance. Generally, being a policeman didn't fit this description. Policemen who were military reservists had been called up at the start of the war.
The more formal use of 'reserved occupations' in the Second World War did include policemen. However, manpower shortages by 1942 meant policemen under 25 were conscripted.
Would be nice to think Mr Elton is interested in any of that. He seems to revel in making the military look half witted. Maybe could retaliate with a book about smart alec drama student whose parents are both respected academics, but who wants to make out he was brought up under a hedge in Sarf London all the better to show how he hates Fatcher.
Reserved Occupations - History
What was the procedure for exempting a person from conscription if he had a
Reserved Occupation or serious medical disability?
Would his employer or doctor ask for an exemption, or would there be a
face-to-face meeting with a tribunal, as with conscientious objectors?
Do records of these exemptions still exist?
Please remove the invalid to reply
I would imagine there were other men from reserved occupations who did
serve for one reason or another.
My grandfather was an engine driver on the L&NWR and he didn't serve.
My father just missed being called up but he did serve in the Royal
Navy until 1956.
Officialdom can be quirky.
My father failed his army medical in 1939. He had a nerve
problem in one eye. This would have made it difficult for
him to blink and clear his vision in smoke.
He spent he war in the London Fire Brigade, including the
My grandfather was in a reserved occupation ( railways) yet he was called up
and continued his job out in Egypt until the end of the war.
I can understand someone who was involved in building tanks finding
himself fixing them.
What sort of jobs would necessitate railway workers being called up.
As I say, my grandfather was an engine driver but he wasn't called up,
Would age have been a factor??
In message <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Charani <***@mail2genes.com> wrote:
Very simply, operating railways. Although the army had a railway department
it was relatively small and relied on being supplememted by civilians. In
the Middle East, the needs of war were far greater than the local railways
were used to coping with and men and rolling stock was imported from the UK.
Similarly after the invasion of Europe in 1944, men and rolling stock were
shipped across the channel to replace equipment destroyed both in the
fighting and by the French Resistance in the lead up to D-Day.
British and American built locomotives ended up in all sorts of strange
places after the war, some were still in use in Egypt and Iraq until
My genealogy website:
In message <email@example.com>
Charani <***@mail2genes.com> wrote:
My genealogy website:
My grandfather was in uniform, received his medals and his occupation was
fireman/stoker so now tell me that was a specialists job :)
My genealogy website:
My untutored view is that, with the increased industrial activity needed
to sustain the war effort, there would have been an increase in the use
Yours Aye Andrew Sellon
One must look downwards as well as upwards in human life. Though many
have passed you in the race, there are many you have left behind.
Better a dinner of herbs and a clear conscience, than the stalled ox and
infamy, is my version. Rev. Sydney Smith 1771-1854, Canon of St. Paul's.
munitions and matierials
industry running at full speed
trains were a weapon of war
the Royal Engineers had a full size railway at Longmore Hants
Longmore Military Railway
purely for training
"We learnt a lot in the Royal Engineers. How to build bridges. To know the
different explosives. How to use Guncotton, Ammanol, plastic high explosives
and Gelignite. The different types of landmine used by the enemy. The
Tellermine, the S-mine and other stuff. The use of the Polish mine detector,
the forerunner of today's metal detector. We were also fully trained in the
use of rifles, Bren guns and other armaments."
and that was in the first 3 months basic training
he continues "We were kept busy repairing railways and roads." after D day
then a railway man would have been snet to Longmore and to a field squadron
The Longmore Military Railway, of some three-quarters of a century's
standing, disappeared, because the newly-formed Royal Corps of Transport
took the view that the efficacy of the internal combustion engine was such
that we did not need railways.
not much on the web I see
but the RE built and ran railways where ever needed
Railway Operating Division
A division of the British Army Royal Engineers formed in 1915 to operate
railways on many fronts in World War I. It was largely composed of railway
employees and operated both standard gauge and narrow gauge railways.
My genealogy website:
Author of the McLaughlin Guides for family historians
Secretary Bucks Genealogical Society
In WW I a fully loaded coal train left Pontypool Road station for the
North every 15 minutes 24/7 with coal for the fleet.
I imagine WW II was similar, except for the coal. I used to collect
engine numbers then at that station, and watched people being fed
horizontally through windows into and out of the trains. The ladies
didn't object. People even travelled in the luggage racks over the
On 27th April 1939, Parliament passed the Military Training Act. This act
introduced conscription for men aged 20 and 21 who were now required to
undertake six months' military training.
At the same time a list of 'reserved occupations' was published. This
listed occupations that were essential to the war effort and stated that those
employed in those jobs were exempt from conscription.
Utility Workers - Water, Gas, Electricity
Regards Stan Mapstone
My f-in-l was a Warwickshire miner who became RAF ground crew. He
briefly appears in wartime footage used in a feature film (633
squadron?). He was pleased to get out of the mines and trained as an
electrician. I don't know whether he was conscripted or volunteered -
I assume policy changed according to needs. I know volunteering was
discouraged early in the war because of the economic disruption this
had caused in WWI. He was waiting to be posted for the assaut on Japan
when the war ended. He celebrated his 63rd wedding anniversary
Coming from a family of cannon fodder, I was surprised, when I went
from working class primary school to middle class grammar school, just
how few of my classmates fathers who were old enough had actually been
in the services in the war. "Reserved occupation" seemed to me to have
been interpreted surprisingly broadly among the professional middle
classes in the London orbit but I don't know if anyone's produced
An interesting observation. Certainly I can think of architects,
personnel managers, barristers, solicitors and bankers all of whom were
'in the war' in various services, but you may well be right.
For some reason poor old London is cited as being the area for many a
dodgy practise, including those of call up evaders, 'black market'
operators and spivs.
Yours Aye Andrew Sellon
Prelates are fond of talking of my see, my clergy, my diocese, as if
these things belonged to them as their pigs and dogs belong to them.
They forget that he clergy, the diocese, and the Bishops themselves, all
exist, only for the public good that the public are a third and
principle party in the whole concern. Rev. Sydney Smith 1771-1854, Canon
of St. Paul's.
Would you know where the list of reserved occupations can be found
Please remove the invalid to reply
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