Article submitted by Chris Jones
My great grandfather had told his grandchildren why he objected to going to the war but is only these records found two years ago that partially confirmed his story……..
I was fortunate to find details of my great grandfather (Arthur William Phipps) in the tribunal appeals held at Staffordshire Archives. Our family knew about the story, but the records we were fortunate to find now prove it.
About Arthur – his birth, early life and marriage
Arthur was born in 1883 at Hopwas, the youngest son of George and Ellen Phipps. His father was a gardener on the Peel estates (now Drayton Manor Park and Zoo).
Arthur grew up in the village and attended the village school before going to work with his older brothers at the local paper mill – Alders. In 1906 he met and married Ethel Ball who came from a pottery family and lived in the village. They moved into a small terraced house in Hints Lane – which he lived for the rest of his life – and they had three children (Ethel, Mabel and George) between 1907 and 1910. Sadly within a week of giving birth to George, Ethel passed away from blood poisoning.
Arthur took a housekeeper to help with the children and moved work to be with his father on the Peel estates between Fazeley and Hopwas working in the gardens and in woodlands.
The war years
At the outbreak of war Arthur carried on working and sadly his youngest sister – Jessie – lost her husband – H Cornwell in November 14 on the western front leaving her with 4 young children.
The documents show that in 1916 Arthur was assessed and called to join the army but requested exemption due to the nature of his work and being the last fit man on the forestry part of the team.
According to Arthur he also objected to going as at that time he was responsible for his two girls – his son by now being brought up by a sister in Birmingham.
Arthur succeed in gaining an exemption twice according to the documents and local newspaper reports we have seen but eventually his exemption was dismissed. He stated later that he agreed to join up on condition he was not put in the front line as he argued the state would have to pay to bring up his children if he did not return.
It was agreed for him to join the Army Service Corps and we believe he worked in what would now be called logistics in Palestine and then moving to Salonika in Greece towards the end of the war. He told family that he didn’t enjoy his war experience and was somewhat resentful that he had been called up. At one point we know he got in a lot of trouble trying to catch local Palestinians who were stealing the food from the stores using rather zealous methods!
In 1918 Arthur’s nephew was killed in France serving with a Yorkshire regiment after transferring from the North Staffords along with two other men he knew pre-war from local farming families.
On demob he returned to Hopwas and worked on the Peel estates well into the 1930s, getting to know the family well. After they sold the estate Arthur moved to work on local farms and became a well-known local character frequenting the local Chequers Public House every night – even being given a certificate by the brewery – after he had been drinking there since his childhood! His nickname was ‘Chick’ though we don’t know why!
In later years one of his sisters moved in with him and he eventually passed away in 1971. His ashes are in his sister’s grave at Hopwas – his wife being buried in the churchyard beside his parents near to many other members of his family.
His nephew and brother-in-law are listed on the war memorial alongside one of the Peel sons who Arthur would have known pre-war.
The photos of Arthur show him in his garden in Hints Lane – post war – about 1930 and later in life on the day of being given the award by Courage Brewery.
Images of the following Military Appeal Tribunal Records, illustrated in the above article, are held at Staffordshire Record Office, and published courtesy of Staffordshire Archives and Heritage:
C/C/M/2/14b/1095 – papers relating to Arthur Phipps
C/C/M/21/16b/1295 – papers relating to Arthur Phipps
Note on the Military Appeal Tribunal Records
The following text is an extract from Staffordshire Newsroom. To read more click on the link which follows it:
Stories of conscientious objectors and how bakers, butchers and farmworkers fought conscription are amongst a rare collection of Military Appeal Tribunal records being published for the first time.
Conscription was first used by the armed forces in 1916 and those who sought exemption were brought in front of Military tribunals to make their case. After the war, the Ministry of Health ordered that all tribunal records be destroyed, but an oversight meant Staffordshire’s collection survived.
Now, exactly one hundred years later, Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent Archive and Heritage Service have published this rare collection, making them available online.
It’s believed the tribunals were held in County Buildings in Stafford and the records were hidden away there only to be discovered many decades later.
Over 20,000 individual cases for the Local and Appeal Tribunals reveal the lives of the men called up to service and the stresses and strain it had on work and family life. Reasons provided by applicants are varied, including moral grounds, medical, family and on economic grounds.
People can search the records online at http://www.staffsnameindexes.org.uk/ and request copies of the documents.