Blog post written by Roger Ivens, Oldham Local Studies & Archives
Brave Woman’s Letter: Objected to Husband’s Exemption
In September 1916 at a sitting of the Chadderton Tribunal a letter was read from a woman whose husband had been given conditional exemption:
‘I feel it is my duty to my country to contradict the statements in the Oldham papers regarding the five children under ten years of age. I have three under ten, and they are eight, six, and four. I along with others, think it very unfair to everybody to keep getting exempt through untruthful statements. At the same time the _____ is allowed to keep a spare man on the premises. I know the man very well, named ____, was to have my man’s place if he was ordered to serve, and yet they go to the tribunal with such untruths, which I feel sure you do not think is right. Then again you may have thought of wages. The true fact is his wages are from £2 4s to £2 8s per week. Out of that I get 32s; the rest goes to the public-house. I and my children get a very miserable life. When he comes home drunk he begins to hammer the furniture, and this is my third home. Two others he sold up for drink, and I had to go and work for my own and the eldest girl. I appeal to you, if possible, to see if you cannot get him ordered to serve. He got his papers last Tuesday, giving him 14 days’ notice to join the colours on the 19th September. I have tried all sorts of ways to teach him better, and the only business he has to worry him is having enough beer and a good meal and plenty of it. A man who has never had a bottle of medicine in 20 years I have known him, and too cowardly to fight for his children when he has repeated many time he would be shot at his own door before he would go to fight. I have a neighbour near me whose husband went out at the first and left a wife and seven children under 15, and the family opposite the man has a wife and six children under 15, yet they go like the brave men they are while I am the only one who has no one at all fighting for us in two whole rows of 20 houses each. Can you wonder I am ashamed to put myself on a level with them and yet he can boast of the easy way to get exemption. I do plead of you, if it is in your power to cancel the exemption, as I do think he could share some of the hardship which our brave heroes have to stand. And if God should see fit to bring him safe home I think that if that does not do him good I cannot see any hope left but in the future I shall have to choose between him and my dear children, for they will not stand the years of misery I have stood. I have been brought up in a good Christian home to teach my children to thank God for their food and guidance and I always see they attend Sunday school. I find it very hard to live the life I have.’
The firm’s representative said the man named in the letter was not being kept because of his domestic position. He knew nothing of his family affairs.
The military representative was to inquire into the matter.
OS 19 Sep 1916