LORD Kitchener’s instruction that ‘Your country needs you’ was enough to compel thousands – even children – to join up to fight in the Great War.

For the first few months of the campaign the willing trooped forward. But six months later – after weeks of mud, slaughter, and the grim realisation that it wouldn’t be ‘all over by Christmas’ weariness – or reality – started to set in.

The Archdeacon and Vicar of Longfleet was quick to notice this. On February 4 1915 he announced that: “What is wanted is men.” All should offer themselves, he insisted.

Conscription would be the best method; it would ‘compel the shirker’. “Do they not reflect that in years to come, when their children read of this European war they would say ‘Daddy, did you go and fight and help our country for us?’ and they will have no answer to give but a look of silent shame,” he thundered, from the safety of his pulpit.

A year later a ‘system of modified compulsions’ was introduced by Mr Asquith as part of the military service bill and so began the tribunals, which heard the pleas of those who did not want to go to the front for business or social reasons and for conscientious ones.

The Bournemouth Echo diligently reported these hearings but, in a compassionate move, declined to name those who appeared before them.

On February 23 1916 Poole Tribunal heard claims from a man who was granted an exemption because he was the sole financial supporter of his parents.

But another applicant was told that the widowed mother he wanted to remain to support would be better off if he was serving in the army, and she wouldn’t have to find his board.

One applicant was given a week to sell his business and sign up. His plea that “one does not want to sell that which one has spent years getting together” was dismissed.

A conscientious objector – the first to come before this panel – explained that: “I cannot take up the sword of vengeance myself.” Another claimed he desired to ‘follow the teachings of the Bible’.

He was asked the classic question: “Supposing the enemy attempted to violate your sister?”

“I do not know what I might do in given circumstances, I should seek to do the will of God,” he replied, to which the tribunal chairman observed that: “The best way to end the war and get peace is for young fellows like this to serve.”

But there was humour, too, when, in April 1917, the Hampshire Appeal Tribunal told a coffin-maker his appeal to keep an employee from the front was dismissed.

“If your man went there would still be plenty of people left to make coffins, judging by the number of people who say they are engaged in this work,” observed the military representative.

Some, however, did dodge the draft, although they may have occasionally wished they hadn’t.

On Wednesday July 11 1916 we carried the following salutary tale: “A party of conscientious objectors who were being sent to the New Forest were mobbed at Brockenhurst on Monday afternoon and some residents pelted them with clods of turf.

“The conscientious objectors to the number of about 60 arrived at Brockenhurst Station between 7pm and 8pm in the evening, divided into two parties, the larger party proceeded through the village to Rhinefield and the remainder walked towards Lyndhurst. The former were pelted and booed and hustled out of the village but others came in for rougher handling.

“Two were ducked in the stream at Balmer Lawn and their baggage, which was on a lorry, was thrown into the river.

“Clods of earth were hurled at the men who were subjected to contemptuous epithets. They finally succeeded in getting away. Most of the property has been recovered from the village but it has been badly damaged.”