Great War Certificate of Exemption (Military Service Acts, 1916)
For Private Alfred G J Miller of Brighton, a soldier with a history...
This is a WW1 Certificate of Exemption, Military Acts Service, 1916. Form R.39.
It has been completed to Alfred George James Miller of Brighton exemption from combatant service only. His address is given as 231 Elm Grove Brighton, and his profession as schoolmaster (he was a mathematician). His exemption reads "from combatant service only. And is not to be open to variation except on an application made with leave to appeal tribunal." It is stamped 4th November 1916.
Private Miller did not have a good relationship with the army during the war. He first of all didn't turn up when called up to join his regiment, when he eventually did arrive with them, he refused to dress in military uniform after an order given by his sergeant-major. The charge sheet read "when on active service disobeying a lawful command given by a superior officer" He was given 112 days of imprisonment and hard labour. His return to the regiment didn't fare well... he again refused to wear a military uniform and was again sent for trial in August 1917. At the trial, he pleaded not guilty, offered no defence, and was found guilty, with the sentence being 18 months imprisonement at Winchester, with hard labour. This was commuted to 6 months by order of the Home Secretary. He was eventually discharged and demobbed in 1920. As a final chapter, the National Archives (they hold his military record) have him writing to his regiment wanting confirmation from them that he served as a private in the Great War...
Whether he was a highly principled conscientious objector who held firm in his beliefs, or someone who saw this as a way of avoiding the trenches, we'll never know. He survived until 1961.
The certificate is in good condition, a little marking to the edges. And, true to form, Miller hasn't signed his name where he should've done.