This photograph shows recruits at the Whitehall Recruiting Office in London.

The centenary of conscription

One hundred years since the British government passed the Military Service Act in 1916.

1 March 2016

The centenary of conscription

One hundred years since the British government passed the Military Service Act in 1916.


Tuesday 2nd March marks 100 years since the first Military Service Act came into force and compelled ‘eligible’ men to join the Armed Forces. While initially it only affected single men between the ages of 18 and 41, eventually this was widened to include every able-bodied man between 18 and 51.

There were exemptions such as those for the medically unfit, certain classes of industrial workers and clergymen, but also included were exemptions for reasons of conscience. Despite there being this clause, Conscientious objectors (those who refused to fight on religious or moral grounds) were actually small in number compared to men in uniform. 

Conscription proved to be hugely affective - British Armed Forces had increased in number by more than 1.5 million by the end of the year conscription was introduced. The bravery of these men cannot be underestimated, and while rules may have changed, SSAFA's support is unwavering - from reserves to soliders who serve their whole working lives in the Armed Forces, we are here to support them.