The 1939 National Service Act allowed the armed forces to call upon millions of men and women across the UK to serve in the armed forces, whether they wanted to or not. As part of the act, powers were given to the forces to review the health of these potential recruits to see what medical category they fell into and then to accept or reject the accordingly for service. The guidance to potential conscriptees read:
Men liable under the Act to be called up for service and required to submit themselves for medical examination will be summoned to attend for such examination by means of written notices served on them individually. There are about 150 medical boards situated in convenient centres throughout Great Britain and men will be allowed reasonable expenses and allowances for their attendance, including compensation for loss of remunerative time. At least two clear days’ notice will be given in all cases. Men will be informed of the medical category in which they are placed. Immediately after the medical examination men will be interviewed individually in order that their allocation to service units may be made to best advantage.
Tonight we have a grading card from one of those National Service medicals:This card is for an ‘I McHugh’ of Chadderton near Oldham, the man’s identity number is written across the top and he has signed his name at the bottom. He had to travel to Manchester for his examination, on the 24th November 1943. He was found to be in category one health- note how the number is written out in words as well as Roman numerals so that it cannot be altered later to medically downgrade a man.
There were four medical categories agreed at this stage- I, II and III were suitable for varying degrees of military service; IV was rejected and the man was too unfit or unwell to be suitable.
The back of the card provides some descriptive details of the man and some instructions on what is needed next:Interestingly this is part of a larger set of documents to the same man, and despite his fitness category he never went into the military. Instead he was drafted as a ‘Bevin boy’ and sent off to serve in a coal mine. He was not too impressed by this and much of the rest of the archive relates to various court summons when he failed to comply with this!