Reserved occupation

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A reserved occupation (also known as essential services) is an occupation considered important enough to a country that those serving in such occupations are exempt—in fact forbidden—from military service. In a total war, such as the Second World War, where most fit men of military age were conscripted into the armed forces, exceptions were given to those who performed jobs vital to the country and the war effort which could not be abandoned or performed by others. Not only were such people exempt from being conscripted, they were often prohibited from enlisting on their own initiative, and were required to remain in their posts. Examples of reserved occupations include medical practitioners and police officers, but what is or is not a reserved occupation will depend on war needs and a country's particular circumstances.

Reserved occupations in the UK in World War II

In 1938, a Schedule of Reserved Occupations was created with the goal of exempting skilled workers from being conscripted into service. This idea was drawn up because of lessons learned during World War I when many skilled labourers were drawn into service, which created problems where positions needed filling. Examples of reserved occupations in the Second World War included coal mining, ship building, and many engineering-related trades. The idea was constantly reviewed throughout the war, as women, again, began to work more in industries such as munitions. This meant that men were free to join other organisations such as the Special Constabulary, the Home Guard or the ARP. It also allowed for men to join up and give them responsibilities towards the war effort, as well as allowing for them to be less stressed about not being able to directly be involved in the action. Also, many pacifists and conscientious objectors worked in reserved occupations as a compromise or to avoid call-up. Harper Adams Agricultural College saw a huge demand for places during the Second World War, as both agricultural students and farmers were exempt from conscription, as were students.

In the UK, coal mining was not a reserved occupation at the start of the war, and there was a great shortage of coal miners. Consequently, starting in December 1943, one in ten men conscripted was chosen at random to work in the mines. These men became known as "Bevin Boys" after the creator of the scheme, Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service.

A schedule of Reserved Occupations also existed in Canada during World War II.

Famous people who worked in reserved occupations

The following list contains famous, infamous and notable people who worked in any reserved occupation, whether it was as a Bevin Boy or a doctor, etc.:

Peter, Lord Archer of Sandwell Former Member of Parliament Represented both Rowley Regis and Tipton; and latterly for Warley West. Solicitor General for England and Wales from March 1974 to May 1979. Also chaired the Enemy Property Claims Assessment panel.
Sir Stanley Bailey Police officer Former chief constable of Northumbria Police
John Comer Actor Comer began his career as a Bevin boy until gaining engineering apprenticeship at Metropolitan-Vickers long later to become well known for his roles as Les Brandon in I Didn't Know You Cared and as cafe owner Sid in the first 10 years of the longest running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from 1973 until his death in 1984.
John Reginald Christie Serial killer Was a special constable during World War II, despite having a criminal record for theft and assault. He also served in the Sherwood Foresters during World War I.
Walter Cronkite Journalist Covered the conflict as a reporter
Hans Carossa (1878–1956) artist
Douglas Edwards Journalist Worked on the home front
(Lord) Paul Hamlyn Founder of the Hamlyn group of publishers and Music for Pleasure (record label) Worked as a Bevin boy at Oakdale Colliery
Hanns Johst (1890–1979) artist and "Reichskultursenator"
Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer (1878–1962) artist
Jack Hargreaves Broadcaster Recruited to General Montgomery's staff to help set up broadcasting services to allied forces before and after D-Day
Leslie Howard Actor Shot down by German fighters over the Atlantic.
Gordon Jackson Actor Worked as a draughtsman for Rolls-Royce.
Dickson Mabon Moderate UK Labour politician[2] On his discharge in 1948 he went to the University of Glasgow to read medicine.
Agnes Miegel (1879–1964) artist
Eric Morecambe Comedian Half of the British comedy double act Morecambe and Wise, Morecambe worked at a mine in Accrington for 11 months.
Jock Purdon Folk singer/poet Purdon stayed on in the Durham coal mines after the war. "For me there's three great generals – Geronimo, Alexander the Great and Arthur Scargill".
Peter Alan Rayner Numismatic Author Rayner was conscripted into the mines during World War II.
Brian, Lord Rix, CBE, DL Actor/manager, and president of Mencap Rix volunteered to leave the RAF to join the Bevin Boy Scheme. "I have never regretted the decision," he says.
Peter Shaffer Dramatist The author of Equus and Amadeus, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge.
Alf Sherwood Footballer Went on to win 41 caps for Wales
Gerald Smithson Cricketer While serving as a Bevin Boy, Smithson was called into the Test cricket team for a tour of the West Indies.
Jimmy Savile Broadcaster Worked as a Bevin Boy.
Jock Stein Football manager Managed the first British football club to win the European Cup (Celtic in 1967). He worked as a coal miner during the war.
Leo Szilard Physicist Essential to the development of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Alan Turing Mathematician Developed cryptographic theory working at Bletchley Park.
Frank Whitcombe (1913–1958) Rugby League International Won 14 caps for Wales & 2 for Great Britain.
Hubert James Willey Police officer Served until his death in 1948. Had served in the British Army in World War I.

See also


  1. ^ Daily Telegraph 26-3-08 (Ibid)
  2. ^ Briefly SDP Obituary in Daily Telegraph Issue 47,544 (dated 14 April 2008

External links

  • Schedule of Reserved Occupations (1939) (UK legislation)
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