THIS time 80 years ago Southenders were slowly getting used to wartime life.

Nine months after war had been declared, people were coping with strict rationing, blackouts, air raids and their men being called up to serve in the armed forces.

Before the First World War there had never been compulsory military service in Britain.

The first Military Service Bill was passed into law in January 1916.

When the Second World War broke out, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act made all able men between the ages of 18 and 41 liable for conscription.

By the end of 1939 more than 1.5 million men had been conscripted to join the British armed forces.

Of those, just over 1.1 million went to the British Army and the rest were split between the Royal Navy and the RAF.

But one of the problems that Southend – just like every other town – had to face was how to deal with those who were unwilling to fight.

Lessons had been learned from the First World War where conscientious objectors were often harshly treated.

Tribunals were set up to deal with claims for exemption, but this time there were no military representatives acting as prosecutors.

By the end of the war 59,192 people in Britain had registered as Conscientious Objectors.

The majority of those called up were unwilling to fight due to their religious, pacifist or political beliefs.

By December of 1939, conscientious objectors from Prittlewell, Hockley, Pitsea, Vange and Canvey all found themselves in front a of special tribunal at Southwark County Court in London, after refusing to serve in the armed forces.

Among the objectors was Ronald Stripp, aged 21, who worked as a clerk at Southend Municipal Hospital and who lived in Prittlewell.

A newspaper report of the tribunal proceedings showed he objected due to his beliefs as a Christian.

Stripp told the court he was eager and willing to do all he could for the war effort, but his beliefs meant he could not take up arms.

He was registered for non-combatant duty instead.

Also sharing the same religious objections was Evelyn John Piggott Burrell, also aged 21, who was a former baker’s rounds-man from Vange.

He was instructed to join the Royal Army medical corps. Alfred Cooper, 20, told the court he was a supporter of the League of Nations and therefore rejected the idea of being called up.

Then there was John Joyce, 22, a wages clerk from Canvey who objected on the grounds he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He was ordered to take up agriculture or forestry to help the war effort.

Leonard Woodland, aged 21, an upholsterer from Hockley, argued that his nerves would get the better of him should he be involved in combat.

His lawyer told the court: “If he were called upon in war time his nerves would not allow him to kill anybody or anything.”

The court allowed him to be registered as a conscientious objector as long as he took up a job in forestry or agriculture.

In January 1940, Donald Dale, 22, from Leigh objected to joining up due to religious beliefs. He told the court he believed war was wrong and he would be committing an “unpardonable sin” should he take part.

“I feel it is a personal matter between myself and the creator. It is a belief I have always held and trust I always will,” he said.

There are very few cases of conscientious objectors being sent to prison locally. But two who were sent down were brothers from Westcliff who had refused to register for the draft.

Donald Potter, aged 19 and his brother Norman Potter, 17, were hauled to court for failing to register. They both stated that they were pacifists and belonged to the Peace Pledge Union Movement. When they stood in the dock they refused to recognise the authority of the court and were sent to prison for a month each.

Meanwhile, Jack Blott, 21, of Hildaville Drive, Westcliff, received a tongue-lashing in court for dodging the draft. In August 1940, he appeared in Southend for failing to comply with a medical examination for national service.

He had repeatedly failed to take part, even refusing to take his clothes off in oder to be examined. Southend philanthropist Edward Cecil Jones, presiding over the hearing told him:

“You have missed all this time in the Army. You ought to have been in the Army long ago. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Men are serving their King and country and you are dodging the column as thy say.”