Were there physical weight limits on recruitment?

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by von Poop, Feb 13, 2016.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Funny question triggered by a Friendface chat.
    Was there a maximum weight for recruits to the British (or any other) Army?

    We've all seen pictures like these: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/3953-re-enacting-good-or-bad/?p=655912, but the question was raised as to what the 'official' policy was.
    I'd have thought the call-up was the call-up. Wondering if there were systems for dealing with big lads, or if a few months of training did the trick?

  2. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Not really the answer you are looking for, but this is from Hansard:

    HANSARD 1803–20051940s 1947 February 1947 20 February 1947 Written Answers (Commons) EMPLOYMENT
    HC Deb 20 February 1947 vol 433 cc198-9W
    Mr. Rhys Davies asked the Minister of Labour how many persons of military age were not called up for military service during the last war on occupational grounds.
    Mr. Isaacs It is estimated that up to the end of hostilities about 3,200,000 men, now aged 20–46, registered under
    the National Service Acts were retained in their civil employments on occupational grounds. This figure includes a large number of men (estimated at about 800,000) who were medically unfit for service in the Armed Forces.
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  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Not an answer to the question, but I'd imagine that medical examinations took into account only whether someone was physically fit enough, or not, to serve in the forces according to the categories used at various stages.

    According to the link below the number of medical categories rose from 4 in 1939 ( A, B, C, D ) to 10 by 1940, while by 1945 medical classification was divided into 72 sub-categories. However, a major problem seems to have persisted - that examinations took no account of eventual employment.


    Just how far medical categories were enforced is shown in a memo circulated within Casualty Branch:-

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  4. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    King George V versus Kraft durch Freude ( Strength through joy ): more extracts from Hansard

    HANSARD 1803–20051940s 1940 July 1940 17 July 1940 Lords Sitting
    HL Deb 17 July 1940 vol 116 cc993-1038
    4.14 p.m.
    VISCOUNT SAMUEL rose to draw attention to the importance of the provision of proper facilities for physical training; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should like to make it plain at the outset that in the wording of my Motion referring to physical training, I have in mind physical education of all kinds and not only training for the armed Forces of the Crown. Furthermore, I would invite your
    Lordships, if you will, to address your minds to this question not only as an immediate problem of war-time but also with an eye to long-term considerations. We have been proud that even in the stress and strain of these days we have not neglected the more permanent issues. For example, with respect to Colonial development, we applauded the action of the Government in proceeding with our programme in spite of the distractions of the hour. Therefore I trust your Lordships will address yourselves not only to the immediate considerations of present physical training.
    This subject has aroused from time to time great interest in the nation but somewhat spasmodically. It is an interest that comes and goes in waves. Some time ago we had, for example, a great National Fitness campaign under the leadership of a member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who I trust will speak this afternoon. That movement was started with great vigour and energy, with all the arts of publicity and propaganda and with the support of considerable sums of public funds. Then, suddenly, it seemed to fade away, and nothing more was heard of it in that form. We had, however, one permanent result in the playing fields movement and in the fact that the greater part of the large sum collected as a memorial to King George V was devoted to the provision of a number of King George's playing fields in various parts of the country. But why did that movement not continue in the form in which it was initiated? Possibly some of your Lordships may be able to say. Now there has sprung up another movement under the auspices of the National Youth Committee the chairman of which is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, Mr. Chuter Ede. I am informed that some 300 local youth committees have been established all over the country and that in general the local education authorities have taken up the subject with considerable energy and enthusiasm. Furthermore, quite recently the Government have succeeded in rendering available for physical training and exercise of various kinds, great numbers of football fields all over the country…………………………..

    One of the original objects of the Nazi Party, one of its 25 fundamental aims,
    was to raise the standard of the health of the nation, especially through the physical development of the young. Physical training is actively pursued in all the schools, both primary and secondary, and in universities. All the teachers are trained to be able to give physical education. There are a large number of specialist teachers who have a whole year's training in this subject. The Hitler Youth devotes itself largely to these purposes, and numbered more than three years ago—it has probably increased by now—no fewer than 6,000,000 young people. All of them have to pass efficiency tests at the age of 15, 16 and 17 in many sports and physical activities, including Swimming, in which a large proportion of our island population are still wholly untrained. Afterwards there is the movement of Kraft durch Freude—the Strength through Joy movement—which in this country we have been inclined to smile at, partly, perhaps, because of its title, but which has taken an immense development and which, according to the Report of the delegation of the Board of Education, has had remarkably good results. On the athletic side that movement has, as it happens by coincidence, the same number of persons, 6,000,000, being trained under its auspices. Then there is a National Physical Training League, which is a federation of 50,000 athletic and sporting clubs. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of the children, when they leave the elementary schools in the towns, go for a year's work in a land camp and get close to the soil, and are engaged in agricultural pursuits.
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  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Thanks, chaps.
    So it would seem there was quite possibly nothing truly official beyond the various gradings of fitness.

    Not something I think we've ever touched upon that much - the overall state of brand new recruits.
  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    This was a big problem early in the war. Far too many men got into the forces who had no business being there and who broke down quickly under field conditions. The AIF was even worse off than the BEF. The popular notion of the Australian Army as all tall, bronzed young mesomorphs is simply wrong.
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  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I should like to refer to another piece of waste which is a traditional habit of the Army, that is, putting round pegs into square holes. It is generally accepted that some people in the Army have the idea that when a man has special qualifications he suffers from a swelled head, and that the first thing to do for his own good is to humiliate him. If someone says he is a professor, the person in charge tells him to go to the cookhouse. That may be quite good for the professor, but it is not 2002 making the best use of his skill. I hope the new arrangements will see that men are directed to their proper spheres, and that if there is anything psychological, psychologists will deal with it. Let me give an illustration. I had the case of a joiner who before he joined up to serve in the Royal Engineers was a man who had taken charge of War Office contracts in different parts of the country. He went into the Army expecting to do the same sort of work, but he found himself a despatch rider, and nothing he could do within his regiment could alter matters. At the same time there was a young clerk from a sanitary engineer's office who also went into the Royal Engineers. He was a very able boy, and was trained in the most modern forms of building emergency bridges. He had never handled a tool in his life, but Army time was spent in training him to do this work. He was then transferred to another branch of the Royal Engineers to locate mines on the coast. Unfortunately, he was blown to bits, and his life and skill were lost.

    Here we have the case of a man with skill acting as a despatch rider, and a boy having no technical experience doing the other man's job. When I called the attention of the War Office to this case the matter was put right so far as the joiner was concerned, but it illustrates the feeling of frustration which is prevalent among so many skilled men who have to stand by and watch someone else do their job. I had another case of a man who was in a post office wireless reception station. He also, curiously enough, found himself a despatch rider, and he was compelled to go on despatch riding and was not allowed to help to repair wireless apparatus when anything went wrong. In spite of all his knowledge, he had to continue being a despatch rider seeing someone who knew nothing about it trying to mend the machinery.

    Then there is the question of wasting training on unfit men. If a man goes into the Army and is unfit, it is tragic that the Army tries to make him fit and tries to make an expert soldier of a man who has neither the qualities nor the physical capacity required. I had a case of a boy without a thumb on his right hand and whose mother admitted that he was mentally deficient, yet someone classed him A.I. When he came to my notice, he was already in France, and it took me 2003 and two Secretaries of State to get him back again. Think of the wastage of Army effort in trying to train a boy of that kind. In another case a man suffered from abnormal feet and could not walk very well. How he got into the Army I do not know, but, once in, they were determined to make a soldier of him. When I left the case seven months ago he had been taken into hospital and they had operated on him, and he was still unable to walk. It is the lack of sense of proportion in regard to these things which causes perturbation among the soldiers and the general public, because they naturally think the Army must be inefficient when it wastes time and effort like that. The 22nd Report of the Select Committee gives examples of this kind of thing. In a sample analysis taken in one Command in December, 1940, of the men discharged for congenial mental defect more than half had over six months' service. The Government had spent six months in training and trying to make soldiers of people who were incapable of being soldiers. I welcome the announcement of the psychological tests and the other examinations that are being used to see that men are directed where their services will be of use, and that if necessary they will be kept out of the Army. There are men who would be a menace and not an assistance in the Army, and there is no advantage in adding to numbers unless the numbers have some qualities as well.

    There is waste of other kinds. Men are taken into the Army and classed A1, and in due course it is discovered that they are incapable of being soldiers because something has gone wrong physically, and they are discharged on medical grounds. They then find that the War Office refuse all responsibility for their condition and say that their ailments are due to pre-war conditions. Nothing causes so much irritation among men discharged from the Army, and among the general public, than this idea that a man is passed A1 and is then put out, evidently as C3, gets no pension and is treated as if he had contracted some disease on his own responsibility and is thrown, so to speak, on his own resources. I would ask the Minister to bring this matter to the notice of the Government, because it really is agitating the minds of many Members. It fills their post-bags, and it causes no end of irritation.

    2004 I welcome also the announcement regarding educational work, but here again I think there is some wastage. In many cases men who hay been trained in civil life to lecture have sometimes to listen to officers who are poor lecturers. If an officer, who may be a good officer, and, in the words of General Wavell, talks very little, starts to talk very much, he may destroy the morale of his regiment by destroying its faith in his capacity to lead, for they might think that if he cannot lecture, he might not be a good officer. It would be far better if officers who were not good at that sort of thing handed the job over to somebody else in the regiment who had the capacity to do it. I would like to quote a letter I had on this subject: I have listened to three lectures given on current affairs by the O.C. from pamphlets supplied to him. Quite frankly they have not been any good. Two of them dealt with the campaign in Libya and the other was on oil. I do not know who is responsible for these pamphlets but I can assure you they do not cause any enthusiasm among the troops, and it is a pity that such a good opportunity is wasted in this way. … Cannot someone give the brass hats a kick in the pants? All they seem concerned about is saluting and blanco-ing. They do not seem to understand there is a war on. In regard to blanco-ing, I am informed by experts that it destroys the webbing. It certainly destroys good feeling in the regiment, and a good deal of it could be scrapped with advantage. I received today a letter on the point about sending people to the wrong places. It says that any number of people in the Observer Corps are skilled and that it is impossible for their skill to be used in that Corps. It states that a whole family of electrical engineers are utilised as observers.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
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