On 25th January 1939, in conjunction with their “National Service” pamphlet, the Government published a provisional “Schedule of Reserved Occupations” which identified occupations where age restrictions would be applied to anyone wishing to volunteer for full time “national service”.
The aim was to limit the number of volunteers so that appropriate resources could be retained in key industries and services.
The Schedule contained a list of occupations, along with age criteria relating to when a person could / could not volunteer for service.
Some occupations had no age limit specified, meaning that a person could not volunteer for service whatever their age, others had an age limit, such as 18, 25 or 30, which meant that they could not volunteer if they were on, or over, that age.
Extract from the provisional 1939 Schedule of Reserved Occupations
With the introduction of the Military Training Act 1939 and the subsequent National Service (Armed Forces) Act, the age criteria in the Schedule was applied to both mandatory and voluntary enlistment.
As the war progressed, the Government recognised that changes in legislation, along with changes to the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, would be needed to balance the ever changing needs of the armed forces, civil defence, vital industries and essential services.
In 1941, the age groups in the provisional listing were significantly increased in three stages:
- Stage A on 10th April 1941
- Stage B on 1st July 1941
- Stage C on 1st October 1941
It is believed that these were the only changes to the schedule.
Furthermore, in January 1941, a concession was introduced which stated that anyone applying for training as aircrew (in the positions of pilot and observer) would not be subject to the limitations set out in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations. The same concession was made for anyone applying for training in aircrew positions, other than pilot and observer, in February 1943. (It is not known if similar concessions were introduced for the various trades in the other armed forces)
It is worth adding, that as the war progressed, women were employed in many of the reserved occupations, thereby making it easier for employers to release more men for service in the armed forces.