Tribunals and beyond | RBS Remembers

RBS remembers

Tribunals and beyond

Internal memorandum of London County & Westminster Bank concerning men it identified as indispensable to the operation of business, January 1916 © RBS


The banks supported the Derby Scheme and encouraged staff to participate in it, but this did not mean that they wanted all their men to join up. On the contrary, their intention was to get all staff into the system, so that they could efficiently organise applications for exemptions, or at least postponements, where necessary. 

As soon as the Derby Scheme’s first phase closed in December 1915, they started preparing tribunal cases, highlighting particular men who had specialist experience or responsibilities that couldn’t easily be taken over by someone else, and calculating the smallest number of trained men that could reasonably run a bank. It was agreed that banks could submit all their appeals to one local tribunal, in the place where their head office was based, rather than to the tribunal where each man was based.

The tribunals were reasonably sympathetic to the banks’ requests, and allowed banks to keep around half of their pre-war total staff. The City of London tribunal agreed, for example, to postpone by six months the call-up of over 600 men who worked for London County & Westminster Bank. In the ensuing six months, the proportion of London County & Westminster’s staff on active service rose from 38% to 50%, but without those exemptions, the figure would have reached 68%.

The first round of postponements expired in July 1916, but the banks were generally successful in having them renewed for a further six months. By January 1917, however, the tribunals’ postponement criteria were becoming stricter, and it was harder to retain men. Nevertheless, the postponements during 1916 had given the banks time to recruit more temporary staff and, crucially, to train them to handle a fuller range of bank duties.

Postponements did continue to be granted throughout the rest of the war, but they became fewer. Records do not survive to indicate how many men from across all our banks served during the war, but it was probably well over 10,000, of whom 1,582 died and probably over 4,000 were wounded.


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More about joining up

The Derby Scheme

Before conscription came in, there was one last attempt to recruit volunteers.

Wartime pay - in uniform

Banks paid part-salary to employees away on military service.

1914 – the first volunteers

Many clerks were already volunteer soldiers. Others rushed to join them.

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Our fallen

1,582 members of our staff lost their lives during the First World War.

Staying in touch

Bank staff were keen to share news with colleagues away on military service.

Familiar faces in strange places

Bumping into a colleague, or even a friend of a friend, was always a highlight for men serving far from home.

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