Hi Caroline. The strike came about because in January 1917 the Local Government Board sent an inspector to Marlow, apparently at the request of the Army. The inspector informed the Town Clerk that he had been sent to look at the records of the Tribunal as the Army was concerned that the Marlow Tribunal, amongst others, was being too lenient. The Town Clerk and one of the members of the Tribunal provided figures to the inspector to attempt to refute the claim. When the Tribunal met a few days later, its members expressed their consternation at what they saw as a slur on themselves and on the town itself. They refused to hear any more claims until they had received a full explanation from the Army about the apparent concerns.
There was clearly a bit of a stand-off for a few weeks until in the middle of March the Tribunal met again to receive a formal letter from the Local Government Board. It basically said that there had been a terrible misunderstanding (effectively saying the Tribunal had got the wrong end of the stick) and saying that the Army was satisfied that the Tribunal was indeed not lenient. The Tribunal accepted that the matter was now closed and proceeded with its business.
What is so interesting about this is that it was reported openly and comprehensively by the local newspaper - they must have been delighted with the scoop!
I think it was probably a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy. The military representative on the Tribunal denied any involvement in the whole affair but he had been quite challenging of some of the Tribunal decisions in the previous weeks. I suspect someone in the Army may have put two and two together and decided to include Marlow on a list of tribunals that were causing them concern.
As far as the Tribunal members were concerned, I think their reaction was genuine and heartfelt. They clearly prided themselves on doing the job to the best of their abilities and there is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Marlow was actually one of the more robust of Tribunals in Buckinghamshire in terms of rejecting appeals. In addition, four of the members had sons fighting in the War and two had already lost sons to the conflict. So it is hardly surprising that emotions ran high in response to the claim from the Army.
From March 1917, the Tribunal continued its business without further interruption until the end of the War, but there continued to be occasional flashes of tension and disagreement between its lay members and the military representative.
I would be interested if anyone else has come across any similar examples of Tribunals going on strike.