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What was National Service?

The first National Service Acts were passed during the Second World War.  However, following the war, conscription was extended as peacetime National Service.  This was due in part to an unstable international situation, as well as to Britain's responsibilities in the commonwealth and empire. The 1948 National Service Act, effective from 1 January 1949, fixed the period of National Service to eighteen months with 4 years in the reserves. In 1950, the Korean War led to a further amendment increasing the period of service to two years, with three and a half years in the reserves. Men in Northern Ireland were excluded from the National Service Act.

The 'call-up' finally came to a halt on 31 December 1960 and the very last National servicemen left the Army in 1963.

It is rather difficult to decide who the last National Serviceman was. Private Fred Turner (23819209) Army Catering Corps at the time attached to the 13/18 Hussars was discharged 7 May 1963 and had the latest number issued to a National Serviceman. However, Lieutenant Richard Vaughan, Royal Army Pay Corps, left his unit in Germany on 4 May 1963 but because he had to travel back to England was not officially discharged until 13 May 1963.

If you are interested in reading more about National Service click here for details of how to visit the Department of Printed Books.

Called up: a National Service scrapbook George Forty. - London: Ian Allan, 1980. ISBN 0-7110-1050-1
The best years of their lives: the National Service experience 1945-63 Trevor Royle. - London: Michael Joseph, 1986. ISBN 0-7181-2459-6
All bull: the National Serviceman edited by B.S. Johnson. - London: Quartet Books, 1973. ISBN 0-7043-1002-3