TRIBUNAL records of 6,000 Scotsmen who appealed against conscription during the First World War have today gone online for the first time.

Reasons given for attempting to avoid the draft include conscientious objection, ill health, family hardship or being involved in work of national interest.

Many of the country’s records were destroyed in 1921 following an order by the Ministry of Health.

However, the archives of the Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland (Lewis Section) Appeal Tribunal survived by accident and cases from the Lothian and Peebles Appeal Tribunal were kept as a sample. Now the entire collection, all that remains from Scotland’s local panels, has been made accessible through the ScotlandsPeople website.

Tim Ellis, National Records of Scotland (NRS) chief executive, said: “We are privileged to be commemorating the First World War centenary by making available this special series of records.

“The documents will be invaluable to family historians researching their ancestors and the lives recorded also reveal a poignant picture of life on the home front and beyond.”

The papers go back to 1916, when the Military Service Act set down the terms for mandatory involvement in the unprecedented war, requiring all men aged 18-41 to register for service unless they had an exemption certificate.

The age range was increased to all men between 17 and 51 within just two years and the grounds for exemption were tightened.

However, the cases that remain are said to reflect a cross-section of Scottish society, revealing the “deep impact” of the First World War on the home front.

One man to appeal conscription – Loanhead plumber Henry Drummond – was granted exemption in 1916 due to the fact that his work to install a new water supply to Roslin Powder Mills was crucial for the production of munitions.

He asked the tribunal to remove his exemption one year later to allow him to fight.

However, this was refused because, as the only plumber in the burgh, his skills were considered vital to 3,500 people.

Preparing the records for online use took two years and the work was carried out by student volunteers from Edinburgh University, supported by NRS archivists and conservators.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These powerful online records are an important part of our history and demonstrate the challenges thousands of Scottish men and their families faced during the First World War.

“I encourage people to learn more about this important period and to contribute any information they have to piece together a fuller picture of what life was like for our men.”