An odd thing to think of but….

After childhood rheumatic fever spared him from a wartime call-up

The physically not too good don’t get conscripted. Yet – in certain wars at least – being conscripted is to have a very high chance of being killed. Wouldn’t it be better to conscript the less than physically good?

Yes, I do know that’s not how it works and also understand why. It’s just a thought.

18 thoughts on “An odd thing to think of but….”

  1. We shouldn’t be conscripting anyone. If a state cannot enlist sufficient volunteers to survive, then it does not deserve to survive.

  2. Just given the numbers fighting American WW2 conscription must have been very different from German or Soviet conscription, probably wouldn’t have got off so lightly in those systems.

  3. I do know that Russian women of a certain age complain about the stock of men available to them having been poor due to the number of good ones being killed in various conflicts and they were left with the weeds who were unfit for service

  4. @Bravefart

    That’s interesting.


    Can’t speak for Tim, but at least for me the first thing that came to mind was that someone with a terminal genetic condition or cancer might be, so long as they’re physically up to it, the best choice for going on a suicidally-difficult infiltration or assassination.

  5. Blloke no Longer in Austria

    An uncle contracted rheumatic fever during his National Servicen , he claimed that it was caused by standing on guard outside Spandau Prison in the raiin.
    He was invalided out and managed to avoid being sent to Korea.

  6. I get the impression that conscription at least in the UK during wartime was wasteful. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    It seems like only those who were potentially capable of being front line fighters were conscripted into, say, the army. Anyone not fit enough, or too old, to go hand to hand with Jerry seems to have remained un-conscripted. Surely though were are vast numbers of people needed well behind the lines doing all the paperwork, logistics etc, etc, who didn’t need to be capable of endless route marches or charging enemy trenches.
    We are talking, especially in WW2, about a war of national survival, after all.
    If lots of relatively unfit but still very useful people were conscripted and I’ve missed it then I’m happy to be corrected.

  7. Good reason – people who are unwell or unable to get fit enough can’t campaign well. Today, you typically cannot enrol if you suffer from Asthma for example – a battle or even just a deployment area is typically dusty and smokey and asthmatics, even marginal ones, suffer badly in such conditions and can’t perform as expected.

    So although attractive, has drawbacks.

    Late in WW2 the Germans were dragging in anyone, and I believe they sometimes collected certain disability types – for example ones that needed special diets – together into a unit to simplify supply. For example there was a “Stomach Battalion” for those with ulcers.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset


    It depended on the level of fitness. Yes, only the fittest went to the front lines but depending on reasons those not fit enough could be deployed ever further from the front.

  9. Speer struggled to get manpower to run the factories, while the Nazis killed Jews.

    Irony of ironies: Speer spent 20 years in Spandau prison for using slave labor; they would have been killed if he hadn’t.

  10. My great-grandfather joined up as a career soldier in 1901, rising to company sargent major. In letters to my great-grandmother in 1917-18 you can make out his dissatisfaction with the lumpen masses head office were sending him.

  11. Isaac Asimov related how he ended up conscripted into the US Army when his employer, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, tried to game the system by declaring the work of all its physically fit employees essential to the war effort, claiming that the only inessential work was that performed by unfit employees. The US Army then lowered the fitness standards for enlisted men so those declared unfit were drafted and those declared fit were deferred.

  12. My father was not fit enough to be conscripted, but did his bit by becoming an Auxiliary Fireman He served throughout the war.Considering that he and his colleagues were outside putting out fires in the middle of the blitz, they were just as much at risk as any serving serviceman.Just watch some of the newsreel footage of the day.

  13. Many conchies volunteered for work in the coal mines during WWII. The chances of death or injury were greater than being on the front line.

  14. Surreptitious Evil

    I’ve been “medically limited deployable” since I joined the reserves. Until recently, where senescence and hard living are both taking their toll, due to damage sustained in previous regular service.

    It hasn’t stopped me being deployed to three wars, all bar Kosovo, multiple times. But then I am a “PONTI” (person of no _tactical_ importance) – I need to be able to walk from accom to food to HQ tent, wearing body armour and carrying a decent weapon load out, do a day and a half’s work, and then walk back again. I manage.

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