Challenging Militarism


From The Tribunal July 11th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

Our readers will remember that on May 24, Harrison Barrow, Edith M. Ellis and Arthur Watts, Chairman and Secretaries of the Friends’ Service Committee, were sentenced under D.O.R.A. 27c, for not submitting to the Censor their leaflet, entitled “A Challenge to Militarism.” This led to a very interesting appeal at the Guildhall on July 3.

The endeavour to shut out the public, although the London Sessions are public courts, was typical of the far from impartial treatment that was meted out to Harrison Barrow (who was conducting the case for the appellants) by the Bench all the way through. He overcame this difficulty by gentle persistence and throughout met all the obstacles which were put in his way with great ability and a sweet dignity which bore testimony to his very real faith in the pacifist way of life. It was made perfectly clear by Harrison Barrow himself and by all the witnesses he called, that the Friends’ Service Committee took full responsibility for their refusal to submit leaflets to the Censor, and were guided in their action by the deepest religious conviction and a strong sense of their duty towards humanity. That this position is endorsed by the Society of Friends is amply proved by the fact that on the passing of 27c the Society publicly proclaimed their decision not to submit any leaflets to the Censor. In further evidence of the feeling of the Society on this point, John H. Barlow, Clerk to the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, went into the witness box and read a Minute passed on May 22 at the Yearly Meeting, after proceedings against the F.S.C. had been instituted, supporting the Committee’s action.

It had been said by the prosecution at the formal trial of the case, that no class or sect could be exempted from complying with the regulation, but Harrison Barrow brought forward evidence that there is a privileged class which is exempt, a class which includes the Liberal Publication Department, the Labour Party, Lord Grey, etc., but this was disallowed.

Although Sir Alfred Newton (Chairman) and the other magistrates had appeared very restive and impatient during the hearing of the case, as soon as Harrison Barrow began his own statement the force of his own personality and his very evident sincerity seemed to to take hold of them and they became silent and attentive. Edith Ellis than made her statement; she spoke calmly and impressively and a deep note of conviction rang through every word she said. The rapt attention of the magistrates and those present in court lasted throughout her speech and that of Arthur Watts, which was full of fire and intentsity. Such was the impression created in the Court by the obvious earnestness of the speakers, that one felt that the Bench could not fail to understand such testimony to the power of truthm and it came somewhat as a shock to hear Sir Arthur Newton announcing that he could “hardly contain his indignation” at the way in which the defendants had “deliberately flaunted the authorities and gloried in it.” He dismissed the appeal with costs.

Just as the court was adjourned, Cecil Whiteley (Barrister) arose abd said that he represented a large number of the Members of the Society of Friends who wished him to say that they were law-abiding subjects of the realm and did not identity in any way with the views of the appellants. Although Mr. Whiteley’s remarks were entirely out of order, Sir Alfred Newton expressed himself delighted to hear them.

Edith Ellis was quite firm in her re-refusal to pay her fine (£100 and £50 costs), but the authorities are about to try and obtain the money by distraint. Harrison Barrow and Arthur Watts were taken off at once to serve their six months in Pentonville, where we are sure the thoughts and sympathy of all our readers will follow them.

Seeds of peace and costs of war

The Meeting House in Lincoln was the venue for our late September meeting. Joined by a good number of local Friends and other visitors, NFPB members explored the nature of our peace witness. Friends who had been involved in acts of witness reported both positive and negative experiences. In Conwy, we heard, serious consideration is being given to promoting peace education and appointing a local authority Peace Champion, following witness at the Armed Forces Day national events in nearby Llandudno.


From The Tribunal July 4th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

The following letter received in June from a C.O. in prison, shows that Fenner Brockway is not alone in his attitude towards prison rules:

“For some time past I have been thinking about my attitude here in prison and there has been an inward voice within me urging me to take some stand against this deplorable system of punishment and coercion. This voice I must frankly admit I have avoided, and I have made excuses for not obeying its call. I have not cared to give up my books and letters and visits. Then again I have said to myself, ‘You must preserve your health for future work when you are released, for there will undoubtedly be a great call for your service when that time comes. Also you owe a debt to parents to support them and you must study them as well as your own attitude.’

But I can no longer avoid my inward promptings, and I therefore feel compelled to make a greater stand against the prison system for the following reasons:-

  1. 1. That we are without doubt being illegally punished.
  2. 2. That imprisonment is part of the military regime, and a very vital part, and that although we have proved that we cannot be made soldiers, yet we have not opposed that part of the military machine (prison), the fear of which coerces thousands to continue soldiering.
  3. 3. That by obeying rules and working we are acquiescing in our punishment.
  4. 4. That we are being kept in prison to intimidate men who are likely to resist the Military Service Acts.
  5. 5. That the prison system is based on FEAR, and that to prove that no man can force us to do a certain thing by punishment and threatening would be setting a much needed example to our fellow men.
  6. 6. That prison rules impose conditions that are cruel and immoral, and that we break them on the sly whenever we can. This means we are forced into deceit and some get punished for what we all do, because they are less fortunate than others.
  7. 7. That I should do that which I consider to be right without fearing the consequences/

For these reason I can no longer work in prison, nor obey those rules which I consider to be wrong.”


From The Tribunal 27th June 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

We take the following quotations from Mr. H.G. Well’s latest book, “In the Fourth Year: Anticipations of a World Peace.”

“After the war, if the world does not organise rapidly for peace, then as resources accumulate a little, the mechanical genius will get to work on the possibilities of these ideas that have been merely sketched out in the war. We shall have big land ironclads which will smash towns. We shall get air offensives – let the experienced London reader think of an air raid going on hour after hour, day after day – that will really burn out and wreck towns, that will drive people mad by the thousand. We shall get a complete cessation of sea transit. Even land transit may be severly hampered by aerial attack. I doubt if any sort of social order will really be able to stand the strain of fully worked out modern war. We have still, of course, to feel the full shock effects even of this war. Most of the combatants are going on, as sometimes men who have incurred grave wounds will still go on for a time – without feeling them. The educational, biological, social, economic punishment that has already been taken by each of the European countries is, I feel, much greater than we yet realise.

It becomes more and more plainly a choice between the League of Free Nations and a famished race of men looting in search of non-existent food amidst the smouldering ruins of civilisation. In the end I believe that the common sense of mankind will prefer a revision of its ideas of nationality and imperialism, to the latter alternative. It may take obstinate men a few more years yet of blood and horror to learn this lesson, but for my own part I cherish an obstinate belief in the potential reasonableness of mankind.

It is absurd to suppose that anywhere to-day the nationalisms, the suspicions and hatreds, the cants and policies , and the dead phrases that sway men represent the current intelligence of mankind. They are merely the evidences of its disorganisation. Even now we know we could do far better.

Never have I been so sure that there is a divinity in man and that a great order of human life, a reign of justice and world-wide happiness, of plenty, power, hope, and gigantic creative effort, lies close at hand. Even now we have the science and ability for a universal welfare, though it is scattered about the world like a handful of money dropped by a child; even now there exists all the knowledge that is needed to make mankind universally free and human life free and noble. We need but the faith for it and it is at hand; we need but the courage to lay our hands upon it and in a little space of years it can be ours.”


From The Tribunal 20th Jun 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

We are glad to find that the action of Home Office in smashing Mr. Steet’s printing plant is not to pass altogether unchallenged. So docilely have the ever-widening powers of D.O.R.A. been accepted by the vast majority of our countrymen, that it is almost a surprise to find that this last tyrannical act has aroused deep indignation.

A strongly worded protest against this attempt “to destroy the liberty of the press by smashing the property of printers, and thus by violence and intimidation to prevent the publication of matter that is unpalatable to the Government of the day, has been signed by W. Barefoot (Editor, ‘The Pioneer,’ Woolwich), A. Clutton Brock, F.C. Fairchild, Catherine Bruce Glasier (Editor, ‘Labour Leader’), Thomas Johnson (Editor, ‘Forward’), George Lansbury (Editor. ‘The Herald’), William Leach (Editor ‘Bradford Pioneer’) W. Francis Moss, A.R. Orage (Editor ‘New Age’), Ben Riley (‘Huddersfield Worker’), E. Scrymeour (Editor ‘Scottish Prohibitionist’). W.I. Llwellyn Williams, K.C., M.P., and others.

After recounting the treatment meted out to Mr. Street, the protest proceeds:-

“This is a most indefensible and tyrannical action, and if allowed to continue, will completely destroy all freedom of the press. It is, in addition, a heavy blow at the rights of the printing trade. Mr. Street was printing the “Tribunal” in the ordinary way of business, and the authorities have ample powers under which they could have prosecuted him or the publishers of the paper. This they refrained from doing evidently, that other printers might be terrorised.”

In response to this protest, a steady stream of letters condemning the outrage and resolutions to the same effect by Trade Union Branches, etc., is now being received by the Home Office.

The “Manchester Guardian,” in its issue of June 10th, devotes a leader to the subject, and demands that the provisions of D.O.R.A. shall at least be carried out “with some degree of intelligence.” After pointing out the latitude given by Regulation 51, and that there is little doubt that it does cover “such outrageous proceedure,” it justly remarks that there is no reason why the regulation should not be interpreted with a sense of justice, or at least common sense. “Clearly,” it concludes, “the whole matter should be thoroughly looked into, and if the facts are as stated, the the person or persons responsible should be made accountable.”


From The Tribunal June 6th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

Our comrade, A. Catherall, who was sent over in a draft to France on December 6, 1917, still heroically continues his refusal to obey orders, be the consequence what they may. In spite of assurances given, he is still being kept in France, and the latest news is that on May 23rd he was taken to No. 1 Military Prison in Le Havre to serve a sentence of 112 days’ hard labour. Knowing what we do of military prisons in France, this news is certainly not re-assuring, especially in view of the following letter received from our comrade on May 21st, which gives the record in bare outline of his experiences at Harfleur:-

“Feb 10. – Courtmartialled. Result 84 days field punishment.
Feb 12. – Arrival Field Punishment Compound Harfleur, Havre, France, disobeyed first order after explaining my position, was confined in an iron-sheeted concrete-floored cell about four yards by two until —-
Feb. 14 – Sentence to fifteen day’s No. 1 diet, solitary confinement in cell, handcuffed, leg-ironed night and day (No. 1 diet, 3 days bread and water, 3 days’ compound diet alternately).
Feb 15. – Complained irons were for violent persons only. Resilt, cuffed at back until —-
Feb 19. – Morning, when at 6 a.m., was released for an alternate three days but refused first order, celled immediately in cuffs (front) and leg irons, on compound diet (that night I received as punishment additional 6 days No.1 diet, etc, as before) until —-
Feb 22. When I returned on biscuit and water diet. I may mention that I received eight ozs. of biscuits per day until I complained to the orderly officer, who instantly went and witnessed my ozs. made up to fourteen ozs. as per rule. i may say that I broke tow teeth with those iron biscuits. Compound diet resumed. Released at 6 a.m., refused first order, celled etc.
Feb 25. – Still in irons day and night, the handcuffs being removed for about five minutes daily to allow washing.
Feb 28. – As punishment, order to parade three times daily, – ‘any force necessary to be used to make him obey,’ and to be roped tightly as possible to a post for two hours, wearing irons also. Refused to parade, but was pulled on parade once by the arm, then refused again and that order was probably rescinded. This punishment excepting parade continued until —-
March 7. – When the leg irons were remove and exercise allowed daily.
March 9. – Should have been released, having completed 21 days’ No.1 diet in solitary confinement in the cell, but continued on compound diet, cuffed, cell, and tying up (though I protested three times that no charge was laid against me) until—-
March 12 – When handcuffs were removed, remained in cells on compound diet until my sentence expired, being called from the cells and straight out under excort to No. 8 Camp, A.S.C., on Sunday, May 5.
May 6. – Was sentenced to 14 days confined to camp, refused first order, retaken to Guardroom, and kept there until courtmartialled on
May 13. – When, owing to my evidence, my case was adjourned half way through the trial to be referred, i presume, to higher legal authority. And so I await the result, possibly a return to Dartmoor, probably two or three years’ hard labour. About Feb. 28th, I was removed to another room to hear the death sentence pronounced on a murderer ‘to show what the Army can do,’ but i still refused to obey orders, and possibly that is the reason I was not released.

The result, as we have stated above, was 112 days’ hard labour, As we go to press we hear that orders have been given for Catherall to be returned to a civil prison in England, but up to the moment of writing no news of his arrival here has reached us.


From The Tribunal May 30th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to:

At the Guildhall on May 23 and 24, the Society of Friends was on trial as a body for its refusal to submit leaflets dealing with the war and the conclusion of peace to the censor. This was made abundantly clear by the three defendants, Harrison Barrow, Edith M. Ellis and Arthur Watts, against whom as Chairman and Secretaries of the Friends’ Service Committee, the charges were brought. It seemed doubtful whether the prosecutor realised in the least the greatness of the issue raised – how could so great a principle be bound up in this apparently insignificant statement of facts. Yet for the many Friends and sympathisers in the court the whole question turned on the allegiance owed by a Christian body to the Higher Law which overrules the State. Here at last was a direct conflict with the law of the land, which brought us back into the stormy days of the seventeenth century, to the circumstances which provoked Milton’s Areopagitica.

There was much formal evidence given by police officers from Scotland Yard; then the figure of Andrew Fleming, the courageous Glasgow printer attracted attention and not a little admiration. The court was adjourned till the following day just as Harrison Barrow was making his defence. Next day the court was full to overflowing, and there was no loss of the ‘atmosphere’ of the trial as some had feared. The witnesses for the defence were called, among them John H. Barlow, Clerk to the Yearly Meeting of the Society, armed with a minute. This he was not allowed to read himself from the witness box, though Harrison Barrow found a way out of taking it from him. The prosecution kept on recurring to the question of authorship in cross-examining subsequent witnesses, although it had been established that the Committee believed that their name satisfied the regulation demanding the author’s name.

At last the presiding alderman retired to consider the verdict, and after a few moments the Clerk of the Yearly Meeting asked Friends in court to devote the remaining time to silent prayer. There followed a most solemn hush, broken only by the faint buzz of conversation from officials in court beyond the screen. One woman Friend prayed that we might be able to follow Christ all the way. After this most remarkable of Friends’ meetings, the usher’s “silence in court” seemed wholly unnecessary on the alderman’s return. Sentence was pronounced, 6 months’ imprisonment for the male defendants, £100 fine and £50 costs for Miss Ellis. The tragic injustice of the whole trial was broken by various humorous incidents, not the least of these being the little lesson in arithmetic given by Andrew Fleming to Sir A. Bodkin.

At the end of the trial the tall figure of Harold Morland rushed forward in top hat and grey frock coat in response to the request for one well-known in the city to go bail. An appeal was lodged and the first stage of this Quaker pilgrimage in search of freedom was passed.


Lifting the Shadow of WW1 and Prospects for Peace Today

Saturday, November 17, 2018

York Quakers are taking this opportunity to host two one-day events this autumn (see also 6 October). The events explore the lessons from the past and ways to resolve conflict in the present and future.
Both events are at Friargate Quaker Meeting House and are open to the general public as well as Quakers.

Lifting the Shadow of WW1 and Prospects for Peace Today

Saturday, October 6, 2018

York Quakers are taking this opportunity to host two one-day events this autumn (see also 17 November). The events explore the lessons from the past and ways to resolve conflict in the present and future. Both events are at Friargate Quaker Meeting House and are open to the general public as well as Quakers.

'Howard Clark Memorial Lecture'- A fresh view on conflict: Logics of security versus the logics of peace

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lecture by Christine Schweizer of War Resisters International , at Leeds Beckett University, 17:30-19:00


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