Challenging Militarism

NFPB meeting in Leeds

Saturday, November 30, 2019

NFPB members’ meeting – other Friends welcome to attend. Contact us for details

NFPB meeting in Edinburgh

Saturday, September 28, 2019

NFPB members’ meeting – other Friends also welcome to attend. Contact us for further information

NFPB Meeting in Carlisle

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Northern Friends Peace Board members meeting. Other Friends also welcome to attend. Contact us for more information

NFPB meeting in Liverpool

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Contact us for more information. Interested Quakers in the area are all welcome to attend


From The Tribunal November 7 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


As I write, Birmingham is in the midst of its “Big Guns Week.” The good patriots of “Brum” are “feeding the guns with War Bonds.” ap per instructions on the postmark, without a thought of such a thing as five per cent: their sole desire to “get on with the war.” At least, that is what one gathers from the speeches made on the opening day, when canons of the Christian Church made stirring appeals to the patriotism of their fellow Christians. One of the items of the opening ceremony was the singing of “O God, our help in ages past,” by children of the Bluecoat School.

It was particularly fitting that Christian ministers should give their blessing to a “Big Guns Week.Says Erasmus in his Complaint of peace “Whose invention was a cannon? Was it not the invention of the meek, lowly, merciful followers of Jesus Christ, whose law was love, and whose last legacy to His disciples and the world, peace?” To the cannon we must now add such things as high explosives, poison gas, liquid fire, torpedoes, submarines, bombing air-craft, and a hundred and one other examples of the inventive genius of Christian nations.

“Sufficient is Thine arm alone,” sang the children. Said a right reverend father in God, in effect: “M’yes – that may be so; but it is just as well that you should not lose sight of the fact that £5000 will buy four splendid quick-firing field guns. .” And as a magnificent example of pure, disinterested patriotism, the Birmingham Small Arms Company led off with an investment of £500,000.

A few of our pacifist women are distributing peace literature during the lunch hour when the centre of the city is crowded with people anxious to see the monster guns. “No, thanks miss; I’ve had enough”“ said a wounded soldier to one of the distributors who had offered him a leaflet. “But this is not a war leaflet; it’s for peace,” she told him. “Then give me one,” he replied eagerly; “that’s what the boys in the trenches want.” “Feed the guns that hammer the Huns!” shrieks a banner hung across one of the main thoroughfares. i find myself wondering what would happen if that device were made to read, “Feed the guns with the blood of your sons!” If only the people would associate “Big Guns” with “cannon fodder” instead of War Bonds! Of course the war must be paid for; and if patriots cannot be persuaded to lend their money to the state at good interest without the aid of free picture shows and appeals from canons and bishops, we need not complain of such methods. But why not tell the people about the real food of the guns?” Even Mr. Lloyd George himself has said: “The people of this country are all the better for being told even unpalatable truths.” Why not begin to give them some idea of the appetite of the guns?”

At the end of 1917 Gen. Smuts estimated the total casualties resulting from three years of war to be no less than 8,000,000 killed and 20,000,000 maimed and wounded. To that extimate must be added the figures for 1918.” “A.G.G.” in the “Daily News and Leader” of August 3, 1918, wrote as follows:-

“If we sat day and night and saw the ghostly procession of those slain in this war file by in ranks of four, minute by minute, ten years would pass and still the tale of the world’s sacrifice of youth and strength and hope would not have been told. And if behind the dead, there filed the host of the maimed, the halt, the blind, the dumb, the paralysed, fifty years would hardly exhaust the dreadful spectacle.”

If we continue to “feed the guns,” nothing can save the nations from another universal massacre in the near future. There is only one way to a lasting peace, and that is by the peoples of all countries insisting on Total Disarmament as the first step towards International Goodwill.


From The Tribunal 31st October 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 a time when much of contemporary poetry is either strident with the feverish tone of militarism, or distraught and piteous over its effects, there is a distinctly bracing quality discernable in the voice of anyone who is happily able to treat the limitations and injustices that fall to the lot of those who attempt to lead a normal life at an abnormal period, in a spirit of brave humour that is as free from levity as it is devoid of cynicism.

The wind that blows through the country of the Comic Muse is not too rarified an air for common mortals to breather, and so it is that weary minds will find there not only relief from mental stress, but a readjustment of distorted values and warped judgements, both desirable and necessary if we would keep ourselves sane.

So one hails with genuine enthusiasm, the appearance of a little book of parodies and verses, just published by Messrs. Headley Bros. under the title “Carols of a Convict,” price 1/3. The author, Allan M. Laing, is a Liverpool man who has served a term of 12 months’ imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs, where without paper or pencil to aid his memory, these impressions of an evidently sane, albeit a whimsical imagination, took on the garments of rhyme and reason.

No man who has served his term, however short, in Wormwood Scrubs, should miss reading this book, for is is literally packed with unerring humour at the expense of every detail of prison routine. One may well be envious of the temperament of a man who could so accept what was meant to be in the nature of a punishment. Most of the contents of the book are parodies of well-known songs; a form which makes them particularly adaptable for popular use. The sense and spirit of the originals have been so inverted and fashioned to the new purpose, that one is almost induced to believe they were written with the intention of being burlesqued, and this is surely the illusion that all good parody is meant to produce.

In these days, when (thanks largely to the art of J. C. Squire) successful parody is coming into its rightful place in literature, there is little need to emphasise the value of its healthful and astringent properties, but if anyone has not benefited by them, they should not neglect to read “Carols of a Convict.”

Mr. Laing is himself a keen enthusiast (and has on several previous occasions delighted his friends with samples of his ability) in this direction. Perhaps his Scottish heritage is mainly responsible for the caustic character of his with; but whatever good fairy bequeathed him this gift of a truly “saving” sense of humour, let us hope that the magic power will remain with him during his second sentence in Birmingham prison, even as in Wormwood Scrubs.


From The Tribunal October 24th 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:


Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Mt sake…

These men are undergoing repeated sentences of hard labour, for the one offence of refusing to relinquish their conscience and their ideals to the control of the State, and therefore become mere breathing automatons.

Their souls cry out for freedom for all the sons of men, and it is impossible for them to use any force towards a brother, but that of love.

A mighty force they hold, far stronger than puny hate, that, to live for long, even among so-called Christians of today, must be continually fed on war atrocities to keep it at high water mark. It is a force which, if allowed full sway, would crumble hate before it, as the snow melts beneath the kindly rays of the sunshine.

These men are trying to carry out Christ’s teaching embodied in the Sermon on the Mount. They, too, are despised and rejected of men. Brute force us used to try and make them surrender their souls to the demands of an earthly State, the whole ground-work of which is militarism. But they will not.

To me, the C.O.s are Christ’s Officers. They will shine out in radiant relief from this, the blackest picture of the world’s history, as having striven to guard that heritage for all Mankind, of peace. Love. Brotherhood and Liberty, that Christ left to us.

These men have striven, and are still striving, to show all with whom they come in contact that by true Christ-likeness only, can Christ’s kingdom come on earth. Although so little leaks out from our prisons, the little that does is more than sufficient to show any thinking person that brute force can crush and bruise and maim, but it is powerless to subdue the this greater force that dwells within these men.

We hear of repeated sentences of hard labour, of men released only on the point of death, of men dying in prison. Christ was hounded to His death in much the same way, by much the same people, for the very same reason. It was the High Priests and soldiers that crucified Him, because His Kingdom of Love was unthinkable. For then the poor would get their fair share and that would never do. The Kingdom of God might come after death, they had no use for it here. So they crucified Him. Now they persecute His followers.


From The Tribunal October 17th 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 “Bradford Pioneer” of Sept 29, publishes the English translation of a German document picked up by a British soldier. In it the writer appeals to his fellow soldiers to put an end to militarism. He says, “In the interest of humanity we must escape from this power, which has exposed us to such risks and evidently wants our death. The only obstacle is the Army, to which we have the misfortune to belong. We have all of us seem enough to recognise it as the greatest enemy of all humanity; is it not therefore our duty to destroy it? The highest judge of all civilisation and humanity, your own heart, comrades, will absolve you, if you carry out the order of justice which bids you to throw away your rifles. Surrender in thousands and the future is ours! A real league of Nations of the World must be created, where no uniform is seen, all arms have vanished, and the workers, the only party of thinkers, must do it.”

NFPB in Sheffield, December 2018

NFPB members gathered in Sheffield for our last meeting of the year, being joined by a number of other Friends from the Area Meeting. On this occasion, as well as some routine business and sharing news of Friends’ peace witness across the North, Friends participated in two workshops.


From The Tribunal 10th October 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 further extracts go to:

The following is an extract from a latter (dated July 21, 1918) from a friend at Christchurch, New Zealand, whose name we are not at liberty to give since it would not be possible to obtain his permission for some months; but the information may be relied on as correct:-

“We are, I suppose, going through similar stages in New Zealand with regard to C.O’s. Just recently they have in one or two places been subjected to much actual physical violence, and also in one case, at least, to untellable obscenities. Every effort is made to stifle enquiry, At Wanganui some men were knocked unconscious, dragged over the yard with ropes that cut into the neck, etc. This was doubtless done with the connivance of authorities in high position, possibly on actual instruction from them. Now every attempt is being made to burke enquiry. Allen, the Defence Minister, states that public enquiry is quite unnecessary. However, he will get a magistrate to make private investigation. The magistrate chosen has already stated that he thinks all conscientious objectors should be put up against a wall and shot; so that one can anticipate his conclusions beforehand. There are some 300 C.O’s in prison and more to come. In the Civil prisons they are well treated, but it is the solitary military prison at Wanganui and in the Trentham barracks they have been abused. It is true that in official and well-to-do classed nothing whatever is known about the C.O.s, and the attitude to them is one of indifference. It is only occasionally that any reference is made to them in the daily prints, though one or two not anti-militarist have taken up their cause. The anti-militarists proper are unable to do so, because they cannot secure a hearing. Miss ______, a gifted woman, though militarist, has lately taken up their cause, and has at least found out that it is impossible to secure a hearing, and that the press is rigidly partisan. Still, now that the married men are being taken from New Zealand, I think perhaps people will be a little more ready to listen to the other side…

The snow still continues to swirl. Fortunately this household has a sufficiency of coal for the next few days, but I feel sorry for the C.O.s and other prisoners some seven miles from here with nothing between them and the bitter sky but a sheet of galvanised iron, and in weather like this, spending the whole of the 24 hours in absolutely unwarmed cells. Possibly they are not worse off physically than the men in the trenches; but it is the solitariness of it that must be so trying and devilish. Few have got the resources within them that John Fletcher has, whose letter from Wormwood Scrubs are those of a saint. Copies of them reach me here, and they are doing good in one or two places.

I go out occasionally to the gaol here. So far the C.O.s have been bright and contented; but this great snowstorm is bound to be detrimental to them. they have nothing a small skylight for illumination. These to-day will be covered with snow; and if a man is ill they take his books and bedding from him during the day unless he is ill enough to go to bed. It will be many days now before they get out to work.”


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