WW1

THE HOLY WAR

From The Tribunal October 4 1917

_ 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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Extract from Walter H. Ayles’ Statement at His Third Court-Martial.

“I am directed to look at the alleged atrocities committed by Germany and to the remarkable – and may I add, suspicious – absence of atrocities by their opponents, either in available newspapers or Government documents… It is a notorious, historic fact that every country has endless atrocities staining the pages of its history… Before Louvain was bombarded and the ‘Lusitania’ sunk Napoleon had poisoned his own wounded in the Syrian hospitals and shot his Turkish prisoners in cold blood on the same plea as Germany – that of military necessity… The outrages of Italy in Tripoli a few years ago were of such a character that even hardened newspaper correspondents handed in their papers and returned home, refusing to stay to ro witness and report such horrible buthchery of prisoners… Every student of English history knows of the crimes in the Crimea and South Africa, and of how in the Great River War the very tomb of the Mahdi, hold sacred by the Sudanese, rifled it for its contents and flung the remains into the river; of the horrors of Denshawai in 1906, when innocent peasants were killed for defending their property from British outrage; of the Irish fight for independence in 1916, when innocent men like Sheey Skeffington and wounded men like James Conolly were shot for being Irish patriots… Before Germany unrighteously violated the treaty of 1839, guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, the British and Russians had torn up a much more recent one guaranteeing the integrity of Persia. The treaty guaranteeing the integrity of Morocco was not only torn up with the consent of Britain, Belgium and France, who had signed it, but Frenchmen had pushed a railway through a sacred Moroccan burial ground and put down by bullets, bayonets and shells the protests of the people, whose dearest feelings were thus outraged. All our guarantees to the Egyptians and to Europe to evacuate Egypt have been torn up like scraps of paper and Britain has now annexed its territory. And what shall I say to the – shall I call it pressure – brought to bear upon Greece and Romania to enable the Allies to get an overland route to Constantinople. For any nation to accuse another of committing atrocities or violating treaty obligations appears to be as consummate a piece of hypocrisy as that of a thief accusing robbers of dishonesty. Every nation has done things equivalent to these within the last 30 years. They have done them because they are part of the unholy system of international greed and selfishness. The guilt lies at the door of all nations, and it is only possible because men of all nations are prepared to slay, steal, lie and outrage to back up the nefarious policy of their own Government. War is the greatest forcing ground for atrocities and falseness ever established by man, and however evil the methods adopted by one side the other is sure to follow its horrible example. that has been clearly and conclusively proved in this war. There is no method used by the Germans that the Allies have not committed used, except one, the torpedoing of unarmed German ships; the reason probably being that there are no German ships on the high seas to torpedo. There are no atrocities by the Allies that the Germans have not committed save probably one, that of submitting her sick and wounded in distants parts in large numbers to torture and death, by a criminal neglect to supply adequate medical stores and equipment and proper transport for food and other supplies. If I am to fight those who commit atrocities and violate treaties, I must fight every nation. Then I should discover that to carry on my holy war, so called, I should be compelled to commit the very crimes against which I was fighting. ‘You cannot cast devils out by Beelzebub.’ War itself is the greatest of all atrocities… I love my country too much to countenance such a crime. I must be loyal to God and humanity; and in being loyal to them I shall be serving in the highest way I know the real interests of our people and our country.”

AN OFFICER C.O.

_H3. From The Tribunal September 27th 1917

_ 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:_http://nfpb.org/tribunal

There was an interesting case at the Northhants County Appeals Tribunal last week, when a man who had relinquished a commission in the Army appealed as a conscientious objector.

The case was that of Joseph W. Sault (33), married, now acting as chief clerk at Woodford Halse for the Great Central Railway. The story he told was that he joined the Army at the outbreak of war, and secured a commission in the King’s Royal Rifles. At a church service a point of view that he had not heard put before led him to come out convinced that it was utterly incompatible for a Christian to take part in war. He told his colonel that even if shot or court-martialled, he could not help it. He could have sought medical grounds for relinquishing his commission, but did not do so. He relinquished his commission at the end of 1914, and Sir Samuel Fay, when he knew, allowed him to return to the G.C.R., on which railway he had been a student before the war. For his work at Woodford he received £175 a year.

The Chairman (Sir Ryland Adkins, M.P.) questioned applicant as to whether he now attempted to influence people against joining the Army or Navy. Appellant replied that he simply taught the Gospel, and had not endeavoured to exert influence against military service. He told people it was a matter in which they must be guided by God. He admitted he belonged to the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Sir Ryland said that some members of that body went very near the line.

Captain Cook urged that his information was that appellant was a pernicious influence in Woodford, and asked that he should, at any rate, be removed from the district. Appellant said he had preached in two or three chapels in the district, but denied having exerted influence, although his views were known, and his example might have been noticed.

A minister from Leicester testified to the genuineness of the appellant’s convictions, and argued that the question of pernicious influence was a matter for the Defence of the Realm Act. To this Sir Ryland dissented, holding that they were entitled to examine whether appellant was conscious of the necessary restrictions placed on all Englishmen with regard to expression of views.

Appellant, after further questions, said he was quite willing to change the district, and to accept a lower salary.

In adjourning the case for a month for appellant to find work of national importance at a financial sacrifice, Sir Ryland said the Tribunal did not wish to shut appellant’s mouth; but they asked him to consider whether he could not forego to addressing meetings or services, and devote the whole of his time to national services such as railway work, for which he was specially qualified.

Appellant agreed to give the matter his consideration.

The "Daily Mail" and Brightmore

From The Tribunal 20th September 1917

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:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The “Daily Mail” has re-opened the Brightmore case – and shut it up again quick! On Friday, September 14th, it published on its principal news sheet a letter, running into over half a column, from “Chas. Grimshaw,” late Major, Manchester Regiment, protesting against the “iniquitous manner” “in which Brigadier-General McD Elliot and myself were called upon to resign.” Mr. Grimshaw went on to say that Brightmore’s statement “was not only grossly exaggerated, but untrue.”

This letter worked up Carmelite House to fecer heat, and the “Mail,” in its leader on the same day, told its readers that Mr. Grimshaw’s letter would “be read with general sympathy and indignation,” that the Army authorities had been guilty of “illegalities, muddle-headedness,” and of putting conscientious objectors in a “privileged” position. The whole article was couched in the “Mail’s” most mandatory tone, and was beautifully headed and sub-headed:

THE CODDLED SHIRKER.”
Illegal Favours

At this point the curtain falls on the first act, and four days latter, during which period the “Mail” was evidently acquiring wisdom, and being brought down from Northcliffian frenzy to have been something like that described in Gilbert and Sullivan’s verse, which runs:

“After the rise, the fall;
After the boom, the slump;
After the ‘cham.’ and the big cigar,
The cigarette and the hump”!

Anyhow, on Tuesday morning, September 18th, the “Mail” published this remarkable leaderette:

THE BRIGHTMORE CASE

“In the light of information which has since reached us it is clear that the comment which we made on Friday on the enforced resignation of Major Charles Grimshaw , of the Manchester Regiment, as a sequel to the ill-treatment of Private Brightmore, requires modification.

“A soldier who disobeys orders is put into ‘detention’ and has the right to claim a court-martial. This is the punishment proscribed by the regulations. It was not the punishment meted out to Brightmore. He was put into an open pit and left there daily for several days. Such irregular and illegal punishments are quite rightly forbidden by the Army authorities, and it was owing to such a breach of military law that the War Office took actions against the responsible officers.”

It is not for us to probe further into this matter. Sufficient for us to record the facts and to express the view that the incident is the most encouraging that has taken place for many a day/ If C.O.‘s have done nothing else than to obtain from the leading militarist organ in the land the emphatic statement that “such irregular and illegal punishments are rightly forbidden by the Army authorities,” their stand has not been in vain.

International Notes: Canada & Holland

From the Tribunal September 13th 1917

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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Canada
The latest news from Ottawa is that in the new Franchise Bill necessitated by the coming General Election itis proposed to disenfranchise conscientious objectors relieved under the Military Services Acts from combatant service. This is not the law yet, but it will presumably become so. Our friends need not worry, however, the time is rapidly coming when the common people will be all conscientious objectors – in those days the Canadian Burgess Roll will be a very slender volume!

Holland
An article in the “Nieuwe Amsterdammer” (Dutch Independent Weekly) of August 25th 1917, says about the Dutch C.O.‘s that since they published a manifesto last year, for which they were prosecuted the movement has gained steadily in strength. The manifesto was scattered broadcast over the country, and the speeches for the defence of the signatories in the law courts have served as splendid propaganda. The C.O.‘s are actuated by different motives; such as: hatred of every form of the State, especially of the present one; considerations of humanity such as find expression in vegetarianism and the anti-vivisection movement; love of one’s fellow-creatures, and the feeling of Christian brotherhood; the opinion that the war is a purely capitalist affair, in which no Socialist can join; less elevated sentiments such as an innate aversion to any form of obedience to superiors, and the allurement of martyrdom; all these pure and less pure motives mixed together have helped to raise the numbers of Dutch C.O.‘s to 15). Some of these C.O.‘s were punished after they had served their term in prison by taking from them the right to wear a military uniform, a punishment they will probably accept with resignation! The writer further warns us against the mistake of treating the C.O.‘s as common criminals, and bids us remember that they are martyrs for their opinions, that they are giving proof of their readiness to sacrifice for their conscience and convictions more than the general mass of the docile public. The severe methods of old Russia have not yet disappeared, but have crept into every State, both belligerent and neutral, as a result of the circumstances of the war. The writer considers it an unsatisfactory solution to make exemption depend on the seriousness of the conscientious objection. On the other hand he says that if every C.O. was let off, all barracks would soon be emptied. Especially in such times as these, the state cannot disarm, but must maintain itself. A better solution would be not to test the seriousness of the objection to military service, but to impose civil duties which would be heavier than the military ones.

The Editor of the “Nieuwe Amsterdammer” adds a note to the above article in which he refers to an article in “Der Telegraaf” of Aug. 9th, which proposes that in view of the possible refusal of the C.O.‘s to do any work connected with the war, the State should force them to do work at sea, either at the fishing or other commercial trades. The editor highly recommends this solution.

SIX MONTHS FOR SPREADING TRUTH

From The Tribunal September 6th 1917

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:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Friends of truth and humanity are few in these days, but all of them will be indignant at the prosecution of Mr. E.D. Morel. Of those who criticised the policy of the Government in connection with the war, Mr. Morel is the one who has suffered most from calumny and misrepresentation. The Press, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, has devoted itself to stating, or insinuating, that he is an agent of Germany, until at last through sheer reiteration it has produced an unshakable belief in his wickedness in the great bulk of the population, and a measure of suspicion even among many who should know better. He is, as I can testify from personal intimacy and friendship, a man actuated to an extraordinary degree by horror of cruelty and love of truth. These passions are criminal nowadays, and those in whom they are strong can hardly avoid committing illegal actions.

Mr. Morel’s “ill-judged activities began with his successful campaign to make known and to put an end to the atrocities in the Congo, in the course of which he necessarily made enemies of the British, French and Belgian Governments. The Clerical Party in Belgium was associated with King Leopold, and opposed tooth and nail any reform which might diminish the revenue derived from the the tortures of helpless negroes. The French Government dreaded an exposure, because a not dissimilar system existed in the French Congo. The British Government objected to Mr. Morel’s activities because of the official attitude of France. Nevertheless, he succeeded in so rousing public opinion that the necessary reforms were instituted and the old, bad system was brought to an end. Public men who knew of his activities mostly assumed he must have some sinister motive, for they held that no man does anything in politics from disinterested reasons – a view presumably based on self-examination. The harder it was to discover a wicked purpose, the more deep and cunning his plans were assumed to be.

It is hardly to be wondered as if on his side, with his experience of the unwillingness of the Allied Governments to put an end to atrocities far more systematic and widespread, and quite as horrible, as those of the Germans in Belgium, was unable, when the war broke out, to adopt quite the usual romantic view of it. His book on Moroccan diplomacy, published before the war, has shown conclusively how large a share of blame must be attached to the Entente. Whoever has made a disinterested study of the cause of the war must agree with the man Morel in thinking that, if wars are be brought to an end, the nations will have learn some deeper understanding of their causes than is involved in merely attributing them to the wickedness of the enemy. Mr. Morel has devoted himself to the dissemination of the truth, both here and abroad, but in these days it is illegal to attempt to communicate the knowledge of facts, even to so eminent a writer as Monsieur Romain Roland.

The use of punishment instead of argument is proof to all thinking people that the authorities are unable to refute Mr. Morel’s assertions amd have to rely upon brute force to prevent their being heard. Every honest man who loves truth and humanity would be willing to commit Mr. Morel’s “crime.” If honest men were not so rare, all the prisons in the country would be too few to hold the criminals who preferred truth to the encouragement of butchery.

Bertrand Russell

Echoes of Conscience

Selecting extracts from The Tribunal has been a highly enjoyable but quite hard task. What to choose out of all the often passionate, often insightful, often moving stories from the First World War which might otherwise be forgotten?

The Tribunal was a newspaper published by the No Conscription Fellowship from 1916, when the Military Service Act introduced conscription into British law. The story of conscientious objection in this country has been seriously neglected; the dominant narrative being that, however tragic the war was, people went to war without complaint and did largely as they were told. This is very far from being the whole truth.

In picking these extracts, however, I make no claim to the historical relevance or importance of all or even any of them. It would be best to consult the actual newspapers themselves if you wish for that kind of information. Nor do I claim any kind of neutrality; but then The Tribunal itself was hardly neutral in its support for the C.O.’s.

Instead, I have been looking out for human stories, humour, wit and, in the case of several of them, just plain good writing. The writers of these articles were not simply chronicling facts and figures; they were making a case for conscience as a guide to behaviour in the public sphere, whether tied to religious faith or not. Highlighting the stories of those who were treated abominably by being sent to France and “sentenced to death” before having their sentences “commuted”, as well as one tragic story of a young man dying of consumption due to ill treatment, we see how high the cost of conscience was for many.

An example of the sometimes gallows humour of the writers would be “How It Is Done”, a sketch of how an encounter between a C.O. and an officer might go. (I used this as source material for a poem for Conscientious Objectors’ Day.) I have taken some extracts from longer pieces, such as one by Bertrand Russell and one complete article, “Improving The Race”, to show the quality and the passion of argument often displayed by the writers.

I’ve also tried to highlight seldom-seen parts of the story, such as C.O.’s from “the colonies”, or “friendly aliens” living in Britain who may have had to join up. So we have stories of Russian exiles, Indian tribunals and a (nameless) Caribbean.

I hope these extracts both inform and move the reader.

Steven Waling

News of Our Comrades Abroad: India

From The Tribunal, August 23 1917.

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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Some interesting news from India, where several men have appealed to Tribunals under the “Indian Defence force Rules, 1917.” Among st them is Mr. W. Bevan Whitney, B.Sc., A.M.I.C.E., who appealed to the District Magistrate at Poona, in the following terms:-

“I wish to say first of all, that I believe that service to one’s fellow men must be the guiding motive in every sincere man’s life. And secondly, make it perfectly clear that I base my objection to serving in any military capacity on my deeply-rooted conviction that war in its methods and ethics is utterly incompatible with the whole teaching of Christ as interpreted by his life. I hold this religious conviction so strongly that it would render me useless in any part of the military organisation, all of whose units have for their objects the efficient prosecution of the war…”

“I therefore beg that the conscience clause in the Law at home be taken as a precedent with cases such as mine in India, as I believe that not only is there nothing contrary in the terms of the Defence of India Bill, but that it is definitely stated that in certain exceptional cases, it is in the power of the Authorities to grant total exemption.”

Eventually Mr. Whitney was allowed to leave for Mesopotamia on Y.M.C.A. work, work he had accepted while his appeal was pending, and of which he writes, “I did not tell them the Tribunal had not given me exemption, as I was afraid that I was trying to evade the penalties by joining them. I had made up my mind I might have to go to prison, and felt quite glad at the thought.”

The following paragraph tells of how the fight is being carried into the guard-room in far away Scundarabad:-

“Cowper (Plymouth brother), Scundarabad, was court-martialled for not carrying arms on parade. I have heard he got 72 hours’ detention or something. I have not heard since what happened to him. I saw in the paper there are about half-a-dozen other “C.O.‘s” also mentioned as appluing before tribunals. None of them got exemption. I have not heard what has happened to any of them.”

IMPROVING THE RACE

From The Tribunal 19th July 1917

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:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Judge Neil, writing in the “Daily News,” has been telling us how to improve the race. The suggestion of the Judge is mainly maternity benefits. Now that is not a novel notion; it has been demanded for years by Socialists and other people who are now being punished for refusing to help in the war—a war, by the way, that includes the starving of German mothers. We should like to comment, however, less upon the proposal itself than upon the time it was made.

At a time like this there is something rather startling in the solemn lunacy of such a suggestion for improving the race. It reminds us rather of a pathetic story of a poor French woman who, while awaiting the guillotine, went on making clothes for her expected child. The important difference between the two being that whereas the poor French lady was recognised as being demented by her fellow-sufferers, the present generation of suicides goes on listening to these people who object to underfed children and at the same time support a war that promises to kill off children and parents as well. What can be done with people who talk about the health of the next generation one day in the week and manufacture T.N.T. the other six? If we thought it was ever any use to lock anybody up, we should like to lock them up. But we don’t; it would only make them worse. Besides, we can’t, because these are the people who are at present locking us up. Such people are now in the vast majority. They govern us, write our newspapers, and dispose of our .lives and bodies, and this is a pity, because they are dangerous lunatics whose speedy cure or extinction is necessary if the human race is to survive the twentieth century. And they are dangerous simply because they are driving faster and faster in a certain direction, and are blind to where it leads. They are blundering on with the war without any thought as to where the human race will be if the slaughter does not soon cease.

There is one serious mental complaint which enables mankind to go on digging its own grave, and that is its insane optimism. This alone allows reformers to think they can improve the race without stopping the war. For they are so unreasonably confident that thewar will end soon, and that it will be the last. They adopt the easy theory that “things are too bad to last long,” and all the time continue to perpetuate the bad things. They forget that although we are daily nearer to complete destruction, we are no nearer to any practical methods of preventing it. They talk of the end of war, but show no sign or intention of abolishing those elements in modern life which make wars.

And enlightened society goes doggedly on, fast making for the crowning triumph of science—the extinction of the race. If this sounds exaggerated, we have only to note how much easier it is to kill people than it was in 1914. We are now only at the beginning, for instance, of aerial warfare, and already no London business man can with certainty say that he will be home to tea. On both sides all brains and science are busily inventing better ways of slaughter. They have progressed so well that it is now tacitly understood that the way to win a war is to attack the civil population. From henceforth civilians will approach nearer and nearer in experience to the soldiers, because scientific progress is producing weapons too effective to be confined to battlefields; nothing but whole nations will suffice them. Germans are trying to subdue England by either frightening or exploding the civilians. The Allies are trying to win by starving those of the people whom they cannot bomb. And a nursery in London, Karlsruhe, or Ghent will soon be as dangerous as a trench in France. Some day, perhaps, someone will invent a way of dealing with air raids, and for a time the civil patriots who object to living lives as risky as the young men they have sent to the front will breathe again, and the optimists will say, “Now it’s all right,” and go on talking about a fight to a finish.

But is science going to rest there on its laurels? Perish the thought! The next progressive invention will be, say, a disease-cloud, capable of killing off every living creature within, a thousand mile radius. This will be used immediately by both sides, and lo ! Man, which to-day is, to-morrow is not. And the day before that happens some thoughtful reformer will write an article about the need for maternity benefits as a means of improving the race.

And when all the people of Europe (whose mothers will have had doles of £5 when they were born) have thus died for freedom and the rights of small nations, what will such details as the origin of the war matter? Who will then care a hang which side began it, or which Government is the wickedest, or whether the inventor was a disciple of Christ or Nietzsche?

Of course, if the war was really undertaken to prevent something worse than extinction, then there is nothing to be done but get extinguished, but we believe that if people could only realise the obvious fact that there is positively no end to war, they would find it an easy matter to invent some other way of defending themselves and improving the race- than by blowing each other into the atmosphere.

THE MEN SENT TO FRANCE

From The Tribunal 12th July 1917

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:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

In reply to a question on July 5th, Mr. Macpherson stated in the House of Commons that Davies, Garland, Keighley, Middleton, and Price, the men sent to France at the beginning of the month, were “irregularly” sent abroad, and “should have been remanded for trial by court-martial in this country.” At the time of answering the question he had not managed to discover where these men actually were. The following letter was received by the parents of Davies when they wrote to the War Office to enquire of his whereabouts:

2nd July 1917.
Dear sir, – In reply to your letter of the 29th June regarding your son Joseph Davies, you may rest assured that if sentenced to imprisonment in France he will be returned to this country forthwith. I have not at the moment accurate information as to his whereabouts, but as soon as I am aware I will make a point of communicating the information to you.

It may be some reassurance to you to be informed that the current rumour that conscientious objectors are being spirited away to France with the object of their being shot is wholly untrue, and you need have no fear whatever in that regard. The last thing I desire is that men should be sent to France under improper conditions as it only entails their being brought back again and al loss of money to the public.
Yours faithfully.
(Signed) B. W. Childs,
Brig. General
Director of Personal Services
War Office,
Whitehall, S.W.

As we go to press we learn that all five men have been returned to England.

MESSAGE FROM CLIFFORD ALLEN TO THE FELLOWSHIP

From The Tribunal 14th Jun 1917

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:-_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The Cells, No. 4 Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain May 31st 1917

Dear comrades,

I have decided not to send a long written message to the Fellowship. Something more vital is wanted now. I have just read the Russian demand for an unequivocal statement by the Allies on the question of peace terms. It has thrilled me with a sense of the responsibility we C.O.’s share in the great movement towards liberty which is surging up in the life of almost every nation.

I am overjoyed by the thought that we have already contributed so much to the re-awakening of the spirit of freedom in our own country.

The next few months will, however, make an even heavier demand upon our courage and faith. All through the intricacies of our struggle we must avoid anything which might tarnish our own self-respect or our sense of corporate responsibility. Upon individual character and an ever-deepening belief that the strongest unity will come from the love of service depends the life of the Fellowship in the future.

The most living message I can send at this time when our hope is very near its first fulfilment is a copy of the letter I am to-day sending to the Prime Minister. The great task before each man is always to weigh the individual sense of duty with unwavering loyalty to the movement as a whole. In this there should be the most intimate confidence between the members of the Fellowship and the National Committee.

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