WW1

International Conscientious Objectors' Day

CO day ceremony in Manchester

This annual event was marked on 15th May with ceremonies in different parts of the UK, including in the North, vigils in Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. At the Manchester event, the following poem was read by poet Steven Waling. Steven is a Manchester Quaker and also works one day week in the NFPB office. The poem has been informed and inspired partly by First World War CO Tribunal accounts, as well as by more recent events.

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CONSCIENCE DEFINED

From the Tribunal 12th October 1916
This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s jounal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_ For other extracts go to:_ http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Barratt Brown, being a Quaker, has a conscience, Chamberlain, not being a Quaker, has not. – Q.E.D.

A. Barratt Brown and W.J. Chamberlain appeared before the Birmingham Local Tribunal on Friday last. Barratt Brown’s appeal was taken first. He based his claim for absolute exemption on the ground that he believed all war – however noble the aim – to be both un-Christian and immoral. He understood the teaching of Jesus to mean implicit faith in God and unalterable love of man. He could not reconcile this with Dreadnoughts and high explosives. The Military Service Acts were intended to organise the national resources for war. He could not allow his services to be conscripted – however indirectly – for such a purpose. Civil alternatives would be a bargaining and compromise of conscience. To give up working for the welfare and liberties of his fellow-citizens and for peace among the nations would be disloyalty to his country and his God.

Appellant, questioned as to his connection with the Society of Friends, said he was a member of various committees connected with that body. The Chairman said he regarded appellant as a danger to the State, but he thought that his type of man had caused the Government to put the conscience clause in the Bill. He granted exemption, though he disagreed with the statements made.

W.J. Chamberlain’s case was heard immediately after. He said he believed with an intensity such as no power on earth could overrule in the Brotherhood of man, and the doctrine of non-resistance as enunciated by the Christs of all ages. He was a Socialist, believing that Socialism and Christianity, rightly interpreted, were identical. He held the view that the best service he could render his fellows was to strive to his utmost to advance the cause of peace, and to endeavour to bring about a recognition of the fact that the only hope for humanity was that the peoples of the world, realising their brotherhood, would refuse to be lead the shambles for mutual massacre. He could not accept any form of alternative service. He claimed that his present work in connection with the N.C.F. was of vital national importance.

In reply to the Chairman, he said that he was not a member of any religious body as he was not aware of any such body to which he could conscientiously belong – members of all the alleged Christian bodies were at present slaughtering their fellows in the name of the Prince of Peace.

The Chairman said the decision was to refuse the appeal. He did not look upon appellant as a conscientious objector, and his work was not considered of national importance. Appellant asked leave to make a statement but the Chairman refused to hear him, remarking “I am not going to enter into any arguments!”

NORMAN ANGELL ON THE ABSOLUTIST

_h3. From The Tribunal September 21 1916

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

An interview with Mr. Norman Angell has been printed in several American papers. Including the “New York Times,” on the struggle of the conscientious objector. He says he believes the conscientious objectors are doing their country and English tradition a very real service.

“In handling the problem of the conscientious objector,” he says, “the Government has managed somehow to get itself in the ridiculous position: it bears most heavily upon precisely those about whose genuineness of conviction there can be no possible doubt.” Dealing with conditions of exemption, he says:-

“The position under the law is that the Military Service Act grants exemption from military service to those who have conscientious scruples against it. The problem is to see that is not made a loophole for shirkers and cowards. Very good. Under the most recent instructions the way is made relatively easy for those who will accept ‘Alternative Service’- work on the land, or what not; but for those who refuse any task which facilitates the military machine, Mr. Lloyd George has announced his intention of making their path as hard as possible. So, if you will accept alternative service it is relatively easy to escape the trenches; if you refuse this alternative service – to which no risk is attached – into the ranks you go! So, for the man who refuses this easy escape – whose very refusal to accept is is proof that his main motive is not cowardice – that man goes to hard labour or the military prison, or is condemned to death. The Government in effect say: “If you want to save your skin we will make your way easy. But, if your object is obviously at whatever cost to register as a conscientious objector – well, we intend to make your way hard.’ It is admirably designed to create cowards and make sincere men suffer.

“There is of course one way out of the whole trouble: to grant absolute exemption from military service to those who have conscientious objection to it. A few shirkers would slip through – they do now. The government would lose the civilian services of a few men. It loses them now: nearly two thousand conscientious objectors are at present in jail. If the Government is determined, as Mr. Lloyd George seems to hint it is, to smash their spirit, it may be able to do son, but it will be at the price of methods it will have to borrow from Prussia, at the sacrifice of principles which really are worth more than the labour of a few thousand unwilling men. The practical point that we shall sacrifice things of very much greater value than those which we shall obtain.”

GUARD ROOM BRANCH MEETING

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 September 1919
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

A meeting of the Mill Hill Guard Room Branch N.C.F.. was held on the 6th and 7th instant, and discussed the question of Alternative Service. The subject was divided into (1) Home Office Scheme, and (2) other possible forms of alternative service.

The following reasons for and against accepting the scheme were discussed:-

For accepting the scheme.

1. This work is an alternative to prison work. Some people argue that they were doing alternative service in prison, so they might as well do it, say, at Dyce, where they have rather more freedom.

As against this argument it was pointed out that service at Dyce does not terminate when the prison service would have terminated, therefore it is not an alternative to prison service, also that by accepting one makes a bargain with the Government on the question of military service.

2. By accepting, we do not become a burden upon the producers in the community. If we do not earn our own living we are being kept by the workers, whereas by accepting alternative service we ourselves become the producers.

3. That the work is of a non-military character. Even although of no great productive value the work is at any rate harmless.

Against accepting the scheme.

1. Many men who are unable to accept this scheme are willing to do alternative service, but have to accept the Home Office scheme or none at all, whereas such men who have not been to prison have a choice of work and conditions.

2. We cannot accept the work that will lower the value of a man.

3. Work should be work of real national importance, and not something that is given merely to free the Government to get on with the war. All productive work is of national importance, and this scheme obviously does not provide sufficient scope for the men’s activities.

4. The scheme is a form of Industrial Conscription, for if condition are not obeyed one may be returned to the army; therefore it is an alternative to military service.

5. The proposal of signing any document all the conditions of which are not known, is one we cannot agree with.

A resolution was then carried unanimously, asserting that the scheme is in spirit and effect subversive of all freedom and justice in that (a) it perpetuates a form of punishment beyond the term of imprisonment, and (b) if fixes a rate of remuneration and existence which are best expressed as conditions of slavery, and © that it is in essence a bargain with the Government to facilitate the working of the Conscription Acts.

NOT OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

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

A London Branch Secretary gives us the following information about one of his members, and says with truth that it is an abominable example of alternative service and an excellent corroboration of the penalising purpose of alternative service and an excellent corroboration of the argument for refusing it. The member in question, who is T.F. Drayton, of Golders Green, was three months within the age limit. He had been a Post Office servant for over 26 years, and was engaged on night duty connected with registered letters and foreign mails. There was no-one ready to replace him at his office, which was grossly understaffed. He had worked there 12 hours a night for months, and had for years been connected with social work, such as classes of telegraph boys, &c, which may now have to stop through his removal.

Humour, we are informed, rainbows the tears of the world, and the fact that the Tribunal offered Mr. Drayton work of national importance is one of those things that add to the gaiety of nations. Mr. Drayton was convinced by the this treatment of the fatuity of the suggestion that alternative service is “mobilisation of the nation for efficiency,” and therefore decided he will not compromise with such a scheme. He has therefore followed the lead of the National Committee, and was handed over at Mill Hill last week.

Of National importance

Agriculture is an industry of some importance to the nation, particularly to women and children. Perhaps that is why a young “C.O.” from Wales has been shut up in prison, leaving one brother and a father nearly 70 years old to manage 1,000 acres, and no-one to look after 1,400 sheep. No doubt he will, however, be invited to make a road in Suffolk.

A ROUND-UP

From The Tribunal August 31 1916

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 police began last week-end taking active steps against the numerous absent lambs that still stray from the fold.

A garden party at Bow, which had been organised for the purpose of raising funds for the support of The Voice of Labour, a journal of strong revolutionary and pacifist tendencies, was interrupted by the police, who demanded documentary evidence from all the men present as to why they were not in uniform. Twenty-seven men, mostly members of the N.C.F., were found to be without the requisite documents, and as a result nine men were charged at the Thames Police Court on Monday. Two of them were remanded on their statement that they had an appeal pending, and the others were handed over to an escort, and removed amid the cheers of a large crowd of sympathisers.

Mr. H. Russell, a member of the N.C.F., who was remanded, states that he passed Saturday and Sunday nights in the cells, by which we may assume that anyone who cannot produce evidence on the spot is liable to be shut up until his case is heard in court, and not merely summonsed in the usual way.

Other Raids

Similar steps were taken over the week-end at Eel-Pie Island, Twickenham, from which about forty people were taken into custody, and at Liverpool, where the police closed the gates of a park and arrested a large number of men therein. We do not yet know the result of the Liverpool affair, but we learn that when the Pie was opened it was discovered that the police had drawn blanks.

We trust that in this democratic country such proceedings will be free from the stigma of class distinction, and that the sombre colour scheme of the week-end gatherings will be relieved by a just proportion of gladder garments. The drama of civic life will be greatly enhanced if the raids on Socialist gatherings in the East End are to be balanced by similar visits to West-End clubs.

(N.B.- This hope does not spring from a bitter feeling of class-antagonism; it arises solely from dramatic and aesthetic instincts.)

CLIFFORD ALLEN AND MR. LLOYD GEORGE

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

By Bertrand Russell

(Some extracts)

Mr. Clifford Allen, the chairman of the No-Conscription Fellowship, was handed to the military authorities on Friday, August 11. The Appeal Tribunal has awarded him civil alternative work of national importance, but he felt, rightly or wrongly, that the work which he has been doing was of greater national importance than growing cabbages. It is for this opinion that he is to suffer.

From Mr. Lloyd George’s statement in the House of Commons on July 26, it is to be feared that his sufferings will be severe, and will last until the war ends. He is typical of that section of conscientious objectors who cannot accept alternative service. “With that kind of men,” said Lloyd George, “I personally have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever.”…

There is a manly note of primitive ferocity about these words. They show the odd misconception of the nature of conscience which has been common to all our politicians… Mr Lloyd George seems to think that conscience can only forbid things: the kind that enjoins things is apparently unknown to him. Does he think that St. Paul would have been satisfied with a certificate excusing him form preaching paganism?…

…(Conscientious objectors) believe that war is a crime and disaster; they cannot satisfy their conscience by a passive nonparticipation, but feel bound to do what they can to bring the nations to their point of view. There is a habit of representing these men as slackers… (but) the immense majority of men of this class are exceptionally hard workers…

… the conscientious objector knows… that if he agrees to perform agricultural work, some man now employed upon the land will be unstarred and will become a conscript: the final result is not to increase the amount of food for women and children, but only to increase the amount of food for cannon…

TREATMENT OF C.O.’S ON EXPIRATION OF SENTENCE

_h3. From The Tribunal 20th August 1916

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/tribunal_

EXAMPLE 1

The following is the experience of Mr. H. Gortem-
On Saturday, July 20, 1916, Selwyn Hayes, H. D. Hobart and myself, having completed a sentence of 119 days at Wandsworth Detention Barracks, were due for release. We were called before the Commandant separately, and he told us that he had received a letter from the War Office, and that two alternatives were open to him. He could either send us back to our depots and we should probably, on disobeying orders, get another sentence of 18 months, or we might be released on furlough for an indefinite period, provided we promised three things, vis.:

1) That when called upon we would appear before the Central Tribunal, the Army Authorities having asked that body to investigate our cases, if satisfied of the bona-fides of our convictions, to ask us to do work of national importance.

The three of us made if perfectly clear that the only work of national importance we were prepared to undertake would be of a reconstructive character. In reply to that, the Commandant stated that it was impossible for him to decide what would be considered work of national importance by that body, but that such questions must be settled between ourselves and the Tribunal.

2) We were to give our names and permanent addresses, and
3) Promise that in the event of the Tribunal rejecting our claims we would report at our depots.

We acceded to the above conditions, though we made it perfectly clear that in the case of reporting at our depots we could not obey military orders,

We were then released at three o’clock.

At two o’clock an escort had called for us, consisting of a sergeant and one man. I asked the escort if they had called for us, and the sergeant replied “Yes,” and were taking us back to Hounslow. We asked the corporal in charge of us at the time whether any alteration had been made to the Commandant’s instructions. He replied: “There is something special in your case,” and asked the sergeant of the escort to wait.

We then had to wait until the Commandant arrived, which was about 2.45. The Commandant handed a letter to the escort, whose scruples were satisfied, the letter being to the effect that we had been granted indefinite furlough, as related above.

The escort accompanied us to the gate; we shook hands with them, and departed.

NOTES OF INTEREST

From the Tribunal, August 3 1916
__
_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

Observing that it was a travesty of the English language to say that a man had not joined the Army was deemed to have done so, Mr. Hay Halkett, a Greenwich magistrate, allowed a member of N.C.F. to have a remand so as to have his case re-heard.

*
The many people who are asking after C.H. Norman will be pleased to hear rhat he was recently seen at Wormwood Scrubs by another C.O., whom he asked to let his friends know that he is considerably better in health where he is and being kindly treated by the warders.

*
Dr. Macnamara, speaking in the House on July 25, said that war was waste. Up to the moment of going to press he has not been summoned under the Defence of the Realm Act.

*
Rev. William Piggott, minister and warden of Blackfriars Mission, who is well known to members of the N.C.F. and the I.L.P., recently received a yellow form. The recruiting officer justified himself by saying that the registration authorities had given his name as a military conscript, and that by the latest “instructions” Unitarian ministers were not exepted, in spite of what the Military Service Act might say.

*
The Rev. Fred Hanlinson, of kentish Town Unitarian Church, received a similar notice, but in his case it was withdrawn with an apology. The vigorous Pacifist activities of these two ministers no doubt had something to do with the case.

*
A resolution has just been passed by the Parliamentary Committee of the Scottish Trade Union Congress “urging His Majesty’s Government to at once make an inquiry into the treatmet of conscientious objectors under military control.”

A MAGISTRATE'S PROTEST

From The Tribunal, July 27th 1916
__
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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

What is rightly called in the press “an unusual situation” arose at the York City Police Court on July 18, when Mr. Robert Kay, the presiding magistrate, refused to hand over to the Military Authorities Herbert Coupland, a conscientious objector, charged with being an absentee.

Mr. Kay said that the Act of Parliament exempted genuine conscientious objectors from military service. He knew the man before him, and knew him to be an honest, hard-working man, and a conscientious objector – not a shirker but a real man. He did not think the military authorities had any right to ask to be handed over to them a man whom the law of the land exempted from military service. He objected to handing him over to the military, because they had dealt so fiercely with others such as he who had been handed over previously. “Whatever may be the consequences,” he said, “I will not hand over, and I will not be a party to handing over Herbert Coupland, who I have known all his life, to be treated as some conscientious objectors have been dealt with.”

The other magistrate disagreeing, Coupland was discharged. He was, however, owing to the beneficent provisions of the law, charged again and brought before another magistrate, with the usual result.

The Yorkshire Herald said such conduct was absolutely against the whole principle of English law. We are beginning to agree. It further adds that it is largely inconsistent with the pure administration of justice; but that’s changing the subject

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