From The Tribunal of March 15 1916

This is the second 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 local authority, in making their appointments to the tribunals, should bear in mind that the tribunal will have to hear, among the applications, those made on the grounds of conscientious objection. MEN WHO APPLY SHOULD FEEL THAT THEY ARE BEING JUDGED BY A TRIBUNAL THAT WILL DEAL FAIRLY WITH THEIR CASES.” Mr Walter Long in L.G.B Circular.


A member of the Oldham Tribunal, referring to conscientious objectors, said he was not often ashamed of his fellow-men, but he so with men such as those before him.

At Huddersfield two Socialists claimed on conscience grounds and were granted exemption fro combatant service only, the military representative (Captain Bradbury) remarking: These men are a great evil and will hinder recruiting if they are left.

At the Salford Tribunal the Chairman refused to allow Principal Graham to explain certain points in connection with the belief of the Society of Friends, remarking that “they could not listen to arguments.”

Sir Joseph Sykes Tymer, at York Tribunal: “I think God has made a great mistake in sending you to earth before the Millenium.” Of course, he was speaking to a conscientious objector.

The Chairman of Wirral Tribunal: I wish the Government had not put this clause about conscientious objectors in the Act. I don’t agree with it myself.

March 15 1916

NFPB Update November 2015

NFPB meetings

Northern Friends Peace Board has met three times during 2015. Its fourth and final meeting of the year will be in Lancaster on 28th November. Previous meetings have been in Perth, Leeds and Glasgow. After our meetings in Scotland NFPB members joined with Scottish Friends for Meetings for Worship at the Faslane naval base (and home of Trident nuclear submarine). In Leeds we joined Leeds Friends in a public witness for the non-renewal of the UK nuclear weapons’ system, Trident. This concern will also be on our agenda at our Lancaster meeting.
Interested Friends and Attenders are welcome to join us at our meetings to consider these and other areas of concern. Contact the NFPB office (see overleaf) for further information.

h3. Challenging Militarism, then and now.

As well as the Meetings for Worship at Faslane mentioned above, there are regular Meetings at Menwith Hill and at Fylingdales. Our website calendar has information about these.
NFPB has been part of a working group of peace bodies that have worked together to promote and produce resources for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. This will be taking place again in mid-April 2016 and it could be timely if readers want to begin planning for that.
NFPB Members and other Friends have been busy developing resources that mark the centenary of the first world war, with a
particular focus on the introduction of conscription in 1916. Events and resources are publicised via our website calendar and social media sites.

h3. Building Peace in Diverse Britain

We ran a second young people’s event earlier this year, bringing teenagers together for a day of workshops and discussion on the theme of ‘Young people, peace and community’. This brought our most recent phase of work on this concern to a close and a report of the last five years’ work was published at the end of September (see http://bit.ly/20tuHwQ) .
NFPB members have expressed a strong hope that we can continue to develop this strand of our work and we are currently looking for new members to join the project group. We were pleased to be able to share this work at the recent conference in London on Interfaith Peacebuilding, organised by the Quaker Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relationships.

h3. Alternative approaches to building security

Before the UK General Election we produced and distributed a short leaflet encouraging candidates to engage in thinking around building security through non-military means. Using the title ‘Security for the Common Good’, we have subsequently adapted the leaflet for Friends and others to use with sitting MPs, and with members of the Government. Copies are available to download from http://nfpb.org.uk/genel2015 and in printed form from the NFPB office. At our NFPB meeting in Perth we considered the ‘Ammerdown Invitation’ document and encourage others to explore and respond to these issues. The text can be found at: : “Security for the future: in search of a new vision” – http://bit.ly/ZdILQ2
Our project group on Sustainable security is planning a spring conference to give support to Friends and others in engaging with media around these concerns. We shall publish details of that event in due course.

h3. Gathering, networking and sharing information

We are keen to support small and informal regional NFPB gatherings, for Friends and Attenders to spend time sharing concerns and information, engaging in some joint activity, in worship and over a shared lunch … or whatever else Friends would find helpful. If you would like to discuss hosting one of these, please contact Philip Austin at the NFPB office.
Our website and social media pages are regularly updated and we are always happy to hear from Friends with news and information that we can share with a wider audience using these tools.
We have for sale posters and postcards, as well as tea-towels, that were initially produced for our NFPB Centenary in 2013. Follow this link – for an order form (http://bit.ly/1Mco6Ny) – or phone the NFPB office for information. If you would like some of these for an event on a sale or return basis, we would be happy to supply these.

h3. NFPB Trustees review

Our Executive Committee, which acts as the trustee body or NFPB, had a short residential meeting at the end of October. They considered current and anticipated priorities and challenges. They also, since they were meeting at Swarthmoor Hall, took the opportunity to meet with local Friends. This was a chance to hear and explore a range of peace concerns, with the issue of Trident submarine production at neighbouring Barrow in Furness being particularly high on the agenda.

We sometimes appoint as trustees Friends who have not been NFPB representatives. If you are interested in possible service in this or other capacities (including Clerking) with NFPB, please do get in touch.

Thank you Friends for your continuing support.

File attachments: 
PDF icon nfpb_update_november_2015.pdf289.07 KB

NFPB Update, March 2016

European Connections

In November we were represented at the Peace and Service Consultation near Brussels for Friends in Europe and the Middle East. Taking place against a backdrop of the security clampdown in the city after the Paris attacks , the gathering agreed a short statement, which can be read in full at: http://www.fwccemes.org/news/european-quakers-call-for-an-end-to-the-cyc....
The statement concludes: “The faith that led us over the past centuries to deny war, oppose slavery, support conscientious objection, help rescue Jewish children in the 1930s, care for refugees and rebuild war-torn Europe, impels us today to pledge ourselves to serve our neighbours, whoever and wherever they may be, and to take a principled stand against the belief that violence is the solution to conflict.
“We call on those in power to reject military responses, and adopt non-violent strategies to bring about stability and safety for all people.”

Militarism and military spending – asking questions and promoting alternatives

NFPB is again supporting the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, which this year will be on 18th April and is now part of an ongoing Global Campaign On Military Spending. We are linking with a range of other peace
organisations to encourage awareness and action on the issue. There are a number of resources for people to learn more and suggestions for taking action at: https://demilitarize.org.uk
The wider context of militarism more generally was the subject of a recent seminar in Leeds, at which we were well represented. This was the first of a series of preparatory meetings around the world that will feed into an international conference in Berlin in the early autumn on the theme of “Disarm! For a Climate of Peace – Creating an Action Agenda”.

Veterans for Peace

We have met recently with members of Veterans for Peace, an organisation of former servicemen and women dedicated to the abolition of war. Their members’ wartime experiences range from World War 2 through to Afghanistan. They are are available and keen to run school workshops that focus on three questions;
1. Why join the army?
2. What is army training like?
3. What is war like?
They help the students to find answers to these questions through their own experiences and the use of video.
If you are interested and require more information please email [email protected]

Tea towels – organic and green

We have reprinted our tea-towels – with the quotation from William Penn – on organic and fair-trade cotton. The new printing has the checked border in green rather than red and are still available for £5 each plus P&P.
Go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/news/2015-12-1/peace-tea-towels

Engaging with media on peace concerns

We are planning a day conference on how we can engage with news and other media in asking questions and putting forward alternative approaches to security in our interlinked and inter-dependent world. The conference is due to take place in Darlington on Saturday 11th June – see our website at http://nfpb.org.uk/mediaconf for more details as they become available.

WW1 Centenary – focus on conscience and choices

Northern Friends continue to play a part in planning and putting on a range of materials and activities that explore the challenges to conscience during the 1914-18 war. In Hexham, the theme Voices and Choices provided a framework for the town’s twin communities in France and Germany, Noyen and Metzingen, to join as three communities remembering the individual choices made during World War 1 and reflect on the decisions we face 100 years later. A fortnight of activities during November saw an exhibition, music, and talks and discussions on both past and current issues of militarism.
In February, Friends in East Cheshire focussed specifically on the relevance of the introduction of conscription in 1916. An exhibition shown in Macclesfield throughout the ten days was supplemented by workshops for families and a storytelling performance.

NFPB Meetings

At the end of November NFPB members gathered in Lancaster for their final meeting of the year, with Robin Bowles completing his second term as Clerk. We were pleased to be joined by Friends from Lancaster and the region, hearing from them about their concerns and action on social justice. Brian Larkin, from the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, talked about the range of their work on current peace education and Trident-related concerns, as well as the progress of their plans to have a memorial to conscientious objectors placed in a prominent location in the city.
The NFPB Executive, who serve as Trustees, spent two days at Swarthmoor Hall in October, taking stock of our current work and looking ahead. They also took the opportunity to meet with local Friends, with the links between neighbouring Barrow-in-Furness and the possible renewal of Trident forming a key focus for discussion. From that exploration and sharing of perspectives, a small group is looking at ways of developing further work on the interlinked issues of job-security, austerity, climate change and nuclear disarmament. Some proposals for how this might be taken forward in the Barrow area will be considered when the Board meets again, in Nottingham on 5th March.

Sowing the Seeds of Peace

NFPB joined with South Manchester Friends to facilitate a weekend workshop at Glenthorne in November. The weekend was a mix of reflection, discussion, listening and worship. With the violent attacks in Paris fresh in people’s minds, the group explored the challenges and opportunities for building and taking action for peace, drawing inspiration from our Quaker heritage and from new insights and cultures in Britain today.
If other meetings would like help in planning an event on a peace theme, from a half-day to a whole weekend, please do get in touch.

File attachments: 
PDF icon nfpb_update_march_2016.pdf249.07 KB

From The Tribunal, 8th March 1916

This is the first in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918

Extract from The Tribunal 1st Issue – March 8th 1916 Edited by W J Chamberlain


The object of the “Tribunal” will be to acquaint our members and the general public with those facts concerning the Military Service Act which receive scant attention from the daily press just because they provide the gravest indictment of that Act.

The mass of evidence of scandalous maladministration of the Act, which we shall publish will, we hope, be of some assistance to all who are fighting with us for its repeal. Our greatest difficulty will be lack of space. We must ask the indulgence of our readers in this matter, and urge them to consider that paper is very dear, and that heavy demands are already being made upon our funds. Perhaps this hint will be taken so seriously by many of our supporters that our next issue will have grown!

We know we can rely upon our Branch Secretaries and members generally to do their utmost to secure us the widest possible circulation, and to place the paper in the hands of those who should be in possession of the facts recorded.



The administration of the Military Service Act must be at once challenged. The Act recognises conscience, and calls upon the conscientious objector to lay his case before Tribunals. Accordingly, some 10,000 members of the No-Conscription Fellowship and other bodies have sent in claims for exemption. The Tribunals, however, notwithstanding that Parliament has recognised conscience, seems to take the view that a conscientious objector, whatever his statement of belief, is a person to be rebuked, bullied, and condemned.

Presumably the Government intended a conscientious objection to be submitted either by word of mouth, or in writing: so far as we are aware, there is no other method of putting into effect the Government’s proposal. Tribunals, however, arrive at their decisions without regard to, or in direct conflict with everything the conscientious objector says or writes. If he argues Christianity he is told that he is a hypocrite; if his he argues Socialism he is told that he is a politician; if his replies are consistent, the indignation of the Tribunals is intensified. It is imperative that the Government should realise the serious position that will be created by this conflict between the method of the Tribunals and the intention of Parliament, as expressed in the Act.

The vast majority of conscientious objectors can make no distinction between combatant and non-combatant military service. If the firing of a rifle is wrong, the carrying of the ammunition is equally wrong. We have emphasised the contention in our recent letter to the President of the Local Government Board, while this belief of the conscientious objector was made abundantly clear to the Prime Minister during the passage of the Bill through Parliament. The Act was so drawn as to provide for the granting of absolute exemption to such applicants. Notwithstanding this, however, and regardless of the point of view of the claimant, non-combatant military service is invariably imposed by the Tribunals. The only possible result is that all conscientious objectors are appealing to the Appeals Tribunals.

It is probable that the Government may give more explicit for uniform and understanding treatment by the Appeals Tribunals. If, however, these higher Tribunals decline to grant absolute exemption and impose non-combatant service, the Government and the public must not for a moment suppose that the objector who claims exemption on grounds of conscience will then waive his conscience and accept a service which he believes to be wrong.

If the local Tribunals refuse even to recognise conscience, and the Appeal Tribunals maintain their decisions, the Government will ultimately have to face the problem of imposing penalties upon the conscientious objector. His belief, absurd and inconsiderate as it may be deemed, is so sincerely held, that he must and will suffer rather than be false to his faith.

It is well that this serious position arising from administration of the Act should at once be clearly understood.


NFPB has access to a nearly complete set of issues of The Tribunal, the journal published by the No Conscription Fellowship between March 1916 and November 1918. We will be publishing occasional extracts from these between March 2016 and November 2018. Our predecessors had close links with the No Conscription Fellowship and committed significant time and energy during the first world war to supporting those who faced tribunals and difficult choices on the basis of their conscientious objection to fighting. Readers might also find much of interest on the White Feather Diaries website , which “follows the lives of five young people who lived a century ago and opposed World War I”

Steven Waling has written about his choice of extracts here

For information about conscientious objection in the world today, the following links might be helpful:

Tribunal Extracts

Resistance to War 1914-1924

Friday, March 18, 2016 to Sunday, March 20, 2016

University of Leeds
This international conference brings together scholars from more than eleven nations and community groups from across the UK to explore aspects of opposition to the First World War during and in the aftermath of conflict.

100 Years of Conscience

Sunday, January 24, 2016

at 19:00–20:30, Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, NE6 5HN Newcastle upon Tyne
A service to mark the centenary of the passing of the Military Service Act – organised by Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee, hosted by Heaton Baptist Church.

Out of the Silence

Friday, February 26, 2016

Storytelling Performance telling the forgotten stories of WW1 Conscientious Objectors.
Macclesfield Library. Jordangate SK10 1EE at 7.30 p.m. Tickets Eventbrite


War & Conscience: Choices Then and Now 1916-2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 to Saturday, February 27, 2016

Exhibition by East Cheshire Quakers, coinciding with the centenary of conscription – http://www.macclesfieldreflects.org.uk/2015/02/15/feb-2016-war-and-consc...

1916 and the Quaker Conscience

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 to Thursday, November 3, 2016

Course at Woodbrooke http://www.woodbrooke.org.uk



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