WW1

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

WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE?

From The Tribunal July 20th 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 other extracts go to:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Another debate on the position of the conscientious objector took place on the Vote of Supply to the Local Government Board.

Mr. Morrell wanted to know what steps the president of the Local Government Board was taking to see that the administration by the Tribunals of the second Military Service Act was more satisfactory than the administration of the first Act. After quoting various instances of maladministration by the Tribunals Mr. Morrell criticised the statement which had repeatedly been made by Mr. Long as to the satisfactory working of the Tribunals. “The facts show,” he said, “that over and over again, not in scores of cases, but in hundreds of cases, I venture to say even in thousands of cases, but certainly in hundreds, the Tribunals have utterly declined to acknowledge the genuineness of the objection held by the applicant before them, and they have not given him the relief which Parliament intended he should have. What is the reason of all the trouble? It can only be traced back to one thing, the mistake of the Tribunals before which the men were called. To-day a question was asked about thirty-four men who were condemned to death in France. Here you have thirty-four men, well known, of good education and hight character, who were taken over to France, and who, because they refused to obey military orders, were condemned to death, and afterwards to ten years’ penal servitude, which, presumably, they are now undergoing. Who is responsible? Ultimately it is the Tribunals who fail to recognise the genuineness of the conscientious objection of these men. What these men had suffered and are prepared to suffer is absolute proof that the Tribunals before whom they came acted wrongly. These men suffered over and over again what the Secretary of State called horseplay, but what most people would call torture and persecution, and all because their consciences prevented them obeying military orders. Who was responsible? Again, it can be traced back to the Tribunals who failed to discover the real conscientious objection that these men held, and failed to give them the relief which Parliament intended them to have under the Act. As a matter of obvious fact, this shows that we were right, and the right hon, gentleman wrong in saying that the Tribunals would act fairly in regard to this matter.

Who Is Responsible?

From the Tribunal July 20th 1916

Another debate on the position of the conscientious objector took place on the Vote of Supply to the Local Government Board.

Mr. Morrell wanted to know what steps the president of the Local Government Board was taking to see that the administration by the Tribunals of the second Military Service Act was more satisfactory than the administration of the first Act. After quoting various instances of maladministration by the Tribunals Mr. Morrell criticised the statement which had repeatedly been made by Mr. Long as to the satisfactory working of the Tribunals. “The facts show,” he said, “that over and over again, not in scores of cases, but in hundreds of cases, I venture to say even in thousands of cases, but certainly in hundreds, the Tribunals have utterly declined to acknowledge the genuineness of the objection held by the applicant before them, and they have not given him the relief which Parliament intended he should have. What is the reason of all the trouble? It can only be traced back to one thing, the mistake of the Tribunals before which the men were called. To-day a question was asked about thirty-four men who were condemned to death in France. Here you have thirty-four men, well known, of good education and hight character, who were taken over to France, and who, because they refused to obey military orders, were condemned to death, and afterwards to ten years’ penal servitude, which, presumably, they are now undergoing. Who is responsible? Ultimately it is the Tribunals who fail to recognise the genuineness of the conscientious objection of these men. What these men had suffered and are prepared to suffer is absolute proof that the Tribunals before whom they came acted wrongly. These men suffered over and over again what the Secretary of State called horseplay, but what most people would call torture and persecution, and all because their consciences prevented them obeying military orders. Who was responsible? Again, it can be traced back to the Tribunals who failed to discover the real conscientious objection that these men held, and failed to give them the relief which Parliament intended them to have under the Act. As a matter of obvious fact, this shows that we were right, and the right hon, gentleman wrong in saying that the Tribunals would act fairly in regard to this matter.

WHAT IS HAPPENING AT WESTMINSTER

From the Tribunal, July 6 1916

TUESDAY, JUNE 27.
MR. PETO AND CLIFFORD ALLEN; AN ANXIOUS INQUIRY

Mr. Peto asked the Home Secretary how many of the leaders of the Anti-Conscription movement who have been sentenced by Court-Martial to terms of imprisonment have since been released; whether these men of military age have restarted their efforts to break down the Military Service Act immediately on release; whether he is aware that Clifford Allen, the chairman of the “No-Conscription Fellowship” urged men of military age, at a meeting at 186, Bishopsgate. On April 8, to defy the Military Service Act, and promised assistance to all who were absentees, and that Clifford Allen was sentenced to a term of imprisonment; will he say whether he is now at liberty; and will he say whether he addressed a meeting at the offices of the National Council Against Conscription at 22, Bride Lane, E.C., on Tuesday evening, the 20th instant, at six o’clock/

Mr. Tennant: The answer to the first part of the question is that there have been no releases, as far as I am aware, and the second part does not therefore arrive. Mr. Clifford Allen has not been sentenced. He is still at liberty, but is due to report for service on June 30. The meeting of the Executive Committee took place from 4.30 to 6 on the date mentioned.

THURSDAY, JUNE 29.
NO MORE C.O.’S TO BE SENT TO FRANCE

Mr. Whitehouse asked the Prime Minister if he would, pending the adoption of the methods he has outlined, prevent the dispatch of any more conscientious objectors to France?

The Prime Minister: As far as I am concerned, and as far as the War Office is concerned, no soldier will be sent to France who we have good reason to believe is a conscientious objector.

From 34 DEATH SENTENCES IN FRANCE

COMMUTED TO TEN YEARS PENAL SERVITUDE

MR TENNANT STILL HELPLESS

HAS – “NO INFORMATION”

In spite of repeated assurances as to the impossibility of the death sentence being inflicted on conscientious objectors in France, we received on Thursday, June 22, news that on the previous Thursday, at Bologne, four conscientious objectors, who had been court-martialled for refusing to obey military orders, were sentenced to be shot.

The four men were Messsrs. Marten, Scullard, Foister and Ring. On the date mentioned, the regiment was drawn up and the men paraded for their sentence to be pronounced, the court martial having been held some days previously. It is said to have been an impressive and solemn function.

The court-martial sentence of death was pronounced by an offer; after which there was a pause, and then came the announcement of the subsequent commutations of the sentence to

TEN YEARS PENAL SERVITUDE.

These men were members of the first party of conscientious objectors sent on May 8 to France, where the Non-Combatant Corps is stationed, and employed on such duties as quarrying and road-making. Before going to France they had served a term of imprisonment in Harwich Redoubt. They have consistently refused to obey all military orders on the ground that it is against their conscience.

It is understood that sentence of death was commuted by General Sir Douglas Haig. The prisoners have been transferred to Rouen, and it is expected that they will be returned to England.
h3. From The Tribunal [*** insert date of article ***}

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

HOW THE “HORSEPLAY” WAS STOPPED

From The Tribunal June 22nd 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

——
Among Conscientious Objectors who have endured hardships with a cheerful courage are some who have found their trouble most difficult to bear, not so much because of their physical pain, but because their sufferings have been caused by the ill-will and the maliciousness of those in whose charge they have been placed. The legal punishment may be hard to bear, but the illegal ill-usage by individual soldiers, accompanied as it is with hatred occasioned by their misunderstanding of the victim’s point of view, is without doubt most difficult to bear, just because of the hate and misunderstanding.

Among such Conscientious Objectors were four men in the same place. Their usage was so rough and brutal that the accounts of it which reached us, and which were also sent to numerous people, aroused such intense feeling that quite a number of people became active on their behalf. It was no easy matter patiently to wait until the accumulation of material, confirmed fortunately by information from an independent source, was sufficient to constitute evidence upon which action might be taken. The aim in connection with the matter was, of course, to have an immediate stop put to the bad treatment of these men in particular, and of others too, as reports showed us that this kind of treatment was, to some extent, going on all over the country. An interview with some officers in high position, and it is comforting to find that their view and the view that they said was held in the army, was dead set against anything in the nature of bullying; indeed, they urged that they should be given specific information which would enable them to make examples of the guilty parties, if such they were. Of course, they professed absolute belief that what we complained of had never occurred and was quite impossible. The crux of the position was that they said such treatment could only be stopped if definite charges were made and disciplinary action reverted to, and the challenged the production of evidence to this end. What was to be done? The friend who had this matter in hand regarded the whole question from the Christian standpoint. He felt that while he desired that the bad treatment should cease, he was not willing to occasion the punishment of those who were guilty. It took some time to explain this attitude to the officers, but it is a great pleasure to record that when once the attitude was grasped the whole atmosphere of the interview changed, and that unbending – so far as officers in high military positions can unbend – they showed the greatest possible interest and sympathy.

Further interviews were arranged with other officers – this time those having the particular men in their charge. Practically the same experience was encountered, and in the final result there was quite obviously a friendliness on the part of the officers seen, and the definite promise from the officer commanding the regiment that if such bullying had taken place he would see to it that it ceased as far as these men were concerned, and be quite impossible in the future in his regiment for these men or any others. As a matter of fact, apart altogether from the action here described there may be a War Office inquiry into what was endured by these men. It may even be that some offenders will be punished, but this would be deplored by the friend who had the matter in hand, and by the men concerned.

Two things further have to be recorded: First, that so far as can be discovered, the bad illegal treatment has altogether ceased at that particular barracks; and, second, that when the four men were brought singly before the Commanding Officer, without knowing anything of the action taken on their behalf, or the attitude of the friend concerned, they each, when it was put to them, said they had suffered the bad treatment as described, but had no desire to give names or retaliate upon their tormentors in any way whatever.

June 22 19i6

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