WW1

A VISIT TO THE C.O’S IN FRANCE

From The Tribunal June 15th 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

——

Dr. F.B. Meyer and Mr. Hubert Peel have just returned from a visit to some the companies of the Non-Combatant Corps now in France, the journey having been undertaken as the result of a suggestion made just before his departure from Russia by Lord Kitchener during the discussion of the Conscientious Objector with some well-known Free Church ministers.

In an interview with a London News Agency representative, Dr Meyer explained that it was not sufficiently realised that the 450 men who had been drafted abroad were to be divided into two categories, namely those who had accepted the non-combatant certificates granted by the Tribunal, their conscientious objection being met by release from actual combatant service, and those who felt it inconsistent for them as Conscientious Objectors to do any work of a military nature.

“We found two companies of the men in the former category,” said Dr. Meyer. “hard at work in a quarry where they are relieving royal Engineers from the task of providing the metal for the French roads for which the British authorities are responsible. Many of the men are Plymouth Brethren, and they have been allotted the use of a kiln for their religious worship, which they conduct themselves. Their religious scruples arising out of the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ are met, and they seemed to be working well and contentedly.”

The chief problem of the authorities, however, is regarding the men, amongst whom are several Quakers, shoolmasters, and University men, who, though they have been recognised as Conscientious Objectors, have only been granted exemption from combatant service by their Tribunals.

“This does not meet their case,” said Dr. Meyer, “and since their arrest thy have refused to obey any military orders, with the consequence that on arrival in France, they have become liable to various severe penalties, which in ordinary cases might include the death penalty, though I think we take it for granted that it will not be inflicted in any of these cases.”

“Fourteen of these men we were allowed to visit in No. 1 Field Punishment Barracks, where most of them were finishing a period of 28 days’ detention, while several were also awaiting the results of the Courts-Martial that had been held on them. By the courtesy of the Commandant I addressed the men and also spoke to them individually.

The men stated that they had not been subjected to rough treatment, that they were prepared to take their punishment, and that their treatment was decidedly better than much they had experienced in England.

In the Guardroom of another camp liberty was given to Dr. Meyer to speak to a party of 21 men who were awaiting Court-martial for a refusal to obey orders.

“It is a great pity from the point of view of military efficiency that these men should have been sent to France,” he said. “They have received no training, and their detention in the camp only interferes with the smooth running of arrangements. Would it not be wiser, therefore, to hand over these men to the civil authorities, which, at the expiry of the sentence inflicted by the military, might set to work of national importance, under a kind of ticket-of-leave system, until the end of the war? If a man would not accept the latter, he could, of course, be kept in custody.”

Caught in the War Machine? Women in German 1914-18

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Grassington & District Peace Group and Skipton Quakers Annual Peace Lecture, given by Dr Ingrid Sharp, 7.30pm at Friends Meeting House, Skipton, the Ginnel, off Newmarket St. [email protected]

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SUMMONED FOR DISTRIBUTING THE TRIBUNAL

From The Tribunal, Thursday 1st June 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

——
Case Dismissed

Summonses against three members of the Nottingham Branch of the N.C.F., taken under the by-laws, were dismissed at the Nottingham Summons Court on May 24th, on a technical point raised for the defence.

The defendants were H.W. Lowe, of 174 Birkin Avenue; Richard Papworth, of 105, Egypt Road; and Thomas Parker, of 106, Bluebell Hill, who were charged with distributing handbills on the footway to the obstruction and annoyance of pedestrians. The “handbills” consisted of copies of the Tribunal, which were being distributed to people as they left the churches.

The names of two other members, Messrs. Levy and Bird, were also called, but in respect of these Inspector Hewett informed the magistrates that the men were in the custody of the military, having been fetched under escort. In consequence of that fact, he asked the summonses against the men should be allowed to be withdrawn. This was granted.

Inspector Bingham produced a certified copy of the by-law under which the proceedings were taken, from which, under cross-examination, Mr. Young, who defended, read an extract explaining to the magistrate that the by-law made it an offence for any person who “in any street or market-place of the city of Nottingham” distribute any handbills “advertising any trade, business or profession, or the sale of any goods, wares, or merchandises, or any lecture, entertainment, or performance.”

Mr Young: Have you looked at these papers they were distributing? – Yes sir.
What profession or business do they advertise? – None.
What goods, wares, or merchandise? – None.
Lecture or entertainment? – They advertise the tribunals.
But those are supposed to be courts of justice!

After corroborative evidence had been called, Mr. Young submitted that there was no evidence of any advertising. There were three small advertisements, but these advocated a cause and literature supporting that cause, and were not at all the sort of thing the by-law was intended to stop.

Tribunal, June 1 1916

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HOW IT IS DONE

From The Tribunal, Thursday 25th May 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

——

Scene: Guard room of any barracks
Enter Captain, who addresses Conscientious Objector: Well, are you still determined to be obstinate?

C.O.: I must respectfully decline to obey any military order.

Captain: Umph! You’re a d———— fool, you know, and you will have to go through the mill if you don’t consent to make the best of a bad job and give in now you have made your protest.

C.O.: My decision is absolutely unalterable; I shall never submit to become part of the military machine.

Captain: OH! Well, then of course, you shall have to be court-martialed.

C.O.: I am quite ready to suffer any consequence of my action.

Captain: You may be liable to be shot in certain circumstances.

C.O.: I should consider it an honour to die for the faith which is in me.

Captain: I see it’s no use wasting my time further on you. I will call the corporal and give you an order in his presence. You will, I suppose, refuse to obey my order, and this will be sufficient for the court-martial.

(Captain goes to door and returns with corporal.)

Captain, to Corporal: I want you to watch this carefully. I am going to give this man an order, and he is going to refuse to obey it.

(Corporal salutes and stands at “attention,” with a twinkle in his eye.)

Captain to C.O.: Private Smith – “’Shon!”

(C.O. declines to “’shon” and sits down instead.

Captain: You witnessed that, Corporal?

Corporal: Yes, sir!

Captain to C.O.: That will do. You will receive notice of your court-martial in due course.

C.O.: Thank you, sir. Good day!
——
The scene above is a perfectly accurate description of the procedure adopted with the majority of our members prior to their trial by court-martial. Of course, the military authorities should be the best judges of what is likely to “prejudice the discipline of His Majesty’s Army!”

Conscience and Conscription: Resistance to War 1916-2016

Friday, October 14, 2016 to Saturday, October 15, 2016

Peace History Conference, Leeds Venues: Holy Trinity Church and Leeds City Museum. Further information via
http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/ and book tickets online here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2585702

‘A PERSONAL WORD’

From ‘A PERSONAL WORD’ by Clifford Allen (The Tribunal May 12th)

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

… I, personally, cannot accept Alternative Service. Knowing that this is a Military Service Act for men and women of all ages, I am not in the least impressed by the strictures of our friends. On the other hand, I want members to allow me to express a word of caution.

The strain through which we are all passing is enough to test the wisest of us, but it is just as essential that we should remain tolerant, as it is that we should continue determined and full of hope. There is a tendency amongst us to define men as conscientious objectors according to whether they are or are not prepared to accept alternative civil service. Surely this is a grave error. Have we not all along said that the individual himself can be the only judge of conscience? I have to report myself to my Tribunal on Thursday to explain why I have not undertaken this service, but at the same time, I look upon it as my duty and my privilege to advise those who are prepared to take alternative service as to the best way to set about it. The Convention, by an overall majority, decided against alternative service. Some men are hesitating to take this service solely through loyalty to the Fellowship. This is entirely misguided. Such loyalty to the Fellowship will only result in the gravest disloyalty to the individual conscience, and that is fatal to the very principle for which we stand, and will result in nothing but disaster when men are handed over to military custody. So far, practically the whole of our 150 comrades who are in military custody are remaining resolute in face of every effort to break their spirit. It would, however, prove fatal if any policy was adopted which resulted in men arriving at a decision that they were not prepared to maintain. If any man is forced in custody to accept a service he previously refused, surely he will deprive himself of the spiritual value of his protest. No man should adopt any decision unless he is individually fully convinced of its wisdom. Nothing then can break him.

A WOUNDED SOLDIER ON THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

From The Tribunal of May 4th 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

To the Editor of “The Nation.”

Sir, – I should be glad if would publish these few words of a wounded soldier, if only to remove the widespread belief that those who are fighting have no respect for the Conscientious Objector. Just as, for the most part, thoes (sic.) who volunteered to fight did so from a supreme sense of duty, so also do the conscientious objectors carry out what they consider to be their supreme duty to humanity and to their country.

Because the clause in the Compulsion Act, which provides for the Conscientious Objector, has been abused by a few who have falsely arrayed themselves in the garb of the Conscientious Objector, that is no reason why the tribunals, which for the most part consist of men who are too old to fight themselves, should treat those obviously sincere objectors in the intolerant spirit which they have in general adopted.

The volunteer is honoured because he obeys the mandates of conscience rather than the dictates of expediency. Why, then should we persecute the Conscientious Objector for adopting precisely the same attitude? – Yours, etc.,
W.E.Armstrong.
(Address)
[We commend this letter to the attention of Mr. Justice Darling and Mr. Justice Lawrence. – Ed., “The Nation.”]

Tribunal, May 4th 1916

Courage, Conscience & Creativity

Saturday, May 28, 2016 to Sunday, December 4, 2016

until 4 December | http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Peace-Display.aspx
Leeds City Museum – a new community display opens in the Leeds Story Gallery as part of Leeds City Museum’s First World War commemorations. Co-curated by the Concord Interfaith Network in Leeds, Leeds Quakers and Bradford Peace Museum, the display focuses on the themes of peace, interfaith work and conscientious objectors.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

From The Tribunal of April 6 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 following letter appeared in the “Daily News”, the “Daily Chronicle,” and the “Manchester Guardian,” on March 30th:

Sir,- This country entered into the war in the belief that it was a war on behalf of freedom. We believe that it is right to fight for such a cause, but we desire to be true to the cause while we fight for it. Those who were convinced that the national need justified the use of some form of compulsion to military service recognised the inalienable right of all men to freedom of conscience, and the right to claim and to obtain exemption from combatant service, and in some cases total exemption, was by the Military Service Act given to bona fide conscientious objectors to war.

No one will have any sympathy with men who would shelter themselves under a pretence of conscientious scruples, and all will admit the necessity for careful examination. Some of the applicants are doubtless vexatious persons. The duty of the Tribunals is an arduous and delicate one. While fully recognising the difficulties of the situation, we cannot but fear that there is foundation for the charge that in many cases the examination has not been conducted with the fairness and respect for sincerely held opinions, which Englishmen demand and respect. There is considerable evidence of brow-beating, and of a disposition to treat with scorn the very idea of conscientious objection. Conscience, however mistaken, ought not to be the subject for public ridicule.

We desire to affirm our conviction that the preservation of freedom of conscience is a vital religious principle.

(Signed) D.S. Cairns; G. Campbell Morgan; J. Clifford; A. Clutton Brock; J. Monro Gibson; R.F. Horton; Albert Mansbridge; C. Oxon; W.B. Selbie; W. Temple; Edward Winton.

April 6th 1916

From The Tribunal of March 28 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

Extract from The Tribunal, 28th March 1916

MISTER AYLMER ROSE BEFORE HIS EMPLOYER
The business of his employer

Mr Aylmer Rose, the Organising Secretary to the N.C.F., appeared before Southwark Tribunal on March 21st, claiming absolute exemption on grounds of conscience. The Clerk to the Tribunal was somewhat taken aback when he came to the applicant’s description of his occupation. Turning to the Chairman with a gasp of astonishment, he said:

“He says that the business of his employer is ‘A Fellowship for common counsel and action of men of enlistment age who are not prepared to bear arms in the event of conscription, whatever the penalties for refusing.

In the course of the proceedings the Chairman remarked to the applicant: “And you will do nothing to get your country out of its present difficulties?”

Mr. Rose: No, that is not my position; I AM doing something to get the country out of its difficulties. I advocate peace and oppose militarism, and have always done so.”

Chorus from Tribunal: So do we all advocate peace…. We all believe in peace…. We go the proper way about….!

Mr. Rose having expressed uncompromising opposition to non-combatant service in any form, the Chairman announced that his application for absolute exemption was refused.

**
At the Southwark Tribunal, on March 23rd, exemption for sis months was granted to 21 single men employed by the Amalgamated Press, Ltd., printers of “Home Chat,” “Forget-me-not,” “Comic Cuts,” “Chips” – and other works of national importance!

March 28, 1916

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