This is a further update in 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:_


Prison experiences

On the 23rd November, 1917, we entered the prison, and were taken in charge by one of the warders (a sergeant), whose duty it was to take our personal property from us and to array us in prison garments. During these preliminaries we are subjected to much abuse and bullying from the sergeant in question, and from several of his fellow N.C.O.‘s. In the most offensive and blasphemous language we were told that this particular prison was the worst place in France, that they were able to break men’s hearts there, and further, that we should be glad to work seven days a week after a few days with them. We were then interviewed by the Governor, who told us that we should be compelled to work Saturdays, as they were authorised to employ physical means in order to secure their object. On leaving the Governor we were set to work on the parade ground with some other prisoners who were working there. This was at three o’clock on Friday afternoon, one hour before our observance of the Sabbath Day commenced. We had plainly stated that we could not consistently continue work beyond four o’clock. By that time five or six sergenats, each armed with stick and revolver, had collected near the working party, As soon as we ceased work, with one accord these men rushed at us and knocked us down in turn with their fists. As each man rose from the ground this treatment was repeated. We still refused to work, and the attack was renewed with sticks. In several instances we were kicked brutally whilst on the ground. Two of sergeants became so infuriated that they now drew their revolvers, but were prevented from leveling them by the intervention of several of their fellow N.C.O.‘s. In no case was the slightest resistance offered by us. We were then rushed to the punishment cells, the sticks being freely used on the way, and several sergeants ran in among us deliberately tripping us, thus bringing heavily to the ground on the square. On reaching the cells we were placed in irons – called “figures of eight” on account of their shape – which are made in various sizes to grip the wrists securely one above the other behind the back. In some cases the irons were too small, and caused the most excruciating pain on being screwed up. In this helpless condition wer were isolated, each main in a small cell about 7 feet by 41/2 feet, having a concrete floor and iron walls. The extreme cold was very trying in this condition…

Personal Statement by ________

|n the cell the sergeants agreed that I was the ringleader because I was the tallest. The smallest pair of “figure eights” was brought and screwed down upon my wrists. So small was the pair that to get them on my flesh was ripped and cut in several places. The circulation was practically cut off, leaving my hands dead. I was then pushed into a cell, and pinned against the wall by one sergeant, whilst the others in a most passionate rage struck me continually about the head and in the stomach. Then one burly N.C.O. lifted me up bodily, and with his knee threw me backwards to the other side. The contact with the iron wall caused the irons to cut more, and sent acute pain to all my nerves. This kind of treatment continued until I dropped to the floor. I was picked up, but collapsed again, whereupon I was kicked several times in the middle of the back. Finally I became unconscious. I had made no opposition by force, or even uttered a word which could have given the least offence…