From The Tribunal July 4th 1918

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:

The following letter received in June from a C.O. in prison, shows that Fenner Brockway is not alone in his attitude towards prison rules:

“For some time past I have been thinking about my attitude here in prison and there has been an inward voice within me urging me to take some stand against this deplorable system of punishment and coercion. This voice I must frankly admit I have avoided, and I have made excuses for not obeying its call. I have not cared to give up my books and letters and visits. Then again I have said to myself, ‘You must preserve your health for future work when you are released, for there will undoubtedly be a great call for your service when that time comes. Also you owe a debt to parents to support them and you must study them as well as your own attitude.’

But I can no longer avoid my inward promptings, and I therefore feel compelled to make a greater stand against the prison system for the following reasons:-

  1. 1. That we are without doubt being illegally punished.
  2. 2. That imprisonment is part of the military regime, and a very vital part, and that although we have proved that we cannot be made soldiers, yet we have not opposed that part of the military machine (prison), the fear of which coerces thousands to continue soldiering.
  3. 3. That by obeying rules and working we are acquiescing in our punishment.
  4. 4. That we are being kept in prison to intimidate men who are likely to resist the Military Service Acts.
  5. 5. That the prison system is based on FEAR, and that to prove that no man can force us to do a certain thing by punishment and threatening would be setting a much needed example to our fellow men.
  6. 6. That prison rules impose conditions that are cruel and immoral, and that we break them on the sly whenever we can. This means we are forced into deceit and some get punished for what we all do, because they are less fortunate than others.
  7. 7. That I should do that which I consider to be right without fearing the consequences/

For these reason I can no longer work in prison, nor obey those rules which I consider to be wrong.”