Courage of Conscience
Imagined Voices of Derbyshireâ€™s WW1 Conscientious Objectors Creative work by young writers Edited by River Wolton | Foreword by Cyril Pearce 1
Courage of Conscience
Imagined Voices of Derbyshireâ€™s WW1 Conscientious Objectors
Courage of Conscience: Imagined Voices of Derbyshire’s WW1 Conscientious Objectors Published by WordWork Press 2016 ISBN 978-0-9929152-2-3 Individual pieces of creative writing © 2016 respective authors Other text © 2016 River Wolton Foreword © 2016 Cyril Pearce Designed and typeset by Vicky Morris All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission of the publisher.
Printed by Mensa, Sheffield The creative writing in this book is based on historical characters and events but is entirely fictional. Where possible we have tried to trace those we have researched, and their descendents, to let them know about this project and to find out more about the characters who inspired our work. We would be glad to hear from anyone who knows, or is related to, the people we have written about. www.propeacechesterfield.wordpress.com
Contents Foreword Introduction 1. Background to WW1 2. Recruitment Propaganda 3. Conscription 4. Military Service Tribunals 5. Derbyshire COs: the Hidden and Imagined Stories
06 08 12 20 28 31 39
Richard Barry Albert Hardy The Hunter Brothers Henry Smith George Benson Harry Haston William Holland James Shipstone Howard Howells
39 41 46 52 53 56 58 61 65
Uncovering ‘new’ COs
Frank Grant Arthur Craig Isaac Booth
71 72 75
7. 8. 9.
COs in Prison Real Men? 100 Years On
76 83 86
About the Contributors
Foreword The centenary of the First World War has given us a splendid opportunity to think again about what we know and what we thought we knew about the war. This is particularly true of the stories of the men and women who opposed the war and of those who refused to fight. These Conscientious Objectors were not kindly dealt with during the war and after it ended their story was quickly swept aside as of only marginal importance. The truth of the matter is that it was not marginal and it was not just about that war. Work being done by groups across Britain during this commemoration period is now unlocking doors and windows into a closer understanding of just how people in their own communities felt about the war and what they did about it. It is now clear that resistance to the war and to conscription rather than being the sole preserve of men was a campaign which closely involved many women, large numbers of whom had been involved with the pre-war womenâ€™s movement. Defying their pre-war leaders, Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett (who were fiercely patriotic supporters of the British war effort) made common cause with the men who refused to 6
be compelled to fight. Indeed, the anti-war movement became hugely dependent on womenâ€™s efforts. It is also now clear that, rather than being isolated courageous individuals standing up for their principles, those men who became Conscientious Objectors did so as members of wider communities of family, faith, trade unions and political organisations. Their stand was a reflection of pre-war attitudes and organisations and continued to be influential long after the war was over â€“ between 1923 and 1929 at least fifty former war resisters and Conscientious Objectors became Members of Parliament. The work set out here is a splendid example of this process of re-discovery and setting the record straight. It is powerful, wellresearched and displayed and, since it involves the energy and insights of young people, a wonderful message of the enduring importance of each generationâ€™s duty to challenge the received wisdom of those who have gone before them and to suggest that there is another way. Cyril Pearce University of Leeds May 2016
Introduction I am not willing to take life or shed blood. I stand by my conscientious objection to war. James Shipstone, Long Eaton Tribunal, March 1916
This is the voice of one of Derbyshireâ€™s many conscientious objectors, who had the courage to refuse to take part in the tide of nationalism and the rush to join the military which swept the country during the early years of the First World War. Courage of Conscience is a project led by Chesterfield ProPeace and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We oppose any glorification of war. We embarked on this project to commemorate the First World War by highlighting the opposition and resistance to the war in Derbyshire, and in particular the principled reasons and courage of conscientious objectors. We owe them enormous respect. Young people in Derbyshire have been central to the project. The young writers who have contributed so powerfully to this book are aged between 16 and 30, the same age as many of the young men who obeyed their conscience and refused to fight. Our researchers explored the stories of a number of conscientious objectors in Derbyshire whose anti-war positions have often been hidden and obscured. At the time, many families chose not to speak about their relatives who were conscientious objectors, because of the stigma attached to it, a stigma that we hope this project and book will help to consign to history. We chose to focus on mainly relatively unknown conscientious objectors, rather than some of the more famous anti-war activists such as Alice Wheeldon and her family from Derby, who have already inspired much creative writing. For more information on Alice Wheeldon and the ongoing campaign to clear her name please visit alicewheeldon.org
Our core team of young writers were Matthew Knighton, Sara Moon and Katherine Robinson, who undertook research at Derbyshire Record Office and with online newspaper archives. They used their research and the stories uncovered by others in the project, to create some compelling writing. The other major contributors to the book were A/S level students at Chesterfield College. The stories of conscientious objectors have spoken across the century to our young people, and inspired them to create some moving and eloquent pieces. The writing shows remarkable empathy with the young men who found themselves in the position of having to stand by their principles, even though it brought such contempt, stigma and suffering upon them. As part of the Courage of Conscience project, the research has also been used by Gertie Whitfield to develop teaching resources for primary and secondary schools, which have been successfully trialled in several Derbyshire schools, and formed the basis of training for teachers. The teaching packs are free to download and use and are available on the Courage of Conscience website. We are very grateful to River Wolton, Ali Betteridge and the group of young writers who have made this book possible, and who have created such a memorable tribute to the Derbyshire Conscientious Objectors. Sue Owen Courage of Conscience, Chesterfield ProPeace Chesterfield ProPeace includes the Chesterfield branches of CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Amnesty International.
If everyone held to the same views as I do, there would not be any war at all.
James Vickery Buxton Tribunal April 1916
by Ben Chiverton, Sophie Bacon, Paulina Ciura, Brie Parkin, Charles Blagdon, Kayleigh Hubbard, Olivia Baughan, Kyra Sinclair, Katie Felis, Louise Collins, Cameron-Alexander Ashby, Owen Sherwood, Lauren Hill, Lucy Heath
Uniformed soldiers leaving their loved ones. For King and Country we fight. Soldiers in battle in the trenches. Soldiers fighting for their respective countries. The rivers running red with blood. Trenches deep, bodies lie, misery unfolds. Lives lost to the horrific war. Trenches flooded with rain and bodies. Changed my mind, take me home. Time slows down as death approaches. Dry air. Loud voices. Last breath. Cross the threshold. Just one shot. Into an explosion, he suddenly vanishes. Was it really worth the pain? Battle fields and battle scars remembered.
1. Background to WW1 The First World War killed 15 million people, traumatised a generation, overturned old empires and changed the world political order. It was the first truly global conflict. The immediate cause was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Hungary at the hands of a Serbian nationalist, but most historians agree that the descent into war was also caused by the emergence of alliances between major powers. New weapons produced since the Industrial Revolution heightened existing tensions and an arms race accelerated as the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) squared off against the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Britain). Germany’s fears of increases in Russian armaments, and British fears of the German naval buildup, contributed heavily to the outbreak and spread of war. As the war progressed, further acts of aggression drew other countries, including the United States, into the conflict. Many others, including Australia, Canada, India and most African colonies, fought at the behest of their imperial rulers. There was an immense impact on the countries colonized by Europe. For example, Britain ‘recruited’ over a million African ‘carriers’, of whom 95,000 died from malnutrition, disease and overwork, almost twice the number of Australian and Canadian casualties. Provoked by Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium and Luxembourg, Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. There was great eagerness for battle on all sides, an upwelling of patriotism, and a sense of excitement. On 28th July 1914, Winston Churchill wrote to his wife Clementine: ‘Everything tends towards catastrophe and collapse. I am interested, geared up and happy. Is it not horrible to be built like that? The preparations have a hideous fascination for me. I pray to God to forgive me for such fearful moods of levity.’ 12
Even after mass casualties, this enthusiasm continued. In February 1915, Churchill told Asquith’s daughter Violet: ‘I think a curse should rest on me – because I love this war. I know it’s smashing & shattering the lives of thousands every moment - & yet – I can’t help it – I enjoy every second of it.’ The Battle of Mons on 23rd August was the British Army's first engagement in France. The Kaiser ordered the destruction of Britain's ‘contemptible little army’ and 70,000 British soldiers were
by Matthew Knighton Never again must we beat the drums of war Never again must ashen-faced mothers weep over fallen sons Never again must we condemn those who dare to say no to the slaughter Never again must we say it is right and proper to die for one’s country Never again must the young be sent to die for old men’s dreams of empire Never again must we turn those who would be friends into enemies Never again must the wonders of invention be used for such bloody-handed deeds Never again must we beat the drums of war.
attacked by 160,000 German troops. Outgunned and outnumbered the Expeditionary Force suffered heavy casualties and was forced to retreat. On the back of this humiliation Britain started recruiting a large army for the first time. Lord Kitchener, the war minister, began a campaign calling for men aged between 19 and 30 to enlist. At first this was very successful; by the middle of September over 500,000 men had signed up for ‘Kitchener’s Army’; by the end of 1915 two million men had volunteered. In Derbyshire, many enlisted with the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment of the Sherwood Foresters. The Regiment raised 33 Battalions and lost 11,410 men during the course of the war.
Lining up to enlist. Creswell, Derbyshire. 1914
by Katherine Robinson There is tea in the cup, but it has long since stopped steaming. He leans on the table, watching ripples work their way out from the centre, the surface disturbed by the slow, thunderous steps of something huge coming closer, closer.
“Daddy?” Lilith says from the doorway.
He looks up. She is wearing her best red dress, and her cheeks are tear-stained.
“What is it?” she says.
He can’t tell her. He turns away, and as he does his sleeve catches the teacup and knocks it to the floor. It shatters into a thousand pieces, and Lilith gasps. The tea – no, not tea… blood – trickles across the floor and pools at her feet, but they aren’t her feet anymore. He looks up, and sees himself standing in the doorway, a skeletal figure in a uniform, a hole where his heart should have been. And he wakes up, sweating and shaking, on the morning he is to be sent to war.
The pressure to enlist came in many forms. Since the 18th century white feathers had symbolised cowardice, and the Order of the White Feather, founded in 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and author Mrs Humphrey Ward, aimed to shame men into enlisting. White featherers (usually women) accosted men not in military uniform, and often made mistakes, feathering men on leave from the front, those who had been injured, and on one occasion a man who had been awarded the Victoria Cross, and was on his way to a public reception held in his honour.
Nottingham Market Place. 1915
John Earp in FAU uniform with details of service in France and Belgium
John Rosslyn Earp was a Quaker from Melbourne, Derbyshire who served with the Friends Ambulance Unit and British Red Cross from October 1914 to May 1915, as a hospital orderly in Belgium and France. In 1916 he became a conscientious objector and on appeal was granted exemption from military service to continue his medical studies. After the war he was Medical Officer at the City of London Chest Hospital, then moved to the U.S. becoming Director of Public Health in New Mexico in 1931. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in 1941.
by Matthew Knighton It’s my last day of leave before I ship back out to the Friends Ambulance Unit. It’s hard work, but someone has to help the wounded, no matter whose flag they march under. We’ve even helped a few Germans though we don’t let on too much about that. Still I’m doing my bit and I can take some pride in the fact that my bit brings some hope into this war rather than yet more suffering. That is all to come. Today I am a free man. I am going to sit on a park bench and read my book in the early spring light. I’ve been there for hours lost in the pages of Mary Shelley’s most excellent work when I hear a cough. I ignore it. It might be a while before I get to enjoy a book again. There is another, all together more odious clearing of the throat. I glare up from my book. There is a woman, young with short dark hair and a look of wideeyed outrage on her face. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she snaps. “How can you sit there reading such fanciful tales when your fellow men are fighting and dying?” Her eyes are almost popping with outrage. “I’m trying to enjoy my book. Now excuse me Miss…” My eyes drift back toward the page, but she continues her tirade. “I’m not done with you. Cowards like you are responsible for what is wrong with the world. You should get off your comfortable pew and go and kill 18
the Boche. My brother is out there with the Foresters, risking his life. Are you a proper man like him or are you too scared?” I snap my book shut and am about to open my mouth but she holds out a dirty white feather and quickly slips it through my button-hole. I want to brush her away, to lash out, but I know that wouldn’t solve anything and I could never hit a lady. Without another word she turns on her heel and stalks away. I watch her go. Coward? That’s a bit rich. I’ve known more pain and hardship than she’ll ever know. It takes guts to sit with a man as his life slips away. I look down at the feather. Has war already turned us into a country who thinks fighting and killing is the only mark of courage? I pull the feather from my coat, place it between the pages of my book and get up. If war has done this to us in such a short space of time, then what will it do to us in the end?
2. Recruitment Propaganda Many had expected, or been told to expect, that â€˜the war would be over by Christmasâ€™ but as it dragged on and casualties increased, the need for more recruits became urgent. The British War Propaganda Bureau began a pamphlet and poster campaign.
British Expeditionary Force blocking a bridge after retreat. Battle of Mons 1914
by Katherine Robinson Women of Britain say “Daddy’s away, John. He’ll be back at Christmas.”
“Happy Christmas, John. Look what Daddy sent you from the Front.”
“No, Daddy can’t come home yet.” “I’ve told you not to play soldiers, John. Now you’ve cut yourself. There’s so much blood.”
“That was the telegraph boy, John. Daddy isn’t coming home.”
Recruitment poster 1915
by Matthew Knighton Every wall is covered in them. They’re like a plague; posters of square-jawed soldiers, distinguished generals and proud-eyed women telling us to join up and fight. Fight the Germans for honour, glory, and for Britain and her Empire. The papers are full of it; tales of German atrocities and how, right now, our brave boys are off to Europe to throw back the Teutonic menace. We’re the heroes and they’re the monsters. Simple. Only I don’t think it is. See I’ve met Germans, they seem pretty much like us. Anita, the German lass I met up in Sheffield, wasn’t a monster. Was she? She’d been at the socialist meeting. Anita made it feel like a proper international gathering, rather than just a bunch of people from round here. We ended up talking all night and sat on the hill watching a flame-red sunrise. Would I have sat like that with a monster? I told her I’d just started working down the pit, but I would one day love to paint.
‘How did a miner learn to paint?’ she asked.
‘Old Mr Jones, who lives at the end of our row, knows about art and painting and he’s been teaching me. He says I’ve been getting good.’ I told her with some pride. ‘I want to be a writer,’ she said, ‘and I’d love to travel the world.’ 23
I was shocked she was talking to me, why would a posh girl like her want anything to do with me? Still she seemed nice enough. We’ve been writing to each other since; swapping stories of our lives. She tells me about her dreams, ideas for stories and about the places she wants to go. ‘Would we still be friends,’ her last letter asked, ‘even though we are at war?’ I said of course we would. I wonder if she ever got the letter? The leaves are turning golden-brown and peeling away in the cold wind that’s sweeping through town. It’s getting dark and I’m stumbling across the churchyard, under the shadow of the Crooked Spire. I’m numb with weariness and what bits aren’t numb ache. We’re putting in double shifts. Every day I stagger home and collapse. Half the time I’m too tired to even eat tea. I certainly don’t have time to paint. One thing I was good at and the war took it. Still we all have to make sacrifices don’t we? Tonight though I’m going to The Royal Oak to meet our Jim for a drink. Now our Jim will be blathering on about Marx and how we shouldn’t be fighting the Imperialist war, how we, the workers of the world should unite and fight against it. I agree but I wish he’d just keep quiet. I told him it would break our Mam’s heart if he got in trouble. I don’t want to lose anyone else. Our Billy and half my friends have gone off to the Front and I’ve not heard anything from Anita since the war broke out. Have the Germans been saying the same thing? That the British are monsters? Does Anita believe I’m a monster? I can’t see it myself, but the thought still makes my stomach churn. I pull 24
up my collar against the bitter wind and duck down the jennel, quickest way to the Royal Oak that. There I see it. It’s another poster. This one catches my eye. It’s the silhouette of almost herculean soldiers loading one of those big artillery guns. Underneath are the words of Lord Kitchener. My hands curl into fists, I pull myself up straight and stare at the poster. The word ‘selfish’ burns bright and vulgar in my mind. It’s a hot fire that chases the bone-numbing weariness out of me. How dare he? How am I selfish for not wanting to kill Germans? What is more selfish than taking a life? I work bloody hard. Never once complain. Sleep and work. I don’t paint. I gave up the one thing I’m good at for the war and I’m still selfish. Good men are dying for their war, others are working themselves half to death or worse. I spit and bound towards the Oak. I see it now, sign battering in the wind. I think I owe our Jim an apology. I think it’s time to take a stand.
Recuitment poster 1915
by Katherine Robinson “Have you seen this?” Robert said, slapping the poster down on the counter. George, halfway up a ladder stacking shelves, turned and frowned down at it.
“Yes. What of it?”
“What are we going to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, are we cowards?”
“Of course not. It’s just a poster, Bob.”
“But everyone’s seen it. Everyone’ll think we’re the Enemy.” “That’s absurd, of course we’re not the Enemy. We’ve lived here all our lives, know most of our customers by name.” George climbed back down the ladder and realised that Bob was genuinely worried. His forehead was as wrinkled as an old man’s, and he wouldn’t meet his eyes. “What’s up?” “Lucy…” Bob said, and stopped. He swallowed. “What if Lucy thinks that I am a coward?” “Then she’s an idiot. I don’t know why you’re worried about that, it’s the hat that’s putting her off anyway!”
3. Conscription Recruitment schemes failed to gain sufficient volunteers, and in March 1916 military service became compulsory for all single men in England, Scotland and Wales aged 18 to 41. Tribunals were set up and given authority to grant exemption. More than 17,000 men are recorded as conscientious objectors (COs) on a database compiled by historian Cyril Pearce (the Pearce Register). The number of COs may appear small compared with the six million men who served (half of whom were conscripted) but the impact of these men on public opinion and on future governments was to be profound.
by Katherine Robinson
I was in the kitchen chopping an onion when he came home, so my eyes were red and watery. “They didn’t grant me exemption,” he said. “I’m going to have to appeal.”
“When’s that, then?” I asked, sniffing.
“A week on Tuesday.” He put his arm around me. “Don’t cry, love. I’m not done yet.” I pulled away and swept the onions into the pot. Little Albert, huddled by the fire, looked up at me blearily, then his eyes drifted shut again. “What about work?” I asked in a low voice, so as not to disturb Albert. “Did they give you the extra shift?” 28
“They won’t make a decision till the Tribunal make theirs,” he said. “They’ll give it to someone else if I’m not granted exemption.” “But the Tribunal have made their decision,” I said. “They decided you have to go off to war.” “Yes, but I’ve still got the right to appeal. I’ll speak with the vicar, we’ll get it all sorted out.” “But Albert needs medicine now. And we can’t afford it now. We either need the wages from your extra shift, or we need your army wages.”
“Are you saying I should fight?”
“I-” I broke off and sighed. “I’m saying you need to do what’s best for your family. For Albert.” “In God’s eyes, even the Germans are my family. How can I forsake one in favour of the other?” “I don’t know, how can you?” I snapped. Beside the fire, Albert coughed weakly.
“I didn’t know you felt that way.”
“I don’t want war and death and bloodshed any more than you do, but I don’t want to watch my son get sicker while you try to avoid having to kill some faceless Germans who are probably going to die at the Front anyway, by the hand of another if not yours. Life is made up of hard choices, and if I have to sacrifice my morals to save my son, then so be it.”
Parlimentary Recruiting Committee Poster
4. Military Service Tribunals Tribunals played a crucial part in the process of conscription. In Derbyshire local tribunals were held at towns including Alfreton, Belper, Buxton, Bakewell, Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Long Eaton, Matlock, Ripley and Shardlow. The County Tribunal met in Derby, and a Central Tribunal in London was the final court of appeal. Tribunal members were almost all male: local councillors, businessmen, shopkeepers, landowners, retired military officers, civil servants, most of them too old to be called up. Most were strongly patriotic and had sons or relatives serving abroad. Each tribunal panel contained one army-selected member with the right to crossexamine every applicant. These 'military representatives' had a common aim: to get as many men as possible into the army to fill the gaps left by the dead.
1916 tribunal sitting in Preston. Note the military representative on the right.
Although best known for their heavy-handed attitude towards COs, most of the tribunals dealt with domestic hardship, health or employment. Only around two per cent of applicants were conscientious objectors. The contemporary image of tribunals was that they were soft on COs and harsh on cases of domestic hardship; 31
after the war conscience cases became more prominent and tribunals are now known for their genuinely harsh treatment of objectors. At the tribunal's discretion exemption could be absolute, or from combatant service only, or conditional on undertaking work of national importance; but COs were frequently rejected by the local tribunal or offered an unacceptable position. Once someone was refused exemption, he was considered to have enlisted into military service. Most tribunal records were deliberately destroyed after the war. The Derbyshire Record Office holds only a few minutes books from Chesterfield, Long Eaton, Ripley and Alfreton, but local newspapers often carried detailed reports. James Vickeryâ€™s tribunal appearance was reported in the Buxton Advertiser, April 1916. Director of a family firm of metal merchants in Manchester, James stated that he had always held strong views against war, and his company had refused war-related work. After exemption and appeal were denied he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit. James Vickery, FAU Personnel card
by Kayleigh Hubbard, Kyra Sinclair, Katie Felis, CameronAlexander Ashby, Sophie Bacon, Lucy Heath, Paulina Ciura, Brie Parkin, Charles Blagdon, Ben Chiverton
This is an absolute disgrace. Those men sit up there passing judgement on which opinions they view as valid. They don’t realise what they are asking. This is not an object of sentiment, it’s a life they are asking for. Men should not have to fight for this. They should not be pressured into this. We do not have to justify why we would rather keep our lives than risk everything we know and love for people we don’t know, and a country that does not respect our views. He is a coward, nothing more. He hides behind God and faith. Produces metal, says he doesn’t supply the war, but does he really know where his work ends up? People dying every minute; if he thinks that’s wrong, why does he not grab a weapon and finish it faster then? Why can’t he understand that what’s done can’t be undone, but it can be helped. Not by sitting there at home with folded arms but by actions that are taken to bring law and order back into place. So if he hates the war, why does he not help it stop, instead of wasting time on amoral reasoning? I stand with my brother. If we do not stand up for what we believe in, and if we throw away our morals for any old reason that is proposed to us, then we will become the liars within our own souls. From the age of four, mother would tell us that we were to be subservient to our men and to our country. I would cry ‘It’s not fair!’ and ‘Why wasn’t I born a boy?’ And yet now I look into this man’s eyes, and I do pity him. I pity his submission. I pity his frailty.
I see my cousin standing there, looking anxious but persistent. He stands his ground while the Tribunal judge him harshly. I hope he does not have to go to war, he should not have to if he does not wish. I can’t believe they can do this; all the work I do to help this great country and now look. I’m being isolated, simply because I don’t agree with slaughtering people forced to slaughter me. If both sides dropped this thirst for blood none of this would be necessary, and I’d be human again. The rest of your male relatives are out there, why aren’t you? Still cowardly, sitting at home in comfort, that’s no real man. It’s not forever, you will fight for your country and make us women proud, your daughters too. Uncle James doesn’t want to fight. But the other children chide and bruise me with rocks, calling ‘Your uncle is a coward!’ They chase me down muddy lanes from school, like hounds hungry for humiliation. If I ask him why he won’t go to war he grows silent and withdrawn. Little does he know I’m fighting an unseen war. This man has clearly lost any amount of respect for himself or his country that he might have once had. To forsake his brothers on the field on the grounds of religious objection? Unthinkable. He owes it to them as brothers in Christ, and if he can’t see that, then he is a heretic that does not even deserve to fight alongside them. Throw him to the prisons to rot and await hell, as he deserves. Whilst I believe that we should find the courage and strength to fight for the safety of our country’s women and children, I do not feel that any man should be forced to enter military service. This country prides itself on promoting free will, and sending an unwilling man to war contradicts this sentiment.
Of the thousands of men who asked for exemption on grounds of conscience, only 84 were given absolute exemption. Broadly speaking there were four reasons for objection to armed service. The most common ground was a religious one, the next was political. Thirdly, there were those who felt it wrong to kill but not on religious grounds, and fourthly those who objected to government intervention in their lives. In Derbyshire, many COs were Methodists, Quakers, Christadelphians or ‘held views similar to Quakers’. At tribunal hearings some stated that they were members of the ILP (Independent Labour Party) or that they were Socialists, or that they believed in the brotherhood of man or the federation of nations. Some gave both religious and political reasons for their objection. ‘Absolutist’ COs were opposed to any direct or indirect involvement in the war, while ‘non-combatant’ COs were prepared to accept callup into the army but not carrying or loading weapons. Tribunals could direct men to join the Non-Combatant Corps, but refusal led to court-martial and imprisonment. So many were imprisoned in this way that the government brought in the Home Office Scheme (HOS) allowing ‘alternativist’ COs to do ‘work of national importance’. They were housed in work camps and engaged in arduous work. The camps varied; some were relatively comfortable, others barely habitable. Work varied, too, from the unpleasant (making fertiliser from dead animals) to the utterly futile (manual labour for nonexistent projects).
Questions sent to a Derbyshire CO in preparation for Appeals Tribunal
Some COs refused to accept the HOS, and some, having tried it, voluntarily left it to return to prison and the cycle of courts-martial, feeling that their compromise with the state weakened resistance to the whole idea of conscription. Derbyshire COs were sent to work camps and prisons around the country, including Wakefield, Richmond Castle, Dartmoor and Wormwood Scrubs. The simplified diagram below shows some of the routes that COs took.
Handed to Military Court Martial Military detention
Non-combatant service sometimes involved working as stretcherbearers in the front-line, an occupation that had a very high casualtyrate. Like John Rosslyn Earp and James Vickery, many COs joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) which was set up by the Quakers but accepted men of other religious beliefs.
by Katherine Robinson Never again. He presses a blood-stained handkerchief to his mouth, wiping away the froth that bubbles at his lips. His eyes are wide and watery. He knows what is happening to him. Never again. He tries to draw in air with a strained, whistling breath, and chokes on a sob, his coughs wracking his body. Never again. He spits blood and bile into the handkerchief, tries to swallow the taste of fear, and coughs again. Never again. Itâ€™s nearly over. He seizes my hand in a bloodless grip, holding on to life as tightly as he can. Then his fingers slacken and he relaxes beneath my hand. Never again. He exhales one last, rasping breath and falls still. The scent of pain and terror dissipates. The ambulance fills instead with the scent of death. Never again.
5. Derbyshire COs: the Hidden and Imagined Stories The Pearce Register includes 145 Derbyshire men, from all backgrounds and walks of life. We selected a few individuals to research and write about; a full list of Derbyshire COs discovered so far is on page 95.
Richard Lewis Barry Richard Barry was a lace maker from Long Eaton. He was imprisoned at Richmond Castle for only a few weeks but, along with other COs, left his mark on the walls! Barry was an absolutist who also saw the inside of cells at Wakefield, Newcastle, Wormwood Scrubs, and Durham. He was eventually released in April 1919.
R. L. Barryâ€™s graffiti from the cells at Richmond Castle. Note initials for ILP (Independent Labour Party) and NCF (No Conscription Fellowship).
by Sara Moon, Katherine Robinson & Matthew Knighton It was called the war to end wars but â€Ś you might as well dig a hole by chucking dirt in it stop a fire by shovelling wood on it get clean by bedding down with swine stay sober by swigging jugs of wine black your boots by coating them in mud stay alive by losing all your blood learn maths by going for a swim wrap parcels by cutting up the string cook your tea by throwing it down pit clean dishes by smashing them to bits â€Ś and you might just as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it as try to end this war by fighting.
Nottingham Evening Post, January 1917
Albert Hardy Born in 1878 in Newbold, Chesterfield into a coal-mining family, the 1891 census shows Albert aged 13 employed as a pit pony driver. By 1917 he had worked his way up to being a coal merchant with his own horse and cart. Albert applied for exemption as a CO and because of his one-man business. After the tribunal refused him, Albert was followed out of court by Mr Tilleard, the military representative, who ‘made a running kick at Mr Hardy, catching him on the thigh and exclaiming “You are a worm. I’ll make you fight for your country” ’. In a brave move, Albert issued a summons against Mr Tilleard for assault. The case was unanimously dismissed by Derby County magistrates, and Mr Tilleard’s solicitor was ‘amazed at the effrontery of the complainant, who, after declining as a conscientious objector to assist in the protection of his King and country, asked the King to protect his own miserable skin’. Newspapers in Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham and Sheffield reported on the case. In a letter to the Derbyshire Times, Albert made an impassioned defence: ‘I can joke about what I received at the hands of Mr Tilleard but I feel that a principle of government has been trampled underfoot. .. civil government is gradually giving way to military government… I am not sorry I was kicked if by being kicked I may contribute my 41
small share in not allowing the seeds of military law to take an abiding root in the land of my birth.’ Albert was court-martialled for refusing to take military orders and sentenced to 112 days hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs. He was later transferred to Wakefield Work Camp. After the war Albert returned to Chesterfield and ‘Albert Hardy & Son Builders Merchants’ traded on Newbold Road until recent times. He was known locally as ‘Conchie Hardy’ and died in 1964.
Pit pony and miners. Brinsley Colliery, 1913.
by Katherine Robinson Officer Barker straightened the paper in front of him and readied his pen. “Right, Alf, I’ve got Hardy’s version of events, what’s yours?” Officer Alfred Bates, uncomfortable being on this side of the interview room, straightened his shoulders and cast his mind back. “Well. I had to escort Mr Hardy from the courtroom. I suppose the outcome of his tribunal wasn’t to his liking; he was in a bit of a state.”
“What sort of a state, Alf?”
“He was angry. He’d been shouting in court, and was a bit red in the face. I suggested he get some air and calm down before he went home. That’s when he noticed Mr Tilleard.” “And?” “He confronted him, said ‘What do you have to say to me?’ Mr Tilleard told him ‘You are not worth speaking to’. Well, Mr Hardy was visibly angry at that, but he knew I was still watching, so all he said was ‘You are no man’ and turned away. I thought that’d be the end to it, Mr Tilleard being a professional, so I went to go back inside, but I heard Mr Tilleard shout ‘You worm’. He kicked him, and that’s when I had to go and break it up.”
“Did you actually see the kick?” 43
“No, but it was obvious from their stances what had happened. Mr Hardy was kneeling on the ground and Mr Tilleard was standing over him.” ***
Officer Barker turned the page.
“Mr Tilleard, tell me what happened after you left the courtroom.” “I went outside for a cigarette. I was just about to light up, when Hardy said ‘Well, what do you want to say to me?’ I hadn’t wanted to say anything, so I just said ‘You are not worth speaking to’.”
“What did Mr Hardy say to that?”
“He said that I wasn’t a man.”
“And did you respond?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to let some coward conchie accuse me of not being man enough, so I said ‘I’ll make you fight for your country’.”
“And did you kick Mr Hardy?”
“I gave him a light kick, yes, to provoke him. He can shout loud enough, so he’s got some fight in him. If he can fight me, he can fight the Germans.”
“And did Mr Hardy assault you in return?”
“Well, no. That’s when your police officer came over to us.”
by Lauren Hill I have been assaulted; literally, legally, mentally, morally. To be told that what makes humanity prosper, what allows us to surpass other species, what provides our longevity – is wrong. Good itself, decency, the need for balance – all is thrown into the gutter. And then to deny me the right of justice. I have been stripped of my pride, yet I fight on. My belief in rejecting war shouldn’t affect others, doesn’t, in fact. So why should I be forced when I don’t force them?
by Brie Parkin To be mistreated by a military representative, a man that expected my enrolment, is ludicrous! It seems almost laughable that such an act should encourage one to fight. My amusement only increases upon my assault case being dismissed. Before this war, assault would have been seen as a serious crime, and yet now I am made to feel that I deserve such treatment, that I am mere garbage to be thrust to one side.
The Hunter Brothers Triplets John, Arthur and Maurice Hunter, born in 1890, were from a well-off military family in Belper and enlisted in 1914. John crossed the Channel with the first Expeditionary Force. As Captain, he had the task of writing to bereaved families, and in 1918, overwhelmed by the suffering he had seen during four years of active service, he resigned his commission. Arthur, also in France, agreed to do the same. Their father was a Lieutenant-Colonel with an OBE for his contribution to the Sherwood Foresters, though he had never seen active service. Arthur and John were court-martialled, and sentenced to hard labour. They were stripped of the right to vote, and shunned by their community. Their parents never spoke to them again. Their father said "It would have been better if they had died." After the war Arthur and John went to Poland to work with the Quaker War Victims Relief Committee.
by Matthew Knighton Dear Mrs. Else, By now you will have received a letter from me saying that your son Henry fell in combat on the 3rd of March. I suspect I will have included some platitude about how he died a heroâ€™s death or faced the foe with the bravery and dignity befitting a British soldier. It is hard to keep track of what Iâ€™ve written after writing hundreds of the blasted letters. Writing them with cramping fingers and 46
shaking hands. You may never receive this letter but I believe I owe this to you and the hundreds like you who have lost friends, family and loved ones in this infernal war. By setting this confession to paper you and countless others like you shall know the truth of the matter and my part in it. I would like to express my deepest and most profound regret for the role I played in your sonâ€™s bloody-handed murder. How? I hear you cry. How could the dashing captain do such a heinous thing? Alas it is the fault of myself and others like me who filled the head of your son with nonsense and lies. People like me are the ones to blame for young men who thought that this war was right and proper, and that he was doing the right thing fighting for King and Country and driving back the villainous Germans in defence of glorious Britain. We were the ones who made him want to join up and do his bit. Like any sensible chap Henry was terrified when he arrived by the endless roar of the guns and the ever present spectre of Death which stalked Flanders field. Now we couldnâ€™t have that. Some officers would have yelled and berated. I however did something far, far worse. I spoke to him of the heroes of old and filled his head with tales of courage and derring-do. I told him that the ladies loved a brave hero in uniform. So when the time came to march into that hell of dun earth and barbed wire he charged in with nary a thought for his own safety. I shall spare you the details but he was still alive when I dragged him back to the trench, and he died screaming and begging for a release. My sins are far greater than a failure to watch out for your son and the countless like him. A man of my rank and position is privy to greater understanding 47
of the situation of this war. You may have been told that this war is a solemn duty to protect Britain from the enemy. I, however, can inform you that this war is a monstrous effort to slake the greed of Empire. It is a war waged so that rich old men can grow ever richer. It is a war waged for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Knowing as I do the unjust nature of this war I should have taken a stand and proclaimed no more. No more must we raise arms against our German brethren. No more must we send our young men to die for old menâ€™s dreams of wealth and Empire. No more must we let this madness continue. I pride myself on being an officer and a gentleman who always does what is right and yet I have done nothing to stand against the atrocity. As such Mrs. Else I confess that my cowardice has led to the death of many a fine young man. I swear to you and to all mothers of those who have fallen that I will now do my utmost to take a stand against this madness. I shall renounce my commission and do what I can to stand against the grievous injustice that is this war. I know this will cost me my position, my friends and the love of my family, however these things are but a small price to pay if they prevent any more deaths and bring about peace. Yours Sincerely,
Captain John Hunter 48
by Sara Moon [A military office. A desk and a chair. Hundreds of letters spill over the desk, onto the floor and around the room. The letters read â€œI'm sorry to inform you...â€? John Hunter sits in the chair writing.]
Have you ever done it?
Broken the news to someone you don't know that the person they love most in the world has died?
Can you imagine doing it not once, or ten or a hundred times but thousands? And that's all you do. Again and again. Letter after letter. Day after day. Until the pen is shaking, until you always have to start again because the sheet is strewn with your own bloody tears?
And can you imagine the thousandth letter?
When the tears don't stain that first try, when you get on with it, calmly, systematically, as if you are writing a cheque for the bloody butcher. When your job is to write the letters, telling the family.
It's like I'm killing them really, bringing their deaths to life. Without these letters there is hope, some odd broken hope at least.
Could you do it, Father? Could you carry on 49
writing day after day, break a motherâ€™s heart again and again? [He is lost in a reverie now, acting delirious.] on.
The paper just sits. The ink dries. The world rolls
[He picks through the letters and throws them in the air. Another letter and another and another.] I am all these letters now, I have written them with my own hand. My hand, my hand wrote these deaths. lost.
My hand knows all these lives that have been
The ink around my fingers, the ache in my wrist from writing all day.
This hand knows.
And the worst, the worst is to know your names,
Mrs Davies, Mrs Jones, Mrs Williams, Mrs Cuttsâ€Ś
[He breaks down.]
Windmill Military Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux,east of Arras, 1918
by Lucy Heath Hi everyone! I’d like to take this opportunity to tell u guys about a major event that happened recently in my life. I was on the internet looking up my family history and I managed to find my great-grandpa Maurice Ford Hunter – amazingly he was still alive! We arranged to meet at a local Starbucks #pumpkinspicedlatte. He told me how he served in the First World War and how both of his bro’s resigned because they couldn’t cope with their jobs. John and Arthur were traumatized because of their experiences during the war. Their role was vital and John had to write to loved ones telling them their sons and husbands had been killed. Maurice was really open about telling me about his feelings towards his brothers and how he disagreed with the way in which they disregarded their duty and failed to serve their king and country #shameful #conchies. But he also seemed sad that after his bros were courtmartialled and sent to prison he never saw them again. His dad told him he had to pretend they had died, and his mum never really recovered #familyfallout. Meeting Maurice made me wonder – could I forgive my brother or sister if they did something I totally disagreed with, even if it meant I had to choose between them and my parents? Could you? #tripletsatwar
Henry Smith A Quaker from Belper, Henry was given exemption as a ‘genuine’ CO at his first tribunal. However, he was subsequently arrested as an absentee and taken before the magistrates in August 1916. He was fined, handed to the military, court-martialled, and imprisoned. The Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs again passed him as a genuine CO. On his discharge from prison, he was re-arrested, again courtmartialled, and sentenced to hard labour. In 1917 he was transferred to Wandsworth Prison, discharged on 19th June 1918 and taken to Winchester, where he was court-martialled for the third time, and again sentenced to a further year’s hard labour. He was finally released, on the grounds of ill health, in March 1919. Hundreds of COs remained in prison after the war ended, partly so that returning soldiers could have first pick of jobs on their demobilisation. Before the war Henry was an art student; when he returned to Belper after the war he ran the Chevin Cafe.
by Sophie Bacon What have I done so wrong? I’ve been here before… I’m exempt! Arrested from my own home in front of my family; and I have done no wrong! How can I possibly be absent from something I have never joined or in any way been a part of. I didn’t need to join, I had given my reasons, and good ones at that. Why Why Why! Why am I back here at the start again? They cannot punish me, a man who has done no wrong. And for them to try to push me to do this against my will and religion. It disgusts me!
George Benson Despite their denigration by press and public during the war, many COs later rose to positions of political leadership and included fortyfive MPs, five Lords, and one Labour Party Leader. 30% of Atlee’s Cabinet in the 1940s had been COs. George Benson, Chesterfield’s longest serving MP (1929-1931 and 1935 – 1964) was part of the notorious Birkenhead Case in 1916 where absolutists refused to drill or carry a gun. The officers in charge denied them the right to court martial, and tried to beat them into submission. After protests and campaigns, the right to court martial was won. George was sentenced to hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs, and subsequently sent to Wakefield Work Camp. He was not discharged until March 1920. As an MP, George was Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, protested against the mistreatment of young offenders and called for the abolition of the death penalty. The following piece is based on George’s own account - published in the Labour Leader and the Manchester Guardian - of the brutal treatment he received. George Benson’s enrolment paper, marked ‘Refuses to fight’.
by Katherine Robinson Sergeant Major:
Carry a rifle
Private: He says no. I sigh. Another damn conchie. I hang it around his neck. It’s heavy, and uncomfortable; he’ll have to carry it sooner or later. 53
Fall in Again he refuses. The new recruits stare at him. They’re wondering if he doesn’t understand the order. He understands just fine, but he thinks if he follows this one, simple command now it will be harder to refuse next time. I shove him into position. He doesn’t realise how much harder this can get. Attention! He ignores the order and stares at the ground, feet wide apart, slovenly and disgraceful. I kick his feet until he’s finally standing in position. At ease Now he stands, ramrod straight, staring ahead. A couple of the recruits glance at each other. That’s dangerous. If they think he can get away with it, more of them might begin disobeying orders. I kick his feet apart again. Quick march This is where we’ll break him. I shove him along at the double, thumping him in the back whenever he looks to be slacking. He trips and I yank him back to his feet by the scruff of the neck. We’ll keep this up until he does as he’s told. Right turn Maybe we went too far. The idea was to make him follow orders. Now, even if he had the will to do so, he lacks the strength. He sways on the spot, eyes dulled with pain, and I wonder if he even heard the order. I support him under the arm and help him to turn. Carry a rifle We hang it round his neck again, close to the windpipe, to make breathing painful. He’ll have to take the weight of it soon, and then we’ll have him. We force him back into a march. We’ll give him Hell, and soon enough he’ll be just like us.
Harry Haston Coal miner, Sunday School teacher and Primitive Methodist from Stonebroom near Chesterfield, Harry was an absolutist who refused non-combatant service, was court martialled and sent to Wormwood Scrubs then Dartmoor Prison, where he died on 25th October, 1918, just 16 days before the end of the war. Cause of death was given as ‘Pneumonia and acute Harry Haston influenza arising in a natural way’. The words ‘arising in a natural way’ are not normal on death certificates; was there something to hide? Quakers helped carry his coffin from the prison to the railway station, but local people threw stones at it to show contempt for ‘conchies’. His wife Lily and his family were forbidden to open the coffin.
by Sara Moon A ‘natural way’ was it? Is that why it had to be spelled out? The natural way: forced naked, beaten, hosed down with freezing water. 56
The natural way for a man who refused to fight for the king or wear his uniform. The natural way: refused clothes tortured daily This is the natural way is it? This is the way for the man who refused to serve the insanity of war. Bury the wounds, the mutilations my battered body starved, naked and deformed. Britain need not know, not for one hundred years. But secrets burn from graves sometimes truth is too true to be buried forever. At my grave, and countless others where secrets were buried with heroes at the courts where men stood up, said no, took beatings at the prisons where men were bullied and tortured, at every nook and cranny of refusal are the patches of land, patches of resistance that will be forever england.
William Holland The first tribunals held in Long Eaton on 9th and 16th March 1916 saw more than twenty men asking for exemption on grounds of conscience. The Long Eaton Advertiser carried verbatim reports of the exchanges between tribunal members and COs: ‘William Holland, who styled himself an International Socialist, was asked by the Chairman if he would like to go to Germany and preach his doctrines.
when the Chairman interrupted “We cannot listen to anything about the federation of nations.” The application was dismissed. Permission to appeal to the Central Tribunal was also disallowed. The applicant asked the Clerk for a form but that gentleman declined to furnish the necessary document.’
“They won’t tell it in England, never mind Germany,” he replied. He was proceeding to make some statement with respect to the federation of nations,
Long Eaton Tribunal minutes book. ‘Wm Holland. Lacemaker. Holland Bros. “Conscience”. Appears. I am an international socialist. No religious persuasion - Disallowed.’
by Matthew Knighton They say “we cannot listen to anything about the federation of nations” I suppose they can’t They might hear something that makes them see other people as people And we can’t have that They say I’m dangerous because I’d rather understand my fellow man than snuff out his life They say I’m a menace because I’d rather raise an olive branch than a bayonet They say I’m destructive because I’d rather bring people together instead of blowing them apart They say I’m a criminal because I refuse to be an accomplice to this murderous mummery They say I’m selfish because I refuse to take another life They say I’m a fool for refusing to do and die and never ask why They say I’m a betrayer for not leading others out to die They say I’m unholy for not dancing to the war devil’s fife They say I’m mad for not wanting to watch the world burn They say “we cannot listen to anything about the federation of nations” I suppose they can’t They might hear something that makes them see other people as people And we can’t have that
by Cameron-Alexander Ashby The crescendo of gunfire is silent but my ears still ring. The heavy air filled with smoke and the screams of the damned has dissipated. A dim haze fills my just-opened eyes, as if they cannot comprehend the world they witness. I rise in a stupor from the muddy hellhole that my brothers have spilled so many prayers into. My sticky vitality no longer ekes from each limb and this casts a contentment upon my soulâ€Ś until a voice sounds from afar and I am hurtled back. I walk among clouds of spinning shrapnel, shouted orders, choking smog and the worst sights spun by mankind. And as the tears well in my mud-stained eyes, I despair.
Cheshire Regiment. Battle of the Somme 1916
James Shipstone James also appeared before the Long Eaton Tribunal at Zion Hall in March 1916. His statement (and the public support it received) was reported at length in the Long Eaton Advertiser:
‘As a Christian and International Socialist I believe that war is absolutely wrong, and I am not prepared to participate directly or indirectly. I believe that you cannot end war by indulging in war. War produces war (Applause). My position is unpopular, I know, so was Christ’s… I believe in the solidarity of the human race and I cannot inflict death. The only way to end this horrible war is for an increasing consciousness of international brotherhood
throughout the world, a Christianised education and an international socialist doctrine. … I cannot undertake Red Cross work, because I would only be helping to assist wounded soldiers, in order that they might return to the firing line to indulge further in the terrible orgy of death. I have the greatest sympathy with my German brothers. They are human just as Englishmen.’
by Katie Felis and Kyra Sinclair Costa Coffee. March 2016.
As I walked into Costa Coffee on the Market Square, I accidentally bumped into a man who seemed to be dressed as if he’d just walked out of the early twentieth century; long coat, hat, the works. We exchanged names and he introduced himself: James Shipstone. Trying to start small talk I mentioned the war in Iraq. I soon realised I had said the wrong thing. A look of disgust came across his face. ‘I am a Christian and an International Socialist. War is wrong.’ I signed internally, praying I could get away and avoid this pending lecture. ‘Back in my day we were forced to fight, but I stuck by my decision to be part of the small minority who refused. I still believe that war only produces more war.’ Was he done? I hoped so… I started planning my escape. But then he said something that caught my interest. I automatically zoned back in. ‘My opinion was unpopular. So was Christ’s.’ He raised a fair point. I wasn’t entirely sure how to react. I tuned back in and listened intensely to what he had to say. Suddenly I heard a voice calling out
‘Skinny latte with extra shot!’
It was the barista with my coffee order. I mumbled my excuses to Mr Shipstone, and walked away, pondering over all the things that he’d said.
Long Eaton’s COs, such as William Holland and James Shipstone, attracted both hostility and support: Dear Sir, As a reader of ‘The Advertiser’ may I express my appreciation of your usually fair and unbiased reports, but in reading the accounts of last week’s sittings of the Local Tribunal I felt you were scarcely fair to the conscientious objectors re the Tribunal recommendation for non-combatant service. You omitted to report that in most of the cases, appellants signified their unwillingness to accept the decision of the court and expressed their intention to carry their applications to the Appeals Tribunal … The real conscientious objector is prepared to suffer any penalties that may be imposed upon him rather than violate that which he treasures most… To say the least, these men have the courage of their convictions … Yours etc Ted Draycott
Long Eaton Advertiser March 1916. Letters to the Editor Dear Sir, I attended the Tribunal last week, and never in my life have I been so ashamed as on that afternoon. Zion Hall was ‘packed’ for the occasion by irresponsible citizens who to all appearances were present for the purpose of deliberately goading our young men to defy the law. How long are we going to tolerate such behaviour? I for one hope the town will become too hot for these sanctimonious, self-appointed, peace-loving citizens, who rarely if ever help a little dog over a stile. Yours truly – RATEPAYER
In the summer of 1916, as men in Derbyshire and around the country prepared for tribunals, were sent to prison or work camps, and expressed the courage of their convictions, the â€˜terrible orgy of deathâ€™ continued. Almost 60,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner on the first day of fighting at the Somme. Half a million died in the four-and-a-half month battle. Gibraltar bunker, PoziĂ¨res
Howard Howells Howells, an absolutist CO, described himself at his tribunal as a ‘miner and student of religion’. In newspaper archives we discovered a letter from Howard to his cousin Elias Smith, forwarded with a covering letter to the Derbyshire Courier. Elias gives his address as ‘Devonshire Hospital, Buxton’. Formerly the Duke of Devonshire’s grand stable, this imposing domed building was then a hospital for wounded soldiers. Vera Brittain, who later wrote ‘Testament of Youth’ powerfully documenting the losses of the war, grew up in Buxton and began her nurse training at the hospital. Elias Smith was raised by his uncle and aunt William and Mary Howells, worked underground as a pit pony driver, and enlisted early in the war, seeing active service in France.
Nurses and soldier patients photographed outside the Devonshire Hospital, Buxton
Derbyshire Courier. 1st September 1917
by Sara Moon So many men, so many men have fallen. What's left of my hope? You may question it now as the cost of this futile war chokes those left standing. But we did what we could, we did what we could, the people stood up. We made a life for ourselves in these prisons. And we must remember there is a future beyond these four walls of human existence â€“ the light of victory is still to be won. Still the banner flies, my faith is not lost.
Howard later served a second sentence at Durham Prison.
by Katherine Robinson Dear Elias, Though the road is dark, the torch of my conviction lights the way. Though my cell is cold, hope warms my heart and drives the chill away. Though given only bread and water, my hunger is for an end to war. I have the strength to bear this hardship, and could not ask for more. 67
Dear Elias, Though their fists are blunt and hard, the wardens cannot change my mind. Though they try to catch me out, to make me sympathise with their kind. Though I hunger now for food as my body weakens more. I hold fast to the knowledge that only peace can end this war. Dear Elias, Though my body has grown feeble, my mind will not give up the fight. Though they scoff at my words they must surely see the light. Though the days drag on forever and the horror never ends, I cling to my belief and the small comfort that it lends. Dear Elias, The light has gone out. My strength has failed me, My hope abandoned me, My mind is shattered, My resolve tattered and torn. I was wrong to believe In the goodness of men. There will be no end to war. I went through this all for nothing. Dear Elias, Though I lost my way in darkness, I have found myself again. Though my heart grew hard and cold a flicker of hope remains. Though I have suffered greatly I know that others suffered more. I will stand strong for my brothers and we will bring an end to war.
Howard was not released until 3rd June 1919, seven months after the war had finished.
by Matthew Knighton
June 1919 Dear Elias, Forgive me for not writing sooner. My release from prison, while much welcome, was rather disruptive and has alas impacted upon my letter writing. I hope this letter finds you well and that you are settling back into civilian life. I hope Hannah and little Maggie are well, although I suspect little Maggie is getting to be rather less little these days! Please give them my love. Before I forget I hope Old Bernard is well and that the old dog is enjoying his dotage. Tell him Iâ€™ll bring him the biggest, juiciest bone heâ€™s ever set eyes on. I must admit that my heart is heavy. I know I should be the happiest man there ever was, to once again be free. Yet I am uneasy. Too long was I locked away, the sights and sounds of the free world are strange to me. The sky is too blue and too vast. I get dizzy if I stare at it too long. My room is far too cavernous, the bed is far too soft and the sheets too clean. At night I lie awake and stare into the darkness of the night; without the clink of locks and yell of guards to lull me off, sleep does not come easy to me. Often my stomach churns with guilt. Guilt? Why on earth would I feel guilty I hear you ask? Well it is simple - I have been blessed. My family, yourself included, have been more than happy to see me. I found work; Mr Jacques was glad to give me my job back and 69
the lads down the pit have welcomed me like they would any homecoming hero. Should I be blessed when so many of my comrades are without work, languish in poverty and are cast aside by kith and kin? Is it fair that I am blessed when so many like me suffer? I suppose you wonder whether my confinement has quashed my resolve? I suppose you wonder will I still fight my fight? I shall tell you now that my resolve is stronger than ever. Every time I look around I am reminded I made the right choice. Everywhere I see families torn asunder; mourning sons, fathers and husbands. On every street there are shambling, broken men, their limbs, hearts and souls still trapped in that hellish quagmire. Men like yourself, forever marked in body and spirit by the inferno of battle. This war has left us, and so many countries of the world, in a condition of such great suffering and this accursed influenza epidemic takes yet more from us in our weakened state. In my darker moments I wonder if this is Godâ€™s punishment for our folly, or perhaps it is the second horseman of the apocalypse. I suppose youâ€™re wondering if I would have done anything differently. No, despite all the suffering I would do it all again in a heartbeat and when the bugle blows to call us to war again I will once more stand against it. My conscience will not allow me to do otherwise. Your loving cousin,
6. Uncovering ‘new’ COs During our research we found nineteen individuals who had not been previously recorded in the Pearce Register. Some were miners who appeared before tribunals in 1918, during the ‘combing out’ of the mines. Some were men who, perhaps given the public and personal pressures, later changed their minds and enlisted. Some were mentioned briefly in newspaper reports and had not been recorded elsewhere. Frank Grant, from Froggatt, appeared before Bakewell Rural Tribunal, and the exchange between him and the Tribunal Chairman was reported in the Derbyshire Courier. There is no evidence that Frank subsequently served in the military. In 1920 he married Virtue Fletcher from the neighbouring village of Grindleford, and census records show that he lived to a ripe old age. Derbyshire Courier 25th May 1918.
Page 72. Long Eaton Tribunal minutes book 9th March 1916. ‘Arthur Raymond Craig. Clerk. Yarn Merchants. Conscience. Only employee left. 18. No appeal. Disallowed’
by Paulina Ciura That month at home made me think. Maybe it is my responsibility to fight. After a month to get better, I will be physically fit to fight. Yet I still wonder if mentally I’m fit enough. I’m not a weakling yet I feel I won’t be able to take the Front. Am I strong enough to carry the dead body of a comrade who has been killed by the blast? Am I going to cry as I carry him and my legs get heavier with every step and my soul is burdened? What will cause me more harm? What will become of me when I get back? If I come back at all. Even if I come back alive, I feel a part of me will die there, left behind, buried with the bodies of my friends. Maybe I’m prepared to shed my blood but not to rip out a piece of me. For that I’m sorry, that I’m not strong enough in my soul to witness death. Yet I’m not sorry I’m not contributing to something I could only class as murder. For that is a sin and, God be my witness, I have committed sins, but not this one.
Arthur Raymond Craig appeared before the Long Eaton Tribunal on 9th March 1916. After exemption for ‘conscience’ was disallowed, he enlisted in the Mechanical Transport section of the Army Service Corps. He received the Military Service Medal and British War Medal and was discharged in 1920.
by Matthew Knighton ‘Granddad what did you do in the Great War?’ the grandkids clamour as they sit on the floor clustered around my chair. My lips begin to move and I tell them the same old story. I tell them about joining up, standing proud in my uniform, doing my duty for king and country and of course sticking by my comrades in arms. I take out the nasty bits, make sure to tell them funny stories and am thankful they don’t notice the haunted look in my eyes, or how my hands tremble as, just for a fleeting moment, I’m right back there. The stories leave them wide-eyed and open-mouthed. ‘Granddad you were such a hero.’ I nod and smile. I’m old and getting to feel like a hero is one of the few pleasures left to me. All it takes is a few little lies. A lie? Why would this be a lie? The truth is I was never a hero. In fact I was the biggest coward of the lot. I never tell them the truth. I never tell them how once I stood head held high and said
‘No I won’t go. I will not fight your damnable war.’
I don’t tell them how I was spat at in the street, mocked, jeered and cast aside by friends I’d known for years. I don’t tell them how I tried to stay strong and true, be a man of principle, like Will Holland or one of the other lads at that Tribunal. I don’t tell the grandkids how it became too much. How I slunk back and stood head bowed before the recruitment officers, and said ‘You win. I’ll take the king’s shilling and go.’ Would they still say ‘Granddad you were such a hero,’ if I told them the truth?
Acting Sergeant Arthur Raymond Craig, RASC, Record of War Medals.
Isaac Booth appeared before the Chesterfield Rural Tribunal in January 1918, together with other men from local pits. At this stage in the war, coal miners previously exempted from conscription by being engaged in work of national importance, were being ‘combed out’. Derbyshire Courier 5th January 1918.
by Louise Collins I’m damned either way. Damned by God or damned by my community. War is murder, it is against everything I believe… I’m not joining up, I’m not. I don’t care what they say. Whatever decision they arrive at I’m refusing the military. I’ll work …. I’ll toil in’t pit, it’s penance enough and God knows the war needs coal like I need air t’ breathe. It’d be daft them sending me away, I’m more use here. I’d rather die in solitary, famished and worn out than kill another man, another brother, another spouse, another son, another Christian! And I’m not afraid of graft, I work hard each day, my blackened, coarse hands show I’m not a coward or shirker. It’s just wrong t’force me against my beliefs. I’m God-fearing, church on Sunday evensong and Wednesday. I help out there too, highdays and holidays. No, I won’t go… I can’t go. 75
7. COs in Prison In practice, having been rejected on appeal a CO was a soldier absent without leave and as such was subject to arrest and handed over to a military regiment. COs who entered military service were also arrested for refusing to obey military orders. Over one-third of COs went to prison at least once, including the majority of absolutists who were imprisoned virtually for the duration of the war. At first, COs were sent to military prisons because they were considered to be soldiers, but after the Birkenhead Case (see George Benson above) it was ruled that COs who had been court martialled be sent to civil prisons. The initial standard sentence was 112 days third division hard labour - the most severe level of prison sentence under English law at that time. This began with one month in solitary confinement on bread and water, performing arduous and boring manual jobs like breaking stone, hand-sewing mailbags and picking oakum. However, after being released a CO could be immediately arrested again as a deserter, court-martialled and returned to prison (see Henry Smith above). This ‘Cat and Mouse’ treatment had been previously used on the Suffragettes, and as the war went on sentences handed down to COs increased. Over the course of the war, some conscientious objectors were taken with their regiments to France, where one could be shot for refusing to obey an order. Thirty-four (the ‘Frenchmen’) were sentenced to death after being court martialled but had their sentences commuted to penal servitude. Prison conditions were often made very hard for COs. At least seventy-three died - either in prison or as a result of their treatment. Some coped with prison life by taking an active role in challenging the situation, or participated in covert activity such as compiling CO prison newspapers, written on toilet paper and backed with scraps of hessian mailbags, with titles such as The Winchester Whisperer, Canterbury Clinker and The Court Martial. Others coped through 76
mental exercise, learning Esperanto, reciting poetry from memory, or going on imaginary, remembered walks.
The following is based loosely on Henry Hallam, absolutist CO from Alfreton, who was imprisoned at Wormwood Scrubs, Durham and Dartmoor.
by Katherine Robinson Dear Dotty,
I apologise for the delay since my last letter; my
writing privileges were taken away for looking out of the window. In hindsight it was a bit of a waste as all I could see was the sky (overcast) and the walls on the other side 77
of the prison yard. It has been miserable here, with no one to talk to, but I have been able to keep my spirits up nonetheless. Some of the other prisoners have been writing a newspaper, scratched in tiny letters on scraps of paper, using a needle as a pen and the dregs of the inkpot. It is good to know that there are others out there – sometimes I forget that I’m not the only one, unless one of them is screaming, and that might eventually break me if not for the occasional article about the power of peace to remind me why I’m here. The jokes are good too – far more funny and personal than the ones I used to read at the breakfast table.
I have developed a regime of sorts. In the morning
they take me out for exercise, which allows me to stretch my legs somewhat. After lunch I laugh for an hour, and then I write letters to you or to Arthur in the dust on the floor. I can never send them, of course, but it allows me to speak my mind. I do sit-ups and press-ups until dinner, and then I choose a memory and re-live it until it is bedtime. Sometimes I change the events; it’s interesting to consider all the decisions, big and small, that brought us here and how things might now be different. For example, what if we had walked up to the Heights of Abraham rather than taken the cable car? I planned on proposing to you there, not counting on your fear of heights to ruin the mood. If we’d walked, I might have asked you, and you might have said yes. We might have a child by now. Or, what if last November we had bought sausages instead of herring and then forgotten that we had it when we spent the weekend at your mother’s? We’d have had to go through less firewood trying to warm the house up again after airing it out! What if I had been the one rowing the boat on the mere last time we went to Hornsea, and Arthur had been the fool to stand up and start showing off? I wouldn’t have fallen in and I’d have avoided that dreadful cold, and for once gotten a good laugh at 78
his expense to boot. Another one: what if my call up papers had been lost in the post? Of course, I’m not naïve enough to believe that it would have stopped them trying to get their hooks into me, but it might at least have bought me time to gather my thoughts and present them properly to the tribunal. No, I suppose that still wouldn’t have made a difference, but it is nice to dream. I do wish I had reacted better to this conscription business; that I had not lost my head at the carelessness and arrogance of those high and mighty law makers. I so very nearly lost sight myself of what really matters: life. What if I had not argued with Charlie before he left? If I had instead made my point, clearly and rationally, would he have come round? Would he then be here, in one of these cells, cold and hungry and sore, but at least alive? Or would he have gone anyway, but at least still thought of me as a friend when he died in No Man’s Land?
I’m sorry, Dotty; I’ve gone and smudged the dust. I
suppose it’s just as well that I can never send this – it’s illegible now anyway. Still, I will continue to speak my mind here, and hope that this stops me going mad with helplessness.
How can they believe that this war will result in
anything other than misery in all quarters. The soldiers at the front; the bureaucrats trying to balance the books; the mothers, wives, and children who will never see their loved ones again; my poor comrades trapped in this hell-hole – the war touches everyone. They may be killing Germans, but more importantly they are killing each other, too. They killed my brother – it may have been a German bullet or a German shell, but it was British war-mongering that put him in the line of fire – and I will never forgive them for it. How can they believe that all of this death and pain will solve anything? Blood will not wash out blood. 79
I wish, more than anything, that I could speak out
about this; that people would listen. Instead, I am trapped here, in this tiny cell, unable even to contribute to the newspaper, scratching out my indignation in the dust. At least it allows me to vent my emotions and organise my thoughts; I will keep practising this, so that when I get out I can hold my own in a debate, and hopefully convince others to follow me. If I can do this, maybe I can at least begin to forgive myself for failing Charlie.
So, it seems I have a manifesto to write. I shall
leave you with this, my dear Dotty: know that I am well, and my resolve remains as strong as ever. I will not break, no matter what they do to me; I only fear the screams of others, and I know, from the newspaper, that each other man here believes whole-heartedly in our cause, and accepts any punishment the establishment sees fit to dish out. With such brave and dedicated comrades, I know that we can win our own battle for peace. Ever yours,
by Matthew Knighton
Sometimes as I lie here in the bone-numbing cold and
choking damp, my rattling gasping breath the only thing to keep me company, my mind begins to wander. It starts to walk into the past, or at least a version of it, and sometimes it wanders to a future that might yet come to pass. Sometimes shades and figments decide to keep me company, to break my solitude and share a few words with me.
“Look at you lying there groaning like a broken
winded pissymire!” My mother’s voice sounds out of the darkness, hard and stern like it always did.
“Hello Mam,” I say. I know I’m talking to a figment of
my imagination, still it’s better than the alternative. “I’ve got a bit of cough”.
“Ruddy typical. Everyone else goes and does what
they’re told. Doesn’t make a fuss. Yet you get tha’ sen stuck in prison. What am I going to tell your old Nan?” she says. I can see it now, wagging finger, tuts and shaking of the head.
“Tell her I was doing what I had to do. I can’t go
fight in this war. It’s not a war for me and you. It’s a war for them and their’s…” I pause “…for the rich. How can I kill people just like me?” I say, hoping she will understand. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Not for their war. Not ever.”
“Oh don’t you start with that socialist claptrap
again. I’ve telled you that’s none for the likes of us. Oh no my lad, in this family tha’ keeps tha’ ‘ead down and does’na cause trouble,” she snaps. 81
“Mam. It’s not claptrap. It’s the future. I’m sorry if
I worry you but if I go off and fight, then I’m just going along with it. I can’t do that. It’s not right. We’ve got to stand together if we want to get a better world. I’m doing it for you, for everyone. I don’t want to worry you.” I sigh, repeating words too often said, like a well-worn prayer.
“Tha’s getting ideas above thaself. That’s all it
is. We’re none good enough for you, you think tha’ summet special. Well tha’ not. It’s just showing off. It’s so hard now. Tha’ father lost his job down pit, Mr Collins said he’s none having the father of a conchie working for him.”
“I’m sorry. I really am but….” I splutter but she cuts
“A selfish show-off with no regard for his family.
Our Annie was right. You were always trouble, I should have given you up years ago. I’ll tell you summet my lad, you’re a lazy, selfish coward, who thinks he’s better than us. That’s all you are.”
“I’m not selfish. I’m sorry you see me that way. I’m
trying to do my bit to make a better world. I’m sorry if it worries you but what else can I do?” I yell out at her.
My Mother doesn’t answer. Once again my rattling
breath is the only sound of comfort. I roll over and press my face to the pillow, as always it smells of damp and mould. I start to cry, thin and shaking sobs. I can’t help but wonder if deep down, she has a point. That I am selfish. That I like being different. No, I sob; I don’t want to hurt anyone. I want me Mam and Dad to be alright. I am doing it all for them and everyone like them. Aren’t I?
8. Real Men? ‘Conchies’ were often portrayed as effeminate, immoral, weak, degenerate, cowardly, debauched and unmanly, and throughout the war caricatures and cartoons appeared in newspapers and magazines. These views are reflected in the comment of the Bakewell Rural Tribunal member Mr Tinsley to Frank Grant (see page 71):
‘You don’t look like a conscientious objector, you look too manly. I can’t believe that you would allow lives to be sacrificed while you stayed at home. My son came 4,000 miles to fight for the likes of you.’
by Matthew Knighton A soldier is a real man Not for him the weak and womanly vices That plague our modern world He does not waste his thoughts on thinking for himself He does not waste his breath on speaking for himself He does not waste his time on kindness and goodwill He does the King’s work and brings swift death to the innocent 83
He does the Kingâ€™s duty and steals from the poor and giveth unto the rich He does the Kingâ€™s will and ensures that injustice is done A soldier is a real man Not for him the weak and womanly vices That plague our modern world
by Katherine Robinson Recruiting Sergeants in every street Send off to war every man they meet. And the poor fools never stop to think That the sergeant stays home with his fire and drink.
By Matthew Knighton This little conchie went to prison This little conchie went to the Home Office Scheme This little conchie had bread and water This little conchie had none And this little conchie died in a â€œnatural wayâ€? So they carried his coffin all the way home
9. 100 Years On After ‘the war to end all war’, the victorious powers imposed ‘a peace to end all peace’ laying the foundations of a longer, bloodier world war 20 years later. The century since has been one of the bloodiest in human history. With vast resources devoted to weapons technology and the mass production of military hardware, killing-power is ever-increasing. Large parts of national economies are tied in to a military-industrial complex which governs international relations, and hampers the progress of human rights worldwide.
by Sara Moon Think of what we could do if war was obsolete. Imagine the energy and ingenuity of our young people conscripted for ... creating community arts events befriending the elderly learning to make bread growing gardens. Imagine if the money spent on weapons was spent on poetry and paint, big blank canvases for every street; medicine, housing, education... Oh what a world that could be.
In official commemorations of the First World War, COs are usually not included or remembered. In the 21st century, how do we create memorials for their lives and actions? 86
by Matthew Knighton A soldier mentioned in dispatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which is described the soldier's gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy. In the British Armed Forces, the dispatch is published in the London Gazette. Conscientious objectors were also brave individuals who stuck to their principles despite often brutal action against them from the civil and military authorities, combined with prejudice from society at large. One hundred years after these men took a stand against war, we salute their courage.
For taking a kick. Mr Hardy refused to fight and spoke out about how civil authority was being displaced by a military one. His reward for a brave and truthful statement was a kick by Captain Tilleard, an officious little man very keen to send people off to die. Mr Hardyâ€™s showed great bravery in the face of violence to his person and did not let it deter him from speaking uncomfortable truths. We celebrate his bravery and dedication to the truth.
For renouncing his position. Mr Hunter, formerly Captain, was hardly the sort of person youâ€™d expect to speak out against the war. Instead, seeing the horror of it all Mr Hunter renounced his commission and took the more difficult path of peace. Mr Hunterâ€™s deed is a reminder that even military men can stand against injustice and gives hope that more will do the same.
For enduring torture. Mr Benson was arrested, tried and subject to brutal and humiliating public torture. He was 87
forced to carry arms and stand to attention in an effort to break him. If this wasn’t enough he was shipped off to Wormwood Scrubs and subjected to hard labour. Rather than let this break him Mr Benson remained true to his principles. In later years he became an MP and fought for prison reform. It is a great comfort and inspiration to know that one can remain true to one’s principles no matter what is done to you.
For unjust murder by the state. It was said that Mr Haston died in a ‘natural way.’ Mr Haston was beaten and tortured by prison guards. Proof of the crime will remain forever sealed in his coffin, but we all know the truth. However, Mr Haston remained defiant to the end and refused to give in to the demands of the warmonger and in this we can take some solace. His death is a stark reminder that sometimes good men and women will suffer for their conviction.
For seeing the so-called enemy as people. Mr Holland spoke passionately about the “federation of nations”. He was, in the eyes of the state, the most dangerous of men. He saw the so-called enemy as comrades and fellow human beings. This wouldn’t do and so they tried to shut him up. Mr Holland was a brave man whose commitment to solidarity between all people should be an inspiration to us all.
For being a truly pious man. Mr Shipstone was a Christian and international socialist. He refused to go to war as he believed the war was an anathema to Christ and humankind and that one could not end war by indulging in it. He caused much offence by seeing Germans as human beings rather than monsters to be slain. We would like to congratulate Mr Shipstone for practicing what he preached.
For remaining indomitable in the face of hardship. Mr Howells for his belief in peace was subject to terrible hardship and left to rot in solitary confinement. Who knows what hardships and indignities he was subject to while there? It would have been understandable if he had broken. Mr Howells remained committed to his beliefs and his cause despite all the hardship. We salute him for his indomitable spirit.
For trying his best. Mr Craig tried to take a stand against then unjust war, but the pressure got to him and he was forced to join up. It would be easy to call him a coward, however, it is hard to take a stand when everyone is trying to tear you down. Instead we salute him for trying his best.
For being lost to history. Mr Booth was a Christian who stated that he refused to kill his fellow man. This was not enough for the tribunal who thought it was only right and proper that we turn against each other. Mr Booth took a stand. What happened to him after that is unknown. Sometimes those who take a stand are lost to the mists of time, and become just a name on the breeze, but their deeds are no less courageous than those who are remembered.
by Sara Moon never again will boot stand in a field, filled with a foot never again the explosion of face, the metal of blood in mouth never again the wail of those left starving, dying of exposure never again the clang and whir of warfare's ever advancing technology never again the neat lines of marching men on and on to kill other men, just like them
German soldiers killed at the Somme
In 2016 thirty-five countries still conscript young men and women into the armed forces; some are offered alternatives such as community or public service. Although Article 18 of the Human Rights Convention recognises the right to freedom of conscience, including the right to conscientious objection, several countries do not accept this, with objectors facing an inevitable prison sentence, plus social and economic discrimination. In most countries, including the UK, citizens have no recognised right to conscientiously object to their taxes being used for military expenditure, rather than for peacebuilding. To mark the International Day of Conscientious Objectors on 15 May 2015, Amnesty International interviewed Song In-Ho, aged 25, a Jehovah’s Witness, who was waiting for a court ruling on his decision to refuse military service in South Korea: ‘Those who conscientiously object to military service are stigmatized, almost as if we are branded at birth. It is like people know that a child is predestined to be in jail, so they decide to treat them like criminals-to-be.’ CO memorial in Tavistock Square Gardens, London. Dedicated on 15th May 1994. The inscription reads ‘To commemorate men and women, conscientious objectors to military service all over the world and in every age. To all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill. Their foresight and courage give us hope.’
by Katherine Robinson “You be the robber,” Min-soo tells me as we run towards the playground to join our friends. “I was the robber last time. I want to be a cop. You be a robber.” “Don’t be silly,” he tells me. “You’re the one who’s going to prison.” In my mind’s eye I see a dark, barbed-wire clad prison loom up in front of me, an image from my nightmares. I skid to a stop in front of its iron gates. Lightning flashes and the inmates cackle in the mad laughter of hardened criminals. My insides shrivel up with dread. “What’s wrong?” Min-soo’s voice comes from far away. I blink, and the prison is gone. “No I’m not,” I say. “Not what?” “Not going to prison.” “Of course you are. Everyone knows that.” “But I didn’t do anything.” “You’re a Jehovah’s Witness. You’re not going to join the army, so you’re going to prison instead.” “But I didn’t do anything!” “You’re still breaking the law.” “How can it be against the law to be yourself?” He shrugs. “It just is. Now come on, let’s play.” “I’m not being the robber,” I insist. “I’m not a criminal. I just don’t want to fight.” They cast me as the robber anyway.
by Sara Moon All over the world and in every age decisions will be made. Wars will be started. People will stand up. We will be ridiculed, scorned, ignored. We will lose friends, family, jobs, reputation. Who are the cowards? Not the ones, surely who risk to lose it all? But do it because it has to be done? These corners of resistance are our strongest humanity: compassion in action, love out loud and furious. All over the world and in every age we will be trodden down, dismissed, abused and we will carry on, whispering the names of those before us, repeating our own names again and again, knowing there will be more from then to now to (let's face it) future times when the need to resist continues we take our place in an unbreakable web of solidarity with all of those who resist the call to war from Israel to South Korea, from Syria to Indonesia, from Switzerland to Libya. Our fight will not be won, one day out there, it is won, right now. It is won every time we refuse to live the reality they demand. It is won every time we stand together, rewriting history. It is won.
About the contributors Katherine Robinson, Matthew Knighton and Sara Moon were the core group of young writers who volunteered with Courage of Conscience. ‘I have enjoyed combining historical research and creative writing. I usually write fantasy so this was a very different genre to try.’ Katherine Robinson ‘It has been very interesting to learn about local history, particularly from the point of view of ordinary people. It's brought Derbyshire history to life for me - it's not all just about mills and canals! Taking part in this project also convinced me that I like writing poetry.’ Matthew Knighton ‘I studied WW1 literature at A level a few years ago, and it's inspiring to hear personal accounts of local people who lived then, particularly their stories of resistance. It's really heartening to see that throughout history people have resisted war, and it strengthens our generation's resolve. It's important to show solidarity with the Derbyshire COs and to celebrate and commemorate their stories.’ Sara Moon Many thanks to the following who also took part in the project or contributed their writing: Ben Chiverton Brie Parkin Cameron-Alexander Ashby Charles Blagdon Jasmine Simms Katie Felis Kayleigh Hubbard Kyra Sinclair
Lauren Hill Louise Collins Lucy Heath Olivia Baughan Owen Sherwood Paulina Ciura Sophie Bacon 94
About the editor River Wolton is a former Derbyshire Poet Laureate; her latest collection is Indoor Skydiving (Smith/Doorstop 2013). She has edited a number of publications by community writing groups, and worked with schools, colleges and many grass-roots arts projects.
Derbyshire COs from the Pearce Register ALFRETON Frank Clarke W. E. Cox Henry Hallam George Howard Joseph Lamb James Long William Long Joseph Sharp George Tagg F. C. Tomlinson E. Walker James Whysall
George Lawless Thomas Smith James Wooliscroft
ASHBOURNE S. Handley Wilfred Milner
BELPER N. Allwood David Appleby H. Darbyshire George Davidson F. W. Hatton Arthur Hunter John Hunter Arthur Ludlow Fred Martin William Mauder A. Roper John Sanders Henry Smith Alfred Tomes Arthur Watkins
BAKEWELL J. W. French Charles Knowles
BLACKWELL E. V. Walker Henry Smith
ALVASTON Ernest Baxter
BUXTON Fred Berrisford Arthur Vickery James Vickery Skinner
GLOSSOP Samual Currie Harold Gartside William Jacques Fred Warhurst
CHAPEL-EN-LE-FRITH George Robinson
HAYFIELD Ernest Bowden
CHESTERFIELD E.T. Barton Samuel Baxter Herbert Berry Harry Buckley George Carter Albert Hardy Henry Haston Howard Howells Lawrence Keeton Ernest Meese Ernest Mellor Percy Moon John Rigby William Seedhouse Colin Smith Albert Stevens Edward Watts John Whittaker
HEAGE Zedekiah Payne HEANOR William Barker George E. Birks George Birks Arthur Bowles Ernest Brewin Hardwick Flintoff Herbert Green D. Henderson J. C. Howitt William Mart Chris Thorpe ILKESTON Thomas Ball Ernest Briggs Arthur Brown James Caurse Bernard Hildreth Percy Morley Frederick Page Frank Shelton Albert Spencer George Stanley
CLOWNE Thomas Hewitt Edwin Smith DRONFIELD Harold Edees 96
Benjamin Taylor John Teate Harold Trueman George Wiles
Arthur Henry Marsden Arthur Marsden Henry Wheeldon Ince Wheeldon J.H. Wootton
LONG EATON F. Ainsworth Thomas Angrave William Angrave Richard Barry Albert Bench A. Booth William Booth Samuel Brassington James Chattell Edward Draycott D. E.Truman Alfred Holland William Holland Claude Hopkinson William Hudson William Jordan J.H. Mitchell Wilfred Pegg James Shipstone Charles Stuart Percy Tebutt Harry Worth Harry Wright MATLOCK G.A.Anderson A. Allwood W.T. Allwood Hugh Attlee William Lowe
REPTON George Boswell RIPLEY Alfred Curzon William Mander Harry Vasey SHARDLOW Francis Allen John Earp C.S. Follett Eli Grooms George Grooms J. Hickling Henry Plackett Joseph Plackett Rev R. W. Price Andrew Smith Thomas Stevenson SWADLINCOTE William Locker John Matthews WIRKSWORTH John Bowyer John Hodgson
‘New’ COs uncovered by Courage of Conscience young writers LONG EATON Arthur Raymond Craig Horace Herbert Davies Charles Edward Francis Gilbert Stanley Hayes William Henry Hexter Edgar James Horton James William Lystone Walter Ernest Parker John William Smith John Henry Sutton Frances Joseph Townsend Arthur T W Turton James Edward Valentine
CHESTERFIELD Isaac Booth William Butcher Henry Hicken Lawrence W Howells William Miles BAKEWELL Frank Grant
Sources Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2015/05/ a-life-sentence-from-birth-story-of-a-south-korean-conscientious-objector/ ‘Never Again’. Edward Carpenter. Labour Leader, January 1915 No Glory: The Real History of the First World War. Neil Faulkner. Stop the War Coalition. 2013. The World is My Country: A celebration of the people and movements that opposed the First World War in 10 posters and stories. Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle. London: Peace News Press. 2015. ‘The brothers who made a stand’. Sabine Durrant. Guardian. 8 Nov 2008. The Pearce Register of British First World War Conscientious Objectors, available at ‘Lives of the Great War’ Imperial War Museum digital archive. To End All Wars. Adam Hochschild. London: Pan Macmillan, 2011.
Acknowledgements Alison Betteridge, Literature Development Officer, Derbyshire County Council Ben Copsey, Objecting to War Project Officer, Peace Pledge Union British Newspaper Archives Browser Café, Chesterfield Library Chesterfield Library Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War www.conscienceonline.org.uk Cyril Pearce Gertie Whitfield of Whitworks Imperial War Museum Ingrid Sharp, Sabine Grimshaw, Corinne Painter, Leeds University. Presenters and participants at ‘Resistance to War’ Conference, Leeds University, March 2016 Karen Millhouse, Archivist, Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock Lorraine Poyser, Director of Community Services, Erewash Borough Council Mandy Brooks and Lindsay Aslan, Chesterfield College Megan Leyland, Senior Properties Historian, English Heritage Nick Tomlinson, Information Officer, Picture the Past North East Midland Photographic Record Rebecca Pyne-Edwards Banks, PhD student, Derby University 99
Sue Clayton, Community Learning & Information Librarian, Derbyshire Libraries Courage of Conscience steering group White Feather Diaries
Image Credits We have tried to trace all sources and copyright holders. If you have further information about the source and copyright of any images please contact us and we will be happy to rectify. Cover image: Copy negative made from a postcard of a conscientious objector prision, original caption reads ‘On the stool’. © Imperial War Museum Q103094 Lining up to enlist. Creswell, Derbyshire. 1914. Courtesy of www.picturethepast.org.uk ‘Every man is needed. Why do the single men stay behind? Will not our women help us!’ Nottingham Market Place. 1915. Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and www.picturethepast.org.uk J R Earp Friends Ambulance Unit personnel record. © Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/ BEF retreating. Mons 1914. Source unknown. ‘Women of Britain Say Go!’ Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No.75. W.13741. Imperial War Museum Collection. © Imperial War Museum (IWM) (Art.IWM PST 2763) ‘Be Honest With Yourself.’ Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No.127. W 8768/576. Imperial War Museum Collection © IWM (Art.IWM PST 5068) ‘Halt Who Goes There? – Join the British Ranks’ Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No.60 W 12400. Imperial War Museum Collection © IWM (Art.IWM PST 11626) Military Service Act 1916. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 5161) 1916 tribunal sitting in Preston. Photo: Peace Pledge Union James Vickery Friends Ambulance Unit personnel record. © Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/ CO Appeal Questions. Rev. Norton papers. Derby 3rd Primitive Methodist Cirucuit Records. Courtesy of Derbyshire Record Office Diagram: Tribunal and Appeal system. Courtesy of Ben Copsey, Peace Pledge Union. 100
R. L. Barry graffiti from cells at Richmond Castle. © Historic England ‘Conscience and a Kick’ headline from Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 19 January 1917. Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board and sourced from the British Newspaper Archive. Pit pony, Brinsley Colliery, 1913. Courtesy of Nottinghamshire County Council and www.picturethepast.org.uk Windmill Cemetery 1918. Source unknown. George Benson Forces Enrolment Paper. Original data: The National Archives, Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office. War Office: Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’; The National Archives Microfilm Publication WO363. Harry Haston. Courtesy of Ms A.P.Y Gallon and www.picturethepast.org.uk W. Holland. Entry in Long Eaton Tribunal Minutes book. Courtesy of Erewash Borough Council and Derbyshire Record Office. Photo: R. Wolton Cheshire Regiment. Somme 1916. ©IWM Q 3990 GibralterBunker. Australian 7th Brigade. Somme 1916. British Offical Photographer. AWM EZ0098 Nurses and soldier patients photographed outside the Devonshire Hospital. buxtonwarmemorials.mrallsophistory.com ‘CO’s Court Martial and Sentence’. Letter to the Editor. Derbyshire Courier Saturday 1 September 1917. Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board and sourced from the British Newspaper Archive. ‘Bakewell Rural Tribunal: A Froggatt Youth and His Conscience’. Derbyshire Courier 25 May 1918. Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board and sourced from the British Newspaper Archive. Arthur Raymond Craig. Entry in Long Eaton Tribunal Minutes book. Courtesy of Erewash Borough Council and Derbyshire Record Office. Photo: R.Wolton Service Medal Roll for Arthur Raymond Craig. Source: The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329; Piece Number: 2017 ‘Conscience Claims at Chesterfield’ Derbyshire Courier - Saturday 05 January 1918Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board and sourced from the British Newspaper Archive. The C.O. In Prison. Copy negative made from a Conscientious Objector cartoon “The C.O. in Prison” by G D Micklewright, 1917 © IWM Q 102928 ‘The Conscientious Objector At The Front’ cartoon. Sourced from White 101
Feather Diaries www.whitefeatherdiaries.org.uk This is one of several cartoons signed by “A.E.” Archibald English. There have been many attempts by authors and researchers to trace the copyright-holder. If you believe you own the copyright for this image, we will be very pleased if you contact us. ‘The Only Way’ cartoon. As above. ‘An Object Lesson: This Little Pig Stayed At Home’. Cartoon by Frank Holland. Sourced from Imperial War Museum Photograph Archive Collection © IWM (Q 103334) German dead. Somme 1916. © IWM Q65442 Conscientious Objectors Memorial, Tavistock Square, London. Photo: R. Wolton.
‘Powerful, well-researched and displayed ... a wonderful message of the enduring importance of each generation’s duty to challenge the received wisdom of those who have gone before them’ From the Foreword by Cyril Pearce, compiler of the Pearce Register of British World War One Conscientious Objectors
The centenary of the First World War is being marked by many official commemorations, events, TV series and publications, but there is little attention being paid to those who opposed the conflict, and who took a stand against it. This book seeks to uncover and give voice to those who went against the tide of popular opinion and public pressure by resisting military conscription. Working with former Derbyshire Poet Laureate River Wolton, young people aged 16 – 30 researched the lives of Derbyshire’s WW1 conscientious objectors, and created fictional pieces of creative writing in the ‘imagined voices’ of these individuals, their communities and families. Courage of Conscience is a project of ProPeace Chesterfield, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. ProPeace Chesterfield seeks to provide a platform of support for local peace and justice groups to work together, sharing information, resources and events in order to build and grow their organisations and to provide a broad base of information for individuals wishing to explore the work of the wider peace movement.
Hidden histories of Derbyshire's WW1 conscientious objectors. Young writers aged 16 - 30 worked with former Derbyshire Poet Laureate River...
Published on Jun 23, 2016
Hidden histories of Derbyshire's WW1 conscientious objectors. Young writers aged 16 - 30 worked with former Derbyshire Poet Laureate River...