Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Timeline for WW1 COs

 Main source for dates is David Boulton, Objection Overruled (Francis Boutle, 2014)
1915                
summer            ILP pamphlet: The Peril of Conscription 
October          Stop Conscription meetings across country (ILP)           
1916                
January 6th       Military Service Bill first reading
January 27th     Military Service Bill became law: men aged 18-40, single, liable for call-up
February           War Office Form W 3236 sent to those liable     
March 2nd         Date for lodging exemption claim          (poster)
March 9th          1st issue of The Tribunal (N-CF)
April 8th - 9th    2nd N-CF National Convention:  Pledge by 2,000 to resist
April                 N-CF branch members fined/imprisoned re anti-recruiting leaflets
May 7th - 8th     CO prisoners taken to France with NCC 
May 17th           8 N-CF Nat Comm. members charged re leaflet 'Repeal the (DoR) Act'    
May 25th           Military Service (General Compulsion) Act: married men now liable          
June 2nd           COs' courts martial at Boulogne begun  
June 15th          Parade ground sentences:         35 'guilty of disobedience'
June 24th          A W Evans' court martial (later than others due to illness)           
June 28th          PM statement:   COs being shipped back
August              Dyce work camp set up
September, early           Death of Walter Roberts in Dyce camp  
October, end     Dyce camp closed       
1917                
April                 Military Service (Review of Exemptions) Act      
April 6th            N-CF message to Provisional Govt. in Russia: "our comrades"   
March               Several work settlements closed down  
May 17th           Meeting of nearly 900 at Dartmoor work centre (for ‘real’ work with civil rights)     
June 3rd           Leeds conference welcoming Russian Revolution          
June 15th          N-CF Nat Com confirms refusal to sponsor or organise work strikes by COs       
July                  Act making certain categories of aliens subject to conscription  
December 12th  Death of Arthur Butler in Preston; doctor exonerated by inquest jury       
December         Govt. "concessions" to COs having served >12 months: excluding labour, diet   
December         German peace offer     
1918                
early                 Newcastle, Maidstone, Wandsworth, Winchester, Carlisle, Canterbury, Hull –                                            Hunger strikes by COs:
January             Powers to cancel occupational exemptions       
January 16th     Death of Arthur Horton in Shrewsbury (pneumonia); doctor exonerated by inquest jury
February           Hunger strike at Newcastle over "incompetence and inhumanity" of prison doctor
February 4th      Death of H W Firth at Dartmoor 
February 9th      Prosecution of Bertrand Russell and Joan Beauchamp re letter in The Tribunal    
February, mid    Police raid on N-CF premises; copies of paper seized   
Guy Aldred
April                 Upper age limit 51, provision for further cancellation of exemptions etc.                                                          Proposal to extend conscription to Ireland, withdrawn
April 30th          Lords debate re ‘work of national value’ for COs
October               Work strike by 20 COs in Wandsworth (Guy Aldred)      
Similar actions in Leicester, Leeds, Pentonville, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston    
November 11th  Armistice: COs remained in prison         
December 12th  Aldred and other strikers in Wandsworth moved to basement cells    
 (cat-and-mouse release after a week's hunger strike)      
1919                
            Several 'unofficial' [not N-CF supported] work strikes by COs throughout year.   
February           New governor at Wandsworth tries to impose iron discipline; open rebellion continues                              Parliamentary enquiry, eventually
April                 Releases of COs begin with "2-year men"          
April 29th          FSC lists "20-monthers" awaiting release; 24 get out of Pentonville and Wandsworth
May Day           Call for general prison strike (J H Hudson, Manchester)  
May                  CMs continue: sentences of hard labour
June                 Joint  Board for Assistance of COs and Their Dependants formed         
1920                
January             Joan Beauchamp sentenced to 21 days as publisher of The Tribunal; serves 8 days.
January 8th       Last issue of The Tribunal         
May 20th           Announcement of orders for release of all conscripts     
1921                
August 31st      Official end of war: Military Service Acts lapse. 

COs =  Conscientious Objectors
N-CF  No-Conscription Fellowship
NCC  Non-Combatant Corps
ILP  Independent Labour Party
FSC  Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Applications for exemption could be made to Tribunals under the following headings:
a. On the ground that it was in the national interest that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in work in which he was habitually engaged;
b. On the ground that it was in the national interest that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in work in which he wished to be engaged;
c. That the man was being educated or trained for any work, on the ground that it was expedient in the national interest that, instead of being employed in military service, he should continue to be so educated or trained;
d. On the ground that serious hardship would ensue, if the man were called up for Army service, owing to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position;
e. On the ground of ill-health or infirmity;
f. On the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service; and
g. On the ground that the principal and usual occupation of the man was one of those included in the list of occupations certified by Government Departments and that it was expedient in the national interest that he should continued in such occupation.

A group of COs with supporters

See many subsequent posts for lots more about First World War COs.

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