Friday, 28 November 2014

Ealing’s Conscientious Objectors: Case Study No. 5

Burr, William Hugh  of 61, Oswald Road, Southall: Ealing’s Youngest CO?

William Burr had just turned 18 in January 1916 when the first Military Service Act was passed, making single men aged between 18 and 40 liable to conscription into the armed forces unless they could make a case for exemption under one of seven headings. He made his application to Southall Local Tribunal on the sixth of these, f. On the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service - rooted in his case like that of many others in religious conviction.

Extracts and information from Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: M126. (

Unlike quite a lot of others whose beliefs led them to make a conscientious objection, William Burr did not attempt to claim absolute exemption from participation in the war effort, stating clearly that he asked for “Exemption from combatant service only”. Specifically and repeatedly he expressed his willingness to serve in the RAMC, without adding any reservations about taking the military oath as Albert Evans had done; in fact he said he had attempted to join that body but had been told the unit was “not open”, giving this as one reason for his appeal.
Notice of Appeal. (2) Grounds on which appeal made:
The grounds on which I appeal are:-
(1) I do not consider that I had a fair hearing.
(2) I was very unwell at the time with a severe cold being confined to bed te two previous days & having a difficulty with my speech for which I am attending hospital. I was rather depressed & nervous not being able to express myself as I should.
(3)  I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ  & therefor object to taking life (as taught in the New Testament). But I am willing to serve in the RAMC or other work of National Importance. I was asked by the Local Tribunal if I would object to working in an aeroplane factory & I answered “No”. Wishing to help my country as much as possible without taking life & violating my conscience.
Wm H Burr
Sept. 29th 1916.
P.S. I have been Examined by the Medical Board and passed as C.1.

Although “exemption from combatant service only” was sometimes granted to “absolutists” who could not accept it, no such offer was made to Burr by the local tribunal. One factor may have been his age, tribunals being inclined to deny that 18-year-olds could have formed settled principles. (The inconsistency of such an attitude was not lost on the anti-conscription lobby: old enough to kill but not to refuse to do so, to “give” their lives but not to take control of them, to take a binding oath but not to have a conscience...)  The Southall decision tends to imply that his comparative moderation counted against him:-
Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
The Applicant and his Father both attended before the Tribunal and stated (amongst other matters) that he (Applicant) was quite willing to work at an Aeroplane Factory or other similar works and the Tribunal were unanimously of opinion that applicant had not proved his case.

Decision of exemption from combatant service
17 Oct 1916

So in this case the appeal was successful. The Middlesex Tribunal may have been impressed by two pieces of testimony in support of Burr’s application, confirming the sincerity of his beliefs and agreeing with his interpretation of his religion.
R. Wallace Martin of the Pottery, Southall. Can testify that Mr. William Burr has  been meeting with those known as “Brethren” since before the commencement of the present war. Our meeting place is the Gospel Hall, Hammond Road. Southall Green.

September 11th 1916
Dear Sir,
I have known Master William Burr... to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ for about three years, and his conscience would not be at rest to take up arms to kill his fellow Man...
Alfred White, 22 Kingston Rd., Southall.

Notice of Decision
19 OCT. 1916
[The Appeal Tribunal] have decided that: the man be exempted from the provisions of the Military Service Act 1916. The exemption is from combatant service.
The ground on which the exemption is granted is that a conscientious objection to combatant service, has been established.

William Burr gave his occupation as Joiner (Wood) and had been in the same line of work from the age of 14; his employers were Avery and partner [? – illegible], Joinery Manufacturers of Hartington Road, Southall.
His brief answers to the wordy, tendentious multiple-question form in use by tribunals in mid-1916 give few more details about him. He described himself as a member of the Plymouth Brethren from about 3 years previously (and of no other anti-war organisation), but denied that he was merely following a line (‘tenet’) laid down by that body:
6. (b) No. Each member is responsible for himself to God.
(There were other Plymouth Brethren COs; like WHB they appear not generally to have been absolutists).

From census records, he was evidently living with his family at the same address in 1911 and 1901 as in 1916, and attended school in Southall. His father, also called William, was a carpenter and builder.

Sadly, after surviving the war (and the flu pandemic) he seems to have died at the young age of 28, in 1926 (Uxbridge, Middx. records).

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Non-Religious Appeal against Conscription, 1916

Ealing's Conscientious Objectors: Case Study No.4

Muirhead, Douglas Cogill: Ironmonger’s Assistant; 40, Oxford Road, Ealing, London W.
Excerpts from Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: M214. (National Archives
NOTICE OF APPEAL TO CENTRAL TRIBUNAL. Filled in by Applicant in duplicate, by hand.
(2) Grounds on which appeal made: The case has not been impartially & fully investigated by the Local Tribal .& although am absolutely sincere Conscientious Objector to all war I have been refused any consideration  whatever. I was not given an opportunity to explain my case. [Underlining in red in original.] The Reasons of the Local Tribal for refusing my application were chiefly that my objection to Military Service was based on grounds of “Reason” rather than on any definite Religious or moral grounds . The Appeal Tribal Chairman asked what I had to say & I said the difficulty seemed to be a misconception of the meaning of conscience which I then defined as a persons “deepest innermost convictions” & said I did appeal on moral and Humanitarian grounds & I believed all war was murder. Without any further investigation the Chairman said “Your appeal is dismissed.” I find it impossible to accept this decision as final. I do not want to be forced to break the law by refusing as in accordance with the provision in the act I believe I am one of those the conscience clause was intended to cover, but in the event of another appeal being refused I shall have no alternative, I cannot take part in the killing of my fellow men. It is impossible and I cannot do it whatever the penalty for refusal, so I trust you will grant me the opportunity of taking my case to the Central Tribunal.
[Signed] D C Muirhead, Mar 30/16
4 April 1916  The Appeal Tribunal have decided in this case to Refuse leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal.
6th & 7-11-18 Papers relating to this case returned by Clerk of Central Tribunal to Middlesex.
In his Notice of Appeal to the Middlesex Tribunal Douglas Muirhead had stated his case in similar terms, making more fully explicit his position – one that might perhaps be described as libertarian socialist or anarcho-communist:
Notice of Appeal. (2) Grounds on which appeal made:
That I have been refused Absolute Exemption which I clam in accordance with my statutory right as a conscientious objector. I cannot take part in war in any capacity, considering it wrong & immoral & against my deepest convictions. l believe in the Brotherhood of man, in Cooperation, not competition & that only by trying to understand each others points of view, & by combining together for  mutual aid will any improvement be possible. The Race Hatred fostered by war tends to lead to further wars. I believe war will only cease when those who think it wrong refuse to take any part in it, & so I must make it clear that I cannot help in the prosecution of war & that whatever may be the consequences I cannot violate my innermost & sincerest convictions. I am an Idealist & look forward to  the time when,       “Nation with Nation, land with land,
Unharmed shall live as comrades free;
in every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.”
[Signed] D C Muirhead, 40 Oxford Rd., Ealing                 Mar 8/16
Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
Appellant stated that his objections were based, not on religious but on philosophical grounds – grounds of reason rather than of faith.  He was not a member of any Church, but last July he joined the No-Conscription Fellowship.  He believed in an individual resisting evil and that, say, twenty men acting together, might properly resist any other group that attempted to wrong them, but he denied that the logical extension of this argument would justify a State in going to War for its own protection.  In his view, an unarmed state would be so strong that no other state would attack it. 
Appellant said that exemption from combatant service would not meet his case, and he had no work of national importance to offer. 
The Tribunal taking the view that the appellant’s objections were not matters of conscience, rejected his application.
The Military Representative made no observations in this case.
Signed by Chairman, 13/3/16

Name:  Douglas C. Muirhead                Age  30                       
Occupation  Shop Assistant (Ironmongery etc.)  Employer: Arthur Scott, 37 Haven Green, Ealing
Nature of Application: Absolute exemption from any form of war service.
I cannot take the Military oath. I must reserve the right to act as my conscience dictates.
Reasons in support of the application
My belief that war is wrong, immoral & illogical, & of no use is settling differences in any permanent way. The strongest side wins and that proves nothing. The Losers may be in the right. I am an Internationalist, believing all mankind are brothers & their interests identical, I therefore have no quarrel with the Germans. Austrians or Turks. I believe in Co-operation not Competition, in the preservation of life and in replacing wrong ideas with right ones as the only hope for any improvement in the world.
D.C. Muirhead
Feb 24th./16
Application refused
[Signed] Chairman No.2 Section Ealing  local tribunal
6 MAR 1916
Other documents on file:
Covering letter with Notice of Appeal and original claim form (above) headed Borough of Ealing LOCAL RECRUITNG APPEAL TRIBUNAL and dated 13th March 1916.
NOTICE OF HEARING dated 23 MAR 1916. Appeal to be heard 28 MAR 1916, Guildhall, 2.30 p.m.
NOTICE OF DECISION dated 28 MAR 1916: “... decided that the appeal be dismissed.”
From Pearce Database (early version)
Some of what happened after Muirhead’s appeal was refused:
·         sent to the Royal Fusiliers Depot in Hounslow – not Non-Combatant Corps since he hadn’t been granted any, even limited (from combatant service only) exemption
·         court-martialled at  Hounslow on 28.11.17 and sentenced to the customary 2 years Hard Labour handed to COs who resisted military discipline
·         served time in Pentonville Civil Prison
·         and was serving a second sentence during May 1919.
He is listed among the 'Men still in the hands of the Military and Civil Authorities on 9.5.19'; their names were given to the government by the Friends Service Committee. The campaign for their release eventually succeeded.
Family background
The 1901 Census records the Muirhead household at Parrock Street, Milton, near Gravesend in the district of Maidstone, Kent. Douglas at 15 was already an ironmonger’s apprentice, living with his parents and numerous siblings.
Scott's Ironmonger's at 37, Haven Green, W5, where he was working in 1916, is now a Hair and Tanning Studio, although the chemist's next to it at no. 36 looks as if it may have been there (and presenting much the same appearance) 100 years ago.
40 Oxford Rd., where DCM was living in 1916
Evidently he  survived the  immediate aftermath as well as the war itself; he seems to have married (as registered in Brentford District), in 1921.

In the name of Reason...
While the majority of COs based their stance on religious conviction, an increasing number are being discovered who, like DCM, took a principled rationalist or secular-political position, refusing to abdicate their ability to think and decide for themselves. 
Tribunals consistently denied such men the right to “conscience”.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Ealing’s Conscientious Objectors: A Partial Overview

By mid-October 2014 there were well over 17,000 names on the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors (COs). When this database was less than half the size, 43 COs had already been ‘placed’ in Ealing (including 10 from Acton, 3 Southall and 2 Hanwell as well as 29 from Ealing itself – Greenford does not appear on the list). There were Local Tribunals in EalingActon, Southall-Norwood and Hanwell.
The amount of information supplied varies from a brief note of arrest date to a fairly full account of what happened to the individual;.the list of headings includes ‘motivation’, ‘prison’ and ‘war service’.  
Some data for Ealing are extracted here.

Ealing Town Hall, where the Ealing Local Tribunal hearings were held,
as it was about 30 years later

Occupations (mostly ‘white collar’, as has been observed elsewhere) were given as follows:
Accountant's Clerk; Bank Clerk (2); Civil Servant - Inland revenue; Estate Agent's Clerk; Gardener and florist; General manager Tailors; Grocer; Insurance Clerk; Junior Insurance Clerk; Joiner; Journalist; Mechanical Engineer; Motor bodymaker (Woodwork); Musician; Notary's Clerk; Outfitter's assistant; Printer; Salesman and Sub-Manager; Salesman, Company Director; Sanctioning  Clerk; Shop Assistant – ironmonger; Shop Porter; Solicitor's Articled Clerk; Solicitor's Clerk; Student of Chemistry; Worker for Alliance of Honour [“'Alliance of Honour' concerned with soldiers and sexually transmitted disease”].
 Among the reasons for the predominance of clerical work experience among COs may be the need for a certain level of articulacy and literacy in order to present a case to a Tribunal with any chance of its being effective, and the fact that such  jobs were unlikely to be classed as being ‘of national importance’.
Motivation when stated was nearly always religious, i.e. some form of professed Christanity involving a more or less pacifist position. Researchers have noted that Tribunals were extremely unlikely to recognise a conscientious objection that was based on political or humanist convictions.
Ealing COs appeared as follows:
Christadelphian (3);  Christian, not otherwise defined (4); Christian - "Brotherhood Movement" and member of No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) since "late 1915"; Christian - formerly Baptist, now "Brethren" because he objected to the pro-war stance taken at Baptist chapel; Christian and pacifist; Christian Brethren; Christian; International Bible Students Association [Jehovah’s Witnesses]; Christian - Plymouth Brethren (3, of whom one is ‘willing to join RAMC’); Quaker, Acton Prayer Meeting (3); Quaker, Ealing Prayer Meeting (5, of whom one is its clerk); Quaker (Willesden PM); Roman Catholic; NCF member - Internationalist and Co-operator.
Some have multiple motives or affiliation:
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) - Religious and moral objections to war - present job Work of National Imortance (WNI) - Quaker Attender,  Ealing Prayer Meeting (PM);
Christian but also because his four brothers already serving in some capacity - "The family has done enough";
FOR, Dartmoor Branch; Quaker Attender (Acton PM also Winchmore Hill).
“War Service”
Of the few cases where this is known,  3 served in the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC) and 6 for varying lengths of time between  Nov.1914 and March 1919 in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU)
 Eleven of Ealing’s COs are recorded as having served one or more terms of imprisonment in various establishments (some in more than one): Wormwood Scrubs, Canterbury, Pentonville, Dyce Camp (hard labour), Crawley, Lewes, Durham, Maidstone and Winchester.
Three suffered illness during imprisonment, resulting in two being released on health grounds on and  the third being the subject of an appeal to the War Office.
At least two were still serving sentences in 1919 (the Military Service Acts remained in force after the Armistice).
Work Centres
Six are known to have been sent to one or more of the Work Centres which were supposed to provide a more acceptable and humane alternative to prison and to the atrocious conditions at Dyce. These included, in the cases of the Ealing men: Road  Board Camp, Denton, Newhaven; Knutsford;  and especially Dartmoor.

Work in Progress: It remains to be seen whether any of the Ealingites (? - Ealingers?) participated in the strikes, protests and other techniques of collective resistance developed by COs in prisons and work centres. Their capacity for individual resistance is evident.

Further interim case studies to follow...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ealing’s Conscientious Objectors: Case Study No. 3

Jones, Arthur Morley 24, Grove Avenue, Hanwell, London W.
Arthur Morley Jones was 31 in 1916, (d.o.b. 14th May 1885) and married (since April 27th 1915). The first Military Service Act of early 1916, under which Alfred Evans and Oscar Ricketts were conscripted, applied only to single men aged between 18 and 40. A few months later conscription was extended to married men, many of whom had “attested” their willingness to serve when called upon, in accordance with government exhortations and no doubt often in the hope that the eventuality would not arise. The right to claim exemption on various grounds, conscience being the sixth of these, ‘F’, remained, and the system for dealing with such claims had developed its own bureaucracy.
Arthur Morley Jones, however was “Not attested” when he appeared before the Local Tribunal in Hanwell to claim exemption (Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: MS113. National Archives
Although his conscientious objection was recognised, like Evans and Ricketts he was granted exemption from combatant service only, and like them he appealed, unsuccessfully, against this decision, claiming “absolute” exemption. He signed his ‘notice of appeal’ form on 5th July 1916, when the Battle of the Somme, in its earliest days, was requiring fresh cannon-fodder at an unprecedented rate.
The scandal of the death sentences (commuted to 10 years’ hard labour) on COs was barely over, and its victims were being shipped back to further ordeals in prisons and work camps. As well as having lived in the same part of West London as two of those “Frenchmen”, Morley Jones was evidently a work colleague of one of them, Oscar Ricketts; both were employed by the London County & Westminster Bank, 21 Lombard St., E.C. In view of similarities between their statements it is interesting to speculate whether they had discussed the matter of conscription and what to do if it came, perhaps encouraging or influencing each other – or both may have been helped in this regard by the No-Conscription Fellowship of which Oscar is said to have been a member, as Jones may have been.
Notice of Appeal. (2) Grounds on which appeal made:
As I believe that the whole system of military service is contrary to the spirit & teaching of my master Jesus Christ, the partial exemption granted by the Hanwell tribunal is inadequate. I therefore ask the appeal tribunal to extend the exemption to include military service and all work connected with it.
[I should esteem it a favour if the appeal could be heard as late in the evening as possible so that my absence from the Bank may cause a minimum of inconvenience.]
(Signed) A Morley Jones          July 5th 1916
Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
Tribunal satisfied that applicant has a conscientious objection to Combatant  Service, and so exempted him from such Service . Signed by Chairman, 10th July 1916.
For Appeal tribunal:      Appeal dismissed 18 July 1916

The tribunals by this date are asking for more information from applicants than earlier in the year, so that we learn from the Local application (21st June 1916; non-combatant service granted 3rd July)  not only Morley Jones’ birthday and date of marriage as above, but the fact that he had worked for the same Bank since he left school, starting on 2nd May 1904.
Applicants are now being warned that “it is not sufficient to show that opinions are held against war. There must be proof of genuine conscientious conviction.” (Heavy underlining in original). To establish this they have to supply numbered  answers relating to ten points (19 including subdivisions) asking about willingness to do alternative service, membership of anti-war religions and groups etc. and ending with 10 (b): [If unwilling to undertake any work of national importance] “How you reconcile your enjoying the privileges of British citizenship with this refusal.” Fortunately there were  N-CF classes on dealing with this sort of thing. It may even have helped to articulate and disseminate opposition to the war as well as becoming a valued resource for researchers 100 years later.
Some of  Morley Jones’ Replies are as follows:
2. Combatants and non-combatants are all part of the same military machine whose aim is to kill and wound, I cannot therefore distinguish between them.
5. (a) [Have held these opinions] As long as I have been old enough to hold any opinions at all.
   (b) ... I have never regarded the question as debatable from a Christian standpoint and have no recollection of having discussed it.
6. (a) I am a member of the Baptist Church.
    (b) Until the present war I took it as a matter of course that it was [a tenet of this body that no member must engage in any military service whatsoever].
9. (a) My work at the Bank leaves me very little spare time, otherwise I should not be unwilling to do anything I could to help my country in any non-military way.
  (c) I hope that all the work I do is for the good of the community.
   (d) I will stand by my convictions whatever the consequences may be.
In an accompanying letter dated 29th June he pointed out the difficulty of attending the hearing at short notice, and explained he would be unable to  attend the related Advisory Committee to which Mr Alfred Hill (Heath Lodge) had invited him that day for the next, reinforcing the point about long hours at the bank:
No doubt you will quite understand the position of banks at this time of year – tomorrow  I shall not leave the office till about midnight, and it would probably be about 10 o’clock before I could get away on Monday... [Asking if the case could be postponed for a week] when I could leave the office in time to be at the tribunal by 8.30 without too much difficulty.

Note from Military Representative (there was one on each tribunal)
This is a claim on the ground of conscientious objection, which I must leave to the tribunal.
(Signed) James Morley, 1st July 1916.
(Presumably the fact that his surname and Jones’ middle name are the same is coincidental).

The Appeal hearing was scheduled for 18th July at 2.30 in Guildhall. Two days letter the notice of its decision (“dismissed”) was sent to Jones, and to the Local Tribunal n Hanwell. The same day (20th July) AMJ completed in duplicate the notice of last-resort appeal to the Central Tribunal, restating his absolutist position:
1. As I believe that all war is contrary to the spirit & teaching of my master Jesus Christ,. I can under no circumstances become a member of the “Non-Combatant Corps.”. In the words of a letter sent by the Friends’ Service Committee to the Prime Minister, my “objection covers any form of military service, combatant  or non-combatant , and also any form of civil alternative under a scheme whereby the Government seeks to facilitate national organisation for the prosecution of war.”
2. That I am spending my whole time on work which is admitted by te City of London tribunal to be of national importance, and there is no other work in the doing of which I could be of such effective service to my country at the present time.

Across the bottom right-hand corner of the form, diagonally, handwritten:
I do not recommend leave [to appeal]. If any force is to be given to our direction that there must be Sacrifice of some Kind – then this man has really no appeal whatever. Should be required to serve in the Non-Comb. Corps. [Signed] H.Nield, 24 vii 1916.        

Any sequel must await further research, and/or the anticipated online availability of the Pearce Register* of British COs.

*AMJ is not listed on a spreadsheet from an early version of this database – except possibly as “Jones, M.” – an Absentee whose arrest was “reported 5.9.16”, no source given). This Jones is placed in Hanwell Urban District but under county “Middlesex (Oxon.?)” – a confusion of Hanwell with Harwell, perhaps? Among the Middlesex Tribunal records only AMJ’s case seems to match; those for "Oxon." (Oxfordshire) have not survived. 
Almost all Tribunal records were destroyed, the exceptions being those of the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal, and in Scotland* Lothian and Peebles (as a sample set) and the Isle of Lewis (by chance). 

May 2015: The IWM version of records from the Pearce database shows that Alfred Morley Jones had a brother, Sydney Langford Jones, who also lived in Hanwell and was a CO - more on this to follow.