Sunday, 31 May 2015

Brothers in Refusal to Bear Arms

(further to Ealing’s Conscientious Objectors: Case Study No. 3)
Arthur Morley Jones of 24, Grove Avenue, Hanwell, had a younger brother, Sydney Langford Jones, living a few streets away at “Birnam”, 67 Shakespeare Road, who also became a Conscientious Objector and appealed unsuccessfully to the Middlesex Tribunal. In early 1916 Sydney was 27, single, an art student and teacher at Ealing Art School (employed by Middlesex County Council).
Being unmarried, Sydney, or “Langford Jones”, as he signed himself, became liable to conscription earlier than his brother, and was prompt to lodge his claim for exemption on grounds of conscientious objection. Like Arthur and virtually all other COs, he was “Not attested” when he applied to the Local Tribunal in Hanwell for absolute exemption on 26th February 1916:
I believe that all military work, &  all work that facilitates or promotes military work is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: M623 [and M118} [NB. Erroneously described on the National Archives website: “Case Number: M623. Sydney Langford Jones of Birnam, 67 Shakespeare Road, Hanwell. Occupation: Art Student. Grounds of Appeal: B: On the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work...” (Catalogue ref.:  MH 47/11/89). The grounds are clearly and repeatedly stated as being conscientious objection – written out, not using the letter ‘F’ – as here.] 
67 Shakespeare Rd. W7 in 2015

The Local Tribunal’s decision, Application refused, was signed on 6th March 1916, whereupon Langford Jones went to the Middlesex Tribunal.
Notice of Appeal. (2) Grounds on which appeal made:
I appeal against  the decision of the local tribunal because, under clause 3 of section 2 of the Military Service Act 1916 I submit that I am entitled to complete exemption; although my claim has not been allowed, I cannot do  what I believe  to be wrong, I cannot act against  my conscience.
Langford Jones
8th March 1916

Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
The Applicant failed to satisfy the Tribunal that he had a conscientious objection.
FOR APPEAL TRIBUNAL:          Exempt from Combatant Service
27 MARCH 1916
So the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, unlike Hanwell, at least recognised S L Jones as a CO, but the partial exemption did not overcome his objection. He proceeded to apply for leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal:
I cannot express my position better than in the words of the letter recently sent by the Friends’ Service Committee to the Prime Minister, namely –
 - that  I “can under no circumstances  become part of the Non-combatant corps.”
  My “objection covers any form of military service, combatant or non- combatant, & also any form of civil alternative, under a scheme whereby the government seeks to facilitate national organisation for the prosecution of war.”
29th March 1916
Leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal was refused, on the 30th. During April Jones wrote to the Board of Education and the Committee on Work of National Importance, evidently seeking a solution compatible with his conscience, receiving not wholly discouraging, if not immediately helpful replies. He also obtained a letter of support, testifying to the sincerity of his beliefs, from a Wesleyan Minister in Dawlish.
I have known Mr. S. L. Jones intimately since 1903.  I have definite recollection of a conversation which took place about 1908-9 when we had a lengthy discussion on the subject of the Christian attitude to war, during which he warmly advocated the pacifist position as being the only consistently Christian attitude .
Whenever we reverted to the subject he always maintained the same position which was and is to him a matter of deep conviction.
I believe him to be entirely sincere and consistent in his present attitude.

On 14th April Jones signed a further application to the Hanwell Local Tribunal asking for a variation of the ECS (Exemption from Combatant Service) certificate because it did not satisfy his ”conscientious objection to all military service & to any work that would release others to perform such service & would therefore make me an accomplice to such service”, using the letters he had received, as above, and citing relevant sections of the Military Service Act and regulations. He had also written to the War Office, which denied being able to intervene. The application was refused on 1st May, the Local Tribunal asserting:
Applicant stated he was not willing to join the Ambulance or Red Cross Corps of the Society of Friends, for ambulance work and made no practical suggestion of any work of national importance which he was willing & able to undertake.
A further Appeal to Middlesex was dismissed, “No new circumstances having arisen” (15th May), and leave to take it to the next (Central) stage, requested on 17th May, predictably again refused.
What happened next can be read in SLJ’s own hand

The letter, dated 6th February 1918, was addressed to Hanwell Local Tribunal and showed he had neither abandoned his absolutist position nor lost hope, even in Wormwood Scrubs. It was sent with a covering note from the prison Governor and a copy of the regulations (see below) about communicating with prisoners such as “5411 Sydney Langford Jones”.

Dear Sirs,
I have been advised to ask you if you would be so good as to forward my name to the Local Government Board as being legitimately entitled to absolute exemption from military service. I understand that the Army Council have asked the Local Government Board to collect the names of any such & forward them to the War Office.
The following are the main facts of my case ------
Hanwell passed it on to Middlesex, referring to the Appeal Tribunal decision of 26-3-1816, and on 7th March a letter was sent back to Mr. S. L. Jones, Number 5411, HM Prison, Wormwood Scrubs:
Dear Sir,
l beg to inform you that your letter of 6th February was submitted to the Tribunal at their meeting on 6th March, when they decided to take no action in your case.
Yours faithfully,           
[file copy unsigned and un-headed]
As he had foreseen, he remained with other absolutist COs in the almost routine vindictive cycle of imprisonment, release, disobedience, re-arrest and sentencing.
From transcription of SLJ’s record at Imperial War Museum Lives of the First World War website:
Magistrates Court         Arrested 30.5.17, tried at Hanwell 31.5.17 and released         Absentee
Non-NCC (Drafted into a combatant unit and disobeyed orders) Depot R. Fusiliers CM (Court Martial) Hounslow 22.11.17 - 2yrs.HL (With hard labour) com. to 112 days, Wormwood S.; CM (Court Martial) Hounslow 6.3.18 - 2yrs.HL (With hard labour), to Pentonville CP (Civil Prison)
Central Tribunal 1.12.17; Central Tribunal at Wormwood S. 4.1.18, refused to accept HOS (Home Office Scheme, administered by the Brace Committee) conditions
Military Service Tribunal Appeal            Central Tribunal Nos. W.4655 M.188 Refused HOS
Prison Wormwood S. 28.11.17 to 23.2.18 to Escort; Pentonville CP (Civil Prison) 13.3.18,26.4.18,26.7.18,25.10.18;
Sources           FH/FSC(1916/20)/SER3 - COIB Two Year Men Draft List; The Friend 22.3.18, 26.4.18, 26.7.18, 25.10.18; NA/WO86/79/55, 81/5; LMA/4417/01/016 - Wormwood S. Nominal Register; Not found in NA/WO363; NA/MH47/125; NA/MH47/2 Central Tribunal Minutes; FH/SER/VOPC/Cases/5(1954)
(His brother Arthur Morley Jones is reported to have been “Arrested, to Brentford Police Court 26.8.16, Fined 40/- [£2] and handed over” and “Discharged as unfit for service.”)

In 1911 both were still living with their parents at 11, Eaton Rise in Ealing (Arthur’s middle name is incorrectly transcribed as “Orley” in the census record for that year, but is correct in 1901). Their father Henry Chapman Jones is described as a Lecturer in Chemistry and Photography (“Professor of Chemistry” in 1901). A third brother, Ernest Malcolm Jones, a year younger than SLJ, is included in 1901; all three are said to have been born in Chelsea. Sadly, it appears that Ernest Malcolm died in 1905, aged only 15 (BMD Records, Brentford).

AMJ and SLJ each had quite close neighbours in Hanwell who are listed among First World War COs, and there were others in the area – more on this to follow. 

Regulations sent with letter from Wormwood Scrubs

Late Footnote: 67 Shakespeare Road, Hanwell

Another notable (temporary) resident of the house where Sydney Langford Jones was living in 1916 was South African writer and activist Solomon Plaatje, who was there in July 1923, according to an Introduction to his novel.

It would be interesting to know whether those two dissident resisters encountered each other; they may well have found much common ground, e.g. political and religious.  

'Sol' Plaatje had been in Britain earlier, during the First World War. He is also recorded as having lived in Waltham Forest - at 25 Carnarvon Rd., E10, where he is commemorated with a blue plaque.

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