Sunday, 21 December 2014

Seeking Absolute Exemption in WW1: a Case from Acton

Carter, Percival Charles.                St. Mary’s Villa, Beaumont Road, Acton Green.  Chiswick, W.
Extracts and information from Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: M167 (

Work Centre,
Jan. 21st 1918
To        The Chairman,
 Middlesex Appeal Tribunal
  Middlesex Guildhall
   Westminster, S.W.
Re. Appeal of Percival Charles Carter, of St. Mary’s Villa, Beaumont Road, Acton W. which was made March 1916. I was represented by Mr. Holford Knight. Military Representative, Capt. Bax.
I notice in the House of Lords ,on Dec. 4th, 1917, the following statement was made by Lord Curzon:
“It is intended that a letter is to be written to the L.G.B. [Local Government Board] by the War Office. It having been represented that there are at the present moment serving (or deemed to be) in the Army a certain number of men who would have been given absolute exemption by the Tribunals had such Tribunals been aware that they had power to give absolute exemption, the Army Council would be grateful if the L.G.B. could see their way to circularising the Tribunals asking whether such as been the case, and  if so, the names of any men who would have received absolute exemption may be forwarded to the War Office for their consideration.”
In view of this statement I am appealing to send my name to the Army Council as one of these men. You will please note that the Military Representative (Capt. Bax) appealed to the Chairman to hold the case over and await instructions from the L.G.B. as to whether or no a Conscientious Objector could be granted “absolute exemption”, seeing the Chairman admitted I was  a Genuine Objector. This can be verrified [sic] by the Daily News & Leader for the following day (of which I have a copy), which appeared with a report of the case under the heading “A Genuine Objector”.
With this point in view, I ask you to forward my name as one of those entitled to Absolute Exemption, to Army Council.
I remain,
Yours faithfully,
Percival C. Carter
In his Notice of Appeal, dated March 13th 1916, from the decision of the Local (Acton) Tribunal, Percy Carter had given his occupation as Compositor (Printer of Engineers’ Specifications) and explained “Grounds on which appeal made”:
Because the decision of the Local Tribunal did not grant me what I asked for namely absolute exemption (as provided for conscientious objection in the Act).
All my life I have had a true conscientious objection to war & all forms of military service. Have lived a consistant [sic] [with this belief] life.
I Believe [war] to be contrary to the teaching of Christ.
I Believe in sacredness of human life.
I Believe in the Brotherhood of Man and have put it into practise  [sic].   
Have suffered in the past for the cause I believe in. Have lost employment, friends, and resigned from a Church because of the war fever that existed there. My employment is on private work and I could not conscientiously take up war work.

Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
                Not sufficient reasons given to justify Local Tribunal granting exemption except from combatant service only even if they had power to do so.

Leave to appeal [To Central Tribunal] refused.
27 March 1916

Evidence given to Local Tribunal [Typescript:]
I apply for absolute exemption - Because the Military Service act provides for Cases of Conscientious Objectors. I have a  Conscientious Objection to all forms of Military Service, ether in producing, using or becoming part of the Military Machine.
I believed in the Sacredness of human life – not since the war began, but since I have been able to think for myself.
What is Conscience, Mr. Chairman ? A combination of Forces, namely, Spirit, Soul, Reason, Sense, Vitality, Matter, otherwise Life.
My life and principles have always been to live at peace with all men. I have suffered for the cause I believe in During the war I have been discharged from 2 situations (because it was hinted to me my place was in the army). I was out of employment for a month (and if I were still out, nothing would induce me to sell my conscience by joining the army). I suffered for Conscience Sake, when if I had chosen the other path I might have been on munitions. I eventually took a place in a country village in Cambs.
But the way opened for me some months ago and I accepted the situation in which I have been ever since. I started there when it was not a Controlled Establishment. But some time after the Government stepped in. It has been suggested to me that I might go on shell making. But my reply was and will remain the same that when requested to change my work from private work to army work, I would rather leave the job.
In Church Life I have suffered also for Conscience sake. After having been connected with one in Acton all my life, until a few months ago, I felt it right to resign, because in my opinion own soul I could not square the teaching of Christ with the war fever that existed there. It meant much to me to have to leave that Church, a loss of friends, etc.
The question that confronts me is – “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, the God of Love or the God of War.”
I take my stand in what I believe in. “By their works ye shall know them.”
For this reason, Mr. Chairman, I apply for absolute exemption – Because I believe in the sacredness of human life, and that war is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ.
And because no man can serve two masters.
For Conscience sake I cannot sell my Soul at the bidding of any  other person or persons, but will stand firm for what I believe to be right, fearing no man, nor even death.
I have lived and worked for the cause I love and as[k] the Tribunal to adjudicate upon my case in the true Spirit of the Act.
P. C. Carter

Carter’s absolutist position was explicit when, aged 20, he made his original application, dated 23rd February 1916:
Because War is against the teaching of Jesus Christ  I claim absolute exemption since I cannot conscientiously undertake non-combatant military service nor can I assent to my normal occupation being made a conditional [/condition of – unclear] exemption as this would convert my work into an acknowledged contribution to the organisation of a nation when at war.

This resulted in the predictable “Exemption granted from combatant service only”, the decision endorsed by the Appeal Tribunal. Attempting to proceed to the next stage, PCC applied for leave to appeal to the Central Committee (already refused, as noted above):
... In this case, at both the local and the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal it was  found that I was a bona fide conscientious objector, and although the Military Representative at this hearing was willing that the decision should stand over till the decision in the test case at the Central Tribunal had been given, the Chairman peremptorily, and without assigning any reason, refused leave to appeal, and dismissed the application.
It is humbly pointed out that the Act of Parliament specially provides for the total exemption of a conscientious Objector and that the matter is of so much importance that it should be argued before the Central Tribunal .I enclose a typed copy of a report of the case which appeared in one of the London Papers.
30th March 1916

Copy of report in a London Daily
[as provided to the Tribunal, typed, by Percival Carter]
“An important case raising the question of the legal position of the conscientious objector under the Military Service Act came before the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal yesterday.”
Mr. Holford Knight, who appeared for the appellant, Percival Carter, of Acton, said that no question of fact was involved, as the appellant had been found to be a conscientious objector by the Acton Local Tribunal. The only question related to the proper effect to be given to that finding, and as the Military Service Act provided that exemption could be absolute, he claimed that complete exemption which the statute allowed for, but which the Local Tribunal, owing to a misapprehension of the Military Service Act, had decided was not open to them to grant to the appellant.”
The Chairman, after hearing appellant, said the Court were satisfied that he was a conscientious objector.”
Mr. Knight. That being so, I claim the complete exemption the Act provides.
Captain Bax (the Military Representative) – This important point as to whether complete exemption can be granted to a conscientious objector is involved in a case pending before the Central Tribunal. As the decision will naturally bind this Tribunal, perhaps the case could stand over.
[Typescript  page 2, misfiled before the preceding section:-]
The Chairman – The Appeal is dismissed.
Mr. Knight [representing Carter] – With great respect, I press the desirability of postponing this case until the point is decided by  the Central Tribunal.
The Chairman – Next Case.
Mr. Knight – I apply for leave to appeal as provided by the regulations.
Chairman – Refused.
Mr. Knight – On what grounds?
Chairman – Next Case.
Mr. Knight – A representation on this case must be made in another quarter.

Any such representation evidently did not succeed, according to the entry for PCC on the Pearce database (early version):
Transfer to Army Reserve Class W 1.11.16; 13.10.16 to 3.8.17 Roadmaking at Newhaven; 24.8.17,  26.10.17 Dartmoor; 25.1.18, 26.4.18 Knutsford; 29.5.18, 26.7.18, 25.10.18. Exceptional employment under Home Office Scheme.

This shows that he was still not at liberty at least until late 1918, following the no more successful appeal to the Tribunal in January that year (first letter above).

  [Letter – clearly in a standard reply format, with details added:-]
2nd February 1918.
 Dear Sir,
In reply to your letter of the 21st Jan asking that your case may be re-heard by the Appeal Tribunal, I beg to inform you that at their meeting on the 31st ult they decided not to grant your request.
Yours faithfully,

Mr. P.C.Carter,
Work Centre, Knutsford,

The most flagrant injustice arose from the wilful refusal of most of those bodies [Tribunals] ever to grant the absolute exemption which alone satisfied the conscience of most objectors [...] The point was clarified in the Local Government Board circular of 3 February [1916], which  [...] made clear that ‘there may be exceptional cases in which the genuine convictions and the circumstances of the man are such that neither exemption from combatant service nor a conditional exemption will adequately meet the case. Absolute exemption can be granted in these cases if the Tribunals are fully satisfied of the facts.’
This was clear enough, and if Tribunals ad acted on these instructions almost all of the misery and scandal that was to follow would never have happened.
                                                                 - David Boulton, Objection Overruled (2014) pp.125-126

Thursday, 4 December 2014

From Ealing to Dyce and Dartmoor: a Third Man in the Picture

(Ealing’s Conscientious Objectors: Case Study No. 6)
Bromberger, Frederick Cole         10, Sutherland Road       West Ealing

When Oscar Ricketts and Alfred Evans, reprieved from their death sentences but landed with 10 years’ hard labour, had been returned from France, they were sent with other Conscientious Objectors transferred from prison to Dyce camp, near Aberdeen, set up in August 1916 as a first work centre for COs. Among their companions in this phase of their ordeal was a former fellow-resident of Ealing, Frederick Cole Bromberger, who was later to proceed to Dartmoor work camp under the Home Office Scheme, as they did.

Conditions at Dyce were such as to make it appear like an alternative death sentence, and for one unfortunate individual it was no less. In March 2014 the BBC, quoting an Aberdeen University historian, Joyce Walker, gave an account of his story:

Extracts from: World War One: The labour camp for peace protesters  - 

Other conchies were sent to the camp at Dyce, situated on a windswept hillside, which is now used as a long-stay car park for Aberdeen airport. They lived in army surplus tents that leaked in the rain and worked smashing granite in the nearby quarry. "The men slept on straw paliases (mattresses) on the ground and they were not permitted to build up with stones or wood to get off the bare ground. So it was very cold and when it was wet, they were on a hill, so the water just ran straight down through their tents."
One of the men in the camp was 20-year-old Walter Roberts, from Bredbury near Stockport, who had refused military service saying he was a Christian who had always renounced violence. Roberts had already been weakened by months in prison when he was sent to the camp. He died from pneumonia on 8 September, five days after his arrival. A Home Office delegation, including some MPs, was rapidly dispatched to Dyce and shown around the camp by the inmates."
"A month later, on 19 October, there was a big debate in parliament about it and at the end of the debate the chairman of the Home Office committee that had come up, a chap called William Brace MP, announced suddenly that the camp was closing. They had decided it would cost too much to make the necessary adjustments, repairs, and arrangements and it would close. The camp closed at the end of October."

Roberts had written home: "All these fellows here are exceedingly kind and are looking after me...”

Bromberger is second from left at the back in the group photograph of 15 men in front of a pile of stones at Dyce. The name stands out in the caption provided by David Boulton (Objection Overruled, 2014, opp. frontispiece)  among the British-looking surnames of most of the others, and may have got him into bother even before he became a ‘conchie’, given the wartime hostility to anything perceived as German. According to the 1911 census, however, he and his immediate family – parents and two older sisters – were all London born. All their given names were more or less English-sounding, except perhaps for "Rosa". His father was described as a ‘Manufacturers Agent Dry Goods’; one sister at 21 was a Commercial Traveller while the other, aged 17 was an Apprentice; Frederick at 15 was still at school. In 1916 he was 21, single, and his occupation was as clerk to a firm of chartered accountants in Victoria Street, London.

Extracts and information from Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, Case Number: M322. (
Notice of Appeal. (2) Grounds on which appeal made:
See letter attached hereto.
  [letter] Dear Sirs,
The Local Tribunal of Ealing having refused  me exemption from the provisions of the Military Service Act, I am now appealing against their decision, as I have a very strong conscientious objection to the undertaking of military duties.
My firm belief is that warfare is contrary both to the spirit & teaching of –Our Lord & Master Jesus Christ  for this dispensation of grace, and therefore I cannot as a follower of the Lord participate in that which he has condemned [..:]
The Christian must hold to the principles of the blood-shed (that of Christ  on Calvary) and not  to those of blood-shedding, for true Christianity consists in the willingness to sacrifice life as a martyr rather than saving it in killing others. Hence I feel bound in loyalty to the King of Kings to have nothing to do with the war whatever.
My conversion was brought about some seven or eight years ago, but not having any occasion to think seriously upon this question of warfare, my convictions have been formed since the outbreak of war. To the best of my knowledge, I became definitely settled upon this matter in September 1914.
I am enclosing testimonials to the sincerity of my views [...]
Yours respectfully,
Fredk . Bromberger
The mention of conversion, together with the surname, may suggest that his background was Jewish, but this is not otherwise indicated in the records. He was clearly no half-hearted  or ‘convenience’ convert in any case; in addition to being able to give chapter and verse (literally – multiple scriptural references) for his beliefs, the testimonials he provided confirmed his zeal in the Christian cause as he saw it.
One of these, handwritten, is from “Arthur S. Booth-Clibborn, Minister of Religion, Late President of the Continental Christian Mission, Son-in-law of the late General William Booth [founder of the Salvation Army]” who stated that he had known Frederick Bromberger personally for more than three years: 
“I certify him to be absolutely sincere in the  conscientious objection[s] he is making to taking any part in warfare, and to their having been held by him as a true Christian and a worker for Christ.”
A second, typed on headed paper and dated 16th March 1916, is signed by solicitor J.H. Mundell, who likewise certifies that he has known F B for a similar length of time and been “associated with him in Christian work in London”. He explains that the applicant’s failure to appear at the Local Tribunal hearing in Ealing was due to a mistake – he was waiting in another room in the Town Hall where different hearings (probably for exemption on other than conscientious grounds, or for "attested" men) were being heard and did not hear his name called.
This had no doubt counted against him:
Reasons for the decision of the Local Tribunal
                The appellant in this case was asked to attend before the Tribunal on the 16th inst, and his name was called in the waiting room three times, but no answer was forthcoming. The Tribunal rejected his claim in his absence after having had the grounds read to them.
It transpired after that section of the Tribunal which had his case before them had concluded its sitting, that the appellant had been attending as a member of the public in another part of the building where the other section of the Tribunal were sitting.
The Military Representative made no observation on this case.
{Signed 18-3-16]
The original application was dated 22nd February 1916, when FCB gave his age as 20 years 10 months. It was made “on the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of military duties” and was accompanied by a letter similar to, though longer than that sent to the Appeal  Tribunal (above).
... I wish to make it quite plain that I object on no other ground than that of what I believe to be  the clear teaching of the Word of God.
... I am quite willing to serve my country through God, while not able to do so apart from Him.
... I have come to  the conclusion after much prayer, that I cannot undertake any duties of a military character – that is work, which is definitely military or which supplies military needs.
The Appeal Tribunal did not endorse the local rejection of the claim, but as usual would only allow it up to a point.
For Appeal Tribunal:
Decision exemption from Combatant Service.
Leave to appeal [To Central Tribunal] refused.
3 Apr 1916
For FCB this was of course not good enough.
10 Sutherland Ave.
West Ealing
To the County of Middlesex Appeal Tribunal
Dear Sirs,
As your decision on Monday the 3rd inst. to grant me non-combatant service does not  in any way meets my convictions in the matter, I am applying to you for permission to appeal to the Central Tribunal. I have no wish whatever to embarrass the authorities in any way, but I must obey God rather than Man...
He followed this the next day with another completed appeal form, with rewritten grounds:
(i) Non-combatancy forms part of the system by which the Nation wages war against her enemies & as such I feel bound in simple obedience to God to have nothing to do with it.
(ii) It is unscriptural to put oneself under the absolute control of another, for this would compel action, whether Christian or not. Daniel 316-18 & 7-10, and Acts 527-29.

The reply was brief and final, leaving no further conscientious option, short of going on the run, but to await arrest:
7th April 1916  
Dear Sir,
Referring to your application for leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal, I beg to inform you that this application was made at the hearing, and refused.
            Yours faithfully                                                                          
for Joint-Secretaries.

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...