Tuesday, 29 January 2019

"No doubt they are being looked after in the proper place."

Where They Were Sent: Some First World War Asylums

Numerous questions were put to the government ministers by MPs concerned about the treatment of conscientious objectors (COs) suffering from mental illness, to be met with reassurances that such men were being treated reasonably and humanely (and that their condition was not a consequence of official policy towards them).

Questions in the House (selection)
HC Deb 28 November 1916 vol 88 cc133 Brutality cases Thomas Sidney Overbury
HC Deb 14 March 1917 vol 91 col.1109 Alfred Eungblut
HC Deb 13 November 1917 vol 99 cc193 Persecution, repeated CMs etc. John Taylor
HC Deb 05 February 1918 vol 101 cc2068 Wandsworth, Regulation 243A John Taylor
HC Deb 10 April 1918 vol 104 cc1461- Statistics; Bertie French
HC Deb 10 June 1918 vol 106 cc1852 Seventh Day Adventists; Le Havre; Harry Burgess
HC Deb 10 June 1918 vol 106 cc1885 William Stanton

The 'proper places' to which COs were sent generally bore no relation  to their place of origin. They were not clustered in a particular location, but distributed up and down the country. Another point to note is that as far as their onliue records go, none appears to have been sent to any asylum where a fellow CO was doing 'Work of National Importance' (WNI) as a member of the staff. 

Asylums with COS as patients
Cheshire County Asylum at Macclesfield
Denbigh Asylum
Derbyshire Asylum
Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster
Wakefield (engraving, 1818)
Richmond Asylum, Dublin
Dykebar War Hospital, Paisley
London County Asylum at Epsom 
Hanwell (4)
Hereford County Asylum
2nd Eastern Hospital, Hove
Lancaster Asylum (2)
Leicestershire County Lunatic Asylum
County Asylum at Rainhill, Liverpool
Morpeth County Asylum
West Riding Asylum, Wakefield (3) 

Some of the above had been taken over as 'military hospitals' so that COs could find themselves being kept/treated alongside psychiatric casualties. 

A few COs are reported to have been 'insane' in prison, their destination asylum, if any, not noted, e.g. Shepton Mallet CP;Winston Green CP (Civil Prison), Birmingham.

"In 1914 there were over one hundred thousand patients within over one hundred mental institutions around the United Kingdom, the majority of these institutions were built since the passing of the County Asylum / Lunacy Act in 1845. With the passing of the care in the community act in the 1980’s, many of these institutions have since closed; only a few of them remain open and in the use for Mental Health services." - https://www.countyasylums.co.uk/the-asylum-list/ 
'Hanwell' (London County) Asylum

"... 119 ‘County Asylums’ in both England and Wales. [Plus] additional asylums/hospitals which [may not] come under the ‘County Asylum’ list."

As to the treatment and improvement or deterioration in the condition of COs in asylums, the facts may still be difficult for researchers to ascertain generally, although individual records may be easier for descendants or relatives of patients to access: 

"Records of lunatic asylums are not held in any one place and often not all their records have survived. Many records of asylums, prisons and houses of correction are kept in local archives and especially those of the patients and inmates. However, most patient files have been destroyed."

Several of the asylums were considered to be putting into practice more humane treatments and regimen in the wake of nineteenth century concerns about the incarceration of the mentally ill; a few are seen as having been in the forefront of such reforms.

The humane imperative was not acknowledged everywhere or in all cases, however.
A comparison:
Endeavour. 2008 Dec;32(4):134-40. doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2008.09.001. Epub 2008 Nov 18.
Gags, funnels and tubes: forced feeding of the insane and of suffragettes.
Williams EA1.
Just before the outbreak of World War I, British suffragettes were imprisoned in large numbers.
Many engaged in hunger strikes and suffered brutal treatment, most notoriously forced feeding.
Government authorities, backed by prominent physicians, justified forced feeding by citing
its successful use with insane patients in asylums.
In the nineteenth century forced feeding was, in fact, common in the asylum and much discussed
in leading medical publications.
Physicians generally ignored the feelings of patients, concentrating on technical problems
such as the design of feeding instruments.
Nor did critics amid the suffrage crisis sympathize with asylum patients.
They defended women protesters but portrayed the force-fed insane as insensate.
Forced feeding of the insane was nonetheless tainted by its association with
the brutalization of suffragettes and in later years rarely discussed
outside specialized psychiatric venues.
PMID: 19019439 DOI: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2008.09.001
[Reference: PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

(There are multiple points of similarity between government attempts to deal with 'absolutist' COs and the methods used against militant Suffragettes, especially when a hunger strike was involved.)

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Mad To Refuse To Fight? Insanity and First World War COs

While a lot of work has been done on a) aspects of psychiatric practice in the First World War, especially ‘shell-shock’ in relation to the armed forces, and b) the history of conscientious objectors (COs), there is less information generally available on the experience of COs in relation to the psychiatry of the time. Although institutional records of the treatment of individual patients may still be unavailable, it is possible to make a start with data already in the public domain, first and foremost (once again) the Pearce Register online. Keyword searching finds just over 30 'certified' insane, and a similar number said to have suffered some kind of mental breakdown, the latter at least almost certainly an underestimate. In each case any or all of a variety of particulars may be supplied, including: age, address, occupation, apparent motivation, diagnosis, and eventual outcome.
In addition, campaigners and COs themselves recounted not only the damage inflicted on bodies, but frequent fears that minds too were at grave risk. (Some of these have been quoted in a previous post).
References from Conscientious Objectors of the Second World War: Refusing to Fight by Ann Kramer (Pen & Sword, 2014):
  • ‘One young CO, S Cooper of Leeds, had actually gone insane because of the treatment he received [in Richmond Castle]’;
  • “Already I am half mad.” – James Brighthouse, Cleethorpes, June 1917; 
  • Fenner Brockway credited Sinn Feiners (Irish fellow-prisoners) with having saved his mind during solitary confinement by such means as smuggling papers; 
  • while Harold Blake remembered suffering dreadfully in prison and fearing he was going insane. 
Sometimes this apprehension could be fostered deliberately, used as a threat or as an excuse for physical restraint, as reported by the writer in The Tribunal of 23-1-19 who, informed by the Medical Officer (MO) that he was a lunatic, found himself in a straitjacket in a padded room. In another case, according to a report of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) and COIB cited on the Register, the doctor ‘wanted to send [a Welsh Trade Unionist] to an asylum but NCF [was] able to prevent this’. Defiantly, J B Saunders confronted the possibility in Tribunal 20-9-17 (quoted by Kramer p.80): ‘My mind I will destroy rather than allow the military cult to take it.’
The official Home Office Statistics for CO prisoners quoted in Kramer’s book (p.129) count only 27 who died and just 3 ‘certified insane’ out of 4,126. She herself reckons 31 ‘eventually went insane’ (p.82). The bland, ignorant or callous response of the government to expression of concern about such men has already been looked at in the context of parliamentary debates, as in:
  • There is no reason for thinking that his insanity was in any way attributable to the treatment he received in prison.
  • There have been twelve cases in which conscientious objectors have developed symptoms of insanity in prison, and it is clear that in all of them the insanity was due to causes and conditions existing before their conviction... 
  • Q. Are there any prisoners who have developed insanity and who are still in prison? - A .I should think that it is very unlikely. No doubt they are being looked after in the proper place.
  • The numbers of persons claiming to be conscientious objectors who have been certified insane are in Prison 13, in Work Centres 3. In all cases there was reason to believe that the insanity was due to conditions existing before their imprisonment.
One MP who was particularly assiduous in the cause of COs was the Quaker T E Harvey, whose voluminous correspondence on the matter can be consulted at Friends House (FH), Euston. Two of the many individual cases drawn to his attention were those of men listed below.

Summary notes:

FH files, T. E. Harvey. Box 5 Re. T. S. Overbury. 22-11-16.
(PQ 21-11)  So as to anticipate the answer [to Parliamentary Question] that he is being forcibly fed, these are the 
facts. Hunger strike for 36 days, 28 in Scrubs; took food 4 days, now on h.s. since 10-11. He is being forcibly fed but such is his strength of will that he makes himself sick so that he receives no nourishment and is, to all intents and purposes, being starved to death. Urgency. Ask if he can obtain food from outside in the manner he desires.
From the Parliamentary Secretary of N-C F.

FH Box 5:Albert F. Parrish and brother. 
Letter from C. Brightwest at Rowntree, Saffron Walden 5-4-1917 reports AFP  failed to get exemption at Local Tribunal (LT) and AppealTribunal (AT). Arrested, taken to Worsley then Wormwood Scrubs (WS) 6 months. After seven weeks his wife got a brief official note from the Governor of the prison: 
Dear Madam, 
This is to inform you that your husband has been certified as insane, and will shortly be removed for special treatment. 
Wife asked what it meant and what would be done. Writer took man's mother to WS Saturday afternoon, saw Doctors; found where he was and arranged for Mother to see him Monday a.m. To her he appeared perfectly normal except that he said he had suffered from his head since he was at Worsley where he was rather knocked about during the process of being forcibly dressed in uniformHe told the Prison Doctor nothing about the cause of his bad head. In London County Asylum at Epsom, seen by wife, brooding over the fact of being in the Asylum; convinced he would be all right if liberated and Asylum will make him worse. Still technically a prisoner. No insanity in the family. Law should be satisfied if working of the Military Service Act has driven someone insane and impose no further penaltyEfforts should be to restore him to normal health. 
Brother A W Parrish turned down by Dunmow LT. Awaiting arrest and prepared to face possibility of becoming insane like his brother and 40-50 other COs.

Box 2.  Samuel Cartwright. No- Conscription Fellowship (N-CF). Correspondence with Parliamentary Secretary. 21-4-17 Very sad case of CO evidently been driven quite insane by experiences undergone in prisonThere was plenty of evidence at the start of his persecution that he was in ill-health mentally; authorities solely.responsible for his present condition which leaves his parents practically destitute. They have been given  fourteen shillings in full settlement at his discharge, a tacit admission of liability. 

Facts of case 15/17-4-17 from Brian Longstaffe, Barrow in Furness -  Lifelong disease of the brain, unable to attend school. Sent to Non-Combatant Corps (NCC) - rejected at medical then ordered to report. Hospital, violent. Lancaster Asylum. Authorities refused all information to  parents. Discharged unfit 9-4-17. Money order. Likely to be permanent burden instead of support to his parents. Father invalid. 

A few case histories have been looked at in the context of Hanwell Asylum and elsewhere (Shetland). 

Towards an Overview
Because of the incompleteness of the data,it is hardly possible to draw out any general conclusion as to a 'type' of CO who might have been particularly at risk of suffering mental illness. The most obvious finding is that they varied, as far as most of the headings go.

Who They Were
(plus or minus birth year)        
Baker   I or J  —
Bamford Thomas  1888
Burgess Henry   1880
Burke   John    —
Cartwright      Samuel  1896
Cook    Alexander Robert        1877
Davis   Thomas  —
Elsworth        Richard 1889
Eungblut        Alfred E.       1895
French  Bertie  1897
Frost   Albert  —
Griffiths       Owen    1877
Harbord Evelyn Wilfred  1889
Harrison        George  1888
Hook    T       —
Hopkinson       Claude John     1896
Morgan  Aneurin 1893
Nutter  Henry   1877
Overbury        Timothy Sidney  1880
Parrish Albert F.       —
Piper   Frank   1884
Pitcher William 1887
Ramsay  George Hegarty  1890
Shorley Herbert Alfred  1878
Smith   W. V.   —
Statton Alfred Ernest   1890
Styche  John    1890
Taylor  John    —
Watt    Andrew May      1894

Plus (not noted as certified')… 
J A Allbutt nervous breakdown
John Ballinger nervous breakdown while in prison
George E Bent nervous breakdown
Brice   J. W.or W. J. - threatened with being sent to asylum [Walter John Brice]
Sidney Cooper mental illness
Alfred Anscombe Hart (Islington) mental breakdown
W E Herring nervous breakdown
Horace Walter Lerpiniere (Walthamstow) nervous breakdown
William Raistrick 'Nervous breakdown' 17.1.19
Edward Ridgeway (International Socialist) nervous breakdown… caused him to accept HOS…
Sydney Smith nervous breakdown 
Leo George Spencer (East Ham) nervous breakdown
J Watt  nervous breakdown
Robert Henry Noble illness, mental, 31.12.18
Cyril Lawrence Newton Butler Mental Illness - 'Feeblemindedness'
Frederick John Cox mental derangement in Wandsworth
John Ferrier Lamont (Aberdeen) 'Congenital Mental Instability'
John Eric Langdon-Davies mental illness - melancholia in Wormwood S., 'neurotic and unstable'
Harry Phipps (Harringay) signs of mental derangement

Where They Were From
Northern Isles to Channel coast
Barnes, Surrey
Burslem, Staffs.
Barrow in Furness
Barnoldswick Yorks.
St Pancras
Haverhill, Suffolk
Bletchley, Bucks.
Port Talbot, Glam.
Brotherhood Church, Beeston, Leeds
Thaxted Essex
St Agnes, Truro, Cornwall
Walsall, Staffs.
West Ham

What They Did
Shorthand writer
Watch and clock repairer
Schoolteacher (2)
Weaver former Baker
Piano Tuner
Card puncher
Hosier and Draper
Church worker
Cycle dealer
Carpenter and wheelwright
Saddle bar maker
Wood sawyer/machinist
Farm Labourer

Why They Were COs
(possibly) i.e. 'Motivation'
Trade unionist
Occasional Quaker Attender (Peckham); 
NCF (No-Conscription Fellowship) (4) 
Wesleyan Methodist
Presbyterian (3)
Not attached to any know organisation
Primitive Methodist
ILP (Independent Labour Party)
Roman Catholic 

What Happened, What Was Said
Doctor wanted to send Brice to an asylum but NCF able to prevent this   
Question in House (Q in H) 10.6.18 re his mental state - Is he now in an asylum?        
Q in H 20.6.17 re his being sent to hospital (etc.)     
Rejected at medical - Mental Illness - long-standing condition  
Hunger strike 24.3.17 to 10.4.17 - 'borderline insane' transfer to asylum  
Illness, mental 28.10.18 '. went raving mad'; to Lunatic Asylum        
'Padded cell' at Shepton Mallet; 28.1.18 'Certified insane' - serving (?) sentence 9.5.19     
Recently discharged from Derbyshire Asylum and rejected by Army Medical Board 
Temporarily to Lancaster Asylum due to loss of memory (the unfortunately named Henry Nutter)
Central Tribunal Nos. W.1532 Class: C - Political       
Medical Board report - 'Is of low mentality and obsessed with religious ideas against war but not certifiably insane'.        
Discharged from asylum by order of Secretary of State 4.2.19    
 'No longer physically fit for service'  - 'delusional insanity'       
London CM (Court Martial) Torquay 23.4.17 - Guilty but insane; Mental Illness 
Mental Illness - 'Feebleminded', 'Insane', 'Imbecile'   
Q in H 5.2.18 re his suicide on the 20th January* 

Some of the stories outlined in the records will be examined in more detail in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A no-longer-obscure anniversary: centenary of the loss of the Iolaire

New Year's Day news stories from the BBC (Scotland)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-scotland-46687762/iolaire-disaster-near-stornoway-remembered - 1 minute video clip.

The Iolaire disaster:  The 'crowning sorrow of the war' - Iain MacInnes

National commemorative service to recall Iolaire disaster  

And on BBC Alba (Gaelic)  -  Call na h-Iolaire

https://www.bbc.co.uk/naidheachdan/46732381 - Service, and other events: Cuirmean is seirbheisean cuimhneachaidh na h-Iolaire

https://www.bbc.co.uk/naidheachdan/46731473 -Short summary, clips of two survivors: Sùil air tubaist na h-Iolaire, 1919

https://www.bbc.co.uk/naidheachdan/46731471 - Art installation at Holm: Carragh-chuimhne ann an Tolm

https://www.bbc.co.uk/naidheachdan/46731475 - Dedicated Shinty game: Geama iomain na h-Iolaire

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-46822655 - Seen from space

Satellite image showing Iolaire commemorationSImage copyrightSENTINEL HUB EO BROWSER
Image captionThe image shows vessels involved in the New Year's Day Iolaire commemoration

"A procession of boats forming part of a commemoration to mark 100 years since the Western Isles' Iolaire disaster was captured in a satellite image... by an amateur astronomer... [who] lives in Stornoway."
Previously on this blog (relevant posts): 



Around the Peat-Fire, by Calum Smith (Edinburgh, Birlinn, 2001), p.21
Since Calum Smith wrote about the Iolaire in chapter 3 of his book, several more accounts have been published, most recently a major study from Acair Books, Stornoway -

Among the lost seamen whose families and stories the authors have researched is Calum's paternal uncle John Smith, whom he remembered on the page reproduced above:

('Safety' was Calum's nickname, shared by most of his brothers)

At least two of Calum's own nephews have in turn participated in the renewed commemorative effort, helping to inform researchers and reporters about the family connection.