Wednesday, 27 March 2019

From Leyton to Stornoway to Dartmoor... A CO's journey.

The Middlesex Appeal Tribunal records, as noted previously, are a valuable resource for historians interested in the Conscientious Objectors (COs) of the First World War, often providing appellants' accounts of motivation, beliefs and political affinity in their own words. For the most part, however,  such material is not available for other parts of the country, including areas of London which were located in the county of  Essex.

Exceptionally, one CO from what is now the London Borough of Waltham Forest does have an appeal file, because by 1916 he  had moved to the Isle of Lewis. In Scotland, not only were the records for Lothain and Peebles pteserved as the example set (like Middlesex for England), those for Lewis also happened fortuitously to survive.

58 Borthwick Road
In 1911, according to the Census, Charles Record at 19 was a 'Servant In Training For Teacher', living with his parents and 18-year-old sister Gladys, an 'Elementary [Primary School] Student Teacher' at 58 Borthwick Road, Stratford. His parents were east-enders, father a 'Decorative Japanner' from Bethnal Green, mother from Stepney. Charles and Gladys were born in Wanstead Slip. 

Leyton was a local government district in southwest Essex, England, from 1873 to 1965. It included the neighbourhoods of LeytonLeytonstone and Cann Hall. It now forms the southernmost part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest [...] To the south, the parish of Wanstead formed a long protrusion known as the Wanstead Slip, which extended to the marshes of the River Lea and divided Leyton from West Ham.  

Five years later he was a science teacher in the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, living at 28 Point Street in the town. By then the school was well established and prestigious, producing high-achievers who went on to successful careers in the wider world. In 1914 the school magazine, according to a recent historian, reported that since 1898 nearly 100 (99) former pupils had graduated from Scottish universities. Science, though, was a comparatively recent addition to the curriculum, which may explain why at least one of its teachers came from so far away. 

In January 1893, the then headmaster, Mr Forbes, was placed in charge of the new Secondary department which introduced the teaching of Latin, Greek, Mathematics, Geography, History, English, French, German, Music, Domestic Economy, Drawing and Needlework. 
In 1907, with a school roll of more than 800, a decision was made to erect a new building. The new building was opened in 1910 - built with the aid of a £7,000 grant from the Scottish Education department - and incorporated five classrooms, a science laboratory, technical workshop and art room. 
Point Street is towards the south-west, near 'Stornoway Port Authority'
What Charles did and had done to him in the war has already been looked at in some detail, along with a very few other COs from the island. One of those, Murdo Macleod, had his appeal hearing heard on the same day as Charles, and was later sent to the same regiment (the Seaforth Highlanders) and court-martialled in the same place (Ripon). It would be interesting to know how those two young men, united in their determination but widely divergent in their beliefs and background, got along together in their shared adversity.

  Charles Record, Stornoway, originally from Essex, is on the Pearce CO Register 

  • Became an Absentee (i.e. left his place of residence, probably when the appeal was refused). 
  • Was arrested 30.6.16
  • Drafted into the Seaforth Highlanders (having refused non-combatant service) 
  • Court Martial at Ripon,14.7.16 - sentenced to 1 year imprisonment
  • Served time in Northallerton (Civil Prison) and Durham (Civil Prison).
  • Came before the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs, 1.9.16 - found to be CO class A, genuine
  • Referred to Brace Committee for work under the  Home Office Scheme
  • In work centres at Wakefield, 12-10-16, and Dartmoor, 28.8.17 and 21.2.1918.

  • His motivation is said to be 'religious', but his own words in the Appeal Tribunal file make it clear that he also saw himself as an Iinternationalist. 

    Appeal against Conscription, 1916 by Charles Record, Conscientious Objector
    The file is prefaced by a handwritten 2-page dated 20th May 1916 protesting against the decision of the Appeal tribunal.

    Notice of Appeal. (Stamped, Stornoway, 20-3-16

    (2) Grounds on which appeal madeMy application was for total exemption on grounds of conscientious objection. By granting me exemption from combatant service the Local Tribunal apparently admitted my sincerity.
      I appeal for total exemption; so that I may not be compelled to assist in the taking of life.
      In particular I appeal for exemption from work involving the taking of the Military Oath. At present I can disobey laws which conflict with my conscience, if willing to suffer the penalties. By taking the oath I surrender that right, by solemnly promising to obey all commands of the military authorities; thereby handing over my conscience to them. This is quite impossible for me; especially since I object to the purpose for which the military organisation exists, & therefore to most of its requirements. Even though I might never receive a command which conflicted with my conscience, I cannot make the offer to discard my convictions.
    Charles Record         
    March 4th 1916
    Reasons for the decision of the Local (Stornoway) Tribunal

    The Tribunal having heard the Applicant refused the Application, but recommended him for non-combatant service.    [2-3-16]

    For Appeal Tribunal (Ross & Cromarty and Sutherland, Lewis Section)
                The Tribunal having heard the appellant refused the Appeal.
    Leave to appeal [further, to Central Tribunal] was also refused, the appellant not having stated any grounds to justify persuasion.
    Stornoway 31st March 1916. 

    Reasons in support of the [original] Application 
      As a Christian I cannot undertake the responsibility of inflicting death.
       My international ideals convince me that I ought not to take part in international disputes which involve the killing of my fellows.
       I believe all occupations designed to assist the military authorities to partake of the same nature as actual combatant service. 
    [A written statement (in duplicate) [on file] accompanies the forms].
    Charles Record         

    Decision of the Tribunal: [against which the appeal was lodged]
    Stornoway 2nd March 1916
    The Tribunal refused the Application and recommend that applicant be relieved from combatant service and enrolled at once in the R.A.M.C. [Royal Army Medical Corps].
    John Mackenzie Chairman.     

    The penalties Charles duly underwent in accordance with his conscience included some of the most rigorous prisons and Work Centres but unlike some.COs he survived and was evidently able to resume a normal life and exercise his profession. In early 1919 he married Ethel Betts near his old home and birthplace in Lonodn (West Ham registration district).  
    318 Almondbury Bank Huddersfield C.B., Yorkshire (West Riding), England
    Record Household of 6 people
    Charles Physics Teacher, Tech.College  b.30-10-1891

    Ethel b.1890 unpaid domestic duties

    Another (record withheld)

    Kathleen (Whiteley) Record b.1922 At schoool
    (Kathleen Record m.Kenneth Whiteley, Huddersfield 1944)

    Annie [m.s.Wood] Record  b.1865 Widowed unpaid domestic duties

    Emily S. Record Waistcoat maker retired b.1860 

    The 1939 Register of Electors finds him living in Huddersfield and employed as a Physics Teacher in the Technical College. Others in the household are his wife Ethel, their daughter Kathleen, born in 1922, his widowed mother Annie and (probably) an unmarried paternal aunt, and someone else whose details are not (yet) available. According to the most likely death record, Crewe 1967, he lived to the age of 75.

    Sunday, 3 March 2019

    Conscientious Objectors in First World War Walthamstow

    A search on the online database of First World War Conscientious Objectors (Pearce CO Register) using keyword 'Walthamstow' brings up 108 records. While not quite all of these include an address in the area - it was a location for enlistment in the RAMC - it is probably safe to say that about 100 men resident in or from present-day E17 (more or less) felt strongly enough about opposing the war to take a stand openly against it, with all the risks to freedom, health, livelihood and sanity that that entailed. (What happened to some of those who enlisted in Walthamstow is another story.)

    Although transcripts of all the records are freely available, the amount of information given on each can vary from brief details of name and reported arrest to a thorough if shorthand account including age, address, occupation, motivation, courts martial, prison, work camp, date of discharge and occasionally subsequent career. Sources are supplied in all cases. A selecction has been made here, to give an impression of what may be found, picking out some who stand out in one or more ways as being out of the common even in this uncommon company, For example, we have several sets of brothers; a number who were politically motivated and/or proclaimed themselves without religion, knowing how this would prejudice the tribunals which considered their claims for exemption; and others who were sent to do alternativeservice at notorious work centres like Dyce camp, Dartmoor and Wakefield. These categories may overlap to a considerable extent.

    Notes and excerpts or brief summaries of key points from the online transcripts


    Archie G Bussey b.1895.  27, Thornhilll Road, Leyton. Shop Asistant, athletic outfitters.
    CM (Court Martial) Hurdcott 14.8.16 - 6 months HL (with hard labour) commuted to 112 days. 

    Henry E.Bussey b.1885 same address Engineer's fitter, railway companyNCF (No-Conscription Fellowship - listed as a member in 1915). Wartime experiences not on record.

    Walter J.Bussey b.1887 same address Butcher, journeyman
    CM (Court Martial) Hurdcott 15.8.16 - 6 months HL (with hard labour) 112 days. 

    George Augustus Albert Cole b.1892. 37, Brunner Road.  Engineer.  Non-sectarian; Trade unionist (ASE), NCF. 

    Absolutist - i.e. refused to accept ECS (exemption from combatant servie only) 
    CM (Court Martial) Sutton Veny 28.10.16 - 112 days HL, Wormwood Scrubs 
    CM Newton Abbott 27.2.17 - 2 yrs.HL 6 months Winchester CP (Civil Prison) 
    CM  Blackdown 1.8.17 - 18 months HL Winchester CP 
    CM Blackdown 22.11.18 - 2yrs.HL Winchester CP  
    By Jan.1919 had served 3/4 sentences and more than two years. Winchester CP (Civil Prison) - discharged by order of Secretary of State 24.3.19 - under the 'two year rule'..

    Charles Cole's discharge authorised, with others
    Charles Edward Cole b.1897 same address Engineer.  NCF. 
    Absolutist, Fugitive. 
    CM (Court Martial) Sheerness 9.7.18 - 18 months com. 1 yr., to Wormwood S.; 
    CM (Court Martial) Sheerness 3.1.19 - 2 yrs.HL (With hard labour); 
    Discharged 25.6.19 

    "... approval of the discharge... of the men named... who have been convicted of offences against discipline which they pleaded were committed on the grounds of conscience."

    Alfred Rogers b.1892. 41 Pretoria Rd. Gas fitter, Gas, Light & Coke Company 
    Accepted WNI (Pelham) (Work of National Importance under the Pelham Committee) 22.5.16
    5.6.16 Essex County Appeal Tribunal approve his work as WNI - to stay where he is.
    Frederick James Rogers b.1886 same address Plumber's mate, sanitary work 
    WNI. 18.5.16 Referred to University College Hospital and engaged at 28/- per week.  

    60, Maynard Road

     Splett, Alfred Ernest b.1895. 60 Maynard Rd.  Clerk. FOR (Fellowship of   Reconciliation), 'Quaker'. Absolutist 
     CM Edenbridge 18.12.16 - 9 months HL Wormwood S.; 
     CM Reading 4.5.17 - 112 days HL Wandsworth CP (Civil Prison).
     CM Reading 11.8.17 - 2yrs.HL Wandsworth CP (
     CM  Reading 6.7.18 - 112 days HL and 15.10.18 - 1yr.HL  
    Wandsworth CP  By Jan.1919 had served 3 sentences and two years. 
    8.4.19 released by order of Secretary of State
    21.5.19 to Pentonville [?] 
    Post-war work in Germany with Friends' War Victims Relief Service, Nov.1919   to Aug.1920

     Arthur Edward Splett b.1900 same address
     CM Reading 6.7.18 - 112 days HL - Wormwood S. 
    (same day and place as his older brother but sent to a different prison). 
    CM Reading 15.10.18 - 1yr.HL.Released at 6.00 on 8.4.19 (two year rule).
    Post-war (?) Friends' War Victims Relief Service, London office.

    Wilhelm Emil Splett b.1893  same address  Clerk. 'Quaker'. Absolutist.
    CM Edenbridge 20.12.16 - 9 months HL Wormwood S.
    CM Reading 4.5.17 - 112 days HL Wandsworth CP 
    CM (Reading 11.8.17 - 2yrs.HL Wandsworth CP 14.8.17 - 4.7.18 to Dartmoor.
    'At some time he worked in Friends' War Victims Relief Service London office'

    Splett brothers: 'both parents German'. 
    Another with German connections -

    Harry George Hodson b.1883.  52, The Drive.  Clerk, Hodson & Co. oil merchants.
    MST (Military Service Tribunal) Walthamstow. 18.8.16 appealed as a CO
     - recommended for internment because of his family's German connections  
    Wife and mother both German; 'his uncle, Dr. Weigert, Imperial Public Prosecutor in Germany.'
    Source: Essex Newsman 19.8.16

    Note: Internment - "The British government was initially reluctant to impose widespread internment in the United Kingdom during the First World War, choosing instead to restrict the activities of nationals of enemy nations residing in the UK and interning only those suspected of being a threat to national security. Public anti-German sentiment peaked with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915, and the subsequent rioting forced the government to implement a general program of internment."


    Arthur James Elsdon b,1895. 35, Westbury Rd.  Clerk/Civil Servant. BSP (British Socialist Party) Walthamstow branch; 'Quaker'; NCF   
    Absentee - AWOL/DeserterCalled up 12.6.16 Stratford East, London. 
    Posted to NCC (Non-Combatant Corps) (4 Eastern); 
    CM Seaford 23.6.16 - 112 days HL Maidstone CP (Civil Prison)
    CM 2.4.18 Gravesend - 2yrs.HL com.1yr
    18.4.18 Guard Room Milton Barracks, Gravesend. 
    Maidstone CP 27.6.16 to HOS (Home Office Scheme) Dyce 22.8.16
    Transfer to Army Reserve Class W 23.9.16; Oct.1916 Dyce Camp (photo.80)
    Maidstone CP (Civil Prison) 10.4.18 to 1.2.19.

    Albert Isaac Field b.1893. 28 St. Mary's [St. Mary] Rd.  NCF, 'Atheist'/'Agnostic'. Absolutist 
    CM Winchester 14.4.17 - 2yrs.HL 
    Wormwood S. 26.4.17 to 29.8.17 to Wandsworth CP -  29.8.18, 
    6.1.19 discharged under 1913 Illness Act (as used against the Suffragettes)
    Returned 19.3.19, out again 21.3.19.Hunger strike 4.9.18 to 7.9.18, force fed 3 times 
    By Jan.1919 had served 1 sentence and almost two years. 
    Released April 1919 under two year rule.

    Note: "The Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act, commonly referred to as the Cat and Mouse Act, was an Act of Parliament passed in Britain ... in 1913."

    William Henry Fitzpatrick b.1891. 40 Westbury Rd., Hoe St.Clerk - mercantile.  NCF Leyton Branch Secretary (1916)   Motivation 'Moral and religious' 
    WNI  10.5.16 to 11.9.18 Forestry and market garden work. 
    Illness - Developed chronic pulmonary TB 1917, unable to work.

    William Ernest Jeanes b.1892. 19, Ritchings Avenue.  Railway Clerk. NCF, Atheist  
    Refused to sign army papers. Central Tribunal at Wandsworth MP (Military Prison) 9.8.16
     - judged CO class B. 'unconvincing'. 
    NCC (Non-Combatant Corps) (4 Eastern) Stratford, London 9.6.16; 
    CM Seaford 19.6.16 - 112 days HL  Maidstone CP
    25.9.16 returned to duty from prison and sent on furlough to return when ordered; Transfer to Army Reserve Class W.- HOS (The Home Office Scheme, administered by the Brace Committee) 23.2.17; 28.8.17 at Dartmoor.

    Note: Conscience without relogion was a concept seldom recognsied by the tribunals.
    15 Stainforth Rd.

    Noel Miller b.1896. 15, Stainforth Road.  BSP (British Socialist Party); 'Religion: None',; NCF  
    CM Fovant 17.6.16 - 112 days HL Winchester CP 
    HOS Oct.1916 Dyce Camp (photo.77); 28.8.17 at Dartmoor

    James Mylles b.1880. From Brixton but  'Discharge address,1919' 46, Elmsdale Road, Walthamstow. ILP (Independent Labour Party), Quaker, Absolutist
    Absentee, Arrested 12.5.17, Camberwell Police Court 14.5.17
     - fined and handed over,
    CM Hounslow 24.5.17 - 112 days HL, Wormwood S.
    CM Hounslow 6.9.17 - 2yrs. HL, to Pentonville CP. 
     - to be released April 1919 under two year rule, Discharged 24.4.19.

    Henry George Phillips b.1895. 57, Woodlands Rd., Wood St.  Cabinet maker.  Trade unionist - ASC&J; NCF (No-Conscription Fellowship); Atheist.  
    NCC (Non-Combatant Corps) (4 Eastern) Seaford 
    CM 24.6.16 - 6 months 112 days, Maidstone CP
    1.7.16 to HOS - Dyce camp, Aberdeen 23.8.16 - returned to Maidstone 5.9.16 - re-committed. 
    CM Coventry 10.11.16 - 112 days HL Wormwood S.; 
    CM Dublin 28.2.17 - 2 years HL com.1 yr.
    CM (Dublin 10.1.18 - 2 years HL  hard Walton CP, Liverpool, 
    Hunger strike 26.7.18 to 4.8.18, force fed 22 times; Preston CP (hunger strike 10.8.18. 
    By Jan.1919 had served 4 sentences and more than two years.
    Illness - released on health grounds  

    Note: "The Non-Combatant Corps is one of the least-known parts of the Conscientious Objector story... Neither one thing nor the other, NCC men had to define their own labour and resistance according to their own moral compass. 
    The NCC arose from the Military Service Act which, in [its] provision for Conscientious Objectors to be granted “Exemption from Combatant Service Only”, created a new type of soldier by the thousand - the official non-combatant."


    Reginald William Sorenson, 1891-1971. The Pioneers' Hostel, 23, Highbury Place Highbury  NCF (No-Conscription Fellowship); North London Herald LeagueILP (Independent Labour Party); Minister of the Free Christian Church, Walthamstow  Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Southampton, 1923,1924, Elected, West Leyton, 1929. Writings in Liddle Sorenson CO/089 Typescript recollections; CO supporter and anti-war campaigner with NLHL. No evidence of his being called up and becoming a CO. Post-war: Labour MP West Leyton 1921-31, 1935-50, Leyton 1950-64; created life peer 1964. 
     (The database includes supporters of COs as well as those granted or claiming that status.) 
    "Reginald Sorenson was not a Conscientious Objector, as his work as a Minister of the Free Christian Church in Walthamstow granted him Absolute Exemption under the Military Service Act. Even though he was exempt, he still felt that Conscription was an injustice. Reginald became an active supporter and campaigner on behalf of Conscientious Objectors as part of the North London Herald League and the Independent Labour Party. As a prominent local pacifist who supported the work of the No-Conscription Fellowship he was often invited to speak at the Herald League's Anti-War meetings. After 1918 he would carry on his pacifism, working as both a peace campaigner and as an MP for seven full terms."    

    Note: For the North London Herald League and more opposition to the war, see 'Don't Be a Soldier' by Ken Weller (available online). Don't be a Soldier! The Radical Anti-war Movement in North London, 1914-18, Journeyman Press/London History Workshop Centre, 1985. 

    Sent to Dyce Camp (as well as others listed above) - 

    George Edmund Oliphant b.1890. 15, Ravenswood Rd. Clerk/WarehousemanIBSA (International Bible Students Association - Jehaovah's Witnesses) 
    NCC (Non-Combatant Corps) (4 Eastern) Seaford CM 16.6.16 - 98 days HL 
    Maidstone CP - 20.6.16 to HOS, 21.8.16 to Dyce camp, Aberdeen 
    13.11.16 been at Longsight, 'now at Warwick'; Dartmoor August 1917

    48 Grosvenor Park Rd.
    John Augustus Pfeil b.1895. 48 Grosvenor Park Rd. Clerk. IBSA.
    NCC Warley barracks, to (4 Eastern) Seaford and (as for Oliphant)
    CM 16.6.16 - 6 months HL 98 days HL 
    Maidstone CP 21.8.16 to Dyce camp, Aberdeen; 
    13.11.16 been at Longsight, now at Warwick; 28.8.17 at Dartmoor.
    (The surname suggests a possible German connection here too).

    Annie L Rollins
    of PLASTIC
    lived here in 1979

    Frank Pryer b.1893. 12 Downsfield Rd. Wesleyan; FOR - Dartmoor Branch; NCF
    CM Fovant 27.6.16 - 6 months HL com to 112 days 
    Winchester CP 3.7.16 discharged 25.8.16
    HOS Dyce camp, Aberdeen; Belmont Workhouse 27.1.17
    Dartmoor 1917; Brockenhurst 9.7.17; Wakefield.

    Examples of WNI (Work of National Importance)/ HOS Alternative work

    H G Gresham  Walthamstow Shop Assistant  
    WNI 5.7.16 to 19.12.16 Farm and garden work at Claybury Asylum 
    - dismissed when Asylum decided not to employ COs 
    Dairy farm work, Chigwell; Illness - classed 'CIII' (C3, i.e. far from A1 fitness in military terms).
    - offered light work in a Controlled Establishment  
    ("The Munitions of War Act was passed in 1915 and gave the newly created Ministry of Munitions power to declare factories controlled establishments..").

    Note: Unlike Claybury, several asylums did accept COs on WNI; others had COs as patients.

    A G Hills  Walthamstow  Stock-keeper, motor driver  
    WNI 4.7.16 to 19.9.18 City of London Asylum
    (also with) Messrs Maw Son & Sons as engine driver, 
    and mechanic at Messrs John Sutton, farmers.

    Stafford William High b,1887. 45 Park Avenue  
    CM Shoreham, Peas Pottage Camp 8.8.16 - 112days HL  Lewes CP 
    HOS 8.9.16 at Denton, Newhaven; 17.1.18 at Knutsford
    Friends' War Victims Relief Service, London office   

    Arthur Frank Hodby b.1888. 57 Coleridge Rd. Chief of Repairs Dept., Rotax Motor Co.
    WNI 19.5.16 to 16.1.17 Found work at British Dyes, July 1916, 
     but unable to find lodgings; growing tomatoes in Chingford. 

    116 Beulah Rd.
    Bertram T Philpott b.1893. 116 Beulah Rd. Civil service clerk (2nd div.) GPO   
    WNI 31.7.16 to 11.9.18 Farm work, Spalding, Lincolnshire.
    From Jan.1917 tomato growing at Loughton, Essex; 
    5.9.18 left without permission and ordered back. 
    49 Beulah Rd.

    Percy John L Rolph b.1888. 49, Beulah Rd. ('probable family address') Chief audit clerk, wholesale meat/fish merchants  
    WNI 18.1.17 to 13.3.17 Employers argue that he is an 
    indispensable worker - to stay where he is. 

    Alfred George R Serpell  b.1887. 37 Selborne Rd. Photographer, family business 

    WNI 17.5.16 to 20.9.16 Farm work in Devon, at Ilfracombe, then Cullompton; later at Stanford le Hope.
    Horace Walter Lerpiniere b.1891. 69, Greenleaf Rd. Ophthalmic optician.
    WNI (Pelham) 8.5.16 to 17.10.18 Forestry work near Exeter; In poor health.
    Labouring work with Messrs Cadburys from Sept.1917.
    Illness - nervous breakdown.

    Note: Questions were asked in Parliament about the apparently punitive use of 'alternative work' schemes, with professionally qualified COs often being assigned to manual labour.
    Another optician, from Ealing, was assigned to the NCC (see above) and set to loading ammunition before being sent to a work camp. His protests about this, in his own words, can be read in the records of the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal. Unfortunately for researchers, the County Appeal Tribunal for Walthamstow seems to have been Essex, so that the files were destroyed (like almost all others apart from Middlesex and some in Scotland).

    And finally, a short military career -

    Stanley Thomas Smith b.1888. 37 West End Ave. Leyton  
    Court Martial Portsmouth 28.6.16 - 2 yrs.HL 22 month 
    Winchester CP (Civil Prison) 16.8.16 transfer to Sussex from Portsmouth
    Discharged 6.9.16 - HOS 20.10.16 Denton, Newhaven. 
    Note: Work campsi in Sussex are recalled in a 13-minute BBC clip.