Challenging Militarism

"THE TIMES" AND CONSCIENCE

From The Tribunal November 1, 1917

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_For other extracts go to:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

We print here in extenso, a leading article entitled “Conscience Recalcitrant” which appeared in the “Times” of October 25th…

“Our columns continue to give evidence that the problem of the conscientious objector is not yet satisfactorily settled, and we understand that more is likely to be heard of it in the near future. The popular attitude of indifference, blazing at irregular intervals into spasmodic indignation, would be all very well if the question of conscientious objection to military service was a static question, which could be disposed of once for all on rigid lines. Unluckily it is not; it rests on the beliefs, convictions, or prejudices of men whose mere presence within the community is a perpetual interrogation. It is out of the question to dispose of these men, as so many would like to dispose of them, with an impatient wave of the hand and a dictatorial ‘Off with his head; so much for conscience in war time”’ We are not pleading the case of the conscientious objector, irrespective of its individual bearings; very much the contrary. But it is necessary to remind people that these cases cannot be judged in an undiscriminating and summary way. Conscientious objectors may be divided into three main classes. There are those who have accepted non-combatant service, have agreed to “work of national importance”; and those who have refused both, have been compelled to go into the Army, have declined to perform their military duties, and are serving – as a penalty of their refusal – successive terms of hard labour. It is the case of this third class we desire to direct attention. Most of us may think it an impertinent query, but it is a query all the same, and sooner or later will have to be answered. How long are these men to be compelled to serve successive terms of hard labour because they refuse to submit to the discipline of the Army into which they have been forced?

“Before we attempt an answer let us reflect on one or two circumstances in their case. First, they have deliberately turned their backs upon the comparatively easy avenues of escape offered by acceptance of either ‘non-combatant service’ or ‘work of national importance.’ They are thus self-condemned to a lot far harder than that of those who have escaped military service by one or other of those avenues. It may be said that the dominant motive with many of them is the itch for notoriety. Possibly it is; but even so they pay the price in hard labour, though that price is small compared with the long-drawn trial of service in the trenches. Next, they are being punished again and again for what is essentially a single offence. And, once again, they are punished thus repeatedly for that rebellion of the individual conscience against the claim of the State to rule conscience which experience has shown to be rather fortified and propagated than exterminated by punishment. They are useless where they are; if released, some of them might be useful to others, if not to the State; and if any of them are dangerous to the State, the law has its remedy. And it is possible that their present treatment supplies the disaffected with gratuitous arguments which it is difficult to answer. Many of them no doubt glory in their punishment, reckoning it is a persecution easy to be borne for conscience sake, and certain – as in the case of the early Christians – to promote the doctrine that it hopes to exterminate. We do not endorse these arguments on behalf of this particular class of conscientious objector, but we feel bound to state them for the calm consideration of a community that justly prides itself on its tolerance. The difficulty, of course, is to test the real motive that inspires the objection to military service. It is so easy, as every one knows, to assume the cloak of conscience which covers, in many cases, an abysmal degradation of selfishness, or of treason, or of mere pitiable fear. But it is at least worth considering whether circumstances have not provided an automatic test. When a man has deliberately refused to avail himself of two alternative ways of escape from prison labour; when he has more than once, of his own deliberate choice, gone back to gaol; when he shows himself resolute to go back again and again rather than submit to that military service against which he asserts that his conscience raises for him an insuperable barrier – when he thus proves repeatedly his readiness to suffer for what he proclaims to be his belief, is it either justifiable or politic to go on with the punishment? The question seems to us to be worth a good deal more thought than the complacent generalisation of the public about conscientious objection has been willing to give it as yet. One point is, however, clear. Men who, for whatever reason, decline to do their duty as citizens place themselves permanently outside the community and have no title rights. But between these disabilities and the constant infliction of positive punishment there is a distinction. And it is this distinction that is worth considering.”

C.O.'S IN PRISON

_ This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between march 1916 and November 1918_
For further extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

BY THE MOTHER OF ONE OF THEM

Who PUT them in Prison?
“We” say the Court Martial
“Our judgement is partial
Our job will be gone,
And we shan’t carry on
If we listen to conscience
And that sort of nonsense.
Away with their tale!
Just clap them in jail,-
At the horrors we hear of the stoutest will quail!”

Who’ll STARVE them, in prison?
“Oh, we!” say the warders,
“For such is our orders,-
Reducing the ration
Is now all the fashion.
And ill-flavoured gruel
Is left,- something cruel!
Blackbeetles and mice
Spoil the oatmeal and rice
And the ‘Objects’ ob-ject, they’re fearfully nice!”

Who sees them DIE?
“Not I,” says the Nation,
“A pure fabrication!
They’ve lost weight we know-
A few stones, or so,-
And some have gone mad
With the tortures they’ve had
But if some have died
Such cases we hide-
And no-one, you’ll notice, for Murder is tried!”

Who’ll HELP the C.O.’s?
“Not I,” said the Church,
“For my ‘scutcheon would smirch,-
All war I abhor, it is not in my line,
But this war is diff’rent, it’s holy, it’s fine!
Now I can’t quite explain, but you’ll see in a minute-
Although it’s so holy,- why I am not in it;
The Government thought it would look very ill-flavour
The Cause notwithstanding, for Clergy to kill!
So this kind exemption of course I requite
By “talking up” fighting,- although I don’t fight!
Thus you will perceive, though I feel for their woes
That I can’t say a word for the poor dear C.O.’s!”

THE HOLY WAR

From The Tribunal October 4 1917

_ This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between march 1916 and November 1918_
For further extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Extract from Walter H. Ayles’ Statement at His Third Court-Martial.

“I am directed to look at the alleged atrocities committed by Germany and to the remarkable – and may I add, suspicious – absence of atrocities by their opponents, either in available newspapers or Government documents… It is a notorious, historic fact that every country has endless atrocities staining the pages of its history… Before Louvain was bombarded and the ‘Lusitania’ sunk Napoleon had poisoned his own wounded in the Syrian hospitals and shot his Turkish prisoners in cold blood on the same plea as Germany – that of military necessity… The outrages of Italy in Tripoli a few years ago were of such a character that even hardened newspaper correspondents handed in their papers and returned home, refusing to stay to ro witness and report such horrible buthchery of prisoners… Every student of English history knows of the crimes in the Crimea and South Africa, and of how in the Great River War the very tomb of the Mahdi, hold sacred by the Sudanese, rifled it for its contents and flung the remains into the river; of the horrors of Denshawai in 1906, when innocent peasants were killed for defending their property from British outrage; of the Irish fight for independence in 1916, when innocent men like Sheey Skeffington and wounded men like James Conolly were shot for being Irish patriots… Before Germany unrighteously violated the treaty of 1839, guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, the British and Russians had torn up a much more recent one guaranteeing the integrity of Persia. The treaty guaranteeing the integrity of Morocco was not only torn up with the consent of Britain, Belgium and France, who had signed it, but Frenchmen had pushed a railway through a sacred Moroccan burial ground and put down by bullets, bayonets and shells the protests of the people, whose dearest feelings were thus outraged. All our guarantees to the Egyptians and to Europe to evacuate Egypt have been torn up like scraps of paper and Britain has now annexed its territory. And what shall I say to the – shall I call it pressure – brought to bear upon Greece and Romania to enable the Allies to get an overland route to Constantinople. For any nation to accuse another of committing atrocities or violating treaty obligations appears to be as consummate a piece of hypocrisy as that of a thief accusing robbers of dishonesty. Every nation has done things equivalent to these within the last 30 years. They have done them because they are part of the unholy system of international greed and selfishness. The guilt lies at the door of all nations, and it is only possible because men of all nations are prepared to slay, steal, lie and outrage to back up the nefarious policy of their own Government. War is the greatest forcing ground for atrocities and falseness ever established by man, and however evil the methods adopted by one side the other is sure to follow its horrible example. that has been clearly and conclusively proved in this war. There is no method used by the Germans that the Allies have not committed used, except one, the torpedoing of unarmed German ships; the reason probably being that there are no German ships on the high seas to torpedo. There are no atrocities by the Allies that the Germans have not committed save probably one, that of submitting her sick and wounded in distants parts in large numbers to torture and death, by a criminal neglect to supply adequate medical stores and equipment and proper transport for food and other supplies. If I am to fight those who commit atrocities and violate treaties, I must fight every nation. Then I should discover that to carry on my holy war, so called, I should be compelled to commit the very crimes against which I was fighting. ‘You cannot cast devils out by Beelzebub.’ War itself is the greatest of all atrocities… I love my country too much to countenance such a crime. I must be loyal to God and humanity; and in being loyal to them I shall be serving in the highest way I know the real interests of our people and our country.”

AN OFFICER C.O.

_H3. From The Tribunal September 27th 1917

_ This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918_
_For other extracts go to:_http://nfpb.org/tribunal

There was an interesting case at the Northhants County Appeals Tribunal last week, when a man who had relinquished a commission in the Army appealed as a conscientious objector.

The case was that of Joseph W. Sault (33), married, now acting as chief clerk at Woodford Halse for the Great Central Railway. The story he told was that he joined the Army at the outbreak of war, and secured a commission in the King’s Royal Rifles. At a church service a point of view that he had not heard put before led him to come out convinced that it was utterly incompatible for a Christian to take part in war. He told his colonel that even if shot or court-martialled, he could not help it. He could have sought medical grounds for relinquishing his commission, but did not do so. He relinquished his commission at the end of 1914, and Sir Samuel Fay, when he knew, allowed him to return to the G.C.R., on which railway he had been a student before the war. For his work at Woodford he received £175 a year.

The Chairman (Sir Ryland Adkins, M.P.) questioned applicant as to whether he now attempted to influence people against joining the Army or Navy. Appellant replied that he simply taught the Gospel, and had not endeavoured to exert influence against military service. He told people it was a matter in which they must be guided by God. He admitted he belonged to the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Sir Ryland said that some members of that body went very near the line.

Captain Cook urged that his information was that appellant was a pernicious influence in Woodford, and asked that he should, at any rate, be removed from the district. Appellant said he had preached in two or three chapels in the district, but denied having exerted influence, although his views were known, and his example might have been noticed.

A minister from Leicester testified to the genuineness of the appellant’s convictions, and argued that the question of pernicious influence was a matter for the Defence of the Realm Act. To this Sir Ryland dissented, holding that they were entitled to examine whether appellant was conscious of the necessary restrictions placed on all Englishmen with regard to expression of views.

Appellant, after further questions, said he was quite willing to change the district, and to accept a lower salary.

In adjourning the case for a month for appellant to find work of national importance at a financial sacrifice, Sir Ryland said the Tribunal did not wish to shut appellant’s mouth; but they asked him to consider whether he could not forego to addressing meetings or services, and devote the whole of his time to national services such as railway work, for which he was specially qualified.

Appellant agreed to give the matter his consideration.

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The "Daily Mail" and Brightmore

From The Tribunal 20th September 1917

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_For other extracts go to:_http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The “Daily Mail” has re-opened the Brightmore case – and shut it up again quick! On Friday, September 14th, it published on its principal news sheet a letter, running into over half a column, from “Chas. Grimshaw,” late Major, Manchester Regiment, protesting against the “iniquitous manner” “in which Brigadier-General McD Elliot and myself were called upon to resign.” Mr. Grimshaw went on to say that Brightmore’s statement “was not only grossly exaggerated, but untrue.”

This letter worked up Carmelite House to fecer heat, and the “Mail,” in its leader on the same day, told its readers that Mr. Grimshaw’s letter would “be read with general sympathy and indignation,” that the Army authorities had been guilty of “illegalities, muddle-headedness,” and of putting conscientious objectors in a “privileged” position. The whole article was couched in the “Mail’s” most mandatory tone, and was beautifully headed and sub-headed:

THE CODDLED SHIRKER.”
Illegal Favours

At this point the curtain falls on the first act, and four days latter, during which period the “Mail” was evidently acquiring wisdom, and being brought down from Northcliffian frenzy to have been something like that described in Gilbert and Sullivan’s verse, which runs:

“After the rise, the fall;
After the boom, the slump;
After the ‘cham.’ and the big cigar,
The cigarette and the hump”!

Anyhow, on Tuesday morning, September 18th, the “Mail” published this remarkable leaderette:

THE BRIGHTMORE CASE

“In the light of information which has since reached us it is clear that the comment which we made on Friday on the enforced resignation of Major Charles Grimshaw , of the Manchester Regiment, as a sequel to the ill-treatment of Private Brightmore, requires modification.

“A soldier who disobeys orders is put into ‘detention’ and has the right to claim a court-martial. This is the punishment proscribed by the regulations. It was not the punishment meted out to Brightmore. He was put into an open pit and left there daily for several days. Such irregular and illegal punishments are quite rightly forbidden by the Army authorities, and it was owing to such a breach of military law that the War Office took actions against the responsible officers.”

It is not for us to probe further into this matter. Sufficient for us to record the facts and to express the view that the incident is the most encouraging that has taken place for many a day/ If C.O.‘s have done nothing else than to obtain from the leading militarist organ in the land the emphatic statement that “such irregular and illegal punishments are rightly forbidden by the Army authorities,” their stand has not been in vain.

International Notes: Canada & Holland

From the Tribunal September 13th 1917

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s Journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Canada
The latest news from Ottawa is that in the new Franchise Bill necessitated by the coming General Election itis proposed to disenfranchise conscientious objectors relieved under the Military Services Acts from combatant service. This is not the law yet, but it will presumably become so. Our friends need not worry, however, the time is rapidly coming when the common people will be all conscientious objectors – in those days the Canadian Burgess Roll will be a very slender volume!

Holland
An article in the “Nieuwe Amsterdammer” (Dutch Independent Weekly) of August 25th 1917, says about the Dutch C.O.‘s that since they published a manifesto last year, for which they were prosecuted the movement has gained steadily in strength. The manifesto was scattered broadcast over the country, and the speeches for the defence of the signatories in the law courts have served as splendid propaganda. The C.O.‘s are actuated by different motives; such as: hatred of every form of the State, especially of the present one; considerations of humanity such as find expression in vegetarianism and the anti-vivisection movement; love of one’s fellow-creatures, and the feeling of Christian brotherhood; the opinion that the war is a purely capitalist affair, in which no Socialist can join; less elevated sentiments such as an innate aversion to any form of obedience to superiors, and the allurement of martyrdom; all these pure and less pure motives mixed together have helped to raise the numbers of Dutch C.O.‘s to 15). Some of these C.O.‘s were punished after they had served their term in prison by taking from them the right to wear a military uniform, a punishment they will probably accept with resignation! The writer further warns us against the mistake of treating the C.O.‘s as common criminals, and bids us remember that they are martyrs for their opinions, that they are giving proof of their readiness to sacrifice for their conscience and convictions more than the general mass of the docile public. The severe methods of old Russia have not yet disappeared, but have crept into every State, both belligerent and neutral, as a result of the circumstances of the war. The writer considers it an unsatisfactory solution to make exemption depend on the seriousness of the conscientious objection. On the other hand he says that if every C.O. was let off, all barracks would soon be emptied. Especially in such times as these, the state cannot disarm, but must maintain itself. A better solution would be not to test the seriousness of the objection to military service, but to impose civil duties which would be heavier than the military ones.

The Editor of the “Nieuwe Amsterdammer” adds a note to the above article in which he refers to an article in “Der Telegraaf” of Aug. 9th, which proposes that in view of the possible refusal of the C.O.‘s to do any work connected with the war, the State should force them to do work at sea, either at the fishing or other commercial trades. The editor highly recommends this solution.

Building peace, from local to global

Report of NFPB’s meeting in Darlington on 14th October

The remit of NFPB is to promote ‘peace in all its height and breadth’. The range of issues addressed at our most recent meeting in Darlington shows the continuing relevance of this brief.

Protest and Community

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Right to Protest v. the rights of a community with Ian Conlan,

Bishop Cray and Supt Adam Thompson 7-9pm Friargage Meeting House, York – [email protected] http://www.yorkquakers.org.uk/news.html

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