Challenging Militarism


From The Tribunal 20th Jun 1918

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:

We are glad to find that the action of Home Office in smashing Mr. Steet’s printing plant is not to pass altogether unchallenged. So docilely have the ever-widening powers of D.O.R.A. been accepted by the vast majority of our countrymen, that it is almost a surprise to find that this last tyrannical act has aroused deep indignation.

A strongly worded protest against this attempt “to destroy the liberty of the press by smashing the property of printers, and thus by violence and intimidation to prevent the publication of matter that is unpalatable to the Government of the day, has been signed by W. Barefoot (Editor, ‘The Pioneer,’ Woolwich), A. Clutton Brock, F.C. Fairchild, Catherine Bruce Glasier (Editor, ‘Labour Leader’), Thomas Johnson (Editor, ‘Forward’), George Lansbury (Editor. ‘The Herald’), William Leach (Editor ‘Bradford Pioneer’) W. Francis Moss, A.R. Orage (Editor ‘New Age’), Ben Riley (‘Huddersfield Worker’), E. Scrymeour (Editor ‘Scottish Prohibitionist’). W.I. Llwellyn Williams, K.C., M.P., and others.

After recounting the treatment meted out to Mr. Street, the protest proceeds:-

“This is a most indefensible and tyrannical action, and if allowed to continue, will completely destroy all freedom of the press. It is, in addition, a heavy blow at the rights of the printing trade. Mr. Street was printing the “Tribunal” in the ordinary way of business, and the authorities have ample powers under which they could have prosecuted him or the publishers of the paper. This they refrained from doing evidently, that other printers might be terrorised.”

In response to this protest, a steady stream of letters condemning the outrage and resolutions to the same effect by Trade Union Branches, etc., is now being received by the Home Office.

The “Manchester Guardian,” in its issue of June 10th, devotes a leader to the subject, and demands that the provisions of D.O.R.A. shall at least be carried out “with some degree of intelligence.” After pointing out the latitude given by Regulation 51, and that there is little doubt that it does cover “such outrageous proceedure,” it justly remarks that there is no reason why the regulation should not be interpreted with a sense of justice, or at least common sense. “Clearly,” it concludes, “the whole matter should be thoroughly looked into, and if the facts are as stated, the the person or persons responsible should be made accountable.”


From The Tribunal June 6th 1918

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:

Our comrade, A. Catherall, who was sent over in a draft to France on December 6, 1917, still heroically continues his refusal to obey orders, be the consequence what they may. In spite of assurances given, he is still being kept in France, and the latest news is that on May 23rd he was taken to No. 1 Military Prison in Le Havre to serve a sentence of 112 days’ hard labour. Knowing what we do of military prisons in France, this news is certainly not re-assuring, especially in view of the following letter received from our comrade on May 21st, which gives the record in bare outline of his experiences at Harfleur:-

“Feb 10. – Courtmartialled. Result 84 days field punishment.
Feb 12. – Arrival Field Punishment Compound Harfleur, Havre, France, disobeyed first order after explaining my position, was confined in an iron-sheeted concrete-floored cell about four yards by two until —-
Feb. 14 – Sentence to fifteen day’s No. 1 diet, solitary confinement in cell, handcuffed, leg-ironed night and day (No. 1 diet, 3 days bread and water, 3 days’ compound diet alternately).
Feb 15. – Complained irons were for violent persons only. Resilt, cuffed at back until —-
Feb 19. – Morning, when at 6 a.m., was released for an alternate three days but refused first order, celled immediately in cuffs (front) and leg irons, on compound diet (that night I received as punishment additional 6 days No.1 diet, etc, as before) until —-
Feb 22. When I returned on biscuit and water diet. I may mention that I received eight ozs. of biscuits per day until I complained to the orderly officer, who instantly went and witnessed my ozs. made up to fourteen ozs. as per rule. i may say that I broke tow teeth with those iron biscuits. Compound diet resumed. Released at 6 a.m., refused first order, celled etc.
Feb 25. – Still in irons day and night, the handcuffs being removed for about five minutes daily to allow washing.
Feb 28. – As punishment, order to parade three times daily, – ‘any force necessary to be used to make him obey,’ and to be roped tightly as possible to a post for two hours, wearing irons also. Refused to parade, but was pulled on parade once by the arm, then refused again and that order was probably rescinded. This punishment excepting parade continued until —-
March 7. – When the leg irons were remove and exercise allowed daily.
March 9. – Should have been released, having completed 21 days’ No.1 diet in solitary confinement in the cell, but continued on compound diet, cuffed, cell, and tying up (though I protested three times that no charge was laid against me) until—-
March 12 – When handcuffs were removed, remained in cells on compound diet until my sentence expired, being called from the cells and straight out under excort to No. 8 Camp, A.S.C., on Sunday, May 5.
May 6. – Was sentenced to 14 days confined to camp, refused first order, retaken to Guardroom, and kept there until courtmartialled on
May 13. – When, owing to my evidence, my case was adjourned half way through the trial to be referred, i presume, to higher legal authority. And so I await the result, possibly a return to Dartmoor, probably two or three years’ hard labour. About Feb. 28th, I was removed to another room to hear the death sentence pronounced on a murderer ‘to show what the Army can do,’ but i still refused to obey orders, and possibly that is the reason I was not released.

The result, as we have stated above, was 112 days’ hard labour, As we go to press we hear that orders have been given for Catherall to be returned to a civil prison in England, but up to the moment of writing no news of his arrival here has reached us.


From The Tribunal May 30th 1918

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:

At the Guildhall on May 23 and 24, the Society of Friends was on trial as a body for its refusal to submit leaflets dealing with the war and the conclusion of peace to the censor. This was made abundantly clear by the three defendants, Harrison Barrow, Edith M. Ellis and Arthur Watts, against whom as Chairman and Secretaries of the Friends’ Service Committee, the charges were brought. It seemed doubtful whether the prosecutor realised in the least the greatness of the issue raised – how could so great a principle be bound up in this apparently insignificant statement of facts. Yet for the many Friends and sympathisers in the court the whole question turned on the allegiance owed by a Christian body to the Higher Law which overrules the State. Here at last was a direct conflict with the law of the land, which brought us back into the stormy days of the seventeenth century, to the circumstances which provoked Milton’s Areopagitica.

There was much formal evidence given by police officers from Scotland Yard; then the figure of Andrew Fleming, the courageous Glasgow printer attracted attention and not a little admiration. The court was adjourned till the following day just as Harrison Barrow was making his defence. Next day the court was full to overflowing, and there was no loss of the ‘atmosphere’ of the trial as some had feared. The witnesses for the defence were called, among them John H. Barlow, Clerk to the Yearly Meeting of the Society, armed with a minute. This he was not allowed to read himself from the witness box, though Harrison Barrow found a way out of taking it from him. The prosecution kept on recurring to the question of authorship in cross-examining subsequent witnesses, although it had been established that the Committee believed that their name satisfied the regulation demanding the author’s name.

At last the presiding alderman retired to consider the verdict, and after a few moments the Clerk of the Yearly Meeting asked Friends in court to devote the remaining time to silent prayer. There followed a most solemn hush, broken only by the faint buzz of conversation from officials in court beyond the screen. One woman Friend prayed that we might be able to follow Christ all the way. After this most remarkable of Friends’ meetings, the usher’s “silence in court” seemed wholly unnecessary on the alderman’s return. Sentence was pronounced, 6 months’ imprisonment for the male defendants, £100 fine and £50 costs for Miss Ellis. The tragic injustice of the whole trial was broken by various humorous incidents, not the least of these being the little lesson in arithmetic given by Andrew Fleming to Sir A. Bodkin.

At the end of the trial the tall figure of Harold Morland rushed forward in top hat and grey frock coat in response to the request for one well-known in the city to go bail. An appeal was lodged and the first stage of this Quaker pilgrimage in search of freedom was passed.


Lifting the Shadow of WW1 and Prospects for Peace Today

Saturday, November 17, 2018

York Quakers are taking this opportunity to host two one-day events this autumn (see also 6 October). The events explore the lessons from the past and ways to resolve conflict in the present and future.
Both events are at Friargate Quaker Meeting House and are open to the general public as well as Quakers.

Lifting the Shadow of WW1 and Prospects for Peace Today

Saturday, October 6, 2018

York Quakers are taking this opportunity to host two one-day events this autumn (see also 17 November). The events explore the lessons from the past and ways to resolve conflict in the present and future. Both events are at Friargate Quaker Meeting House and are open to the general public as well as Quakers.

'Howard Clark Memorial Lecture'- A fresh view on conflict: Logics of security versus the logics of peace

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lecture by Christine Schweizer of War Resisters International , at Leeds Beckett University, 17:30-19:00


From The Tribunal May 23rd 1918

_ 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:

In our last issue we strongly urged our readers to procure Prof. Peake’s new boom, “Prisoners of Hope, the Problem of the Conscientious Objector.” We take the following from Chapter IV., in which Prof. Peake discusses and answers the criticism that it is base for objectors to accept the privileges of the their country and yet refuse to defend it.

  • * *
    A man may love his country with passionate intensity, he may be willing to die for it, but he ought not to sin for it. And for these men war, not simply in the act of slaughter, but in all its ramifications, is sin. It is useless to say that they are wrong. Probably no martyr has ever suffered but a large body of opinion has thought him wrong. We are up against an ultimate fact. These men are prepared to suffer the stigma and the penalty of disloyalty to their country that they may not be traitors to the King of Kings. They have not flinched when the death sentence has been pronounced, nor even when its execution seemed imminent.

It is not quite easy for us to find a good modern parallel which should exhibit the principle, detached from all the heat and prejudice in which our problem is involved. But on the question of loyalty in the time of war I recall the case of Jeremiah. When the seige of Jeruslame was in progress he advocated a pro-Bablylonian policy. He encouraged desertion to the enemy, he counselled surrender. No wonder that the military authorities demanded his punishment on the ground that he was weakening the defence of the city, or that he was flung into a noisome pit, there to perish of starvation. Not only did he undertake no military duty, he carried on an active propaganda against the war. A greatly respected Principal of a theological college once said to me that they ought to have taken him out and shot him. He was referring, of course, to the duty of the authorities from a military point of view. But had they done so, we should have seen in his murder at once a blunder and a crime. No one can have studied the career of Jeremiah with any attention and failed to recognise the loftiness and intensity of his patriotism. it was his clear-sighted devotion to his country which was the animating principle of his stop-the-war campaign. The generation which built the tombs of the prophets could send the Son of God to the Cross, and we who write our commentaries on Jeremiah, which breathe deep love and passionate admiration for the supreme figure among the prophets, may fitly ask ourselves how such a man with such a message would fare at the hands of this generation.


From The Tribunal May 1918

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:

In the “Manchester Guardian” for May 2nd. there appeared a forcible letter from Professor Herford on “Hunger in Prison.” “At what point,” he asks, “do the sufferings we class as the normal and proper hardship of prison pass over into those which we class and repudiate as torture?” And he goes on to quote from a prisoner’s note, sent him from the C.O. Information Bureau:-

“The test of the diet does not come until all the resources of the body has been brought down to the irreducible minimum and rest entirely upon the nourishment provided. . . The common experience is that a man passes into one or all three of the following stages:- (1) Merely very hungry all day. (2) hunger more acute, with pain in the stomach intermittently. (3) extreme weakness, nervousness, and constant and very acute pain. There is a sharp contraction of the muscles, the face may be seen (or, more bitterly, felt) to twitch with pain, and the face also becomes dark, particularly about the eyes, Some of the men, in one or other of these stages, may be sent to hospital; many recover somewhat by lying down every available moment; not that they need rest, but if you lie down you do not feel hungry so soon. . . .”
“Does not this slow elimination of life,” asks the professor, -“for, carried through a two year sentence, it is nothing less – bear an unpleasant resemblance to the gradual executions of China, where the suspended culprit hangs with the tip of his toes touching the ground? Is it, in any case, to be tolerated in an English prison?”

We are exceeding glad that Prof. Herford has drawn public attention to this grave scandal. From every prison come reports that the quotation given is in no way exaggerated, and that the long months of semi-starvation are exacting their toll in physical and mental breakdown. We are indeed glad the public should be told of this torture inflicted, not only on C.O.s, but on other prisoners, a torture that we cannot believe would be tolerated for a day longer, were it once understood.

Whilst we recognise that a statement of what C.O.s are undergoing is valuable in so far as it enables the public to realise their determination to stand for their principles, we know that nothing is further from the desires of the men in prison that they should be released on the ground of the suffering they have undergone, instead of principles. They claim release and we claim it for them, not as an act of mercy but simple justice, and we demand that that justice shall no longer be delayed.


From The Tribunal May 9th 2018

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:

An Appeal from the J.A.C. To the Editor of the “Tribunal.”

It is becoming increasingly evident that it will be necessary to make provision against time when the men now in prison under the Military Service Acts will be released. In a number of cases, their health, physical and mental, has suffered, and a period of rest and recuperation will be needed before they will be fit to take up work.

The Joint Advisory Committee of the N.C.F.. F.O.R., and F.S.C. has undertaken to see to it that, as far as may be possible, those who have suffered may not lack the means of recovering their strength which they have so generously sacrificed for the cause of peace and freedom, and have asked me to act on their behalf. I should be grateful therefore, if:-

1. Those able and willing to accommodate one or more of these men in their homes for a limited period, those willing to contribute towards expenses entailed in boarding men where such expenses are incurred, and those who can recommend suitable convalescent homes, boarding houses, etc., would inform us.

2. Relations and friends of C.O.‘s and Secs. of organisations in touch with the C.O. movement would report cases of men needing convalescent treatment and unable to provide the same themselves. The name and address of the person sending information should be given for reference. All communication should be addressed to me, c/o The Fellowship of Reconciliation, 17 Red Lion Square, WC1.

I am, yours faithfully


From The Tribunal May 2nd 1918

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:_

The following account has been sent to us by one of our members:

“On March 22nd. F. Edwards, one of the men in the N.C.F. Branch appealed before the Willesden Tribunal on conscience grounds for exemption from Military Service. There was very clear proof that his case was genuine, for the work he is doing in the post office is so important that he was told if he would agree to be in “Army Reserve W” he would not be called upon for military service. Edwards said that as a conscientious objector it was impossible for him to agree to this, and consequently received a calling-up notice. When he had stated his case before the Tribunal one member moved that his appeal be dismissed, and this was seconded. Then an unlooked-for incident occurred. One of the members of the Tribunal who has been particularly hard on C.O.‘s rose, and said very forcibly and deliberately that he wished to move an amendment, partly in justice to the applicant, who, he thought, has proved to them all that his objection was genuine, and that therefore he was as much entitled to exemption under the act as a Clerk in Holy orders, but also because he wished to protest against the continued imprisonment of C.O.‘s. He admitted his mistake in sending many men to prison, he regretted it, but he intended publicly to raise his voice against the injustice now whenever he had the opportunity. The men who have suffered imprisonment have won his respect and support, though he does not hold their views. His amendment was seconded by another member of the tribunal, who also spoke strongly against the repeated sentences of imprisonment meted out to the [email protected] for the same offence. One curious thing was that the military representative nodded his head during these speeches as if in approval. The amendment was not carried, and the case was dismissed, Edwards giving notice of appeal. Edwards went home rejoicing that the men in prison had accomplished this change of thinking in those two members of the Tribunal – his own case being quite a secondary thing to him.”


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