From The Tribunal 14th Jun 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 Cells, No. 4 Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain May 31st 1917

Dear comrades,

I have decided not to send a long written message to the Fellowship. Something more vital is wanted now. I have just read the Russian demand for an unequivocal statement by the Allies on the question of peace terms. It has thrilled me with a sense of the responsibility we C.O.’s share in the great movement towards liberty which is surging up in the life of almost every nation.

I am overjoyed by the thought that we have already contributed so much to the re-awakening of the spirit of freedom in our own country.

The next few months will, however, make an even heavier demand upon our courage and faith. All through the intricacies of our struggle we must avoid anything which might tarnish our own self-respect or our sense of corporate responsibility. Upon individual character and an ever-deepening belief that the strongest unity will come from the love of service depends the life of the Fellowship in the future.

The most living message I can send at this time when our hope is very near its first fulfilment is a copy of the letter I am to-day sending to the Prime Minister. The great task before each man is always to weigh the individual sense of duty with unwavering loyalty to the movement as a whole. In this there should be the most intimate confidence between the members of the Fellowship and the National Committee.


From The Tribunal 21st June 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 Novemeber 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Still another name has been added to the growing list of those who lost their lives to the crusade against militarism. We have sorrowfully to record the death on May 27th, at his home in Strathnairn Street, Cardiff, of John Evans, a young clerk of 24, formerly in the employ of a well-known local firm. Evans did not belong to any political or kindred organisation, but was a member of the Tredegarville Baptist Church, and was privately studying for the ministry. Almost from his cradle he was a true Christian, simple and unassuming to a degree, but absolutely rocklike in his faith and determination. His early ambition had been to become a missionary at the Congo, a choice of locale which proved his indifference to personal danger. Evans could accept no form of military service, though he was prepared to do civil work of national importance. Having refused to join the Non-Combatant Corps, he was court-martialed on June 23rd and sentenced to 112 days’ hard labour. During the imprisonment – at Cardiff Gaol – he was offered and accepted the Home Office scheme, yet he was compelled to serve his sentence through to September. His health first became affected by the prison diet, which he could not assimilate. But the prison doctor passed him as fit for navvying, and a few hours later he was removed without notice to Newhaven (Home Office) Camp. Road-making under the conditions prevailing up to Christmas, and when the accommodation was limited to tents, before the new huts were ready, was hardly likely to suit a man emaciated from prison life. John Evans gradually declined, but not a word of complaint reached his home, which he was still not allowed to visit. After six months at Newhaven where the official doctor declared him free of organic diseasr, he was sent to Wakefield Centre, the Medical Officer of which certified him to be in advanced stage of consumption. On Easter Monday of this year the mother heard indirectly and for the first time of his serious condition, and application to the Home Office resulted in permission being given to bring the dying lad home. Before leaving the camp he was given an official discharge by the agent. The strong and sturdy youth who had left home on June 8th, 1916, “never having had a day’s illness,” as his mother said, breathed his last on Whit-Sunday of 1917. He died in the flower of his youth, feeling to the end no bitterness or reproach, consious only that he had done his duty and served his only Master. Those who are left behind may be pardoned for a less saintlike attitude towards certain authorities – the man who have maladministered the Military Service Acts, and those who under the pretence of furnishing work of national importance, have imposed injurious and punishing conditions of labour.

John Evans gave his life willingly for his faith. He believed the war was wrong and that Christ would have taken no part in it, and that it was his duty to follow his Master, no matter what the consequences. The minister who had known him all his life and who performed the last sad rites, called him a very brave and noble soul. The superintendent of the Sunday School he had always attended, was moved to say: “I did not agree with John’s views, but I am bound to say that he was as much a victiom of the war as any soldier who has fallen in the trenches.”


From The Tribunal 23rd November 1916

_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 Novemeber 1918\\-
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Miss Stevens, Secretary of the Leicester Branch, sends us a copy of a letter from H.G. Twilley, describing the very useful way in which he
and three other “C.O.’s” passed their time in a guard-room. He says:- “Last evening . . . . we turned the Government out! There are two guard-rooms here, and we invited the soldiers into one room. The wooden beds were so arranged as to resemble benches down each side of the smaller room, and the House of Commons was the result.

The personnel of the ‘House’ was as follows:- M.P. for West Birmingham (Conservative), H. Stoddart; M.P. for Stirling Burghs (Liberal), A. Britain; M.P. for Leicester (Labour), A.E. Gomportyz, Mr. Speaker, H.G. Twilley. Speeches were delivered in the order above named, Stoddart offering the last man and the last shilling with characteristic generosity. He was for continuing the war until the ‘military domination of Prussia was finally destroyed.’ It was a difficult matter to keep his fiery eloquence under sufficient restraint to prevent interuptions by the Military Police in the adjoining room.

The Hon. Member for Storling followed in a dignified speech appealing for a more reasonable point of view and suggesting that the Government should pause and review the military situation and the possibility of opening negotiations with the enemy.

“The hon. Member for Leicester then put the point of view of the extreme Socialist wing of the Labour Party, and condemned with the utmost vigour the mistaken policy of the Foreign Office in having involved this country in obligations to other Powers which made a participation in the war inevitable; and charged the Government with betraying the people by its secret and mistaken diplomacy during the last few years (subdued cheers). Two soldiers were appointed tellers by Mr. Speaker for the Government, and the Opposition – the solders were respectively the hon. Members for the city of London and Liverpool – and the division resulted as follows:-

“Two solders entered the ‘Aye lobby’ (for continuing the war); sixteen soldiers and nine C.O.’s went into the ‘No lobby’ (for immediate negotiations for Peace) . . . . .
“The soldiers were very interested, and all express the hope that it will be a long time before we part from them, a hope, which for other reasons, I do not share as there are other inhabitants (microscopic) which are not such fascinating companions.”


From The Tribunal 9th November 1916

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

Friendly aliens of military age resident in this country were given until October 25th to volunteer for service in the British Army. If they failed to enlist by that dare, Mr. Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, threatened them with conscription or deportation. More than a fortnight has passed since that fatal day, but, at the time of writing, nothing has been heard of the dire penalties foreshadowed.

We hope this silence means that the Government has thought better of its proposed policy. Infamous as conscription under all circumstances, the conscription of subjects of another nation, with the alternative of deportation, is doubly infamous. True, it has been suggested that Tribunals should be established to safeguard refugees from deportation, but we should have thought that the experience the nation has had of Tribunals would have been sufficient proof of their futility as a means of safeguarding anybody against anything. Moreover, has the Government the right to assume that the subjects of another nation would consent to appear before any Tribunal it chose to set up?

If the Government decides to proceed with its scheme it will find itself confronted by a much bigger problem thn it anticipates. Many hundreds of friendly aliens have sought refuge in this country as a means of escape from political persecution in Russia. They are Anti-militarists. They are Socialists. They are Anti-Imperialists. They see in the war the triumphs of all the evils against which they struggled in the land of their birth. Many of them are Jews. They know the War has resulted in an increase of the oppression from which their people have for generations suffered.

The Government ought not to be surprised that the recruiting campaign among these men has failed. It would do well to realise that any effort to conscript them will fail equally. Already they have organised themselves into a Russian Anti-Conscription League with branches in all the larger towns of the country, so that they may the more effectively resist the imposition of compulsory military service. The historic policy of Continental Anti-Militarists has been to join the Army and to take advantage of the opportunities thus provided to carry on their propaganda. It is not without significance that the Russian Anti-Militarists in this country have decided to follow the policy of British conscientious objectors by pledging themselves to resist military service altogether…

A. Fenner Brockway


From The Tribunal 2nd November 1916

This is a further update in a series of updates 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

A mass meeting of about 2000 persons was organised by the Committee of Delegates of the Russian Socialist Groups in London amd the Jewish Social Democratic Organisation in Great Britain on the question of the maintenance of Right of Asylum last Sunday week in the Premierland Cinema, and manifested great enthusiasm. Alex Gossip, E.C. Fairchild, D. Carmichael, Mrs. Bridges Adams, Mrs. Bouvier, and a Jewish and a Polish speaker explained the great importance of the issues at stake, and the connection of the present struggle with the general problems of the present time. A resolution was unanimously carried protesting-

“That the present policy of the British Government towards the refugees from Russia is diametrically opposed to the rights of foreigners and contains in itself the destruction of the Right of Asylum, and that this policy is one of the forms in which the growing universal militarist and imperialist reaction finds expression.”

On the previous evening, at the concert and ball organised by the Committee of Delegates of the Russian Socialist Groups in London, a military and police raid took place. Representatives of the military and police invaded the Hall and demanded the papers of every man. All names and addresses were taken, but no “absentees” were found.

The period allowed by the Home Office for the voluntary enlistment of friendly aliens has now elapsed, but at the moment of writing no steps have been taken to impose conscription upon those who have not enlisted.

A very large number of friendly aliens, particularly Russian Jews, are determined not to undertake military service, and they are organising themselves for resistance. Our Russian Comrades may be assured of the sympathy and support of the N.-C.F. in their struggle.


From The Tribunal 29th October 1916

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 Nation” this week contains one of the strongest and most satisfying comments upon the attitude of the country towards War that we have read for a considerable time, even in pacifist journals. It is headed, “Some Reflections of a Soldier,” and is a critical analysis of public opinion. It describes how the writer, like many others, went out to fight for certain ideals, and how it was only the strength of his convictions that carried him through the ghastly life he has lived ever since. Now he comes home and mixes with the people formerly of his own class and confesses that he often feels as if he were among strangers. He relates how when the newspapers arrived with Lloyd George’s latest rhapsody about cheerful Tommies with the glint of battle in their eyes, or “The Times” military expert’s variations ad nauseum of the agreeable doctrine that whatever its losses, the numerically preponderant side can always win, they used laughingly to conclude that it was “only the papers,” and that the people at home could not really be like that. But he adds that since he has returned he has found that such things were not so much caricatures as he expected.

A Veil of Falsehood

The writer says there is a veil of falsehood between the soldier and those at home. He finds that the latter have made an image of War, false, but picturesque, that flatters their appetite for novelty, excitement and easy admiration, without uncomfortable, emotional disturbance. He ridicules the Press invention of a conventional kind of soldier who is easy to believe in, but who is both ridiculous and disgusting, being represented as always cheerful, as revelling in the sport of killing other men – ‘hunting Germans out of trenches as terriers hunt rats’ and overwhelmingly kind to prisoners. This latter kindness, he says, is true, but the emphasis which is laid upon it is insulting and unintelligent, as though soldiers were expected to hunt or starve prisoners. “Do you not see that we regard these men who have sat opposite us in mud as victims of the same catastrophe as ourselves, as our comrades in misery much more truly than you are? Do you think that we are like some of you in accumulating on the head of every wretched antagonist the indignation felt for the wickedness of a Government, of a social system…”

The Horrible Suggestion

In the writer’s opinion the worst enemy in this untruthful picture of war is the horrible suggestion that war is ennobling and that men find in war the fullness of self-expression impossible in Peace, and that they are more truly men than when they were at home. Indeed, to him, the reality of war is horrible, but not so horrible as the grimacing phantom which the newspapers hold up to the public. The soldiers, he said, are neither so foolish or brave, nor so wicked as the mechanical dolls who grin and kill in the newspapers. He strongly denies all this fictitious exhilaration, and says that men who have spent a winter in the trenches regard war with hatred, and hoping dimly that by suffering it now, they will save the future from it, look back with an even exaggerated affection to the blessings of Peace. People, he says, are now more prone than they were to give way to hatred, which is not common among soldiers. It is easy for people at home to hate, as they cannot appease the anguish of their losses by feeling that their turn may soon come. But the worst hatred – the hatred which appals, is not among those who have suffered, but among those who discover in hatred the only outlet for the sensation of activity which they miss. You do not, he says, help yourselves, your country, or your soldiers by hating, but only by loving, and striving to be more lovable.

​Protest, Power & Change - 2017 Peace History Conference

Friday, June 9, 2017 to Saturday, June 10, 2017

Organised by Movement for the Aboltion of War in partnership with Imperial War Museums, it will take place on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 June in London.


From the Tribunal October 18th 1916

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

A Negro’s Argument

The following is an extract from the written statement of a negro who was recently arrested as an absentee, and who had been under the impression that his colour exempted him from the provisions of the Military Service Act:-

“I am a negro of the African race, born in Jamaica. My parents were sent in bondage to Jamaica. They were torn from their home. My country is divided up among the European Powers (no fighting against each other), who in turn have oppressed and tyrannised over my fellow-men. The allies of Great Britain, i.e., Portugal and Belgium, have been among the worst oppressors, and now that Belgium is invaded I am about to be compelled to defend her…. As a people the negroes are last among men taken into consideration in this country, although we be regarded as British. Even Germans or any aliens who are white men are preferred to us. I am not given ordinary privileges as a citizen. I have tried to obtain work and I have been refused solely because of my colour…. I have been buffeted from one Labour Exchange to another…. Business men claim that their employees would not work with me; others hold… they may lose their customers because I am a negro.

“In view of these circumstances, and also the fact that have a moral objection to all wars, I would sacrifice my rights rather than fight, for to subdue one with might can never destroy the evil…”

International Conscientious Objectors' Day

CO day ceremony in Manchester

This annual event was marked on 15th May with ceremonies in different parts of the UK, including in the North, vigils in Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. At the Manchester event, the following poem was read by poet Steven Waling. Steven is a Manchester Quaker and also works one day week in the NFPB office. The poem has been informed and inspired partly by First World War CO Tribunal accounts, as well as by more recent events.



From the Tribunal 12th October 1916
This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s jounal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_ For other extracts go to:_ http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Barratt Brown, being a Quaker, has a conscience, Chamberlain, not being a Quaker, has not. – Q.E.D.

A. Barratt Brown and W.J. Chamberlain appeared before the Birmingham Local Tribunal on Friday last. Barratt Brown’s appeal was taken first. He based his claim for absolute exemption on the ground that he believed all war – however noble the aim – to be both un-Christian and immoral. He understood the teaching of Jesus to mean implicit faith in God and unalterable love of man. He could not reconcile this with Dreadnoughts and high explosives. The Military Service Acts were intended to organise the national resources for war. He could not allow his services to be conscripted – however indirectly – for such a purpose. Civil alternatives would be a bargaining and compromise of conscience. To give up working for the welfare and liberties of his fellow-citizens and for peace among the nations would be disloyalty to his country and his God.

Appellant, questioned as to his connection with the Society of Friends, said he was a member of various committees connected with that body. The Chairman said he regarded appellant as a danger to the State, but he thought that his type of man had caused the Government to put the conscience clause in the Bill. He granted exemption, though he disagreed with the statements made.

W.J. Chamberlain’s case was heard immediately after. He said he believed with an intensity such as no power on earth could overrule in the Brotherhood of man, and the doctrine of non-resistance as enunciated by the Christs of all ages. He was a Socialist, believing that Socialism and Christianity, rightly interpreted, were identical. He held the view that the best service he could render his fellows was to strive to his utmost to advance the cause of peace, and to endeavour to bring about a recognition of the fact that the only hope for humanity was that the peoples of the world, realising their brotherhood, would refuse to be lead the shambles for mutual massacre. He could not accept any form of alternative service. He claimed that his present work in connection with the N.C.F. was of vital national importance.

In reply to the Chairman, he said that he was not a member of any religious body as he was not aware of any such body to which he could conscientiously belong – members of all the alleged Christian bodies were at present slaughtering their fellows in the name of the Prince of Peace.

The Chairman said the decision was to refuse the appeal. He did not look upon appellant as a conscientious objector, and his work was not considered of national importance. Appellant asked leave to make a statement but the Chairman refused to hear him, remarking “I am not going to enter into any arguments!”


Subscribe to RSS - WW1