THE C.O.S IN NEW ZEALAND

From The Tribunal 10th October 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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The following is an extract from a latter (dated July 21, 1918) from a friend at Christchurch, New Zealand, whose name we are not at liberty to give since it would not be possible to obtain his permission for some months; but the information may be relied on as correct:-

“We are, I suppose, going through similar stages in New Zealand with regard to C.O’s. Just recently they have in one or two places been subjected to much actual physical violence, and also in one case, at least, to untellable obscenities. Every effort is made to stifle enquiry, At Wanganui some men were knocked unconscious, dragged over the yard with ropes that cut into the neck, etc. This was doubtless done with the connivance of authorities in high position, possibly on actual instruction from them. Now every attempt is being made to burke enquiry. Allen, the Defence Minister, states that public enquiry is quite unnecessary. However, he will get a magistrate to make private investigation. The magistrate chosen has already stated that he thinks all conscientious objectors should be put up against a wall and shot; so that one can anticipate his conclusions beforehand. There are some 300 C.O’s in prison and more to come. In the Civil prisons they are well treated, but it is the solitary military prison at Wanganui and in the Trentham barracks they have been abused. It is true that in official and well-to-do classed nothing whatever is known about the C.O.s, and the attitude to them is one of indifference. It is only occasionally that any reference is made to them in the daily prints, though one or two not anti-militarist have taken up their cause. The anti-militarists proper are unable to do so, because they cannot secure a hearing. Miss ______, a gifted woman, though militarist, has lately taken up their cause, and has at least found out that it is impossible to secure a hearing, and that the press is rigidly partisan. Still, now that the married men are being taken from New Zealand, I think perhaps people will be a little more ready to listen to the other side…

The snow still continues to swirl. Fortunately this household has a sufficiency of coal for the next few days, but I feel sorry for the C.O.s and other prisoners some seven miles from here with nothing between them and the bitter sky but a sheet of galvanised iron, and in weather like this, spending the whole of the 24 hours in absolutely unwarmed cells. Possibly they are not worse off physically than the men in the trenches; but it is the solitariness of it that must be so trying and devilish. Few have got the resources within them that John Fletcher has, whose letter from Wormwood Scrubs are those of a saint. Copies of them reach me here, and they are doing good in one or two places.

I go out occasionally to the gaol here. So far the C.O.s have been bright and contented; but this great snowstorm is bound to be detrimental to them. they have nothing a small skylight for illumination. These to-day will be covered with snow; and if a man is ill they take his books and bedding from him during the day unless he is ill enough to go to bed. It will be many days now before they get out to work.”

dove..