KEEP-AWAKE-FIELD

h3, From The Tribunal September 19th 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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

“We desire to affirm that we can accept no scheme whatever in satisfaction of our inflexible demand for absolute and unconditional release.” This is the final clause of the resolution carried at the meeting of Absolutists held on Sept. 6 in Wakefield Gaol. There is no hesitation about these men. Two years of the most rigorous prison conditions have not broken their spirit: their first thought is for the principle for which they stand – not for their own well-being or physical comfort. “We are waiting to see what the Government intends before we do anything,” writes Ayles. “We are not going to administer any scheme of confinement or internment – I’ve already told the Governor that if he leaves the gate open I will walk out, and that if I refuse to consent to accept prison discipline or rules except in so far as they are necessary for helath and sanitation and my work outside.”

“About 70 C.O.‘s are here now,” writes Scott Duckers on Sept. 10. “With few exceptions all have done over two years in civil prisons… Our time of action is the subject of endless discussions, and I have lost so much sleep since I first heard of this transfer that I shall think of the place as ‘Jeep-awake-field.’ The first fact that strikes us is that this is the H.O. Scheme over again except: (1) That we do not have to sign away our liberty and (2) that we cannot go outside or have liberty to buy food, etc., for ourselves. To my mind compulsory labour under these conditions is nothing else than Industrial Conscription, and I have decided to refuse compliance with it. This morning about 20 of us flatly refused to work under compulsion; others are cleaning their own cells or else working in the cookhouse or tidying up generally. No one has started Industrial Work… The Deputy-Governor has booked my name as an ‘Absolute-Absolutist,’ and i quite expect that a batch of us will be transferred to a ‘real’ prison again. In the meantime he (the Deputy) is waiting for the Government’s return. Four of us are on report for different objections about work… Whether we shall ever resume work if we go back to hard labour is quite another question under consideration. Some think we should go on as before: others that we should claim that by sending us here the Government have recognised our point about 2 years being the maximum anyone can be expected to stand. Altogether we are having lively times!”

It is evident from the above quotations that the transferred men are not accepting their new position with docility. Their case has not yet been honestly met. The cause for which they stand is dearer to them than life itself, and they cannot be cajoled or bribed into a quiet acquiescence in what is still a denial of the right of individual freedom.

dove..