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Tribunals for Conscientious Objectors


MichaelBully
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Reading through online text of 'Hove and the Great War' ( page 12 ) have noticed this entry concerning Conscientious Objectors locally. I was wondering where records would be, if still exist. Have tried the NA website. The number of cases seems very high. Advice appreciated.

"A local tribunal

for Hove was formed on September 9, 1915, and

between that date and November i, 1918, when

it met for the last time, it held one hundred and

sixty meetings. Those who served on it included

the Mayor (Alderman Sargeant), Aldermen Leeney,

Colman, Jago and Marks, Councillors Bedford,

Brailey, Humphrey and Leadsman and Sir Walter

Mieville,with Major-General Mason as the Military

Representative and afterwards National Service

Representative, assisted by Mr. Heneage Harrison

and later by Major-General Fry. Decisions were

given in no fewer than 3,296 cases "

http://www.archive.org/stream/hovegreatwar...lbiala_djvu.txt

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I asked a similar question on this forum a few years ago (can't find it now of course!) having spent some time attempting to explore this issue without success. I recall being told that records were destroyed in the 1920's or 30's though I have never found any proof of this. Were records kept locally or were they sent to a centralised location? However, having also tried NA, local archives, parish records etc. I've never come across any so they do appear to have gone up in smoke at some point.

My only source has therefore been reports in local newspapers.

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Michael

As Andrew posted, most of the records for Military Tribunals were destroyed in 1921 and local newspapers are the best source, but apparently not all areas printed the names of those up before Tribunals. There is more about the Tribunals on this National archives page where it states

In 1921 the Ministry of Health decided that all papers relating to individual cases of exemption from National Service, including those on grounds of conscientious objection, should be destroyed, along with every tribunal minute book except those of the Central Tribunal. Thus the vast majority of files were lost, with only those of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal (MH 47) , and the Lothian and Peebles Tribunal (now held by the National Archives of Scotland, ref: HH 30) kept as samples. Fortunately, some records were not actually destroyed and may now be found in local record offices.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalog...p?sLeafletID=25

Caryl

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  • Admin

or as it says in the document you quote

We refer to the tribunals before

which those who, for one reason or another, desired

to be relieved of their military obligations, were

permitted to plead their cause.

There were both specific and special reasons under the Military Service Act

Ken

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The Quaker Library in London may have some records relating to those who refused to be called up and did not join the Friends Ambulance Service or serve in other non-military posts. Used to be in Euston Road. Otherwise local Record Offices for any surviving records.

Peridot

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The Society of Friends has an online subject guide Conscientious Objectors and the Peace Movement in Britain 1914-1945 available here. There is also another interesting one available from the same link, Friends' Service in the First World War.

Aled

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Michael

As Andrew posted, most of the records for Military Tribunals were destroyed in 1921...

Caryl, thanks for that. I was worried that my memory might have been playing up. Thank also for the quote that provides me with the facts that have thus far eluded me.

Michael, as Hywyn says, the vast majority of those cases would not have been conscientious objectors. Most would have been appeals based on domestic circumstances. My research has revealed a multitude of reasons e.g. a Baker appealing for exemption for his assistant on the grounds that his business would suffer (3 month temorary exemption granted whilst said Baker found and trained a new lad) through to a chap claiming that his aging, widowed mother would be left unable to care for herself (conditional exemption granted, though the loca paper did not report the conditons).

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I have a 5-6 page magazine article stored away somewhere in my loft about the Tribunals in Wiltshire. From memory I think some of that county's records survived. I look it out at the weekend and report back here.

Dave

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Not all Tribunal records were destroyed, some can be found in local government records, which will be housed at the county record offices. However the coverage is patchy.

Also some books covering a town's activities during the war are also useful for tribunals. W H Oakley's 'Guildford in the Great War'. (Billins & Sons, 1934) mentions that in February 1916 at Guildford 12, appeals were heard, three were dismissed as being Quakers, one was in the Territorial Army, others worked with munitions and only four had their cases dismissed.

During its time the Guildford Tribunal met for the last time on 13 November 1918. It had held 116 meetings and dealt with 2575 applications. The County Appeal Tribunal which also sat in Guildford heard 2,089 cases.

Hope this helps

Ally

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Thanks very much for the posts and all the information, links etc to all of you who responded. Appreciated. Will start to read through them.

<<<<<<<<Michael

I don't think all of the 3296 cases will have been Conscientous Objectors. Many will have been other issues such as family dependance etc

Hywyn>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Would be interested to know how many COs there were out of 3296 and how many other cases were concerned with exemptions on other grounds.

Have there been any other studies on a national level or local level working out a percentage of cases the Tribunals heard that were COs?

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Michael

I'm afraid I cannot help you with your query. In my own research I took an early decision to identify those that went to War rather than those that didn't for whatever reason. Happily I am in a position to cover the latter if and when I have a chance as a lot of the Tribunals were reported in the local papers for the area I am looking at (central Caernarfonshire) and, if I remember correctly there are some archived materials available from where the Quarrymens Union were representing some of the men.

Hywyn

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Michael

Get hold of a copy of the late John Rae's "Conscience and Politics - The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916 - 1919".

It can be found on the internet quite easily for just a few pounds, and is a first rate publication, which will answer most questions on the subject.

TR

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While looking for something else, I came across the following reference on the NA catalogue, WO162/334 The conscientious objector from a war office perspective: guidance notes to War Office officials in London, 1921.

regards

Bootneck

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Thanks for all the replies and the leads that have been offered. Very much appreciated. I am trying to focus on a particular parish in Hove, researching the men who fought and also to see if there were any CO's.

I have obtained 'A Question of Conscience-COnscientious Objections In The Two Worlds Wars' which seems a very good introduction to the subject.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I have a 5-6 page magazine article stored away somewhere in my loft about the Tribunals in Wiltshire. From memory I think some of that county's records survived. I look it out at the weekend and report back here.

I have located the article, which refrences source documents, and I have scanned it. Happy to forward copies to anyone interested on receipt of a PM with e-address.

Dave

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Does this reference Wiltshire-based local study materials alone or are there suggestions for those of us researching elsewhere? If the latter then I would be very interested in a copy, thank you.

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  • 7 months later...

Conscientious objection cases were only a small proportion of the work of Military Service Tribunals in WW1. They mainly dealt with so-called Work of National Importance, employers' requests for key workers, domestic hardship and even exemption on health grounds.

So far as access to records is concerned, records were held locally until 1921, when by a directive of the Ministry of Health, which had inherited responsibility from the Local Government Board, all records were ordered to be destroyed except for those from Middlesex (deposited in the National Archives, MH 47), and for Lothian & Peebles, deposited in the Scottish National Archives in Edinburgh. The only other records known definitely to have survived are those for Northamptonshire, now in the Northamptonshire Record Office, and those for Cardiganshire, now in the Welsh National Archives. There are numerous press reports in all kinds of papers.

In discussng individual CO cases it is confusing to refer to a hearing of first instance as an "appeal", as there was a two-tier appeal system beyond the local MST. It is much simpler, as well as more accurate, to refer to a case of first instance as an "application". Beyond the local MST there was a County Appeal Tribunal, and then the overarching Central Tribunal.

In terms of resources, Felicity Goodall's A Question of Conscience is a useful introduction to COs of both wars, but it is primarily concerned with oersonal stories, without much detail of the overall system. John Rae's Conscience and Politics is competent on WW1, but the standard work on WW1 COs is David Boulton's Objection Overruled, Macgibbon & Kee, 1967.

Because of the dearth of insividual CO records, and as a significant contribution to recorded history, the Peace Pledge Union is compiling a database of every British CO of whom it has any trace - 3900 WW1 COs so far, out of a total of 16,000 WW1 COs. The Archivist may be contacted at archives@ppu.org.uk and is happy both to give information about COs already recorded and to receive information on COs not already recorded. Advice can also be often given on relevant lines of research.

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Interesting subect. I have a booklet published by Ackworth School listing all those who served during WW1 including in the FAU and imprisoned, not surprisingly for a Quaker school the individuals choices were not questioned and all are treated equal.

Mick

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Whilst I agree with Magnumbellum that the work of the MSTs was far greater than dealing with COs, I strongly disagree that David Boulton's book "Objection Overruled" is the "standard work" . It is a work that is wholly biased in favour of the CO. I provides no real objective analysis of what is a highly complex subject in terms of secular or non-secular objection nor the situation surrounding the MSA or the tribunals. It really sees the situation in terms of 'good guys and bad guys" - the monstrous state verses the objectors. David Boulton (a nontheistic Quaker) is undoubtedly passionate about his subject and produces some heartrending stories from the COs and their families perspective, but a standard work it 'aint.

By contrast, the book that is passed off as merely "competent" is in fact a first class exposition of the subject. Dr John Rae's book "Conscience and Politics" explores every facet of the subject in depth and provides unbiased critical analysis, all backed by an impressive array of sources. The PPUs web site has been revamped recently, but earlier this year they called Dr Rae's book "factual" and went on to comment that he did not really understand conscientious objectors. Rae's analysis demonstrates that is far from the case and despite undoubted inequities and faults within the system, goes on to show quite conclusively that the majority of COs actually received tribunal decisions that satisfied, in whole or in part, their consciences.

TR

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Reading through online text of 'Hove and the Great War' ( page 12 ) have noticed this entry concerning Conscientious Objectors locally. I was wondering where records would be, if still exist. Have tried the NA website. The number of cases seems very high. Advice appreciated.

"A local tribunal

for Hove was formed on September 9, 1915, and

between that date and November i, 1918, when

it met for the last time, it held one hundred and

sixty meetings. Those who served on it included

the Mayor (Alderman Sargeant), Aldermen Leeney,

Colman, Jago and Marks, Councillors Bedford,

Brailey, Humphrey and Leadsman and Sir Walter

Mieville,with Major-General Mason as the Military

Representative and afterwards National Service

Representative, assisted by Mr. Heneage Harrison

and later by Major-General Fry. Decisions were

given in no fewer than 3,296 cases "

http://www.archive.org/stream/hovegreatwar...lbiala_djvu.txt

I found a lot of local references to the (Maldon) tribunals in the contemporary newspapers. Fascinating stuff and logic around who was and was not granted exemption. I covered this in my book on the Maldon and Heybridge lads.

Best wishes.

SPN

Maldon

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I am glad that this thread has come alive, and welcome all the new messages.

I will contact the Peace Pledge Union archivist to see if they have any records of Hove CO's and also will check local papers- thanks for the suggestion Maldon.

Terry- I will look out for John Rae's book I think that a great deal is determined by which CO cases are emphasised. Some time back I posted about watching the TV drama series 'Days of Hope' written by Jim Allen when I was a nipper. The CO's in this programme were physically ill treated in the Army, and tied to barbed wire in No Man's Land. This could well have been the worst case scenario , but hardly typical.

I remember being at the NA and seeing the War Service Record of one Henry Bunce, originally a CO who later became a War Chaplain in the Great War He was a Quaker living in York, which has a strong Quaker presence, and seemed to have no trouble in getting a War Service exemption as a recognised CO. ( WO339/132850 ).

So the case of Henry Bunce needs to be remembered whilst also considering cases where the COs were ill treated.

Regards

Michael Bully

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  • 3 weeks later...

Conscientious objection cases were only a small proportion of the work of Military Service Tribunals in WW1. They mainly dealt with so-called Work of National Importance, employers' requests for key workers, domestic hardship and even exemption on health grounds.

I have now noted that the Middlesex Military Service Appeal Tribunal records Iin the National Archives) mention that 6.5 % of their cases concerned conscientious objection. This means that even if, for the sake of argument, the Middlesex experience was to be deemed at the lower end of the spectrum, conscientious objection cases are not likely to have been more than, say, 12 % of the total anywhere else.

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