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Conscientious Objectors


auchonvillerssomme

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auchonvillerssomme

I have come across the name of a man, Thomas Bentley Atkinson, who was imprisoned in Wellington, New Zealand as a Conscientious Objector. How common was the imprisonment of CO's in commonwealth countries? Are there any sources of information?

Mick

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Mick,

I can't really answer your question as it stands, but thinking that there was no conscription in Australia in WW1 - all our troops were volunteers - it is probable that Co's did not

exist. Back to you.,

Cheers David

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auchonvillerssomme

David you have touched on the second part of my question, I don't have any reason to doubt he was imprisoned, but bearing in mind the statment is in a Quaker publication, maybe there was an assumption that it was for being a CO?

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This link will give you and idea about New Zealand:

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/first-world-war/conscientious-objection

Canada also imprisoned COs. This book is likely to throw some light on the subject:

http://www.amazon.ca/Crisis-Conscience-Conscientious-Objection-Canada/dp/0774815949

Conscience and Politics. The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service. 1916-1919. Oxford University Press, 1917 by John Rae, although principally about conscientious objection in the UK also cover some of the ground you mention . Worth a read by the way

TR

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Mick: it's not what you asked for, but I have some instances of COs arriving with drafts from New Zealand and being given a tough time at Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain. For instance, when they refused to put on their army boots (and the rest of their uniforms), they were marched into camp in bare feet(and their civilian clothes).

Moonraker

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auchonvillerssomme

Terry I will check the book when I get back to Yorkshire, I'm a bit limited here.

Moonraker, it isn't a subject I have thought about before, most of the men I have in my lists declared their objection in the UK and were imprisoned there. I wonder at what stage the problems would have started?

Mike, thanks but he isn't on that list, they are US citizens but interesting, not as many as I imagined.

Mick

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auchonvillerssomme

David, that has opened up a whole new can for me! So can I get my head round this

CO did not apply to the universal compulsory military training scheme that operated between 1911 and 1929 for males aged 12 to 26 years.

So there was compulsory military training and being a CO was not a get out? How long was the training and did it continue through the war years? There is a chance that a CO could be imprisoned.

But at the same time

As there was no conscription during WWI (two referenda supporting the introduction of conscription were defeated), the application of the law relating to actual combat service remained untested until the following war.

So in Australia, unless a CO joined the services and then refused to serve or bear arms out of a matter of principle or publicly announced his objection and refused to voluntarily sign up then they wouldn't really get any grief or suffer the consequences of the civil law?

Was the situation in NZ the same?

Mick

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Mick,

I have taken the liberty of posting this wiki article on conscription in Australia from 1900 approx. As you can see in the first decade it was rather extensive and continued until November 1929.

Remember, that conscription was for home service only and didn't apply to ww1.

http://en.wikipedia....on_in_Australia

There is another article on CO's which is rather large and I trying out ways of cutting it down. Re the New Zealand situation, I can't answer that maybe a Kiwi member of the forum can.

Cheers David

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Mick,

The Australian defence act of 1903 listed many categories of exemption from military service, among them being conscientious objection. Tribunals were set up to allow claimants to CO to air their case

and if the claim was approved that, apparently, was the last of the matter. A full explanation of these provisions can be found by googling Australian defence act 1903 and going to section 61A.

I am of the belief therefore, that there would have been no imprisonment of legitimate CO's during WW1 in Australia.

David

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auchonvillerssomme

David I would tend to agree with your statement and I have no evidence of any CO being imprisoned in Australia, I wonder then what the position was in NZ.

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Mick,

I don't know much of the NZ attitude to CO's but just to engage my mind will have a sniff around and see if I can find anything. Maybe some of our Kiwi pals will have a look too.

David

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This link will take you to the abstract of a thesis by Elisabeth Kay Wilson of The University of Tasmania, which will answer some of your questions. The thesis downloads as a PDF file and will take a little while.

Brethren Attitudes to Authority and Government with particular reference to Pacifism

HERE

It considers the situation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

In WW1 the situation in New Zealand was very different from Australia, conscientious objectors receiving little sympathy and there were many imprisonments.

CGM

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auchonvillerssomme

Both are thought provoking and interesting and perhaps parallels can be drawn even today. I have also learnt that - pacifism is "the belief that all war is always wrong and should never be resorted to, whatever the consequences of abstaining from fighting;" and "pacificism" is "the assumption that war, though sometimes necessary, is always an irrational and inhumane way to solve disputes, and that its prevention should always be an over-riding political priority."

M. Ceadel, Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945: the Defining of a Faith (Oxford, 1980),. p. 3.

Mick

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