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MichaelBully

Religious Groups opposed to war

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MichaelBully

Hello Keith, I think that we should agree to differ on this topic. I am starting to repeat what I have already posted and so will quit . Interesting debate anyhow and I am sure it has not done me any harm to have my cage rattled. Regards, Michael Bully

Hello Michael,

To be truthful I had not realised there were different catagories for COs, obviously you know a lot more about the subject than I do. I would have no problem with them doing very important war work in a theatre of war such as being stretcher bearers. I would applaud them and support their views, as it would seem that they were not simply thinking of their own skins. So, it would appear that I am arguing against absolutist COs only.

As regards men who tried to excuse themselves on other grounds I would think that a large percentage of them were thinking like a lot of COs and wanting to protect their own skin. So as you say I have a problem with those as well. BUT, the main differance I would have thought is that they were not hiding behind religion.

Regards, Keith.

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keithrouse

Hello Keith, I think that we should agree to differ on this topic. I am starting to repeat what I have already posted and so will quit . Interesting debate anyhow and I am sure it has not done me any harm to have my cage rattled. Regards, Michael Bully

Hello Michael, Yes, fair enough.

I suppose I am an objector to objectors.! :rolleyes:

Regards, Keith.

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Magnumbellum

Of course there were many men who classed themselfs as COs who done very valuable and brave work, as mentioned earlier about the NCO stretcher bearer who was so highly decorated.

So, if they objected to the chance of killing another man [like most sane persons would] why did most of them not become stretcher bearers, so that they had a very strong chance of saving lifes.?

I have not studied William Coltman, so I cannot speak definitively, but on the evidence so far disclosed he does not appear to have been a conscientious objector. He is described as a "stretcher bearer", not connotable as a specific unit of the army in which one could formally enlist.. It is possible that he actually voluntarily enlisted in the RAMC.

On that score, so far as COs are concerned, I have not come across any CO who who was actually allowed to enlist in the RAMC as a non-combatant. Alfred Evans, mentioned earlier on this thread, wanted to do so, burt was refused and compulsorily enlisted in the Non-Combatant Corps. On his refusal to accept this, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death, later commuted to 10 years penal servitude. The army clearly preferred to have him in prison rather than helping the wounded.

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Terry_Reeves

Coltman was not a CO. He was a man of deep religious conviction however and felt that could better serve saving life rather than take it.

With regard to Keithgr's comments, I think they show a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of conscientious objection. It was many and varied and cannot be seen the in simplistic terms that he lays out. Like it or not, COs were as brave in their own way as those who fought in the front line.

Those who care to delve deeply into the subject will, I am sure, find it a quite fascinating aspect of the war.

TR

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Magnumbellum

COs were as brave in their own way as those who fought in the front line.

Those who care to delve deeply into the subject will, I am sure, find it a quite fascinating aspect of the war.

Indeed. One little known story,complementing that of Alfred Evans, is that a small number of men volunteered for the RAMC in 1914/15, feeling that they ought to do something, but did not wish to be responsible for killing. In 1917/18, with the the continuing shortage of men for the Front, they were compulsorily transferred to infantry regiments. When they refused to co-operate, on conscientious principles, they were court-martialled and imprisoned. One actually died in prison in Egypt. A further example of military preference for imprisoning men rather than making use of willing volunteers.

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Magnumbellum

I have had another look at Caroline Moorehead's 'Troublesome People - Enemies of War 1916-1986' . The section on the Bing family is footnoted at the end Dorothy Bing..... Interview, April 10 1984 (Note to page 29, Chapter 2,) So presented as if the author had direct contact with Dorothy Bing.

Wonder if there is an archive concerning the Bing family ? Interesting to note their involvement in anti-war organisations after the Great War.

I accept the Dorothy Bing reference, for what it is worth, in the absence of of clear evidence to the contrary, but on the same page Moorehead completely misrepresents a different matter, by claiming that, "when the Tribunals of conscientious objectors were scheduled to be heard in Kingston, [Dorothy] would take her bicycle and carry fruit and cake and messages to those in the dock". Tribunals, of course, were not criminal courts, and had no "dock". I knew Dorothy very well, and am sure that she would never have said anything so ridiculous. Moorehead, on the other hand, has acknowledged privately to me that she made other errors in the book, although I have never taken up with her this particular point.

The Bing Archive is in the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. It was deposited there because the Institute holds the archive of the War Resisters' International, the international pacifist/anti-militarist body to which the Peace Pledge Union is affiliated. Harold and Dorothy Bing were active in both organisations.

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MichaelBully

Thanks MB once again. Yes, with Caroline Moorehead, I mentioned how she cited her source material. I have honestly no idea how thoroughly she used any interview that she may have had with Dorothy Bing. Does sound that Caroline Moorhead got a bit muddled.

Interested to hear about the War Resisters International archives in Amsterdam.

I accept the Dorothy Bing reference, for what it is worth, in the absence of of clear evidence to the contrary, but on the same page Moorehead completely misrepresents a different matter, by claiming that, "when the Tribunals of conscientious objectors were scheduled to be heard in Kingston, [Dorothy] would take her bicycle and carry fruit and cake and messages to those in the dock". Tribunals, of course, were not criminal courts, and had no "dock". I knew Dorothy very well, and am sure that she would never have said anything so ridiculous. Moorehead, on the other hand, has acknowledged privately to me that she made other errors in the book, although I have never taken up with her this particular point.

The Bing Archive is in the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. It was deposited there because the Institute holds the archive of the War Resisters' International, the international pacifist/anti-militarist body to which the Peace Pledge Union is affiliated. Harold and Dorothy Bing were active in both organisations.

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David Filsell

Be absolutely certain being a co was not a soft option in either WW1 or 11. To taint them severally or individually is foolish and ignorant.

I am an attender of Society of Friends meetings and have been for some years. And whilst I can accept the concept of a 'Just War', and have a fascination with the Great War, the Friends that I know accept my view, some share it, many disagree but none has ever given me a hard time over it. Quakerism does not work that way.

Many, too many, years ago I had a girlfried whose Jewish father, Harry Hance, had been a co in WW11. He went to prison since he refused to do any work that could be considered aiding the war effort. He was so badly treated in prison by screws and prisoners alike that finally he agreed to undertake agricultural work. When I knew him he considered that by undertaking even this work he had betrayed his principles.

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Alan Tucker

I think this could be a useful contribution - a soldier pacifist. From my forthcoming Great War Trail of Birmingham....

30, Brighton Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, In 1901 this was the family home of Charles James Simmons, 7, better known as Jim. He was living there with his father, James Henry,a house decorator born in Birmingham in 1867 and mother, May Jane, born in Bow, London in 1873. Charles was the eldest with four siblings – Ellen, 6 ,George, 4, Harold, 1 , and William who had just been born. Three more arrived later, including Frederick, Norman and Edward. His grandfather, Charles Russell, 55, also a house decorator, was also there. He received a Board school education, including at Clifton Road.He left school at 14 and became a Post Office messenger. He was also a Sunday School teacher at the Greet Primitive Methodist Mission. On the 1911 census Jim is recorded as a 18 year old private in the Worcestershire Regiment at the Norton Barracks with a service number of 413. He had joined the 5th (Special Reserve) Battalion in January of that year not quite 18 years of age. He signed on for six months service and six years in the reserve which involved a month in camp each year. He joined the Army Temperance Association at the depot and found a local Primitive Methodist Chapel. He returned to civvy street because of his interests in religion and politics despite his colour sergeant’s advice for him to become a regular. He attended the annual camp at Croome Park, Worcester and joined his battalion at Tregantle Fort, Plymouth, when mobilised for war. On January 12 he left for France and the 2nd/Worcesters at Festubert. He left with considerable doubts about the war having read ILP and UDC literature since the outbreak of war as well as the ‘Labour Leader’, ‘Forward’ and ‘Weekly Herald’. He had also written openly as a soldier to Birmingham newspapers. He wrote in his diary just before leaving “I am off to the front and, in a way I am glad, for though I have come to oppose all war I am no coward and wish to prove it”.

On March 17 1915 Simmons was wounded by a Germans shell, was hospitalised but returned in time for ‘going over the top’ at Richbourg on May 15 during the failed Battle of Festubert. He spent five nights in a shell-hole in No Man’s Land on the wrong side of the German wire. He was sent to hospital at Rouen and then to a Red Cross hospital at Stacksteads in the Rossendale valley of Lancashire. From there he went to the convalescent hospital at nearby Bacup. Whilst there he preached at every chapel in the valley. On his way back to Birmingham he called at the office of Labour Leader in Manchester and had a long talk with Fenner Brockway. This paper had published some of his letters from the trenches. On August 19 1915 he married Beatrice Roberts at Solihull Register Office but soon returned to Norton Barracks. In his service record his wife’s address was given as 14, Richmond Road, Olton and his father was at Ivy Cottage, Hamstead Road, Handsworth. At the end of October he sailed for Gallipoli and joined 29th Division at Suvla Bay. After evacuation a long stay in Egypt followed. Here he held ‘discussion groups on the origins of the war and the principles of a just peace most nights’. One day his company commander sent for him to tell him that a letter to Councillor J.W Kneeshaw in Birmingham had been destroyed for ‘its subversive matter’. The latter was about plans for conscription. When questioned by the CO told him that “you’ve only bought my body not my mind”. The CO tried to get the Brigade Medical Officer to remove him without success and stated that he was ‘a danger to the discipline of the Regiment’ and ‘his officers consider him mentally unbalanced’ but he was still sent to a Cairo hospital ‘officially suffering from rheumatism’. Eventually he landed back in France with the 3rd Battalion. Here he became friends with six other kindred spirits – the ‘Khaki Pals (Active Service) Branch of the ILP’. The used to meet in a YMCA hut. At Vimy Ridge in 1917 he was wounded again with a shattered ankle and a bullet lodged in the sole of the foot. After a spell in a hospital in Etaples he went to No 2 London General Hospital, Chelsea, arriving on June 8 1916. After months of trying to save the limb on December 19 the lower third of his leg was amputated. During his stay at the hospital he met many political and trade union figures, particularly Ramsay MacDonald, who enabled him to make many visits to the House of Commons. He spent a lot of time reading socialist books. Eventually he was allowed to go home to Birmingham whilst still waiting for an artificial limb. Here he preached in chapels and attended political meetings. He took on the organisation of the Midlands Workers and Soldiers Councils Conference for August 18 1917 which was to welcome the Russian Revolution following the Leeds Convention on June 3. 220 delegates were promised. However, a senior Birmingham police officer served him a notice which banned the conference under Defence of the Realm regulations. Afterwards Simmons became active throughout the Midlands in the ‘Peace by Negotiation Campaign’ being billed as ‘Private Jim Simmons with a Message from the Trenches’. His main message was ‘No Patched Up Peace’. Plain clothes police took notes at his open-air meetings. He denounced ‘war profiteers, the armament sharks and the politicians’. “I had a special duty to speak for my inarticulate comrades who were still risking life and limb on the battlefield”. On September 26 at Rochdale he was arrested by two military policemen and spent a night in the cells before escort to Chester Castle. His wife contacted Ramsay MacDonald who raised the matter in the House of Commons. He was then sent to military detention in Wallis Yard, London, where he was taken to Roehampton Hospital for the fitting of an artificial limb and then released under ‘open arrest’. He prepared a court martial statement and sent copies to Ramsay MacDonald and the press. He stated he was a victim of ‘British Prussianism’, that the charge was under an obsolete order, and that he was there only because of his opinions. He was eventually discharged from the army as unfit for further service on November 22 1917 and returned to Birmingham.He was awarded a Silver Wound Badge. He continued to campaign. In March 1918 he was detained at Nelson, Lancashire, and taken to York where he learned that he had incensed the military authorities by an attack on the use of Field Punishment No 1 – a kind of crucifixion. He was sentenced to three months ‘with such hard labour as he is capable of performing’. At Armley Gaol, Leeds, he told the warder that his employment was ‘propagandist’. He picked oakum and sewed mailbags. He read and wrote on lavatory paper with a pencil hidden at the end of his ‘stump’. He was released on June 12 1918. He returned to Birmingham and Beatrice and their two rooms and he became an organiser for the newly formed Birmingham ILP Federation. This included attendance at military tribunals to speak for conscientious objectors. In the 1918 general election he acted as the election agent for the ILP candidate at Moseley. The candidate was Doctor Robert Dunstan, a young RAMC lieutenant, who had served in Mesopotamia. Post-war he was also active in the National Union of Ex-Servicemen. It was later subsumed into the British Legion. He was also involved in the Labour churches movement. In 1921 he was elected to the City Council and served until 1931 and again from 1942-5. He became the Labour MP for Erdington from 1929-31 and for West Birmingham from 1945-50. He was MP for Brierley Hill from 1950 to 1959. He had also been active in political journalism and edited the Town Crier, the Birmingham Trades Council journal, from 1940-45. His wife, Beatrice, was also politically active and became an alderman on the City Council. There were four sons. He remarried in 1972 to Kate Showell.

‘Soap Box Evangelist – Jim Simmons’. Janay. 1972

Times obituary August 1975

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MichaelBully

David, totally agree with your comments and interesting to hear about Harry Hance.

Alan- That's excellent information, thanks for posting. I had never heard of the 'Peace by Negotiation Campaign’ -will have to get going on some searches.

Both the cases of Harry Hance and Jim Simmons show the complexities involved when considering the plight of the CO's. Regards. Michael Bully

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TullochArd
On 08/11/2011 at 21:55, MichaelBully said:

Indeed Jon. I know that there is a war memorial to the Great War dead at Brighton Unitarian Church, unfortunately it does not appear on the IWM inventory of war memorials. As far as I recall Harold BIng, quite a well known CO from Croydon, came from a Unitarian background, but the local church were not supportive of his stance.

I have had a quick look at 'The Unitarians A Short History' by Leonard Smith , 2006, the most recent history of Unitarianism I have heard of. There seems to be little mention of the Great War, so I suppose it's safe can infer that there probably were not a significant Unitarian presence amongst the CO's.

 

I have 8 fatalities on the Rawtenstall Unitarian Church Great War Memorial and a further 27 fatalities and 83 "served and returned" on the Newchurch-in-Rossendale Unitarian Church Great War Memorial/Roll of Honour about three miles away. I have no evidence of any Unitarian COs in this locality but plenty of evidence of other broad "groups". I would offer that Harold Bing's views were well known and widely acknowledged but not widely supported.  He certainly did not represent a Unitarian stance on the Great War.  I would certainly support the suggestion that there was "not a significant Unitarian presence amongst the CO's" ....... indeed quite the contrary.

Edited by TullochArd
poor grammar

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gethine45

Given the date of last post in November 2012 bit late in the day to be adding anything!

From my researches some 216 Quakers were killed as combatants in the 1stWW, added to that are the non-combatant deaths in the FAU and the Friends War Victims Relief efforts. Some might argue that my definition of Quakers in this instance is too broad but the number is still relatively high for a small Religious Society.

 

In 1923 it was announced that some 30% of all eligible Quaker men had gone into the Forces, although I am now trying to reassess this number.

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ilkley remembers
On 13/04/2019 at 16:27, gethine45 said:

Given the date of last post in November 2012 bit late in the day to be adding anything!

From my researches some 216 Quakers were killed as combatants in the 1stWW, added to that are the non-combatant deaths in the FAU and the Friends War Victims Relief efforts. Some might argue that my definition of Quakers in this instance is too broad but the number is still relatively high for a small Religious Society.

 

In 1923 it was announced that some 30% of all eligible Quaker men had gone into the Forces, although I am now trying to reassess this number.

 

It may be  an old topic but nevertheless remains an interesting one especially given the more recent research into  attitudes towards the war by certain religious groups. I think that I am right in saying that as far as Quakers where concerned it was for the individual to decide how he or she should react to the reality of the war. As you say a figure of about 30% of Quakers of military age who enlisted has been quoted and I believe comes from returns from the local Meetings themselves. Other sects, most notably The Christadelphians, relied upon a group conscience for their opposition to war and were consequently allowed an exemption from military service.  

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gethine45

Given the date of last post in November 2012 bit late in the day to be adding anything!

From my researches some 216 Quakers were killed as combatants in the 1stWW, added to that are the non-combatant deaths in the FAU and the Friends War Victims Relief efforts. Some might argue that my definition of Quakers in this instance is too broad but the number is still relatively high for a small Religious Society.

 

In 1923 it was announced that some 30% of all eligible Quaker men had gone into the Forces, although I am now trying to reassess this number.

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gethine45

The individual did decide but each Quaker Monthly Meeting could have disowned any Quakers enlisting - this did not happen, or at least I have not comer across any meeting taking that approach. However, many members expressed the wish that combatants should be disowned and expelled. Monthly Meeting minutes record regret at the action of the Quaker soldiers etc  but continued to support them. The Yearly Meeting stuck to its testimony against war and went no further, but the discussion within it was vigorous, and there was strong and voluble pro-war voice heard often and regularly.

The Christadelphians actually approached the government for a blanket exemption  for all its men of military age and against becoming combatant, but they were more than prepared to do work in munitions and direct war related work. The government agreed tot his.  A few Christadelphians sought conscientious objector status and some were imprisoned. Christadelphians are not a peace church holding that they would take up arms in defence of King Jesus

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Moonraker
On 13/04/2019 at 16:27, gethine45 said:

Given the date of last post in November 2012 bit late in the day to be adding anything!

From my researches some 216 Quakers were killed as combatants in the 1stWW, added to that are the non-combatant deaths in the FAU and the Friends War Victims Relief efforts. Some might argue that my definition of Quakers in this instance is too broad but the number is still relatively high for a small Religious Society.

 

In 1923 it was announced that some 30% of all eligible Quaker men had gone into the Forces, although I am now trying to reassess this number.

 

23 minutes ago, gethine45 said:

Given the date of last post in November 2012 bit late in the day to be adding anything!

From my researches some 216 Quakers were killed as combatants in the 1stWW, added to that are the non-combatant deaths in the FAU and the Friends War Victims Relief efforts. Some might argue that my definition of Quakers in this instance is too broad but the number is still relatively high for a small Religious Society.

 

In 1923 it was announced that some 30% of all eligible Quaker men had gone into the Forces, although I am now trying to reassess this number.

It's never too late to add fresh info to an old thread, though some of the original participants may have moved on. (Though doing so twice may be too much of a good thing! :)) Often it's preferable to starting a brand new thread that may re-tread old ground.

 

Moonraker

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MichaelBully

Fascinating. The way I understand Quaker -The Society of Friends to give them their formal title - religious views is that one's conscience is the final spiritual authority. So though the movement had a record of opposing  conscription, and supporting conscientious objectors,  this did not mean that every single member had to adopt a pacifist stance. So it is in keeping that some men who attended regular meetings would have in fact joined up. 

 

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Gustywinds

My great uncle, Thomas Malcolmson Greeves, was raised Brethren and joined the Quaker-led Friends’ Ambulance Unit In 1915

He was happy in that role while unit he was in (SSA13) was run by Laurence Cadbury but it was later taken over by a chap called Charles Marshall who insisted that they worked much further from the front. At that point my great uncle and a chap called Douglas Brooks left to join the airforce. Both were over 21 by then so could do this against their parent’s wishes.

Brooks went on to be a decorated pilot with the RFC, my great uncle died in an accident without ever seeing combat.

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tootrock
Posted (edited)

My father's family have been Quakers almost since the days of the founder, George Fox.

My grandfather was one of 5 brothers. Of these one was too old to serve, one joined the FAU, one was apparently not called up, one (my grandfather) was a Concientious Objector, and the last volunteered to join the Engineer Units of the RND in October 1914. He served in Gallipoli, was transferred to the Royal Engineers on the Western Front and ended up in the ASC. Although he had a rifle he never fired it in anger.

On attestation he did not swear the oath, (So help me God was crossed out) but was allowed to affirm.

Martin

Edited by tootrock

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Gustywinds
22 minutes ago, tootrock said:

one joined the FAU

 

Who was the one that joined the FAU? I’ve been trying to trace the history/background of many who served in SSA13.

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tootrock

He was Duncan Howard King, born 1882 in London. I believe he did not go abroad but was involved in agriculture.

Martin

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Gustywinds
2 hours ago, tootrock said:

He was Duncan Howard King, born 1882 in London. I believe he did not go abroad but was involved in agriculture.

Martin

 

Yes, that is correct. This is is record card

http://fau.quaker.org.uk/search-view?forename=Duncan&surname=King

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gethine45

I note that William Edward Greeves remained in the FAU until August 1918 http://fau.quaker.org.uk/search-view?forename=&surname=greeves

Many Quakers were ambivalent about the FAU, some even hostile. From 1916, after conscription, the FAU committee had to compromise about how those in the unit should behave. We tend to forget that the FAU was in essence an arm of the efforts of the BRCS.

 

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Gustywinds
2 hours ago, gethine45 said:

I note that William Edward Greeves remained in the FAU until August 1918 http://fau.quaker.org.uk/search-view?forename=&surname=greeves

Many Quakers were ambivalent about the FAU, some even hostile. From 1916, after conscription, the FAU committee had to compromise about how those in the unit should behave. We tend to forget that the FAU was in essence an arm of the efforts of the BRCS.

 

 

Yes, Bill Greeves was a cousin of my family. He married Marion (Molly) Cadbury, Laurence Cadbury’s sister having met her in the FAU at Dunkirk. I saw of lovely picture of their wedding just the other day while visiting Selly Manor at Bournville.

She went on to be the first female senator of Northern Ireland. Bill was Deputy Lieutenant of County Armagh in later life.

There was quite a split in FAU after conscription. Many left including one of the founders, Corder Catchpool. He wrote extensively about it. Another cousin of my family, John Greeves, left at the same time as Catchpool but it is recorded as having been because of illness and he subsequently joined the RNVR and served on MTBs in the Med.

 

The FAU was officially under BRCS but, after mid 1916, most field units were attached to the French army. Many FAU members were awarded the French and/or Belgian Croix de Guerre (including Bill)

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ilkley remembers

Came across a couple of local men who served with FAU whilst researching Ilkley's contribution to WW1

 

1/ Kenneth Mallorie Priestman, who came from a well known and wealthy  Yorkshire Quaker family. There was a GWF thread recently about a another branch of the Priestman family who lived in the East Riding. Kenneth left the FAU and enlisted into the RE in 1916 and was killed on The Somme on 31st Aug. '16.

 

2/ Ernest Proctor, whose father was a lecturer at Leeds University, lived in Ilkley for many years. He was an artist of considerable talent and became the artist to the FAU. Several of his paintings/drawings are in the IWM. 

 

Both Proctor and Priestman had been pupils at Bootham School in York

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