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Conscientious Objectors

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Guest tonia

Was there a list kept of conscientious objectors?

My g grandad was apparently excused from fighting as an objector but worked for the RAMC. Would there be a specific place to look for him or would it be better to just use the usual sources?

Thanks,

Tonia

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BeppoSapone
Was there a list kept of conscientious objectors?

My g grandad was apparently excused from fighting as an objector but worked for the RAMC. Would there be a specific place to look for him or would it be better to just use the usual sources?

Thanks,

Tonia

Tonia

There was, by the Society of Friends (Quakers).

The Quaker's "Visitation of Prisoners Committee" had a sheet for each C.O. with details such as his home address, and which prison or work camp he was in.

The Quaker Library in the Euston Road, London retain these records, filed in alphabetical order. I think that you would need to travel to London in order to see them.

However, in the case of your grandfather I think that the "usual sources" would be your best bet, because he was not a prisoner.

However, if your great grandfather had served in the Friends Ambulance Unit, rather than the RAMC, his records would have been at the Euston Road, complete with a photo iirc.

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Guest Dunc
Was there a list kept of conscientious objectors?

My g grandad was apparently excused from fighting as an objector but worked for the RAMC. Would there be a specific place to look for him or would it be better to just use the usual sources?

Thanks,

Tonia

Tonia

There was, by the Society of Friends (Quakers).

The Quaker's "Visitation of Prisoners Committee" had a sheet for each C.O. with details such as his home address, and which prison or work camp he was in.

The Quaker Library in the Euston Road, London retain these records, filed in alphabetical order. I think that you would need to travel to London in order to see them.

However, in the case of your grandfather I think that the "usual sources" would be your best bet, because he was not a prisoner.

However, if your great grandfather had served in the Friends Ambulance Unit, rather than the RAMC, his records would have been at the Euston Road, complete with a photo iirc.

Hi,

I'm new to the forum and spotted your potentially very helpful reply. Can you tell me:

Did the Quakers keep records for all conscientious objectors who were imprisoned, or just for their own members?

Did their records include Scotland?

Any other ideas for researching a "Red Clydesider" who went to jail rather than the Western Front?

Many thanks, and Happy New Year!

Dunc

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BeppoSapone
QUOTE]

Hi,

I'm new to the forum and spotted your potentially very helpful reply. Can you tell me:

Did the Quakers keep records for all conscientious objectors who were imprisoned, or just for their own members?

Did their records include Scotland?

Any other ideas for researching a "Red Clydesider" who went to jail rather than the Western Front?

Many thanks, and Happy New Year!

Dunc

Hi Dunc

Thanks for your query, and welcome to the forum.

Quakers kept records for all Conscientious Objector's, both the "Absolutists", who were imprisoned, and the "Alternativists" who were in camps doing work of national importance, building roads, growing food etc. This was the work of the "Visitation of Prisoner's Committee".

It didn't matter which religion the men belonged to. In fact, a lot of men in prison were claiming to be Quakers, even though they were not members of the Society of Friends. This was because they believed in peace, and felt let down by their own denominations support for the war, and the failure of their own religions anti-war bodies. For example, the Catholic "Guild of the Pope's Peace", IIRC this Catholic anti-war body had a membership of less than ten!

Also, more Quakers than is realised actually fought, although most of these were "birthright" members - people born into a family of Quaker origin who had never, or rarely, attended SoF services themselves. Some of these people went out of their way to join a war that they could so easily have avoided. For example, the son of one prominent Sussex Quaker family left his teaching job in Brazil and travelled home to become an officer in the British Army.

As far as I know the Quakers didn't keep records of "Starred Men" (men directed into work of national importance) or those men who actually joined the forces, chiefly in the RAMC. A lot of these "Starred Men" were actually disowned by the Conscientious Objectors. In particular the Christadelphians who were happy to make munitions.

However, in the case of men of military age who were members of the Society of Friends, records were kept, no matter what the man did. Every Quaker meeting returned details of what its men were doing - in the army, with the FAU, still at home etc etc. Details such as unit and number and where serving were recorded. Also, what had become of the men on active service "last seen entering the German line with fixed bayonet" etc. These records are also held in London, although I can't remember what they are called exactly.

As far as I am aware Scottish Pacifists would have been recorded by the Quakers. I have studied men from Sussex, and some of them actually ended up in prison in Edinburgh - Calton (sp?) Gaol. Scots and English prisoners were mixed together within the prison system. A Brighton man mentions having a friend in jail called Bob Stewart, from Dundee.

Re: Clydeside in particular, it would probably be a good idea to look into the well known names such as Willy Gallagher, John Wheatley, James Maxton, Davie Kirkwood and Emanuel Shinwell. Some would have been COs, and will be picked up in the Quaker records. Even those who were not actually COs will probably have mentioned it in their writing.

Hope this helps.

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Guest tonia

Thank you for such a detailed response.

Dad said he was in the RAMC Ambulance unit, so I wonder if that wasn't actually the Friends Ambulance Unit.

Another avenue worth looking into.

Interestingly, he actually had sons who fought...I wonder how this affected the family unit!

Thanks again,

Tonia

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BeppoSapone
Thank you for such a detailed response.

Dad said he was in the RAMC Ambulance unit, so I wonder if that wasn't actually the Friends Ambulance Unit.

Another avenue worth looking into.

Interestingly, he actually had sons who fought...I wonder how this affected the family unit!

Thanks again,

Tonia

Tonia

I think you will find that anyone who has RAMC - Royal Army Medical Corps - as their unit was actually in the British Army, rather than serving with the Quakers.

Have you checked his details with the National Archive? (ex Public Record Office) If he was in the army you can find his details online for something like £3.50..

If you can find no trace of him in the National Archive it might be worth thinking about a trip to the Quaker Library in the Euston Road, London.

Hope this helps.

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j.r.f

One of my wifes relatives was a concencious objector.He wrote to all sorts of people including the archbishop of canterbury and the prime miniser..In the end he recieved a letter,Card that stated that he was an objector and allowing him to be so.He did not go to prisin neither did he join the ramc.I am almost sure that he continued with his life as before the war.

His documents are in the Bristol Records Office.Strange I was talking about him only the day before yesterday,saying that there may be a book in his story.I am not up to book writting but I will dig out his material from the Bristol R.O..I will then tell you the story,through the forum.

I hope this might be of some help,interest.

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

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BeppoSapone
One of my wifes relatives was a concencious objector.He wrote to all sorts of people including the archbishop of canterbury and the prime miniser..In the end he recieved a letter,Card that stated that he was an objector and allowing him to be so.He did not go to prisin neither did he join the ramc.I am almost sure that he continued with his life as before the war.

His documents are in the Bristol Records Office.Strange I was talking about him only the day before yesterday,saying that there may be a book in his story.I am not up to book writting but I will dig out his material from the Bristol R.O..I will then tell you the story,through the forum.

I hope this might be of some help,interest.

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

John

As you were speaking to this man a couple of days ago I suspect that he was of military age during WW2. Is this correct? I would be very interested in seeing more details.

In theory every man with a conscience should have been treated as your relative was, even in WW1. However, in reality many of them ended up in prison and/or work camps in WW1. This is because, in many places, the Tribunals that looked at these mens cases were very pro-war. In fact, they were the old recruiting committee under another name.

Many of the WW1 COs were abused and beaten up by soldiers. There is at least one case of a CO being bayonetted. They were also badly treated in prison, some spent months in cold cells on just bread and water, and so on.

It is because this treatment became "known", and because 70 or 80 COs died as a result of it, that WW2 COs were better treated.

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Simon R

Would Quaker visitations include information such as conditions they were kept in? Do they catalogue abuses?

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BeppoSapone
Would Quaker visitations include information such as conditions they were kept in? Do they catalogue abuses?

The Quaker's were certainly aware of the way that some C.O.s were abused, and have some information on this.

However, your best bet would be to get a look at some of the Socialist/Pacifict newspapers and journals from the period. For example "The Tribunal", which was the organ of the No-Conscription Fellowship.

The Imperial War Museum have tapes made by C.O.s, in their "Oral History Archive". Also, some books were written by WW1 C.O.s which detail the way that they were treated.

Lastly, see some of the books on Conscientious Objection published in the last 20 or 30 years.

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j.r.f

PLEASE

I was not talking to him but about him.It was ww1 period about which I was talking.It seemed unusual to me in so far as this gentleman would have nothing to do with the war atall.He was a pacifist at a time when to be such one had to be prepared for allk sorts of abuse.I think it posible that he was a PLYMOUTH BRETHERINE.I will chase up the information from the BRISTOL RECORDS OFFICE as soon as I can. I will then place this on this site..

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

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BeppoSapone
PLEASE

I was not talking to him but about him.It was ww1 period about which I was talking.It seemed unusual to me in so far as this gentleman would have nothing to do with the war atall.He was a pacifist at a time when to be such one had to be prepared for allk sorts of abuse.I think it posible that he was a PLYMOUTH BRETHERINE.I will chase up the information from the BRISTOL RECORDS OFFICE as soon as I can. I will then place this on this site..

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

John

Sorry, my mistake. I mis-read what you wrote.

As your man was a WW1 CO he was lucky to have been treated as he was. He was treated as the law said he should have been. I believe that this was what actually happened in WW2.

However, in WW1, a lot/most of the time this did not happen. For example, the two Brighton men who died were both legally entitled to stay home as well, but ended up in jail!

One died in Maidstone Prison, and the other shortly after release. Both were Christians, one was a Quaker and the other belonged to a fundamentalist sect. In fact, this second man died because he would not accept better food and warmer clothing from a Government that demanded that he kill his fellow man. The only thing he would have been prepared to accept was unconditional release, since he had done nothing wrong. The irony of this is that the man who refused to wear a uniform is buried in Brighton under a CWGC stone.

I would be very interested in seeing more details of your wife's relative.

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Simon R

The late, great Arthur Raistrick, pre-eminent prehistorian, geologist etc, etc ad infinitum was a conscientious objector - I think he ended up in Wandsworth prison. Now I know there's primary evidence around, I'll follow it up. Thanks BeppoSapone.

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DCLI

Interesting stuff on COs. My great uncle was a CO but he was also in a reserved occupation, being head Master of a school. But he protested about the war so much and made such a nuisance of himself he was sent to prison - ended up in Dartmoor. After the war his career was over. Sad really.

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Essexboy68

Hello

I may be wrong in this, but I understand that despite the fact they did not carry out weapons training until after 1945, the RAMC was not open to COs. There was a Non-Combatant Corps in both wars, where COs could undertake work in uniform that did not involve bearing arms, like unloading food shipments etc.....

The Friends Ambulance Unit & the Red Cross had personnel who tended the wounded in all theatres of war, & many of their number would have been COs. I also understand that some men who had registered as COs renounced this status in order to be able to serve as stretcher bearers etc in the RAMC.

Incidently, when I first joined the RAF in 1989, medical personnel were not required to fire weapons, but were supposed to know how to make them safe........

Cheers

Mark

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DrB

I recall reading somewhere that the NCC never numbered over 3000 at its greatest strength.

The Geneva Conventions mention that Medical personel may carry weapons for self-defense or in defense of their patients, but should never be used "in an offensive fashion." (Killing someone is therefore 'not offensive?')

I have stories from 1967-68 but will not repeat same here.

Besides, we are digressing from the thread.

DrB

;)

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BeppoSapone
Quakers kept records for all Conscientious Objector's, both the "Absolutists", who were imprisoned, and the "Alternativists" who were in camps doing work of national importance, building roads, growing food etc. This was the work of the "Visitation of Prisoner's Committee".

As far as I am aware Scottish Pacifists would have been recorded by the Quakers. I have studied men from Sussex, and some of them actually ended up in prison in Edinburgh - Calton (sp?) Gaol. Scots and English prisoners were mixed together within the prison system. A Brighton man mentions having a friend in jail called Bob Stewart, from Dundee.

This postcard has just re-surfaced in my collection.

It demonstrates how "Alternativist" Conscientious Objectors were sent all over the country to work. To Scotland if English, and vice versa. I don't think that a distinction was made between English, Scottish and Welsh C.O.s

The photo of these four men was taken in 1917 at Dyce in Aberdeenshire. IIRC they were helping to build/repair the local roads.

Left to right

Charles Reuben Bicknell (Brighton)

Walter Futcher (Islington)

Willie Kippax (Huddersfield)

George Glasscock (Croydon)

post-3-1107791807.jpg

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j.r.f

PALS

I have been intouch with the BRISTOL RECORDS OFFICE my man has left 24 boxes of material,not all about pacifism,.These have not been catalogued completly.I shall have to work through them a piece at a time.This I will do but dont hold your breath weighting for the results.Be assured that in the fullness of time I shall present them.

CHEERS,

JOHN :D

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Simon R

24 boxes? Good luck mate!

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Terry_Reeves

The reason that men, employed under the Home Office Scheme, in work camps and work centres, were sent to work away from home was the insistance by the military authorites in applying the the principle of "equal sacrifice", which meant that CO' s should be employed under conditions, in so far as possible, equal to men serving in the forces. This applied also to men employed under the aegis of the Pelham Committee, although this was less rigourously enforced.

CO's in WW2 were generally better treated, mainly because the authorities had a better understanding of conscientious objection and all its nuances, after the experience of the Great War. The tribunal system in the Second World War was rather more sophisticted and flexlible and often included lawers on the panel. Nor did it suffer from the interference of the military, as in the recuiting officers who attended the WW1 tribunals. The appeals procedure was also more streamlined. An appellant could appeal against a tribunal's decision to a judge in chambers. CO's were also better accommodated in terms of military employment, if that satisfied their consciences. A number for instance, served in parachute field ambulances or bomb disposal sections.

Terry Reeves

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Moonraker

Some more snippets from my Wiltshire-exclusive notes:

After his release from Maidstone Prison on May 12, 1917, Clifford Allen one of the most resolute conscientious objectors or "Absolutists" (who refused to do anything that might release manpower to aid the war effort), and later Lord Allen of Hurtwood, had one day of freedom, was then arrested, refused again to obey a military order and was imprisoned for a third time. On the 17th he wrote from Number 4 Camp at Park House Camp near Andover,:

“Many of the Absolutists in prison, including myself, are coming to feel more and more firmly that our opposition to alternative services or any form of service arising from the conscription situation demands that we should in principle cease to work in prison. We are, I think, carrying on the larger part of the mailbag industry of this country and freeing other prisoners of all kinds of work."’

(He subsequently stated that though he felt bound to refuse to do prison work while in custody under the Military Services Act he felt it would not be correct to organise a general refusal of work.)

Allen was court-martialled on May 25, his defence later being published by the No-Conscription Fellowship in a pamphlet, “Why I Still Resist“. Paraded before troops at Park House, he was sentenced to two years' hard labour at Winchester Prison.

Other conscientious objectors, prepared to do menial tasks such as cookhouse and cleaning fatigues, were attached to army units. (Some were housed in the Junction Road workhouse at Andover.) It is likely that Allen had been sent to Park House Camp to do such work.

Thomas Ellison was called up to the 7th London on April 27, 1916 and on June 9 was charged at Sutton Mandeville Camp near Salsibury with refusing to put on military clothing. At his court-martial on June 14 he refused to call witnesses, instead making a speech that was reported in “The Spur“ (CO journal??). He was sentenced to six months' hard labour, later reduced to 112 days. He was sent to Winchester prison on June 19 and in early November was ordered to Wakefield work camp. On December 27 a letter ordered him to report to the London Regiment. He was arrested in Crewe and taken to Sutton Mandeville, then to Dartmouth (the 7th having moved to South Devon), where he was court-martialled on January 17 and sentenced to two years. He was taken to Exeter Prison on the 26th, spending five months there before his release in June. (www.wcml.org.uk)

When the 28th Reinforcement of the New Zealand Contingent arrived at Sling on September 24, 1917, it included several conscientious objectors who refused to put their boots on but were persuaded to walk into camp without them.

Thre is a roughly-suraced past leading onto Dartmoor from Princetown that was laid by COs "housed" at the notorious prison.

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mcnab

Prior to conscription in 1916, are there any accounts of CO's enlisting in the RAMC? pressumably to 'do their bit 'whilst not bearing arms? There was a good deal of pressure for young men to join up, white feathers and all that.

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Moonraker
Prior to conscription in 1916, are there any accounts of CO's enlisting in the RAMC? pressumably to 'do their bit 'whilst not bearing arms?  There was a good deal of pressure for young men to join up, white feathers and all that.

McNab:

There probably are such accounts, but I've come across none. In terms of records and research, cases of COs joining the RAMC are not so "remarkable" as those of people refusing to don any uniform or to do anything that might remotely help the war effort. As you'll gather from my previous post I operate only from the Wiltshire perspective.

Moonraker

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jhill
Prior to conscription in 1916, are there any accounts of CO's enlisting in the RAMC? pressumably to 'do their bit 'whilst not bearing arms?  There was a good deal of pressure for young men to join up, white feathers and all that.

There is an example of this, in the person of one Thomas Franklin Townsend, whose transcribed diary is available on the "Hellfir Corner" website here .

I am sure there was a certain number of similar cases, but this is the only one I can remember offhand.

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Guest
Prior to conscription in 1916, are there any accounts of CO's enlisting in the RAMC? pressumably to 'do their bit 'whilst not bearing arms?

In a sense, no by definition, because without conscription, there was nothing to object to. You simply did not have to join up.

To redefine the question, there may well have been men who joined the RAMC because they were not prepared to bear arms, but wanted to serve. But I do not see how they could have been real COs without conscription.

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