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Non-Combatant Corps in France


Jim_Grundy
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Are there any experts out there or anyone who knows of any sources of information concerning the Non-Combatant Corps?

I am researching one local man, a conscientious objector, who was sent to France in May 1916, I presume as part of the Non-Combatant Corps. His family have passed a copy of a letter that he wrote from "Somewhere in France" and he describes living in a very quiet rural part of France, far away from the Western Front. Would anyone have any idea where this might have been? I am guessing somewhere behind the British lines in northern France but that's not narrowing it down too much is it?

The man was not one of those who refused to do anything for the war effort and was not one of the 38 sentenced to death in France for disobedience. Can anyone add anything to my search?

Any help would be very much appreciated.

Season's greetings.

Jim

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Just a thought, Jim, and I'm sure you've considered this, but it was common for men to write home and say they had a safe job miles from any danger. Maybe your non-combatant wanted to put his family's minds at rest just as much as anyone else.

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Jim

The following NCC companies went to France in May 1916:

2 Eastern Company on 8 May

3 Eastern, 1 Northern, 2 Northern, 1 Scottish on 30 May

The companies were named from the home commands in which they were formed. Thus, 2 Eastern Company came from Eastern Command. This might help you to identify the man's company.

NCC Companies were not allowed anywhere near the front line nor were they employed in jobs handling any form of munitions, ie ammunition humping. They were deployecd to the rear areas of the British sector and were usually used for quarrying or hut building.

If you can identify his ocmpany, it might well be worth contacting Ivor Lee, the expert on labour in WW1. His e-mail is lc1917@aol.com.

Charles

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Rather than not being allowed to handle munitions, it was the members of the NCC who generally objected when required to handle them. The War Office insisted that they had made no promises on this point and blamed "mischievous propaganda" if this was the impression gained.

Those who refused were court-martialled or sent to Mesopatamia far away from publicity. The NCC shoulder titles worn resulted in the rank and file soldiers calling them the "No Courage Corps"

There is a good book on this subject (that produced this info).

Concience and Politics, The British Government and the Concientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919. by John Rae. Oxford University Press, 1970.

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Thanks to everyone for their very helpful responses.

The letter I referred to was dated 13th May 1916, so it would appear that the individual concerned was a member of No.2 Eastern Company. Since he came from just outside Nottingham, that would fit too.

Enjoy the holidays everyone.

Cheers,

Jim

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  • 7 years later...

Are there any experts out there or anyone who knows of any sources of information concerning the Non-Combatant Corps?

I am researching one local man, a conscientious objector, who was sent to France in May 1916, I presume as part of the Non-Combatant Corps. His family have passed a copy of a letter that he wrote from "Somewhere in France" and he describes living in a very quiet rural part of France, far away from the Western Front. Would anyone have any idea where this might have been? I am guessing somewhere behind the British lines in northern France but that's not narrowing it down too much is it?

The man was not one of those who refused to do anything for the war effort and was not one of the 38 sentenced to death in France for disobedience. Can anyone add anything to my search?

Any help would be very much appreciated.

Season's greetings.

Jim

If the name of the conscientious objector could be disclosed, it may well be that members of the Forum are either looking for him or have information about him.

On a point of correction, the number of COs formally sentenced to death, but reprieved, was 35, not 38.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Although 35 individuals were sentenced to death, 38 sentences of death were passed, four of the men receiving the sentence twice. For information, the details of the individuals concerned are given below in chronological and then alphabetical order (taken from Gerard Oram's "Death Sentences..."):

Foister, J., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 2nd June 1916. Final sentence: not confirmed.

Marten, H., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 2nd June 1916. Final sentence: not confirmed.

Ring, J., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 2nd June 1916. Final sentence: not confirmed.

Scullard, H., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 2nd June 1916. Final sentence: not confirmed.

Foister, J., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience x2 in F&F, 7th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Marten, H., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience x2 in F&F, 7th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Ring, J., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience x2 in F&F, 7th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Scullard, H., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience x2 in F&F, 7th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Barritt, C., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Bonner, B., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Brewster, H.F., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Hicks, G.E., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Priestley, A., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Ricketts, O.G., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Stanton, H.E., Pte., East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 10th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Cartwright, C., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Cryer, C.E., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Hall, S., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Law, H.G., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Law, William E., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Lown, R.A., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Martlew, A., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Myers, A., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Renton, L., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Senior, C.H., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Spencer, E.S., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 12th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Beavis, G.H.S., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Brocklesby, J.H., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Frear, W.T., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Gaudie, N., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Hall, C., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Jackson, C.R., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Jordan, P.B., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Murfin, F.J., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Routledge, J.W., Pte., 2 North Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Taylor, A.W., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Walker, E.H., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

Walling, A.F., Pte., 3 East Non-Combatant Corps. Sentenced for disobedience in F&F, 13th June 1916. Final sentence: 10 years penal servitude.

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The reason why the first four four sentences were never confirmed was that the whole court-martial on 2 June 1916 was declared a nullity on a procedural technicality, so the four COs were court-martialled again on 7 June. On the second occasion, the findings and sentences were confirmed and formally "read out". As with the later confirmed sentences, at the formal reading out of the sentence of death and the fact of confirmation, the commutation to 10 years penal servitude was added, almost as an afterthought.

Jim Grundy has, however, omitted from his transcription from Oram the name of Alfred W Evans, the last of the 35 COs formally sentenced to death, and "read out" on 24 June 1916. He had fallen sick at the time of his scheduled court-martial, so was tried separately. Interestingly, he went back to prison as a CO in WW2. Although I never met him, "I know a man who did".

As Oram's book shows, there were 35 (no more, no fewer) CO sentences of death formally confirmed and read out, and it is confusing to mention figures of 34, 38 or 39.

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