Wednesday, 16 March 2016

More Conscientious Objectors

Christadelphian Lecture Hall, St. Loyes St, Bedford c.1910

Thursday 16th March 1916: The tribunals which sat this week at both Bedford and Ampthill heard a number of applications from conscientious objectors.

At Ampthill a provision merchant claimed exemption on dual grounds, both as a conscientious objector and as the sole support of his parents. He also had a sister, who was due to be married at Easter, who looked after the business while he was out getting orders and carried on the drapery department. He also had a lad to help him. His conscience had troubled him from boyhood and he did not think killing was right, though he would be willing to go with the ambulance. He was a Wesleyan, not a Quaker. Another man applied for total objection as a believer in the sacredness of human life and the brotherhood of man. He would not send men abroad and would not have a Navy; he did not think men ought to go and fight. Both these applications were refused, as was that of another man who stated that if he had the option of killing or being killed he would be killed, and that if he had to go into the trenches he would rather go without a rifle than with one.

At Bedford a Christadelphian applied on grounds of conscientious objection. This man was an engineer engaged in shell manufacture. Although he would rather “suffer the extreme penalty” that affirm or swear to support any institution in the taking of human life, he was compelled to make whatever his employer undertook to manufacture. He was granted conditional exemption so long as he continued to be employed in munitions work. A 19 year old student at the Royal College of Science said he objected to taking part in the war, but recognised that he must make a concession and so would be willing to take part in work such as mine-sweeping which was destroying instruments of war. He stated “I cannot see any point in the war. It seems to me pure destruction for no end. I do not believe the ownership of land is of sufficient importance”. He believed that at this time the nation was wrong to take up arms and he could not imagine a war in which it would be legitimate to take part. His application was refused. Another applicant who objected on similar grounds was passed for non-combatant service after stating he was willing to work in the Army Service Corps but not to swear an oath.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 17th March 1916

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