Thursday, 2 November 2017

Leighton Buzzard Conscientious Objector at Tribunal

Friends Meeting House, Leighton Buzzard 1969 [Z50/72/2]

Friday 2nd November 1917: William M. Holland of Regent Street, Leighton Buzzard has appeared at an appeal tribunal asking for his conditional exemption from military service on grounds of conscience to be renewed. He explained his reasons in writing:

“I still believe that war is the devil’s business and that Christians should not kill or assist to kill those for whom Christ died. I believe that the war is being continued for territorial gain and the gratification of military pride, and I welcome this opportunity of protesting against the sacrifice of lives to the ambition and vainglory of statesmen and army commanders. It is impossible to believe that this country is fighting for liberty and justice when over 1,200 men are in prison for loyalty to conscience and for claiming that exemption to which they are entitled by Act of Parliament. I would also point out that (1) The genuineness of my case has been recognised by the Tribunal on two occasions by granting exemption from all forms of military service. (2) I have fulfilled the conditions of my exemption.”

Mr. Holland has been a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, since 1909, and made his initial appeal for exemption from military service in July last year. Colonel Fenwick, challenging the appeal on behalf of the Army, engaged in a long argument with Holland over his pacifist views. After this was brought to an end by the Chairman the tribunal considered a recommendation by the Advisory Committee that Holland should serve in a non-combatant corps. Holland told the tribunal he was not prepared to undertake non-combatant service and was working 9½ hours a day as a farm labourer. He then produced a protection certificate from the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee which had been sent to him last week. The Chairman pointed out that a lot of time and trouble would have been saved if he had presented the certificate earlier, but Holland declared he did not ask for the certificate, did not want to be protected by it and intended to send it back. After lively discussion the tribunal came to a majority decision that his certificate of temporary exemption should be renewed for another six months.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 6th November 1917

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