Image: Westoning School, 2009 [CR/PH © Beds Archives]
Saturday 8th April 1916: At a meeting yesterday of the Bedfordshire Education Committee a deputation was present to object to appointment of a conscientious objector, Mr. R. R. Fordham, as headmaster of Westoning School, and the following resolution passed by the Flitwick group of School Managers was read:
“The local Managers of the Flitwick Group of Schools desire to protest against the appointment of Mr. Fordham as headmaster of Westoning School on the ground that he is a conscientious objector. They are of opinion that in the interest of the nation children should be taught their duty to the State, which includes the right of defending it against oppression, and that while parents and brothers are fighting for the state it is not advisable that children should be under the influence of a conscientious objector. They desire to point out that two names were submitted to them by Mr. Baines suitable for the vacancy of headmastership. They refused to recommend Mr. Fordham by reason of his being a conscientious objector. As they were doubtful whether the only other candidate was entirely suitable, not having had charge of a school, they recommend his appointment on trial. They do not see what other course was open to them. The Managers fail to see the usefulness of their continuing to act as Managers if their recommendations are disregarded.”
There was discussion as to whether the objection to Mr. Fordham was because he was a member of the Society of Friends [Quakers]. It was pointed out that the Managers did not object on religious grounds, but on patriotic grounds. The committee decided to invite both the deputation and Mr. Fordham into the room. Mr. Spensley, one of the managers from Westoning, said their objection was simply that at times like these such a person should not be sent to teach in any village school. In his view it was essential that the children should be taught patriotism, and that they should not have a man who would teach the children not to fight.
Mr. Fordham said he was 31 years old, was a member of the Society of Friends and a conscientious objector. He would never dream of teaching children not to fight for their country. He would not mind serving with the Friends’ ambulance unit, but would not serve under the military. The Rector of Blunham, where Mr. Fordham was currently teaching, had written stating that he had always acted loyally and within the traditions of the Church School. It was stated that there was no other position open to Mr. Fordham. The Chairman of the Committee pointed out that Mr. Fordham had the right to conscientiously object, and another member said that no man should be penalised for holding opinions which were recognised in law.
The matter was referred back to the Committee for further consideration.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard 14th April 1916