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Religious Groups opposed to war


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#51 MichaelBully

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 01:58 PM

Hello Keith, I think that we should agree to differ on this topic. I am starting to repeat what I have already posted and so will quit . Interesting debate anyhow and I am sure it has not done me any harm to have my cage rattled. Regards, Michael Bully

Hello Michael,
To be truthful I had not realised there were different catagories for COs, obviously you know a lot more about the subject than I do. I would have no problem with them doing very important war work in a theatre of war such as being stretcher bearers. I would applaud them and support their views, as it would seem that they were not simply thinking of their own skins. So, it would appear that I am arguing against absolutist COs only.
As regards men who tried to excuse themselves on other grounds I would think that a large percentage of them were thinking like a lot of COs and wanting to protect their own skin. So as you say I have a problem with those as well. BUT, the main differance I would have thought is that they were not hiding behind religion.

Regards, Keith.







#52 keithgr

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 08:25 PM

Hello Keith, I think that we should agree to differ on this topic. I am starting to repeat what I have already posted and so will quit . Interesting debate anyhow and I am sure it has not done me any harm to have my cage rattled. Regards, Michael Bully


Hello Michael, Yes, fair enough.

I suppose I am an objector to objectors.! :rolleyes:

Regards, Keith.






#53 Magnumbellum

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 04:34 PM

Of course there were many men who classed themselfs as COs who done very valuable and brave work, as mentioned earlier about the NCO stretcher bearer who was so highly decorated.

So, if they objected to the chance of killing another man [like most sane persons would] why did most of them not become stretcher bearers, so that they had a very strong chance of saving lifes.?


I have not studied William Coltman, so I cannot speak definitively, but on the evidence so far disclosed he does not appear to have been a conscientious objector. He is described as a "stretcher bearer", not connotable as a specific unit of the army in which one could formally enlist.. It is possible that he actually voluntarily enlisted in the RAMC.

On that score, so far as COs are concerned, I have not come across any CO who who was actually allowed to enlist in the RAMC as a non-combatant. Alfred Evans, mentioned earlier on this thread, wanted to do so, burt was refused and compulsorily enlisted in the Non-Combatant Corps. On his refusal to accept this, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death, later commuted to 10 years penal servitude. The army clearly preferred to have him in prison rather than helping the wounded.

#54 Terry_Reeves

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 05:40 PM

Coltman was not a CO. He was a man of deep religious conviction however and felt that could better serve saving life rather than take it.

With regard to Keithgr's comments, I think they show a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of conscientious objection. It was many and varied and cannot be seen the in simplistic terms that he lays out. Like it or not, COs were as brave in their own way as those who fought in the front line.

Those who care to delve deeply into the subject will, I am sure, find it a quite fascinating aspect of the war.

TR

#55 Magnumbellum

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 02:40 PM

COs were as brave in their own way as those who fought in the front line.

Those who care to delve deeply into the subject will, I am sure, find it a quite fascinating aspect of the war.


Indeed. One little known story,complementing that of Alfred Evans, is that a small number of men volunteered for the RAMC in 1914/15, feeling that they ought to do something, but did not wish to be responsible for killing. In 1917/18, with the the continuing shortage of men for the Front, they were compulsorily transferred to infantry regiments. When they refused to co-operate, on conscientious principles, they were court-martialled and imprisoned. One actually died in prison in Egypt. A further example of military preference for imprisoning men rather than making use of willing volunteers.

#56 Magnumbellum

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:44 PM

I have had another look at Caroline Moorehead's 'Troublesome People - Enemies of War 1916-1986' . The section on the Bing family is footnoted at the end Dorothy Bing..... Interview, April 10 1984 (Note to page 29, Chapter 2,) So presented as if the author had direct contact with Dorothy Bing.

Wonder if there is an archive concerning the Bing family ? Interesting to note their involvement in anti-war organisations after the Great War.


I accept the Dorothy Bing reference, for what it is worth, in the absence of of clear evidence to the contrary, but on the same page Moorehead completely misrepresents a different matter, by claiming that, "when the Tribunals of conscientious objectors were scheduled to be heard in Kingston, [Dorothy] would take her bicycle and carry fruit and cake and messages to those in the dock". Tribunals, of course, were not criminal courts, and had no "dock". I knew Dorothy very well, and am sure that she would never have said anything so ridiculous. Moorehead, on the other hand, has acknowledged privately to me that she made other errors in the book, although I have never taken up with her this particular point.

The Bing Archive is in the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. It was deposited there because the Institute holds the archive of the War Resisters' International, the international pacifist/anti-militarist body to which the Peace Pledge Union is affiliated. Harold and Dorothy Bing were active in both organisations.

#57 MichaelBully

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:59 PM

Thanks MB once again. Yes, with Caroline Moorehead, I mentioned how she cited her source material. I have honestly no idea how thoroughly she used any interview that she may have had with Dorothy Bing. Does sound that Caroline Moorhead got a bit muddled.
Interested to hear about the War Resisters International archives in Amsterdam.

I accept the Dorothy Bing reference, for what it is worth, in the absence of of clear evidence to the contrary, but on the same page Moorehead completely misrepresents a different matter, by claiming that, "when the Tribunals of conscientious objectors were scheduled to be heard in Kingston, [Dorothy] would take her bicycle and carry fruit and cake and messages to those in the dock". Tribunals, of course, were not criminal courts, and had no "dock". I knew Dorothy very well, and am sure that she would never have said anything so ridiculous. Moorehead, on the other hand, has acknowledged privately to me that she made other errors in the book, although I have never taken up with her this particular point.

The Bing Archive is in the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. It was deposited there because the Institute holds the archive of the War Resisters' International, the international pacifist/anti-militarist body to which the Peace Pledge Union is affiliated. Harold and Dorothy Bing were active in both organisations.



#58 David Filsell

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 09:22 AM

Be absolutely certain being a co was not a soft option in either WW1 or 11. To taint them severally or individually is foolish and ignorant.
I am an attender of Society of Friends meetings and have been for some years. And whilst I can accept the concept of a 'Just War', and have a fascination with the Great War, the Friends that I know accept my view, some share it, many disagree but none has ever given me a hard time over it. Quakerism does not work that way.
Many, too many, years ago I had a girlfried whose Jewish father, Harry Hance, had been a co in WW11. He went to prison since he refused to do any work that could be considered aiding the war effort. He was so badly treated in prison by screws and prisoners alike that finally he agreed to undertake agricultural work. When I knew him he considered that by undertaking even this work he had betrayed his principles.

#59 Alan Tucker

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 09:36 AM

I think this could be a useful contribution - a soldier pacifist. From my forthcoming Great War Trail of Birmingham....


30, Brighton Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, In 1901 this was the family home of Charles James Simmons, 7, better known as Jim. He was living there with his father, James Henry,a house decorator born in Birmingham in 1867 and mother, May Jane, born in Bow, London in 1873. Charles was the eldest with four siblings – Ellen, 6 ,George, 4, Harold, 1 , and William who had just been born. Three more arrived later, including Frederick, Norman and Edward. His grandfather, Charles Russell, 55, also a house decorator, was also there. He received a Board school education, including at Clifton Road.He left school at 14 and became a Post Office messenger. He was also a Sunday School teacher at the Greet Primitive Methodist Mission. On the 1911 census Jim is recorded as a 18 year old private in the Worcestershire Regiment at the Norton Barracks with a service number of 413. He had joined the 5th (Special Reserve) Battalion in January of that year not quite 18 years of age. He signed on for six months service and six years in the reserve which involved a month in camp each year. He joined the Army Temperance Association at the depot and found a local Primitive Methodist Chapel. He returned to civvy street because of his interests in religion and politics despite his colour sergeant’s advice for him to become a regular. He attended the annual camp at Croome Park, Worcester and joined his battalion at Tregantle Fort, Plymouth, when mobilised for war. On January 12 he left for France and the 2nd/Worcesters at Festubert. He left with considerable doubts about the war having read ILP and UDC literature since the outbreak of war as well as the ‘Labour Leader’, ‘Forward’ and ‘Weekly Herald’. He had also written openly as a soldier to Birmingham newspapers. He wrote in his diary just before leaving “I am off to the front and, in a way I am glad, for though I have come to oppose all war I am no coward and wish to prove it”.
On March 17 1915 Simmons was wounded by a Germans shell, was hospitalised but returned in time for ‘going over the top’ at Richbourg on May 15 during the failed Battle of Festubert. He spent five nights in a shell-hole in No Man’s Land on the wrong side of the German wire. He was sent to hospital at Rouen and then to a Red Cross hospital at Stacksteads in the Rossendale valley of Lancashire. From there he went to the convalescent hospital at nearby Bacup. Whilst there he preached at every chapel in the valley. On his way back to Birmingham he called at the office of Labour Leader in Manchester and had a long talk with Fenner Brockway. This paper had published some of his letters from the trenches. On August 19 1915 he married Beatrice Roberts at Solihull Register Office but soon returned to Norton Barracks. In his service record his wife’s address was given as 14, Richmond Road, Olton and his father was at Ivy Cottage, Hamstead Road, Handsworth. At the end of October he sailed for Gallipoli and joined 29th Division at Suvla Bay. After evacuation a long stay in Egypt followed. Here he held ‘discussion groups on the origins of the war and the principles of a just peace most nights’. One day his company commander sent for him to tell him that a letter to Councillor J.W Kneeshaw in Birmingham had been destroyed for ‘its subversive matter’. The latter was about plans for conscription. When questioned by the CO told him that “you’ve only bought my body not my mind”. The CO tried to get the Brigade Medical Officer to remove him without success and stated that he was ‘a danger to the discipline of the Regiment’ and ‘his officers consider him mentally unbalanced’ but he was still sent to a Cairo hospital ‘officially suffering from rheumatism’. Eventually he landed back in France with the 3rd Battalion. Here he became friends with six other kindred spirits – the ‘Khaki Pals (Active Service) Branch of the ILP’. The used to meet in a YMCA hut. At Vimy Ridge in 1917 he was wounded again with a shattered ankle and a bullet lodged in the sole of the foot. After a spell in a hospital in Etaples he went to No 2 London General Hospital, Chelsea, arriving on June 8 1916. After months of trying to save the limb on December 19 the lower third of his leg was amputated. During his stay at the hospital he met many political and trade union figures, particularly Ramsay MacDonald, who enabled him to make many visits to the House of Commons. He spent a lot of time reading socialist books. Eventually he was allowed to go home to Birmingham whilst still waiting for an artificial limb. Here he preached in chapels and attended political meetings. He took on the organisation of the Midlands Workers and Soldiers Councils Conference for August 18 1917 which was to welcome the Russian Revolution following the Leeds Convention on June 3. 220 delegates were promised. However, a senior Birmingham police officer served him a notice which banned the conference under Defence of the Realm regulations. Afterwards Simmons became active throughout the Midlands in the ‘Peace by Negotiation Campaign’ being billed as ‘Private Jim Simmons with a Message from the Trenches’. His main message was ‘No Patched Up Peace’. Plain clothes police took notes at his open-air meetings. He denounced ‘war profiteers, the armament sharks and the politicians’. “I had a special duty to speak for my inarticulate comrades who were still risking life and limb on the battlefield”. On September 26 at Rochdale he was arrested by two military policemen and spent a night in the cells before escort to Chester Castle. His wife contacted Ramsay MacDonald who raised the matter in the House of Commons. He was then sent to military detention in Wallis Yard, London, where he was taken to Roehampton Hospital for the fitting of an artificial limb and then released under ‘open arrest’. He prepared a court martial statement and sent copies to Ramsay MacDonald and the press. He stated he was a victim of ‘British Prussianism’, that the charge was under an obsolete order, and that he was there only because of his opinions. He was eventually discharged from the army as unfit for further service on November 22 1917 and returned to Birmingham.He was awarded a Silver Wound Badge. He continued to campaign. In March 1918 he was detained at Nelson, Lancashire, and taken to York where he learned that he had incensed the military authorities by an attack on the use of Field Punishment No 1 – a kind of crucifixion. He was sentenced to three months ‘with such hard labour as he is capable of performing’. At Armley Gaol, Leeds, he told the warder that his employment was ‘propagandist’. He picked oakum and sewed mailbags. He read and wrote on lavatory paper with a pencil hidden at the end of his ‘stump’. He was released on June 12 1918. He returned to Birmingham and Beatrice and their two rooms and he became an organiser for the newly formed Birmingham ILP Federation. This included attendance at military tribunals to speak for conscientious objectors. In the 1918 general election he acted as the election agent for the ILP candidate at Moseley. The candidate was Doctor Robert Dunstan, a young RAMC lieutenant, who had served in Mesopotamia. Post-war he was also active in the National Union of Ex-Servicemen. It was later subsumed into the British Legion. He was also involved in the Labour churches movement. In 1921 he was elected to the City Council and served until 1931 and again from 1942-5. He became the Labour MP for Erdington from 1929-31 and for West Birmingham from 1945-50. He was MP for Brierley Hill from 1950 to 1959. He had also been active in political journalism and edited the Town Crier, the Birmingham Trades Council journal, from 1940-45. His wife, Beatrice, was also politically active and became an alderman on the City Council. There were four sons. He remarried in 1972 to Kate Showell.
‘Soap Box Evangelist – Jim Simmons’. Janay. 1972
Times obituary August 1975

#60 MichaelBully

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 08:59 PM

David, totally agree with your comments and interesting to hear about Harry Hance.
Alan- That's excellent information, thanks for posting. I had never heard of the 'Peace by Negotiation Campaign’ -will have to get going on some searches.
Both the cases of Harry Hance and Jim Simmons show the complexities involved when considering the plight of the CO's. Regards. Michael Bully