Arthur's story

A conscientious objection to war

I thought it might be an idea to record what I actually did as a Conscientious Objector (usually shortened to just 'conchie') in the second of the series of wars to make the world safe for democracy.

I was born on 3rd October 1915 and up to the time I was about 14 years of age, I had very little idea of politics, nor much idea of other nations of the world.

In 1931 at the age of 16 I read that famous book "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists". It made a deep impression on me and straightway I joined the Labour Party, and a few months after, the Labour Party League of Youth, and my course was set.

In 1932 after getting my General Schools Certificate and Matriculation Exemption, I started work at Waterlow and Sons as an estimating clerk. It was here that I first met Charlotte Burton, who sat opposite to me, on the other side of the desk, and with whom I fell in love and eventually married. Fortunately she shared my views and Politics.

During this period I joined the Peace Pledge Union and various other anti-war movements, and I remember attending a meeting at Kingsway Hall run by an organisation called the United Front which incorporated all the Left Wing groups opposed to War, during which there was squabbling and fisticuffs on the platform and in the audience. This was only quelled by the Red Flag being played on the organ, whereupon everybody stopped scrapping - but only until the end of the music, when they were at it again immediately.

At the outbreak of war I registered as a conscientious objector. It was several months before I was summoned to appear before a Tribunal at the Law Courts to give reasons for my objections, and by this time many of my age-group had entered one of the three Services and been involved in the hostilities that occurred when the British Army was pushed out of Europe and France capitulated.

I attended the Tribunal in August 1940. My position so far as the war was concerned is possibly best illustrated by my submission on the form, as follows:-

    "I refuse on moral and rational grounds to take part in any military activity or to assist the military machine in any way. I believe that the method of War is wrong and futile. Might is not Right but it is illogical to attempt to prove it by means of force. I cannot and will not kill, or help in the killing of human beings I do not know and with whom I have no quarrel

    Since I realise that the War is actually in progress and that people are likely to be killed and injured, I am prepared to assist them to keep out of danger and help them if they are injured by serving in the ARP or the AFS as they are at present constituted; but I will not in any circumstances resign my right to judge and act according to that which I know is right.

    I believe my objection to be a conscientious one, since ostracism, imprisonment or any penalty will not alter my determination to do that which is right. I have held and expressed these views for the past seven years."

The decision of the Tribunal was that I should remain in my occupation at Waterlows or take up work in connection with the land. I was promptly sacked by Waterlows. What I did then you can read if you click here, but if you want the complete story (72K of text) you should click here.

 

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