OUR CONVICT SON: Harold Brewster 1895-1958: A Merton Objector to Conscription
Studies in Merton History 10: by Keith Penny
In March and April 1916 Harold Brewster, a surveyor’s assistant employed by Merton and Morden Council, argued his case in front of two tribunals that no earthly court had a right to come between a man and his conscience. His conscientious objection was to the undertaking of all forms of military service. Resisting conscription exposed him to the hostility of the majority of the population and to the penalties, short of death, that military and civil rule could impose.
In this study Keith Penny describes Harold Brewster’s wartime experiences as a conscientious objector, his early days in Merton and his life after the war was over.
OUR CONVICT SON
A Merton Objector to Conscription
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY
© Keith Penny and Merton Historical Society
ISBN 978 1 903899 76 2
I am grateful to libraries and archives, including some online ones, for access to their collections: Cumbria Archive Centre, Carlisle; Library of the Religious
Society of Friends in Britain; Imperial War Museum; Kingston History Centre; Special Collections, University of Leeds; London School of Economics; Merton Library and
Heritage Service; Surrey History Centre; The National Archives: the online resources of the Hathi Trust; British Newspaper Archive; Hansard 1803-2005. Acknowledgement
of copyright permissions is on page 36.
Judith Goodman of Merton Historical Society provided information about Merton Park and St Saviour’s church. A friend of many years, David Young, researched
details of the Brewster family, and put me in touch with Mrs Janette Hazlitt, the daughter of Harold Brewster. Without the personal information that she provided, the
narration would have lacked vital humanity, and I am grateful for her encouragement in the writing of a booklet about her father, for whose stand of principle she has
always had the highest respect.
In New Directions, the journal of Forward in Faith, I read a review of Clive Barrett’s Subversive Peacemakers; I bought a copy, flipped through the pages and
immediately saw the word ‘Merton’. I read the narrative of Harold Brewster’s experiences in France and knew that I should follow this up. This publication is also a
belated acknowledgement of Merton Library and Heritage Service’s Carved in Stone project, though perhaps its subject is not one that was envisaged when that project
Our Convict Son
Appendix One: Saved by the Prime Minister?
Appendix Two: The Home Office Scheme
Appendix Three: The Knutsford Committees
Appendix Four: St
Saviour and Holy Cross
Acknowledgement of copyright permissions
(1) Watery Lane, Merton
between 18 and 19
(2) St Saviour’s church, Grand Drive
(3) Warwick Prison, interior
(4) Wakefield Prison, exterior
(6) Group of
(7) Harold Brewster’s letter from Longside
Revd John Scarlett
Fellowship of Reconciliation badge
Poster – ‘The Others’
inside back cover
inside back cover
The Brewsters’ grave, Lytham
back coverPress Cuttings
Surrey Comet, 08/04/1916
The Tribunal, 29/06/1916
Western Times, 19/03/1917
Yorkshire Evening Post, 04/01/1917
Nantwich Guardian, 24/05/1918
Deemed to be Enlisted
In March and April 1916 Harold Brewster, a surveyor’s assistant employed by Merton and Morden Council, argued his case in front of two tribunals that no earthly court
had a right to come between a man and his conscience. His conscientious objection was to the undertaking of all forms of military service. Resisting conscription
exposed him to the hostility of the majority of the population and to the penalties, short of death, that military and civil rule could impose.
From 2 March 1916 all unmarried men and widowers aged between 18 and 41 who resided in Great Britain (excluding Ireland) were ‘deemed to be enlisted for the period of
the war’. When the Prime Minister announced on 5 January 1916 that conscientious objection was included as a ground for exemption from compulsory military service in
the Bill then being discussed, MPs, many of whom were wearing uniform, laughed. The clause had been included late in the drafting of the legislation, probably in
response to the resignation of a Cabinet minister and as a concession to potentially rebellious Liberal MPs. Uncertainty crept into the law after the Prime Minister
encouraged the assumption that objectors would be satisfied with exemption from combatant service alone. About 3,000 did indeed accept service in the specially formed
Non-Combatant Corps, but the determined objectors to military service refused to accept any kind of Army service and Army discipline. Many of the 16,8001 UK
conscientious objectors [COs] of the First World War, numerically insignificant when compared with the nearly five million who served in the Army, were a continual
problem, first to the military authorities and then to the Government.
Much brutality was employed to try to obtain conformity, but even objectors recognised, at least in hindsight, that their treatment was often not greatly different
from that handed out to ordinary soldiers. The Army was partly relieved of the problem by the transfer of the objectors, after court martial, to civil prisons. Then
the Home Office made an attempt that satisfied no one to use objectors in work that was in the national interest, in outdoor camps and in former prisons used as work
centres. After the war ended, the objectors had to wait until April 1919 for a return to civilian life.
Opposition to conscription began well before the 1916 Act was passed. The No-Conscription Fellowship [N-CF] was formed in early 1915 as
… an organization of men likely to be called upon to undertake military service in the event of conscription, who will refuse from conscientious motives to bear arms,
because they consider human life to be sacred, and cannot, therefore, assume the responsibility of inflicting death. They deny the right of Governments to say, ‘You
shall bear arms,’ and will oppose every effort to introduce compulsory military service into Great Britain.2
The N-CF provided advice for men who were being called up and campaigned against injustice or maladministration in the machinery of conscription. It wanted work in the
national interest to be open to objectors as a right, not something controlled by a punishment-inclined government. Later in the war it turned to a more ‘absolutist’
position, encouraging those men who not only repudiated military service, but regarded any participation in work prescribed by government agencies as a support for the
In the spectrum of motivations owned by objectors ‘religious’ and ‘moral’ overlapped ideas that were called ‘political’ or ‘socialist’; the gospel of peace easily
allied itself with a belief in the brotherhood of man. Objectors were more united and single-minded when conscription first began; later developments created
disagreement between factions.
Best known among the groups of religious objectors were the Society of Friends, or Quakers, whose pacifism was well known and often respected by tribunals, though it
is important to realise that pacifism was not compulsory for Quakers; the individual light of conscience was what mattered.
Interdenominational Christian pacifism was promoted by the Fellowship of Reconciliation [FoR], an organisation set up in 1914; its ‘Basis’ stated that, as Christians,
they were forbidden to wage war:
In order to establish a world order based on Love, it is incumbent upon those who believe in this principle to accept it fully, both for themselves and in their
relation to others, and to take the risks involved in doing so in a world which does not as yet accept it … since God manifests Himself in the world through men and
women, we offer ourselves to His redemptive purpose, to be used by Him in whatever way He may reveal to us.’3
In general, ‘FoR members were willing to work and, if necessary, to suffer. Whatever the circumstances, they tried to ‘preserve peace of mind’ … Such a mentality ruled
out obstructive methods.’4
In mainstream Christian churches objectors were a minority; the Free churches had no policy and were simultaneously in favour of the war and sympathetic to objectors;
Rome gave no direction, though there were a few Catholic pacifist individuals. Of the 16,800 objectors only around 350 were Anglicans.5 It was especially difficult for
men such as Harold Brewster to make out a case for Christian pacifism from inside the state church, the Church of England, when so many of the church’s leaders
pronounced otherwise. Though the Archbishop of Canterbury and a few other bishops maintained moderate views and made public objection to unjust treatment of objectors,
other leaders, notably Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London,* preached and wrote against Germans and for the righteous cause of British victory. At local level
there was perhaps more variety, but most clergy and lay church members supported both voluntary enlistment and conscription, though not necessarily the demonisation of
Two biblically based sects objected in differing ways: Christadelphians objected to service in the army of any earthly power, but were not primarily pacifists; indeed,
they were not against working in munitions factories. International Bible Students, now better known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, shared the objection to taking orders in a
They belonged to an international brotherhood who considered themselves citizens not of any particular nation but of one Government, God’s Kingdom. As individuals they
had dedicated themselves to and owed their primary allegiance to their God, whose commands took priority over any commands given by human governments.7
Among the socialists who had moral and political objections to the war, some took a humanitarian standpoint; others were mainly against capitalism:
Many advocated a Socialist philosophy based upon a new conception of the relation[ship] of the State to the individual citizen. Some would not help a militarism which
was the means of exploitation. Some of these would have been willing to take up arms in a violent revolution, others declined any such methods anywhere.8
Some of the political objections extended beyond an exercise of conscience to a rejection of all state power, and there was a strain of individualist anarchism to be
found, a rebellion against conscription’s invasion of personal freedom. Beatrice Webb, an earnest socialist, noted that among N-CF members there were ‘not a few
professional rebels, out to smash the Military Service Act, because it was the latest and biggest embodiment of authority hostile to the conduct of their own lives
according to their own desires.’9 One objector, Howard Marten, noted an ‘aesthetic group: artists, musicians, all that. They had a terrific repugnance [of] war which
could only express itself individually.’10
The headline of the Daily Sketch on 15 May 1916 was ‘THE FELLOWSHIP OF FAINT-HEARTS’, followed by the explanation that ‘The No-Conscription Fellowship is the
fellowship that leaves it to the other fellow to fight.’ The editorial in the Sutton Advertiser on 3 May explained: ‘The attitude adopted by many of these puny
claimants is sickening to the men who are leaving everything to fight in a cause which the neutral world agrees is just and righteous.’ Opinion in the national and
local press was consistent in viewing conscientious objectors as feeble, unmanly, idle, decadent, cowardly shirkers who were evading their duty to hold on to an easy
life. Whether that view was held by all readers is less clear. The Organisation of the White Feather began in the first month of the war, when its target was any young
man not in services uniform, but the practice of handing or posting white feathers also focussed on men with anti-war views. It has long been assumed that all of
Britain was overrun by war fever in 1914, but more recent research has questioned this, finding areas, especially among the urban working class, where recruitment was
not popular.11 Merton Park, though, was not such a place, and we may there presume a general pro-war, anti-CO feeling.
When objectors had been sent back from the Army into civil custody and employment, a doctrine of ‘equal sacrifice’ developed: individuals might be found work of
national importance, but only at a long distance from home; the conditions of employment for groups of men ‘should not be appreciably better than those applying to
Non-Combatants on Home Service.’ The Times recommended that objectors released from prison should be employed on ‘a form of arduous and unremunerative public service.’
In any case private firms and individuals often resisted the employment of objectors.12
Later in the war there were aggressive demonstrations of anti-objector resentment, as will be described later, but these should be seen in the context of heavy
casualties among those who had volunteered or been conscripted, and of increasing war-weariness.
Active Church Workers
William Arthur Brewster was born in 1868 in Fulham. By 1891 his family had moved to Eland Road, Battersea, and he was a builder’s clerk. A year later on 13 April 1892
he married Frances Maud Dunn at the register office in Fulham; she had been born in 1861 in Brough, Westmorland, and in that year’s census her father described himself
as ‘Baptist minister’, a family background that probably explains the venue for her wedding, since until 1898 marriages could only take place in non-Anglican churches
if the civil registrar was present. Harold Francis Brewster, the second child of the marriage, was born in Wandsworth on 5 July 1895, and in 1900 the family
moved to 9 Sydney Road in Raynes Park. After some years here and at 13 Adela Avenue, in 1912/3 the family – father, mother, two sons, two daughters and a foster-
daughter – settled at 28 Watery Lane, a progress that suggests growing family prosperity.
At that time Watery Lane looked very much as it does today. Once a humble track which wandered southwards from the Rush and curved round towards Cannon Hill Lane, it
became smartened up following John Innes’s acquisition of the Manor Farm in about 1867. Innes soon laid out a handsome drive, complete with lodge, connecting his
residence with the newly laid-out Mostyn Road. Meanwhile, in the lane itself, architect Henry Goodall Quartermain replaced a huddle of tiny dwellings with a charming
group of cottages, now 38-46. By 1914 speculative building had also arrived in the lane, after Henry Coombs, who had been steadily buying up land in and off Kingston
Road, built the two short terraces forming 16-28 and 30-36 Watery Lane. Practically all Coombs’s houses were rented, and provided accommodation probably mainly for
lower middle class families. No. 28, as an end-of-terrace, was semi-detached, and may have commanded a slightly higher rent than most of its neighbours.
The Baptist practice of baptism as a rite for adults probably explains why by 1903 the Brewster children had not been baptised; Harold’s baptism was probably required
as a condition of his admission in 1904 to the Merton Endowed Schools in St Mary’s Road (now part of Church Lane), but in any case he, his brother and two sisters were
baptised in the mission church of St Saviour, Grand Drive, on 27 September 1903.
William’s religious background is not clear – attempts to find a record of baptism have failed – but the family evidently settled into the life of St Saviour; Harold
was musical and was thanked in April 1915 for assisting in deputising during the illness of the regular church organist.13 A year later William described himself and
Harold as ‘communicants and active Church workers in the Church of England.’14 William and Frances come across as people of principle: Harold was ‘taught by parents
from childhood that service in the Army is inconsistent with the precepts of Christ.’15
Harold, aged 15, began employment as ‘office youth in the Surveyor’s Department’ of Merton and Morden District Council at six shillings a week. His work must have been
satisfactory, for by April 1916 he was a salaried employee paid £4-18-6 per month.16
It is impossible to know how carefully Harold had thought about his position when war began in August 1914. Alfred Evans, later to be a companion in adversity of
Harold, recalled: ‘Like most people in England we were overtaken by the war and so we had made no conscious preparation for it.’17 Harold was just old enough to
volunteer for army service, but he did not do so; we cannot know what pressures to conform he experienced, though he later told his daughter of his hurt at being
handed a white feather by a woman in the church congregation. At least one volunteer from the church died during 1915. Harold Brewster was, like the majority of
objectors, a member of the N-CF, though, as we shall see later, he was not an absolutist. He was also a member of the FoR, whose ‘Basis’ in submission to the divine
will clearly differed from the N-CF’s political campaign.
The real crisis for him began in early March 1916 with the inevitable call-up notice. He completed his Form R.41 to register his conscientious objection to military
service and returned it to the Council office, then awaited a date and time for his appearance at the local tribunal, which had been set up to adjudicate on claims for
exemption of all kinds, not just those made on grounds of conscience.† Eight men formed the tribunal, five of whom were Councillors (and therefore Brewster’s
His case was heard on 11 March 1916 at the Council Offices in Kingston Road and was reported thus by the Wimbledon Herald:
Harold Francis Brewster, (20) 28 Watery Lane, claimed exemption on conscientious grounds. He had an objection to taking human life either directly or indirectly. He
considered he was bound by the Divine law forbidding revenge, hatred, violence and murder. His duty was to love his enemies, and therefore he could not fight even in
self-defence. Granted exemption from combatant service.18
John Pitt, well known in Mitcham as a Quaker, attended the hearing and noted that Harold’s parents and one sister were present, as well as friends. In reply to the
usual question of whether he would defend his sister and mother, Harold said that neither of them desired him to do so, and asked why, in that case, outsiders should
force him. Harold read a paper detailing his objections: he was a member of the Church of England (high) and had held his views from infancy; his father was equally
strong against war. He would stick to his principles without reference to consequences.19
Harold’s case at the tribunal was fatally damaged by an admission that he had briefly volunteered for some form of non-combatant service – ‘medical’ and ‘sanitary’
service are terms found in reports – only to realise that it was actually a branch of the Army. Once he discovered this, he withdrew his application within two or
three hours. This might not have emerged had Harold not asked permission from his employers to join this organisation, so that his action was known to a councillor who
sat on the tribunal. Harold appears not to have been prepared to deal with this issue: ‘The Military Representative would not hear any explanation & the applicant was
too nervous to assert himself sufficiently.’20 Harold’s claim of objection on ground of conscience was not itself rejected, but an order to join the Non-Combatant
Corps was all that the tribunal felt able to grant. This was not sufficient for a determined objector, for it involved obedience to the Army and the probability that
non-combatant work was sustaining the combatant units. Walter Long, President of the Local Government Board, stated in a circular that a case would have to be ‘very
exceptional to justify exemption free from conditions.’21
Any objector dissatisfied with a local tribunal’s decision could appeal to the county appeals tribunal. Merton appeals were heard at County Hall, Kingston, where
Harold Brewster appeared in early April.
The Surrey Comet reported thus:
Merton Organist’s Objection
Mr. H. F. Brewster, 28, Watery-lane, Merton, described as an assistant to a municipal surveyor, and organist of St. Saviour’s Church, Raynes Park, who had been granted
exemption from combatant service by the Wimbledon (sic) Local Tribunal, appealed against that decision and claimed total exemption. He is 20 years of age, and was
represented by his father. The statement put in on his behalf said that his only duty towards his enemy was to love him, forgive him, feed him and render him good for
evil. War was so utterly contrary to his religious belief that he respectfully but firmly refused to take any part whatever in it. In the court below he admitted that
he had applied for permission to join the Forces but was refused, and the Local Tribunal felt that the utmost they could do in the case was to grant exemption from
combatant service only. The Chairman said that was all that the Act entitled the appellant to ask for. It did not entitle him to say that he objected to the military
machine and all that sort of thing, which was objecting to what was the law of the land.
—Appellant’s father: Where does the conscientious objection come in, then?
—The Chairman: All that the Act of Parliament says on this point is that an application may be made for a certificate of exemption on the ground of objection to taking
—Mr. Brewster: May I not state my conscientious objection to come under the Act at all?
—The Chairman: Anything you have to say against combatant service I will hear with pleasure.
—Mr. Brewster: The objection I have to the military system is because it is directly opposed to the teaching of Christ.
—The Chairman: The Act does not say anything about objection to military service, but to combatant service.
—Mr. Brewster: My son objects to war because it arouses the worst passions of the human being: anger, malice, revenge and hatred; and all that as a Christian he cannot
allow, as he is bound to exercise gentleness, forbearance and love to our enemies. However mistaken our enemies may be, they are, after all, human beings, and as such
they are members of the human family and therefore our brothers.
—The Chairman: We believe he has an objection to combatant service and we will exempt him from that.
—Mr. Brewster: But if he is asked to take non-combatant service he cannot accept that, because he cannot take the military oath.
—The Chairman: If you will show me where the Act entitles us to exempt from non-combatant service we will attend to it. Are you members of any religious body?
Mr. Brewster: We are both communicants of the Church of England. He is perfectly willing to undertake work of national importance.
—The Chairman: What work is he doing of national importance?
—Mr. Brewster: He is assistant to the surveyor of the Merton Urban District Council, and organist of the church, but he is willing to undertake work of national
—Mr. Edwards-Jones (Military Representative): Is it true that he applied to join the Forces?
—Mr. Brewster: Yes, but when he found what that implied he could not do it.
The Chairman said the appeal would be dismissed.
—Mr. Brewster: Then does conscience count for nothing? If you grant him absolute exemption you will gain a man; if not you will lose [a] man, because he will not do
—Mr. Holland: We are not to be influenced by threats.
—The Chairman: We confirm the decision of the Local Tribunal.22
A curiosity of this report is that, though it was perfectly proper for an applicant to be represented by a relative, Harold Brewster says little or nothing in person.
The Chairman’s interpretation of an ambiguous clause in the Military Service Act was almost universal at this early stage of the life of the tribunals. Even after
directions from the Local Government Board and an amendment to the law, not much changed, and probably no more than 350 absolute exemptions were in force by late
Once an appeal was dismissed, a man would be summoned to report to the nearest barracks; Brewster did not do so, and so the police went in search of him. In response,
he went to Wimbledon police station at 9 a.m. on 18 April and announced that he did not intend to report to the military. He explained: ‘I am a conscientious objector.
I appealed to the local Tribunal and they placed me in a non-combatant corps. I appealed further to the Appeal Tribunal but they upheld the decision of the local
Tribunal; and I am not satisfied.’ The Recruiting Officer also tried, by telephone,‡ and was told ‘I have no intention of reporting myself and I do not intend to
serve.’ All this was reported to the magistrate, Mr Cadell, at Wimbledon Police Court on Thursday 18 April. If Brewster had been nervous at the local tribunal, in his
exchanges with the magistrate he was so no longer:
Brewster: I can’t be an absentee from something I have never joined. I have never joined the Army.
Mr. Cadell: But you have remained away from it, which is the same. I shall remand you for an escort. We won’t fine you on this occasion, but I hope that when you are
taken into the Army you will acquire more wholesome views.
Brewster: I shall not touch the Army. I shall have nothing to do with any machines of murder.§
Because Brewster’s case was the first of its kind at Wimbledon, the magistrate was disinclined to impose a fine, but the recruiting officer pressed for one, and so the
magistrate set the fine at the minimum of forty shillings, which Brewster said he would not pay.24
After Harold had been arrested and brought before the magistrate, his employment was terminated, and the outstanding salary of £2-4-10 sent to his father.25 William
wrote to ask if Harold could be re-employed, if he were extricated from the Army, but the Council voted to inform William that his son ‘could not be reinstated.’ Cllr
Holland expressed the feelings of most of the Council:
He was a young man of strong constitution and in good health and eligible and fit to imitate his colleagues and serve his country at this particularly critical time.
He agreed to do so and volunteered, but then suddenly refused. He appealed and lost the appeal, being told he might go into a non-combatant corps, and then he had not
the grace to join up in the non-combatant sections, but waited till he was arrested. It was the sort of conduct to which the Council should not set its seal of
approval (hear, hear); and they ought not to take Brewster into their service again (hear, hear).26
Wimbledon to France
A military escort took Brewster from the magistrates’ court in Wimbledon to Kingston Barracks, and the same day he was moved to Landguard Fort at Felixstowe.27 Harry
Stanton, a Quaker from Luton and member of the No-Conscription Fellowship, met Brewster at Landguard and described their experiences there and in France in an often-
quoted memoir that he wrote in the early 1920s. For the objector handed over to the Army it was essential to refuse all military orders; one concession would mean
inconsistency and imply acceptance of the whole military system. Stanton explained:
By refusing to obey even in the most trivial matters we should keep the issue clear, both in our minds and those ‘in authority’. Had we obeyed such orders we should
have gradually found ourselves up against more serious ones, and it would have been impossible to logically draw a line and say ‘This far and no further!’28
When Brewster, Stanton and others refused to parade, they were imprisoned, on punishment diet, in Harwich Redoubt, ‘an awful place … a fortress sunk into a hill’,
where the cells were ‘completely dark, dripping with water and overrun with rats.’29 On 7 May, after seventeen days’ detention without court-martial, seventeen
prisoners were sent overnight on the SS Viper to France via Southampton and Le Havre, as members of the 2nd Company of the Eastern Command Non-Combatant
Corps.30 Though the NCC was behind the lines, it was still in a war zone, and Brewster was ‘frankly told that this course was being adopted in order that any further
insubordination might be punished with death.’31 Several men later recorded their experiences, and it is clear that, though there were many personalities, they were
equally disobedient and that no one could fairly be called a leader.32 After a brief stop at a ‘bleak encampment’ the group was moved to ‘Cinder City’, Le Havre, a
recuperation camp for soldiers sent back from the front, where they were kept sometimes together, sometimes split up. In camp at Le Havre Stanton and Brewster walked
around the camp to explain their attitude to any soldiers who asked and maintained their disobedience to orders by refusing to do work and refusing to parade. The COs
were ordered to parade with the rest of the men in camp and refused all orders. At ‘Quick march!’ the parade marched, except for the seventeen objectors, who remained
still on the parade ground, until pushed off by soldiers under orders. In a slightly different account, Jack Foister nevertheless stated that ‘Stanton, Bonner and
Brewster had never left the parade ground.’ For this offence they lost five days’ pay (which in any case they had not accepted), and Stanton and Brewster were
described (probably light-heartedly) by Foister as ‘hardened criminals’.
The next stop was a camp at Harfleur. Assigned to a quarrying party the two men refused to do the work because the stone was to be used to repair roads damaged by
military traffic. Both were sentenced on 11 May to three days’ solitary confinement on bread and water diet, remaining handcuffed to a tent pole, hands behind backs in
daytime, hands in front at night, and unlocked three times a day. Next came the maximum 28 days of Field Punishment No. 1. According to the Manual of Military Law 1914
a man so sentenced
may be kept in irons … and may be secured so as to prevent his escape … When in irons he may be attached for a period or periods not exceeding two hours in any one day
to a fixed object … Every portion of a field punishment shall be inflicted in such a manner as is calculated not to cause injury or to leave any permanent mark on the
Stanton described different versions of this experience, known to soldiers as ‘crucifixion’:**
Provision was made for this by means of a wooden framework, consisting of uprights four or five yards apart, with connecting beams at a height of about five feet. We
were placed with our backs to the posts, and arms outstretched. Our ankles were then tied together and our arms tied tightly at the wrists to the crossbeams. We were
to remain in this position for two hours.
Later, he and Brewster were fastened to a barbed-wire fence for two hours in a cold wind:
The barbs prevented one wriggling one’s arms about to restore circulation and by the end of the two hours they might have been of wood, judging by the degree of
Some soldiers who were passing by stopped to look at them for a minute or two, but they soon walked on. 33
After a move to the Field Punishment Barracks at Boulogne, situated in a former fish market, the sentence continued in a different way:
The apparatus for field punishment at this place consisted of thin ropes stretched horizontally at a height of five and a half feet between the pillars which supported
the roof; and the victim’s outstretched arms were tied at the wrist, while his feet were fastened together at the ankles.
Brewster commented, after his return to England ‘It is not an enviable position, and if the N.C.O.s do their work very conscientiously it can be made extremely
After refusing to move at the double the objectors were threatened with death for mutiny, and given three days’ punishment diet in a cell about twelve feet square:
each man was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and three times a day a handcuff was unfastened to enable the prisoners to eat. The ‘disgusting’ sanitation –
one latrine bucket only – led to spreading bad health. After about three days the men were moved, the Assistant Provost-Marshal having visited and described the cell
as fit for pigs.‡‡
Censorship of letters did not allow direct reference to the conditions of imprisonment, but Brewster managed to convey to his parents in an indirect manner ‘eloquently
and poignantly … the extremes of cruelty which he is undergoing.’35
Early in June each man of the group of objectors was individually ordered to fall in as for a parade. After refusal, each was threatened with death and given two
minutes to change his mind. None did. A Field General Court Martial of three officers assembled on 10 June in a YMCA hut at Boulogne to hear accusations of refusal to
obey a lawful order: Brewster went in first, for a hearing of half an hour, though those who went after him were allowed only fifteen minutes. Sentence was not
pronounced, but warders insisted that the men would be shot. Two Quaker visitors assured the men that their plight was known and that pressure was being applied to
members of the Government. They also spoke to individuals, including Brewster, though a sergeant was present as well.36
Four men were sentenced at Henriville Camp on 15 June: the sentence of death was read out in front of the parading regiment, but after a suitable pause the officer
announced that the sentence had been commuted to one of ten years’ penal servitude. Alfred Evans commented: ‘The pause was long – they had every intention of
impressing you to the point where it looked very likely indeed that they were going to carry it out.’37 Four days later another batch was to be ‘read out’. Soldiers
formed up on three sides of a huge square, 100 yards a side, on the top of a high hill overlooking the sea.38 According to Stanton, Brewster was the first on the list:
The adjutant glanced at him and then began to read in a loud voice. ‘Private Brewster, No. ___, of the Second Eastern Non-Combatant Corps; tried by Field General Court
Martial for disobedience whilst undergoing field punishment. Sentenced to death by being shot; [pause] confirmed by Sir Douglas Haig; [pause] and commuted to ten
years’ penal servitude.’39
What Brewster’s feelings were at the time we can only guess; afterwards, he wrote (charitably, we might think) that ‘the military people tried their best to avoid a
Court Martial, but of course it was bound to take place in the end.’40 Howard Marten, one of the earlier four to be sentenced, told an interviewer in 1973 of a
‘feeling of a sinking in the stomach wondering what was going to turn up,’ and that as the sentence was read he ‘was part of something much bigger outside myself being
outside yourself … almost looking on at the proceedings.’41
On 28 June the details were recorded in a large War Office register: ‘Disobedience [to Captain]; Death; Com to 10 yrs P.S.’42
On His Behalf
While these events played out in England and France, a letter about Brewster’s case appeared in the Wimbledon and District Gazette, a paper that normally carried
little information or comment about tribunals:
Mr. Brewster is condemned by the great mass of people as a shirker and a coward, but by his very action he has proved he is neither. He has been true to himself and
his ideals in the face of almost universal condemnation of public opinion and the Christian Church of which he was a member. Such a man is no shirker, and it is
obvious that a man who is willing to undergo the penalties that the State may inflict, which includes death itself, rather than go back on his convictions, is no more
a coward than the man who takes his place in the trenches and undergoes penalties, and perhaps death, for the sake of HIS ideals.43
Harold Brewster was fortunate among COs in the support given by his family. Some families, out of a sense of shame, tried to keep it a secret that a son was an
objector, whilst others suffered splits. Some objectors were rejected by their immediate family. It was not easy to admit to general society the presence of an
objector in the family: ‘It was the last thing anybody did in respectable society. You just didn’t go to prison.’44 Alfred Evans said that his parents suffered social
embarrassment because of his being a CO, though they did support him.45 William Brewster publicly stood up for his son in tribunals, wrote letters and tried to form a
‘network’ with the parents of the other men sentenced to death, including the Evanses. Family and friends attended at least one of the tribunal hearings.
Harold Brewster’s case was raised in Parliament by Philip Morrell MP on 23 May 1916:
Mr. Morrell asked where the seventeen men who were taken last week from the military prison at Harwich to Havre are now placed; whether these men, or any of them, are
still refusing military service; and whether one of them, H. F. Brewster, has recently been sentenced to twenty-eight days’ field punishment, and for what offence?46
Mr Tennant, Undersecretary of State for War, declined to give the information asked for, on what we would call ‘security grounds’; on 22 June he assured the House that
death sentences were out of the question, but on 26 June he was obliged to announce that 34 men had indeed been sentenced to death, and the sentences commuted to penal
servitude. The Wimbledon Borough News reminded readers that ‘Mr. Brewster, who used to act as organist at St Saviour’s Church, Raynes Park, had
previously offered to join the Forces, and was refused exemption by the tribunals as a conscientious objector.’47 His father objected by letter to this version of
events, though, as the editor pointed out, it was what Mr Brewster had said at the Appeal Tribunal.
Unknown to those in France, in May/June the Government had agreed with the military that objectors sentenced by courts martial would serve their sentences in civil
prisons, though still nominally Army personnel, having been transferred to section W of the Army Reserve, created for ‘soldiers whose service is deemed to be more
valuable to the country in civil than in military employment.’48 Stanton and Brewster were moved back to Rouen to do some labour, first digging and weeding and then
laundry. Once their hands had been softened by soap and scrubbing brush, they were set to digging sanitation pits. By 30 June Harold had arrived at Winchester prison,
there to be visited in July by his parents, as William told the press: ‘My son is no longer ‘deemed to be a soldier” – he is now a convict, and his mother and I have
visited him today, his twenty-first birthday – proud of our convict son.’49
Inside four months Harold Brewster had moved from a secure job and a respected post inside his church to places of cold and filth, always living with threats of death;
he had experienced intimidation and the infliction of pain, besides the company of men of crude language and habits. Howard Marten remembered the ‘volleys of foul
language’ and the incidence of petty theft and gambling in the Army;§§ he called his experience ‘the most crowded time of my life.’50 The prison regime had been
designed to correct brutal or anti-social behaviour, often in men who came from deprived backgrounds, whereas most of the objectors were from civilised homes and
areas. There was indeed coarse behaviour from warders, but this was exercised on all prisoners, not just the objectors. Prisoners of conscience mixed with prisoners
sentenced by the criminal courts; objector Harold Bing expressed the obvious: ‘I don’t think I had any knowledge of what prison was like before I went in.’
For a month Harold Brewster experienced the civil prison system. Names became numbers worn on a disc; prisoners wore the broad-arrowed khaki uniform. Cells were about
13ft by 6ft, to which prisoners were confined from 4.30 p.m. to 5.30 a.m. Labour, usually sewing mailbags, might be in isolation or in a workshop: it was ‘very
repetitive, very boring and seems to be designed chiefly to keep one occupied with work as uninteresting as it can be.’51 A rule of silence was enforced; food was
meagre. The isolation was broken by services in the prison chapel, where the chaplain ‘took much pride in his patriotism’. He called the COs ‘traitors’ and said to one
that such people ‘ought to be drowned.’ Another prisoner called the chaplain ‘one of the most unreasonable and blackguardly men I ever ran into.’52
Seven days after entering the prison inmates were allowed three visitors (relatives) for a twenty-minute stay. Prisoners and visitors stood, separated by two grilles
of wire netting and a space two feet wide in which sat a warder.53
Work of National Importance
Prison was not meant to be the whole solution to the objector problem. Applicants in front of tribunals often offered themselves for work of national importance, as
had Harold Brewster, and a Home Office committee, chaired by William Brace MP, was set up to organise such work as an alternative to prison for those who, after
examination by the Central Tribunal, were deemed to be genuine conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, the committee’s work failed to satisfy any of the parties
involved, and indeed it could never have done so, not least because the objectors themselves were so diverse in background and motive.*** Out of the 4,216 men employed
on the scheme at one time or another, 27 died, though not necessarily as a direct result of their treatment.54
Of those sent to France in 1916 all but three at first accepted Home Office employment, though some others later withdrew themselves from the scheme and returned to
prison. In some ways the prospects of those sentenced in France to ten years’ penal servitude were straightforward: they would not be returning to the Army, and their
choice was prison or alternative service. Objectors with shorter sentences faced a sequence of prison, return to the Army, another court martial, and more prison,
unless they accepted the alternative service. None of the ‘Frenchmen’ died prior to release, whereas ten absolutist objectors died in custody and the deaths of another
30 or so may have been hastened by their experience of prison.
On 14 August Brewster appeared before three members of the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs prison; he was found to be a class ‘A’ [genuine] conscientious objector
and allowed to undertake work as organised by the Home Office. He first returned to Winchester and then, on 24 August,55 provided with corduroy trousers and jacket ‘of
unique cut and pattern’56 he made the long overnight journey to a barely-established camp at Dyce, near Aberdeen.
The camp at Dyce to which Harold Brewster travelled in August lasted around two months and was the first conspicuous failure of the Home Office Committee; all the
flaws in the conception of the scheme were demonstrated, with the addition of notoriety derived from a death in the camp. The work, of breaking and moving stone from
the granite quarries owned by A F Manuelle & Co, was to be overseen on behalf of the Road Board. ‘At first it was at least better than prison … there was abounding
good fellowship and high spirits in spite of cold and wet.’57 A reporter from the Aberdeen Free Press summarised affairs thus:
In fine weather the conditions of life in the camp are on the whole tolerable and fairly pleasant for those who retain their health and are immune from accident, but
when rain sets in another story has to be told, as many of the tents are far from being weather proof, with the result that the bedding becomes wet and the men are
exposed to the danger of catching colds or even worse maladies … The members of the camp feel that they are not being employed on work that is of very great national
The Home Office expected the 250 or so men to work for ten hours a day, for a wage of eightpence an hour. The men were not of the labouring class and could not all
achieve this, so the men’s committee secured agreement for two shifts of five hours each, which in fact kept the machinery fully occupied. Members of the Brace
Committee visited the camp and authorised improvements, and Ramsay MacDonald MP told the Commons of the mud and argued that the men’s abilities were being wasted; they
simply felt that they were being punished and that their work was doing nothing to help the country in its state of crisis.59 MPs were not sympathetic.
Dyce closed in late October; it was probably becoming unmanageable, especially after the death of Walter Roberts. The Brace Committee expected camps such as Dyce to
have a men’s committee, and at first a united camp committee presented complaints to the authorities about conditions, but by mid-October the contrary opinions of
alternativists and absolutists were being aired in the regional press.60 Visitors noted the factions within the camp: ‘Anarchists and atheists on the one hand to
Quakers, Christadelphians and Plymouth Brethren on the other … the Friends element in the camp is feeling keenly the difficulty of their position in relation to the
attitude of some of the other men.’ The ‘predominating party’ was the socialists; at one meeting all the men used ‘comrade’ as a form of address, and The Red Flag was
sung.61 Harry Stanton reported the influence of ‘Revolutionary Socialists and Anarchists’ on the men’s committee and thought that ‘the present situation is an
impossible one, and unless some radical change is effected, the whole thing must break down.’62
Before Dyce closed, Brewster, along with around sixty other men, had agreed to leave and work at Longside, ‘rather a pretty village’ six miles from Peterhead, where
the camp was based in a church hall. The men worked the hours required by the Home Office, but perhaps more willingly. The objectors were for the most part
‘religious’, including a contingent of International Bible Students, and the men’s committee was run by members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.63 It may be that
those who moved had become fed up with the internal strife at Dyce, and believed that they should accept, as part of their pacifist witness, what the prison system and
its substitutes had in store for them. The Dyce experience of Harold Brewster lives on in a frequently reproduced photograph taken there of the ‘Frenchmen’.64
Howard Marten commented that some men just would not work inside the Home Office scheme and were destructive for the sake of being destructive,65 and a division
between the religious and political objectors continued throughout the period of conscription. Alfred Evans said that in general the religious and political objectors
‘didn’t like one another,’66 and the FoR’s Conscription Committee heard of hostility towards its members at the Denton (Newhaven) camp, who were ‘somewhat disheartened
by the constant pressure of the materialist standpoint.’67
When Dyce and Longside closed in October 1916 Harry Stanton and Harold Brewster parted company: Stanton went to the work centre at Wakefield, but then rejected the
Home Office scheme and returned to prison, whereas Brewster moved to the work centre at Warwick, the first of several such placements.
The Home Office found itself with far too many men to accommodate on outdoor schemes, even if these succeeded, and needed indoor accommodation. The prison population
dropped significantly during the war, and so the Prison Commissioners were able to offer premises at Warwick, Wakefield, Knutsford and, largest of all, at Princetown,
or Dartmoor, along with a number of staff. Although the buildings could not be disguised by fresh naming as work centres, changes were made to the interiors and to the
management, led no longer by a governor, but by an agent appointed by the Home Office, who was to allocate the men to their employment. The front gate would be open,
except at night; cells were to be unlocked rooms; men were to be spoken to by surname (not by a number, as in prisons); officers would not wear belts or carry staves
and were to be regarded as instructors who ‘should not, at any time, consider the men to be in their custody.’ Clothing was provided, but men could, if they wished,
wear their own; the day was regulated by bells, from rising at 6.30 a.m. to Lights Out at 10.00 p.m.; the pay rate was the same 8d. per hour.68 The men might ‘elect
representatives for such purposes relating to their communal life as may seem to them proper.’69 There was, Mr Brace told the Commons, ‘the fullest liberty in these
centres.’70 This self-management might also be seen as an economy measure, for the number of officers employed was small indeed: 17 for 500-600 men at Wakefield and
Knutsford and 57 for over 1,000 at Princetown.71
The agent at the Warwick centre was Edwin Gilbert, a Quaker who had been much involved with the Adult School Movement and who tried ‘to make the scheme as tolerable as
possible.’72 Men worked in the kitchens, cleaned and maintained the buildings and, of course, sewed mailbags. Others worked off-site, and typical of the problems that
dogged the work centres was the refusal of several of the men to go out to work for private employers (objectors feared that employers would use their lower-paid
labour to replace men who would then be conscripted).73 Numbers at Warwick declined from 205 in October 1916 to 95 in April 1917, engaged in ‘various industries’.74
Local opinion was pleased by the closure of the centre at Easter 1917: ‘The presence of the objectors at Warwick has been very unwelcome.’75 Mr Gilbert then took
charge as agent at Wakefield, where ‘his sympathies enabled him to avoid some difficulties but caused others.’76 When Warwick closed, Harold Brewster was moved to the
largest, and eventually the only, Home Office work centre, at Princetown.
By 1902 Dartmoor and its prison were well known in the reading public’s consciousness: Sherlock Holmes could quickly sketch Baskerville Hall and its surroundings:
‘Here are two moorland farmhouses, High Tor and Foulmire. Then fourteen miles away the great convict prison of Princetown. Between and around these scattered points
extends the desolate, lifeless moor.’77
One objector sent to Dartmoor enjoyed the journey and ‘gazed in admiration at the abundance of trees, and green fields and delicious country,’78 but probably for
Harold Brewster the novelty of a long journey to take up work had worn off after the Dyce experience. The first objectors arrived from Warwick and Wakefield in March
1917 and were no more welcome on Dartmoor than they had been in their earlier locations. The Home Office agent placed in charge was warned of the nervousness felt by
wardens and villagers for the safety of their children.79 Arriving objectors were greeted with jeers and once with snowballs, but one, Howard Marten, recognised that
villagers were relatives of warders who were being ‘cleared out’ and made available for the Army.80
All the problems of Warwick and Dyce were magnified by the sheer size of the settlement at Princetown: by the end of April there were 856 men in residence, and 1,200
in the autumn.81 The outdoor work – agricultural labour and stone-breaking – was not useful, and the tools and implements provided were almost wilfully outdated and an
obstruction to efficient working:
There are attached to the prison some two thousand acres of land, on which about six hundred men are employed. Another two hundred are engaged on the internal work of
the Settlement. A few, about fifty, are employed upon land reclamation under the Duchy of Cornwall. The agricultural work is penal in character; that is to say, it is
organized on exactly the same lines as for convicts, when, labour being only too plentiful, the main object was to make work, the harder and more physically tiring the
Indoor tasks were not at all fitted to the abilities of the men, and a visiting journalist wrote: ‘Not only is the work futile, but the conditions under which it is
performed are those most calculated to discourage the worker.’83
The disagreements between objectors of different persuasions continued on a grand scale: Eric Dott noticed that ‘the men here … discuss and debate on every subject
imaginable – they can’t help arguing …. A very constant theme of dispute is supplied by the differences of the religious and the political objectors.’84 According to
Mark Hayler, about a quarter of the men were ‘religious’
from Plymouth Brethren down to anything from Salvation Army, Christian Scientists, and of course Methodist and Congregationalists, all the denominations, not so very
many Church of England, for the reason that that was the establishment – I think there were some only they weren’t so noticeable as some of the others.85
Even if the Anglicans were not that noticeable, they were active in the FoR branch at Dartmoor, of which Brewster was a member,86 and another observer distinguished
between that Christian organisation, which showed ‘healthy growth and activity,’87 and the fundamentalist groups of International Bible Students, Plymouth Brethren and
Christadelphians who took little part in the political life of the centre.88 Some men tried to join in the religious life of the church in Princetown, but were turned
Public opinion rose against the objectors on several occasions: COs arriving by train were assaulted by soldiers and civilians, and, though the police intervened in
this matter, any COs who went out into Tavistock did so at their own risk. In March twenty or so of them were jeered at and driven two miles out of the town in a
fusillade of missiles.90
An open-air protest meeting at Totnes complained that the COs were able to buy what they wanted, that they sang The Red Flag, walked out of church if the National
Anthem was sung, and wrote blasphemous words at the station and other places in Princetown.91 If such things happened, they were clearly the work of only a few of the
many inmates, but in April the Daily Mail printed photographs of objectors, with captions such as ‘Dartmoor Do-nothings’, along with a letter that called the men at
Princetown ‘frauds, the crawling worms who stole the cloak of conscience to cover cowardice.’92 The MP for Devonport, Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke, complained that the
‘cowards and shirkers’ had been allowed rail warrants to travel at Easter and were allowed gloves and overcoats. Though this particular speech was curtailed by the
Speaker because not enough MPs were present to hear it, Sir Clement continued to harass Mr Brace in the Commons.93 The Bishop of Exeter described the centre as a
‘hotbed of malcontents’ and, sensibly, queried the wisdom of keeping together 1,100 men with grievances.94 After further attacks on objectors in Princetown the Home
Office confined the COs to the prison grounds, so confirming that the scheme of ‘alternative service’ was only really another form of imprisonment.’95
Although some men recorded pleasure in the open-air life and the chance to walk freely on the moor,96 the general impression is one of a continual civil war over the
principles of conscience, of futility of labour, and of confinement caused by the antagonism of local residents.
Rhinefield, New Forest
At Dartmoor Eric Dott noted that ‘those who were not so strong and fit found it very hard, because conditions were very rough … altogether you had to be fairly fit to
stand it.’ Harold Brewster was certainly fit enough to survive and undertake physical labour. From July to September 1917 he was under canvas in a camp in the New
Forest, where COs were to create two new tree nurseries. About sixty men arrived by train at Brockenhurst on the evening of 9 July, and what objector Percy Leonard
called ‘a bit of a riot’ broke out. The larger of the two groups formed, which included Brewster, went to Rhinefield and escaped with booing and the hurling of clods
of turf by residents, principally women and children; the other group had similar treatment, but two men were ducked in a stream, into which some luggage was thrown.
Relations with local people improved after some of the COs engaged them in conversation and explained why they were objecting to conscription. Once the work was
complete, Percy Leonard and, fairly certainly, Harold Brewster, were sent to the work centre at Wakefield.97
The former prison became a work centre in October/November 1916, and by January 1917 held 600 men. Under the heading ‘The life of the men who won’t fight’ the
Yorkshire Evening Post described the work undertaken: laundry, hand-loom weaving of canvas and blankets, the production of cast-iron goods in the foundry. Some men
agreed that the centre was more comfortable than the convict prisons they had previously endured, but the newspaper made plain that Wakefield had ‘cold-shouldered’ the
men ‘at every turn’: ‘sensitive natures among them feel the public scorn … they prefer the gloom of the prison walls to the attractions of the city.’98
New sets of rules for centres came into effect on 1 January 1917, supplemented by a more stringent code from July, so that when the Yorkshire Evening Post next
visited, shortly before Harold Brewster’s arrival, it could report that ‘the conditions under which they live now approximate as near as possible to the disciplined
life of the soldier.’ The paper reported the work undertaken, the self-sufficiency of the vegetable gardens and the variety of self-made entertainment.99 Although the
inmates were still allowed out between 5.30 (the end of work) and 9.30 p.m., weekend leave was no longer available, and so ‘Wakefield citizens, though they may still
inwardly resent the presence of the men who won’t fight, have latterly shown sensible toleration,’ though another source recalled that in the summer of 1917 ‘roughs’
were waylaying COs who were out in the evenings.100
As winter came on, the tensions inherent in the management of work centres surfaced: Mr Gilbert, who had come to Wakefield from Warwick as agent at Easter
1917, resigned from 6 October after differences on questions of policy, following an inspection by Major Terrell, one of the military men now part of the Home Office
Committee. Mr Gilbert had ‘set a high code of honour to be observed by the men’ and delegated some authority to departmental stewards elected by the men, whereas the
Major’s ‘one idea was to make it as hard as possible for the men.’101 The ex-Governor then appointed resigned after about a month, and indignation in the town was
again evident: the COs played football, had their concerts and were ‘undoubtedly having the time of their life.’ Their ‘impudent attitude’ was resented, as was their
lounging at the street corners talking to young girls.’102
What Harold Brewster made of the life at Wakefield – better food and clothing than that supplied in prisons, regimented but safer than Army service, though full of
tensions concerning the behaviour of the COs – we do not know. In January 1918 he moved to the centre at Knutsford, where the same problems repeated themselves.
After closure as a prison the 500-cell building at Knutsford had been used as a military detention barracks and for housing munitions workers, before being handed over
to the Home Office Committee in September 1917. It was required because Wakefield and Princetown were nearly full.103 The work seems to have had less variety than
existed at Wakefield: 200-300 men were occupied with mailbags, others worked at hand looms or repaired the building (it was in poor condition when handed over for CO
use, and the heating system was defective and obsolete). Management of the centre was criticised by local magistrates after an Army deserter had assumed the identity
of a CO who had gone away, and then worked in the centre.††† The agent’s answers showed he was acting as instructed by the Home Office, but this did not really satisfy
the magistrates, who thought that there had been slackness.104
Apart from work as directed by the Home Office agent, the men’s committee‡‡‡ organised and encouraged social and educational activity: there were whist drives and
concerts, football teams (obliged to play in the centre grounds rather than outside) and classes in accountancy, music theory, Greek, mathematics, eugenics, industrial
history, art and literature. There was a pipe organ, which Harold Brewster may or may not have played.105 The Fellowship of Reconciliation had an active branch in
Knutsford and received speakers at least three times.106
As at Wakefield hostility to the COs ranged from the withholding of services to threats and enactments of violence: the local authority decided to refuse access to the
public library to objectors (doubtless there was an issue of overcrowding as well as anti-objector sentiment);107 tradesmen refused to supply the COs’ canteen inside
the prison;108 the Lord of the Manor and the Freeholders’ Association refused permission to footballers to play on the Common.109 Of no harm to the inmates, but
indicative of ‘right-thinking’ opinion in the town, was the decision by the Ladies’ Tennis Club that any member having anything to do with the COs must resign at
once.110 There were hostile crowds outside the centre in January 1918 and a near-riot in May 1918.
There had been a disturbance on Sunday 12 May, and on the next Sunday evening objectors were attacked as they returned to the centre. One wounded man was being carried
by four friends, and the police held back the crowd to allow the wounded man to reach safety, though other accounts criticised the police for acting only when matters
got out of hand, despite being warned by the agent of the danger of a riot. A policeman was reported to have told a wounded objector ‘Now get into your kennel.’111 The
crowd used sticks and threw stones. COs were rushed off their feet by the crowd and some were bleeding. About fifty men came out from inside the centre, about half
carrying walking sticks. From the prison gate other men directed water from a hose on to the people outside, until the hose was taken away by warders. Much damage was
done to clothing and to bicycles. The police arrested ten local men, three of whom were discharged soldiers, and charged them with committing a breach of the peace.
At Knutsford Police Court, police and magistrates agreed that for some time there had been considerable feeling and ‘atmosphere’ in the town caused by the presence of
the objectors, including complaints about their ‘aggressiveness’, ‘provocative behaviour’ and ‘molesting and interfering with ladies’. In answer to the magistrates a
police inspector testified that he had seen several of the accused commit assaults. He could give no evidence of objectors striking anyone or throwing stones, though
invited by the Bench to do so. The defendants’ solicitor called the objectors ‘parasites’, for which he was rebuked by the chair. Judge Mellor [sic] bound the
defendants over for six months but made clear he sympathised with them:
Knutsford, being only a small place, where nearly every family had some relative at the front – father or brother – when they saw these men lolling about, and allowed
to go about the town until 9.30 at night, a thing which wounded soldiers were not allowed to do – it was only natural that it should create a feeling of resentment
among the people.
Another magistrate hoped that Knutsford ‘would shortly be rid of those nuisances,’ an opinion that was greeted with loud cheers.112
Public opinion was not entirely at one with the magistrate: the men’s committee recorded its ‘appreciation of the gracious action of many Knutsford residents in
warning [objectors] of the danger of approaching the Centre on Sunday evening; and thanks those who, while not sympathising with our views, showed their concern for
fair play and the town’s reputation.’113 ‘Two Knutsford girls’ who perhaps elsewhere showed signs of youthful boredom – Knutsford was ‘always a bog-eyed show but now
it is more like a lunatic asylum’ – wrote to the committee: ‘It takes a brave man to be a C/O & we admire you for it.’114 That the girls mention some men by first name
suggests that perhaps their interest was also romantic, and is an interesting alternative view of the accusations of the COs’ excessive interest in the women of
Knutsford. By 15 May (before the near-riot) the COs had been informed that the Centre was to close as soon as possible. At first some men were sent to Wakefield, where
attacks on objectors were immediately encouraged by the local press, and there were violent disturbances over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend. Other men went to
Princetown. By the end of September 1918 all the objectors on the Home Office scheme had left Wakefield and Knutsford, and only Princetown remained.
Conscientious objectors were low on the priority list for release from prisons or work centres. Though the Army wanted to be rid of men who were still nominally
soldiers in the ‘W’ reserve, several Cabinet members wanted them to wait until more deserving men had been demobilised. Those on the Home Office scheme were released
in April 1919. As a further sign of official disfavour, objectors were excluded from electoral registers for a period of five years from the end of the war, by the
same Act celebrated in 2018 for extending the franchise. Since the war did not legally end until 1921, it was 1926 before ex-objectors could lawfully cast a vote,
though in practice many seem to have been allowed to do so by the oversights of registration officers.115
To what life could men so estranged from wartime society return? A letter from an anonymous objector published a year earlier in a FoR periodical had asked: ‘Can we go
back to our old way of life? … To many a return is socially impossible, to others it is mentally impossible.’116 Those who had been teachers or civil servants were
usually excluded from resuming such work, and others, though not all, felt the social disapproval of former friends and neighbours.117 Harold Brewster had lost his job
and could not return to it; by 1921 he was able to find work as a manager’s assistant in the boot and shoe business and became a sales manager at the Southwark Bridge
Road premises of Pocock Brothers, a wholesale shoe company. His mother’s father had been at some periods of his life a cordwainer or shoemaker, so that line of
business was not unknown in the family.
On 6 August 1921 he married Cora Lilian Bramwell at St Saviour, Raynes Park. She had trained as a teacher and the couple had met when she visited him in the work
centre at Knutsford, truly an example of good coming out of ill. The ceremony was conducted, not by the Vicar of the parish, but by Revd John Scarlett,§§§ who had been
curate at St Saviour from 1911-6, with particular responsibility for the daughter church of Holy Cross, a mission room in Douglas Avenue constructed just along the
road from the Brewsters’ onetime home.
By 1929 the Brewsters and their daughter, Janette, had moved to Onslow, near Guildford, a place that caught the parents’ attention during a cycling expedition. Harold
became the organist of the church and got on well with local people. In 1939 he was asked what war work he could undertake, and he took part in ARP and firewatching
In the late 1940s Cora Brewster suffered bad health, and a doctor recommended sea air, so in 1948/9 Harold and Cora moved to Blackpool, and lived above the footwear
shop at 22 Heathfield Road. Janette Hazlitt, their daughter, described her father as quiet, gentle and humorous, with a liking for theological books as
reading and for running as exercise. Close friends referred to him as ‘Beau Brewster’. He almost never talked about his wartime experiences, though Janette was able to
glean some information from her mother. On 31 May 1958 he died at Blackpool of a heart attack, whilst Cora lived on in the Winchester area until 20 November
1981. At some point the Brewsters became Roman Catholics, and it is in the RC section of Lytham Park Cemetery that their gravestone tells any who pass that they ‘loved
and were loved very dearly.’
Saved by the Prime Minister?
Since John Graham’s Conscription and Conscience appeared in 1922, those suspicious of the military mind have supposed that there was a scheme to send objectors to
France as part of the Non-Combatant Corps, and then to secure sentences of death for offences committed while on active service, as service in France was defined. This
viewpoint is expressed on the Peace Pledge Union website and in other narratives about objectors, but rejected in John Rae’s Conscience and Politics (1970) and in
Thomas C Kennedy’s The Hound of Conscience (1981). Objectors were regularly threatened with death, as an attempt to change minds, so it is not surprising that those
so threatened and then posted to France looked for ways of alerting relatives. Ingeniously sent messages alerted Professor Gilbert Murray†††† in London, and on 9/10
May 1916 he sought reassurance from the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, who wrote immediately to the commander-in-chief, Sir Douglas Haig, whose authorisation was
required for any execution, to instruct him that no capital sentences were to be carried out on conscientious objectors without the consent of the Cabinet.118 A
Downing Street official informed Catherine Marshall of the N-CF on 12 May that ‘directions have been given to Sir Douglas Haig that no conscientious objector is
to be shot for refusal to obey orders.’119
It is a fact that by 15 May 1916 plans were already forming to hand over court-martialled objectors to the civil arm for imprisonment, an intention announced on 22 May
in the last speech made by Earl Kitchener. A new Army Order of 25 May made it clear that objectors were entitled to civil, rather than military, imprisonment. The Army
was probably pleased to lose a group of disruptive non-conformists. Harold Brewster had every reason to fear a death sentence, for he had no knowledge of what was
happening in London, but in fact was never in mortal danger. Military law had to be followed, and so his first punishment in France was that imposed by the commanding
officer, without court martial. Only after the expiry of the first sentence could he be tried for further disobedience, and by 10 June, the date of Brewster’s court
martial, orders to the Army were clear, and the plan to return the objectors to England was in hand, though not clearly explained to all parties: there was a breakdown
of communications between the military and civil parts of the Government, such that the Undersecretary of State gave incorrect information to Parliament about the
death sentences.120 We now know that the likelihood during the Great War of a death sentence being carried out for disobedience was small: out of 120 sentences, 4 were
One conclusion about the trials in France is that they were designed from the beginning to be exemplary, a way of persuading some objectors to surrender, and with no
likelihood of a death sentence being enacted. A sentence would normally be pronounced in open court on the day of the court martial,122 not at a specially arranged
parade, and the pauses when the sentences were eventually read out, and the writing of ‘Death’ in large red letters on the papers so that a man could catch sight of it before sentence123 suggest theatre more than legal process.
In reviewing The Hound of Conscience Jo Vellacott, though not convinced by Rae and Kennedy that there was no high-level Army or War Office plan to shoot COs, nevertheless accepted that the evidence available did not amount to proof that there was such a plot.124 Jack Foister, one of the first four to be sentenced to death, just said ‘There are two sides to that.’125
We now know what the objectors in France then did not, and that knowledge must not stop us sympathising with those men who, isolated in front of that hilltop parade, wondered if death might be the sentence about to be passed upon them.
The Home Office Scheme
After the war a Home Office committee reviewed the working of the alternative service scheme and found these problems:126
* the Home Secretary insisted that men should work in large groups, not as individuals;
* the Central Tribunal released too many men too quickly;
* the public expected an equality of sacrifice;
* private employers refused to accept objectors;
* civilians would not work with objectors;
* objectors would not do work connected with the war effort;
* limited funds produced poor food and accommodation;
* the work provided was soon found to be more punitive than constructive;
* the work provided did not match the skills of the men employed;
* self-government by committees led to indiscipline.
The limit on funds also stopped the use of modern machinery in work centres, so that output was always limited and the men’s labour was not used in a sensibly
economical way. The indiscipline mentioned partly came from frustration with the working conditions, though there were certainly men who wanted to exploit the
incompetence of the Home Office as part of the revolt against conscription. Committees could work well: the one at Knutsford organised an increase in the output from
the mailbag shop with the agreement of the workers there, obtained through a referendum of members. Slacking was an accusation made by elements of the press and by
some MPs; men at Princetown retorted that the work was penal and badly organised,127 whilst the FoR Committee resolved that ‘slackness was no part of the pacifist’s
creed,’128 a difference of emphasis typical of disagreements among the objectors. Howard Marten wrote in The Friend in 1934 that ‘the crowning folly of the scheme was
the unimaginative misuse of talent and ability.’129
The Knutsford Committees
Minute books of the Knutsford General Committee and some of its sub-committees have been preserved in the Library of the Society of Friends.130 They reveal something
of the living conditions at Knutsford and also the peculiar social organisation in which Harold Brewster was obliged to live. Some of the business was of the domestic
sort familiar from student complaint books: quality of food and hygiene, noise at night, defective heating, and territorial squabbles over the right to use particular
communal rooms. Otherwise the committee dealt with the Home Office agent, Mr Hunt, and participated in the management of the centre, besides corresponding with similar
bodies in other work centres. The standard title for its members was ‘comrade’: an accusation at one meeting that the general committee was unrepresentative seemed to
suggest that the members were of one political persuasion, but a sample of members and their motivations as recorded in the Pearce Register showed men from mainstream
Christian and Quaker backgrounds, as well as from the Independent Labour Party. Indeed, the committee consented to Christian speakers visiting the centre.
The Committee was in charge of running of the centre, almost to the exclusion of the warders: its shop stewards paid over the wages to individuals on behalf of the
agent; it appointed orderlies, or arranged for elections to take place for such appointments; when the agent complained that output from the mailbag shop was
insufficient, the committee organised a referendum among the men there, who agreed to increase output following the direction of the shop stewards.
The Trading Committee ran a canteen that made a profit, at least until supplies from local sources became hard to obtain; the Social Committee arranged entertainments
(and bought a piano); the Education Committee organised talks and discussions; the Deputation Committee took grievances to the agent.
After the disturbances of May 1918 the committee wrote to the Home Secretary and unsuccessfully claimed damages from Cheshire County Council on behalf of the men
attacked. Far from being in a state of war with the agent, the committee seems to have been co-operative, if occasionally self-important. It recorded thanks to Mr and
Mrs Hunt for their support during the riot for injured men and, when the centre closed, it proposed to present Mr Hunt with an illuminated address as an appreciation
of his good offices – though a general meeting only voted for this by 45 to 36.
Discussions at Dyce and Princetown seem sometimes to have been abrasive; at Knutsford they were formal if robust. It probably helped that there was no serious incident
with an individual objector at Knutsford; at both of the other sites mentioned above there was a death, and, at Princetown, a consequent strike.
St Saviour and Holy Cross
The population of the district south of Raynes Park expanded rapidly, from 270 in 1900 to 4,000 in 1905, and Revd W A Birkbeck‡‡‡‡ was appointed in 1900 to be
Missioner in the district of St Saviour, Grand Drive. At first a hall was used as a church, and in 1904 a campaign was launched to build a proper church. With the aid
of £1,500 from the newly created Diocese of Southwark and a gift of £3,000 from Sir Frederick Wigan, the church was started in 1905 and consecrated by the Bishop of
Southwark in 1906. The architect was Arthur Conran Blomfield (1863-1935), and the organ that Harold Brewster played, though not then finished as intended, was built by
the distinguished firm of William Hill & Son. Rebuilt and slightly enlarged it is a valued part of today’s church.131
On 1 January 1908 services began at Holy Cross Church in Douglas Avenue, at first in a second-hand iron building, replaced from 23 June 1914 by a new hall.
Revd John Edward Scarlett became the priest-in-charge from May 1911 and ‘with the coming of Mr Scarlett the real development of the work at Holy Cross began with full
Sunday services and a daily Mass.’132
At his first tribunal hearing Harold Brewster was described as ‘Church of England (high).’ During the nineteenth century the Anglican church experienced a Catholic
revival in doctrine, and later in ritual and the vestments worn by priests, that had origins in the pre-Reformation practice of the church; a parallel movement saw the
restoration of poorly maintained buildings and the establishment of Gothic as the accepted style of Anglican architecture. St Saviour’s church certainly practised some
of these innovations: the main service of Sunday was sung Holy Communion, when the usual morning service of the Church of England was Morning Prayer, or Mattins. Its
practices were thus more ‘advanced’ than those at, say, Merton Parish Church, and classifiable as ‘Centre-High’; at Holy Cross, as was not unknown in ‘daughter’
churches of the period, more controversial things could be found. The [Roman] Catholic term ‘Mass’ was used, and a picture of Fr Scarlett’s successor there shows him
wearing a biretta, an Anglo-Catholic ‘party badge’; the mission hall had a tabernacle for reserving the Blessed Sacrament, later an item of much dispute during the
failed attempt to revise the Anglican Prayer Book in 1927-8. The Vicar of St Saviour at least allowed these variations (he uses ‘Mass’ in his history of Holy Cross),
and must have known of Fr Scarlett’s ritual inclinations, for just before his appointment at Raynes Park, Fr Scarlett had spent time at St Margaret, Leytonstone, then
and for many years afterwards a thoroughly Anglo-Catholic parish.
The friendship between priest and Harold Brewster may perhaps explain the abrupt description of Fr Scarlett’s departure – he ‘left to take up other work, on June 26th
1916’ – in a memoir that is otherwise full of praise for his work at Holy Cross.133 Perhaps he had been too supportive of conscientious objection and incurred
displeasure; certainly the date of his departure is close to the May-June events in Harold’s life. Fr Scarlett went to Old Malden, where he looked after St Mary,
Chessington, but only after an interval. He does not appear in the services register at Chessington until October 1917, and the entry he supplied for Crockford in 1932
showed a gap in 1916-7. There was, however, no rift between him and Revd Birkbeck, for the latter preached at St Mary’s on 18 August 1918. There are two curious
entries in the services register134 at Chessington: the midweek services on 11 November in 1920 and 1921 are noted as ‘Mass for unknown soldiers fallen in war’ and
‘Mass for ‘fallen”. Do the intention for all unknown soldiers (on the day the British Unknown Soldier was interred in Westminster Abbey) and the quotation marks
around ‘fallen’ suggest a man whose thoughts were out of step with majority sentiments?
John Scarlett’s ministry before and after Chessington was in suburban parishes; perhaps the village was thought a quiet place to put him. He left Chessington on 1 May
1925: the Anglo-Catholic church services had irritated some parishioners, and he had incurred hostile criticism after a meeting in Epsom at which he admitted to making
friends with men of the parish over a beer in The Harrow inn.135
William Brewster did not think highly of the response of Anglican clergy to Harold’s predicament: ‘We have not found such sympathy and interest amongst our clergy, as
we have received from the Friends and other Nonconformists.’136 Perhaps John Scarlett was an exception to that general rule.
Badge of the Fellowship of Reconciliation:
‘??????’ is ‘Peace’.
(Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library)
The summary of Harold Brewster’s war experience is in the Pearce Directory, a database of over 17,000 known conscientious objectors:
Barrett, Clive, Conscription, Conscience and Courage: Resisting War from 1916: Chapter 19 of Britain and the Widening War, 1915-1916, ed P Liddle (Barnsley: Pen and
Sword, 2016, and Kindle edition). Plenty of narrative, much relevant to Harold Brewster, from an author who understands the religious persuasions of many of the
Bibbings, Lois S, Telling Tales About Men: Conceptions of Conscientious Objectors to Military Service During the First World War (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 2009). Available from online distributors. Deliberately avoids a continuous narrative and focuses on perceptions of COs as different and excluded from society.
Extensive bibliographies of CO sources and commentary.
Goodall, Felicity, We Will Not Go To War (Stroud: The History Press, 2010, and Kindle edition). Available from Wimbledon Library (correct at March 2018). Chapters 1-5
cover much that is relevant to Harold Brewster.
Graham, John W, Conscription and Conscience, A History 1916-1919 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1922). Readable online via Hathi Trust website. A standard history,
but it is avowedly partisan.
Kramer, Ann, Conscientious Objectors of the First World War (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2014, and Kindle edition). Available from online distributors. Sympathetic
Rae, John, Conscription and Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970). Sometimes derided as ‘establishment’ by those who want a more clearly heroic role for
objectors; strong on facts of documentation, legality, Army and Parliament. Long out of print.
Walker, Joyce A, Dyce Work Camp, Conscientious Objectors and Public Opinion in North-East Scotland, 1916: A Documentary History (Kindle edition, 2011).
* His portrait in Fulham Palace shows him in military uniform.
† Much has been written about these tribunals. See Further Reading and Justice to Men and Country
(Merton Historical Society, 2017) pp. 1-3, 28-9.
‡ Perhaps an indication of improving home status; home telephones were not common.
* He did, though, offer to undertake work of national importance instead of military service.
** This punishment was abolished in the Army in 1923.
†† In a 1976 interview in the Liddle Collection, Stanton thought it was Jack Foister in the wire episode, but he admitted that his memory wasn’t as good as it had been
and that he hadn’t re-read his diary beforehand. The 1916 letter in the Catherine Marshall collection is quite clear that it was Brewster.
‡‡ Alfred Evans’s detailed description of this episode is reprinted in We Will Not Go To War, ch. 3. In the various memoirs there are discrepancies about numbers and
how long it lasted: Brewster, for example, said ‘three weeks’, which is not possible.
§§ Of course, such experiences were not unique to COs then or later, as a generation of National Servicemen discovered.
*** See Appendix Two for a summary of the defects of this scheme.
††† Percy Leonard recalled that the same thing happened while he was at Warwick.
‡‡‡ See Appendix Three for a brief account of the Knutsford committee.
§§§ See Appendix Four.
**** Not all WW1 objectors agreed to do this sort of work in WW2.
†††† 1866-1957: Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford from 1908; supporter of the Liberals led by Asquith; founding member of the League of Nations
Union and of Oxfam.
‡‡‡‡ He was the son-in-law of the principal benefactor, Sir Frederick Wigan. This may help explain the size of the permanent building.
1 Total from Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors, quoted in Clive Barrett,
Subversive Peacemakers (Cambridge, 2014), p. 140. An earlier figure in circulation was 16,500.
2 J W Graham, Conscription and Conscience (London, 1922), p. 174.
3 FoR Basis, quoted in full in the online library catalogue of LSE, London.
4 G G J Den Boggende, The Fellowship of Reconciliation 1914-1945, PhD thesis (Ontario, 1986),
5 Barrett p. 140, using material from Pearce Register.
6 See Robert Beaken, The Church of England and the Home Front 1914-1918 (Woodbridge, 2015),
7 <http://www.forthesakeofthekingdom.co.uk>, viewed 02/09/2016.
8 Graham, p. 25.
9 Quoted in John Rae, Conscience and Politics (London,1970) p. 85.
10 Quoted in Felicity Goodall, We Will Not Go To War (Stroud, 2010), Kindle edition, ch. 1.
11 See chapters 1 and 2 of Lois S Bibbings, Telling Tales About Men (Manchester, 2009).
12 Rae, pp. 170-1.
13 Wimbledon Borough News, 10/04/1915.
14 Letter from William Brewster to William Peet, 16/06/1916: Library of the Religious Society of
Friends in Britain, Friends Service Committee file.
15 Letter from R St John Yockney to T Edmund Harvey MP, 15/05/1916: Library of the Religious
Society of Friends in Britain, Temp MSS 835/B/5.
16 Merton Library and Heritage Service: Merton and Morden Urban District Council Minutes,
15/07/1910; UDC employees list, March 1916.
17 Alfred Evans, transcript of interview: Leeds University Special Collections,
18 Wimbledon Herald, 17/03/1916.
19 John Pitt, Notes: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, Friends Service Committee
20 Letter from R St John Yockney to T Edmund Harvey, 15/05/1916: Library of the Religious Society
of Friends in Britain, Temp MSS 835/B/5.
21 Rae, pp. 117-123.
22 Surrey Comet, 08/04/1916.
23 Rae, p. 130.
24 Wimbledon Borough News, 29/04/1916.
25 Merton and Morden UDC Minutes, 28/04/1916.
26 Wimbledon Borough News, 06/05/1916.
27 The narrative from here to Brewster’s return to England is taken from memoirs and interviews by
Harry Stanton (see ref. 28). Jack Foister (see ref. 125), Howard Marten (see ref. 30) and Alfred
Evans (see refs. 29 & 37).
28 H E Stanton, Will You March Too?, photocopy of recollections: Leeds University Special
Collections, LIDDLE/WW1/CO/092. Most of the France narrative appeared in the N-CF’s
Souvenir and has since been reprinted elsewhere.
29 Alfred Evans, interview (1974): Imperial War Museum audio file 489, reels 8, 5.
30 Here the narrative draws on Stanton, with details added from Howard Marten, interview (1974):
Imperial War Museum audio file 383, reels 3, 4.
31 Yockney letter: see Note 15.
32 Marten, IWM interview, reel 4; Stanton, p. 114.
33 Letter from Stanton to the N-CF, received 05/09/1916: Cumbria Archive Service, Carlisle Archive
Centre, Catherine E Marshall Collection, D MAR 4/36.
34 Letter from Harold Brewster to T Edmund Harvey, 30/09/1916: Library of the Religious Society of
Friends in Britain, Temp MSS 835/B/5.
35 Yockney letter: see reference 15 above.
36 The Tribunal, 15/06/1916.
37 Evans, IWM interview, reel 10.
38 Cornelius Babbitt, letter to T Edmund Harvey: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in
Britain, Temp MSS 835/B/5.
39 Stanton, p. 135.
40 Letter from Harold Brewster to R St John Yockney, 30/09/1916: Library of the Religious Society of
Friends in Britain, Temp MSS 835/B/5.
41 Howard Marten, transcript of Tape 70: Leeds University Special Collections,
42 The National Archives, WO 213/9, p. 115.
43 Wimbledon District Gazette, 06/05/1916.
44 Bibbings, pp. 66-7.
45 Evans, IWM interview, reel 9.
46 Hansard, HC Deb 23 May 1916.
47 Wimbledon Borough News, 01/07/1916.
48 Army Order 203, quoted in Rae, p. 161.
49 Wimbledon Borough News, 08/07/1916.
50 Howard Marten, White Feather: Leeds University Special Collections,
LIDDLE/WW1/CO/061 Box 1, pp. 25 & 45; IWM interview, reel 5.
51 The three preceding quotations in this paragraph are printed in Ann Kramer,
Conscientious Objectors of the First World War (Barnsley, 2014), pp. 95, 96, 102.
52 Stanton, p. 168; reports and letters in Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/39.
53 Report 11/07/1916 in Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/39; Marten, White Feather, p. 105.
54 Rae, p. 190, note 2.
55 Record card: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, Friends Service Committee file.
Pearce Register has 31/08/1916.
56 Marten, White Feather, p. 112.
57 Graham, p. 232.
58 Joyce A Walker, Dyce Work Camp, Conscientious Objectors and Public Opinion in North-East
Scotland, 1916: A Documentary History (Kindle edition, 2011), ch. 3.
59 Macdonald’s speech of 19/10/1916 is printed in Walker, Appendix 2.
60 Walker, ch. 6.
61 Letter from Stanton to the N-CF and other reports: Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/36.
62 Letter from Stanton to the N-CF and other reports: Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/36.
63 Letter 24/09/1916: Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/36.
64 In Ann Kramer, Conchies: Conscientious Objectors of the First World War (London, 2013); on the
website of the Peace Pledge Union <http://www.ppu.org.uk/coproject/index.html>; on the cover of
Refusing to Kill (Peace Pledge Union).
65 Marten, IWM interview, reel 5.
66 Evans, IWM interview, reel 9.
67 FoR Conscription Committee Minutes 19/06/1917: LSE Library, COLL MISC 0456/5/3.
68 Memorandum for Agents: The National Archives, PCOM 7/12.
69 Rules: The National Archives, PCOM 7/12.
70 William Brace MP, Hansard, HC Deb 19/10/1916.
71 William Brace MP, Hansard, HC Deb 15/11/1917; letter from the Bishop of Exeter in The Times,
72 Stanton, p. 213.
73 Percy Leonard, interview (1974): Imperial War Museum, audio file 382, reel 2; The Home Office
and Conscientious Objectors: The National Archives, HO 144/21081.
74 William Brace MP, Hansard, HC Deb 17/10/1916; The Tribunal, 05/04/1917.
75 Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 03/03/1917.
76 The Home Office and Conscientious Objectors.
77 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 3.
78 Eric Dott, quoted in Goodall, ch. 5.
79 The National Archives, PCOM 7/12.
80 Transcript of interview tape 71: Leeds University Special Collections,
LIDDLE/WW1/CO/061 Box 1.
81 William Brace MP, Hansard, HC Deb 06/11/1917.
82 Howard Marten, quoted in Graham, p. 237.
83 Quoted in Graham, p. 235.
84 Eric Dott, quoted in Goodall, ch. 5.
85 Mark Hayler, quoted in Goodall, ch. 5.
86 Barrett, p. 263 note 8.
87 FoR Conscription Committee Minutes, 19/06/1917.
88 Howard Marten, quoted in Graham, p. 235.
89 Joseph Hoare, interview (1974): Imperial War Museum, audio file 556, reel 5.
90 Western Times, 19/03/1917.
91 Western Times, 08/05/1917.
92 Letter in Daily Mail, 26/04/1917, quoted in Bibbings, p. 97.
93 Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke, Hansard HC Deb, 23/04/1917.
94 Letter from the Bishop of Exeter in The Times, 08/10/1917.
95 Marten, interview, reel 5.
96 Hoare, IWM interview, reel 2; Eric Dott, quoted in Goodall, ch. 5.
97 Pearce Register; Percy Leonard, IWM interview, reel 4; Hampshire Advertiser, 14/07/1917.
98 Yorkshire Evening Post, 04/01/1917.
99 Yorkshire Evening Post, 16/08/1917.
100 J P M Millar in Julian Bell ed., We Did Not Fight (London 1935), p. 249.
101 Graham, p. 244.
102 Leeds Mercury, 22/11/1917.
103 The National Archives, PCOM 7/17.
104 Manchester Evening News, 16/08/1918; The National Archives, PCOM 7/17.
105 Letter in Wallace Cartwright, private papers: Imperial War Museum 16782.
106 Committee Minutes: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, TEMP MSS 1001/1;
FoR Conscription Committee Minutes, 19/06/1917.
107 Chester Chronicle, 12/01/1918.
108 Manchester Evening News, 24/11/1917.
109 Correspondence in Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, TEMP MSS 1001/22.
110 Chester Chronicle, 04/05/1918.
111 Letter to Home Secretary: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, TEMP MSS
112 Nantwich Guardian, 21/05/1918 and 24/05/1918; Knutsford and Nantwich Advertiser, 24/05/1918.
John Graham’s presentation of the police evidence is unfairly selective.
113 Committee Minutes, 13/05/1918: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain,
TEMP MSS 1001/1.
114 Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, TEMP MSS 1001/16.
115 Rae, pp. 234-5.
116 The Venturer, III (March 1918) p. 165.
117 Kramer, pp. 154-5.
118 Letter from Murray to John Graham, quoted in Rae, pp. 152-3.
119 Letter from 10 Downing Street: Carlisle Archive Centre, D MAR 4/4.
120 Rae, pp. 155-6.
121 Gerard Oram, Death Sentences Passed by the Military Courts of the British Army 1914-1924
(Revised edn, London, 2005).
122 Gordon Corrigan, Mud, Blood and Poppycock (London, 2003), p. 225.
123 Stanton, quoted in Barrett, p. 135.
124 Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 1 (2): 158 (1981).
125 Jack Foister, transcript of interview, pp. 8-9: Leeds University Special Collections,
126 The Home Office and Conscientious Objectors.
127 Kramer, p. 126.
128 FoR Conscription Committee Minutes, 24/04/1917.
129 The Friend, 23/11/1934.
130 Men’s committees at Knutsford prison: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain,
TEMP MSS 1001.
131 Sixty Years On: Merton Library and Heritage Service; church website.
132 Revd W A Birkbeck, History of Holy Cross: Surrey History Centre, 6257/6/1.
133 Revd W A Birkbeck, History of Holy Cross: Surrey History Centre, 6257/6/1.
134 Surrey History Centre, 3830/1/26.
135 Surrey Comet, 02/05/1925.
136 Letter to H W Peet, 16/06/1916: Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain,
Friends Service Committee file.
Acknowledgement of copyright permissions
Quotations from parliamentary debates: Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence.
Front cover: photograph: courtesy of Peace Pledge Union.
Inside rear cover: poster: © IWM (Art.IWM PST) Non-Commercial Licence.
Inside rear cover: photograph of Harold Brewster: courtesy of Mrs J Hazlitt.
Rear cover: the Brewsters’ gravestone: © Merton Historical Society.
Reverse of Contents page: proclamation: © IWM (Q 42474) Non-Commercial Licence.
Page 12 extracts: Field General Courts Martial, The National Archives, WO 213/9.
Watery Lane, Merton: courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service, Merton Memories MerMor_Streets_Sa_Wa_46-1.
St Saviour’s church, Merton: courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service, Merton Memories Wim_23_4-3.
Warwick Prison: courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office, CR2902/89.
Wakefield Prison: courtesy of Wakefield Council, 1997.718.
Dartmoor and Dartmoor prison: courtesy of Plymouth Libraries, PCC/76/5/11951.
Group photograph c. 1920: reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library, Liddle Collection, LIDDLE/WW1/CO/030.
Harold Brewster Letter: © 2018 Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain:
LSF TEMP MSS 853/Box 1/B5 letter from Harold Brewster to T E Harvey.
Page 30: photograph of Revd John Scarlett: courtesy of Surrey Comet and Kingston History Centre.
Page 30: FoR badge: reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library, Liddle Collection, LIDDLE/WW1/CO/061Box 5.