Newsclippings "Fenner Brockway Charged" and "Mr. Fenner Brockway and the Marple Tribunal"


1916 circa


Newsclippings "Fenner Brockway Charged" and "Mr. Fenner Brockway and the Marple Tribunal"


1916 circa


news report of C.O. being charged; C.O.'s letter to the editor


WWI British C.O.'s charge, and reasons for his stance


Bow-Street, London, Great Britain


Brockway, A. Fenner, Westminster Gazette, The Herald


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Brockway, A. Fenner


Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.











At Bow-street to-day Archibald Fenner Brockway, editor of the "Labour Leader," and a leading official of the No-Conscription Fellowship, appeared as an absentee under the Military Service Act.

Lieutenant Allott, the Stockport recruiting officer, said that prisoner refused to do the work given by the Pelham Committee, and the Local Government Board referred him again to the local tribunal.

Prisoner said that he told the Pelham Committee that to undertake any ordered work would be "bargaining with his conscience."

"No officer, no Act of Parliament, no order made by you, sir, and no tribunal will make me a soldier, though I may be 'deemed' to be one, and I count it a privilege to come here and bear witness to those principles which I hope in the near future to have an opportunity of showing my adherence to," concluded prisoner.

The magistrate (Mr. Graham Campbell) inflicted a fine of 40s, and ordered prisoner to be handed to a military escort.

Westminster Gazette


THE HERALD, July 15, 1916 [1918?]



To the Editor of the "north Cheshire Herald,"

Dear sir, -- As a Conscientious Objector to participation in war, I claimed absolute exemption from the provision of the Military Service Act. The Marple Tribunal recognised my conscientious objection, and agreed to exempt me from all military duties, combatant and non-combatant, but it declined to give me absolute exemption on the ground that some sacrifice ought to be imposed upon me. It accordingly referred me to the Pelham Committee, so that work of "national importance" might be provided for me. I appeal against that decision on the grounds:

1. That the proceedings of the local Tribunal were irregular, and

2. That I am not prepared to undertake any work as a condition of being excused from the military service imposed by the Military Service Act.

The proceedings of the Marple Tribunal were irregular since the Chairman acknowledged that the Tribunal had come to its decision before calling me. No questions were put to me by any member of the Tribunal, and I was not permitted to make any statement. The Chairman began the proceedings by saying "It is not our intention to ask you any questions," and proceeded. "We are sorry to find from your written answers that you are not prepared to undertake any form of national service. We will not ask you your reason for that." Later, the Chairman, and the Tribunal had determined to enforce national service upon me as far as it could, because it considered I ought to make some sacrifice. That is to say: --

a. The Tribunal rejected by claim for absolute exemption without hearing me.

b. It was not satisfied with my written reply to the question referring to national service, but did not permit me to elucidate it.

c. It imposed national service upon me as a penalty involving sacrifice without making any effort to ascertain whether the objection I had stated to it was conscientious or not.

a. To reject a claim without hearing an applicant and without giving him an opportunity to provide further evidence of his sincerity is clearly contrary to paragraph 13, section 2, part 1. of the "Regulations for Tribunals under the Military Service Actions 1916," which reads as follows: --

In any case in which the local Tribunal are of opinion that the application does not give the the required particulars, or does not disclose prima facie grounds for considering the application, it shall be competent to the Tribunal to notify the applicant that unless further or better particulars or grounds, as the case may be, are given the application will be dismissed; and in any such case, unless further or better particulars or grounds, as the case may be, are delivered to the Tribunal not more than three clear days after such notification has been sent by the Tribunal, or within such extended time as may be allowed by the Tribunal, the application shall be dismissed.

b. It is clearly the duty of a Tribunal to endeavor to understand the reason why an applicant cannot accept a certain form of exemption. Only thus can it satisfy itself whether the objection is conscientious or not. The Chairman of the Marple Tribunal said "We will not ask you your reason for that" (for declining to undertake work of "national importance.")

c. Tribunals are not penal authorities with power to impose sacrifice upon an applicant when they think fit. They are instructed to meet the conscientious objections of the applicant. The Chairman stated that national service was imposed upon me, not because the Tribunal held that my stated objection to it was insincere, but because it considered I ought to make some sacrifice. The decision was, therefore, based on a misunderstanding of the functions of the Tribunals.

The Marple Tribunal has admitted my objection to war to be so real that it considers that I should be exempted from military service. It recognizes that I hold war to be utterly wrong. Yet it expects me to consent to bargaining myself out of the Military Service Act by agreeing to do other work as a condition of being exempted. It says "If you will do 'A' we will excuse you from doing 'B.'" I am unable to consent to such bargain. I must answer "I believe 'B' to be absolutely wrong. If I were to agree to do 'A' under such conditions, I should be acquiesding to 'B,' and should become a party to it. I cannot acquiesce in it, or become a party to, war.

Perhaps I can best express my feelings in this matter by an illustration, which, though imaginative and extreme, will make clear the principle involved.

Suppose a State, in a time of great economic pressure wer[e] to decide that every man and woman above 60 years of age was an unjustifiable burden upon the country, and, therefore ordered its young men to kill all persons who reached that age. It might be expected that many young men would conscientiously object to doing any such thing. "Very well," the State might say to them, "we recognise your conscientious objection, but if you are to be excused from killing the old people you must at least consent to creating their bodies." Such a task would be a hygienic benefit to the whole community, but might we not expect many young men to answer "No, the whole thing is diabolical. I will have nothing to do with it. If i consented to cremate their bodies under such conditions I should become a party to the crime by which they were put to death."

In the same way I just reject the offer of altnerative service. To me war is mueder. If I consented to bargain with it, I should feel I were guilty of participating in murder.

(To avoid misunderstanding, I must add that I would not for a moment think of levelling the charge of murder against those who engage in war from a high sense of duty. An act must be judged by its motive: and I recognise that many noble men, hating war with all their being, have been impelled to fight from the loftiest principles. They have followed where their consciences have led, and I revere their courage and sacrifice.)

On these grounds I am compelled to appeal against the decision of the Marple Tribunal.

A. FENNER BROCKWAY 16, Upper George-street. Bryanston-square, London. W.


Brockway, A. Fenner, Westminster Gazette, The Herald, “Newsclippings "Fenner Brockway Charged" and "Mr. Fenner Brockway and the Marple Tribunal",” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed January 21, 2019,

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