29th Apr 1916. Lord Denbigh & Conscientious Objectors

LORD DENBIGH & CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS.

To the Editor of the Rugby Advertiser.

Newnham Paddox, 27/4/16,

SIR,-Since my return from a year’s service in Egypt a few weeks ago, I have been reading in your paper with shame and indignation of the various attempts made by ” conscientious objectors ” and others to evade their duty to their country and save their own skins.

If you have sufficient space, perhaps you will publish the enclosed copy of a letter which I have just sent to a rev gentleman in Lancashire.

I wish he and others like him could visit the front trenches and the ruined towns and villages in France and Belgium, and see what war means. I wish they had been with me the other day when I was able to go to the front trenches on my way back through France.

I was in what before the war was a prosperous, tidy, and well ordered mining village of excellent houses. It is now half in actual ruins and half deserted by the inhabitants, but with most of the houses more or less knocked about by shells, and unbroken panes of glass are rare.

You approach this spot by a long deep communication trench which is frequently shelled, and it goes down the main street where the gutters used to run ; it branches out in various directions and these branches run in tunnels under houses and through cellars until at last one arrives at the firing trench, cunningly worked in amongst ruined walls, made up with sandbags and the various protective traverses and dug-outs.

When I got back to the headquarters, where two shells had gone through the roof the night before, after staying a short while in a telephone exchange in a cellar, while an adjoining square where the field kitchens were was being shelled for half-hour or so in hopes of catching the men coming for their food—a shell had knocked out a party of men there the night before—I found a French soldier in uniform under an escort of two British.

He had been found wandering about the forward trenches, and his movements were rightly regarded as   suspicious, so he was arrested and brought along. His story was as follows :- He had lived and worked in this village before the war, and he gave the number of his house in a certain street, now only semi-existent. He left his wife and two children, also a sister and six children, there on the day of mobilisation. He had been twice wounded himself in Champagne last year, and since his departure twenty months before he had not heard one word of his relations, and he didn’t know where they were nor what happened to them. He had got five days’ leave from his regiment to come and endeavour to obtain news of them, and when arrested he had been trying to find where his home had been. His papers were quite in order, and I believe his story was quite correct, and it is just typical of what has happened to thousands of others in the war area.

This is war as it is known to-day and practised by the Germans. This is what we wish to protect our country from.

I, too, am a ” conscientious objector.” I conscientiously object to being murdered by a Hun, to seeing my house burnt and my family ill-treated, and probably murdered too, by brutal German officers and soldiers ; also to seeing these things happen to the inhabitants of my country, though I confess it would do some of these “objectors” and sham-exemption hunters good if they were made to suffer. I object to those who are for over trying to mislead the people of this country with wrong conceptions of what we are fighting for, and what we shall be reduced to if we do not win this war or if we make an inconclusive and premature peace.

I also object to one section of the population being obliged to go through the dangers and hardships of modern war whilst undue facilities are given to others to shirk and shelter themselves behind the former.— Faithfully yours,            DENBIGH.

[Copy].

To the Rev. Percy Stoll, M.A., B.D., Vicar of St. Peter’s, Halliwell, Bolton.

SIR,—I have received from you a circular addressed to Members of the House of Lords and to which you request a personal reply. Having a few minutes to spare, I have much pleasure in sending you one.

You apparently ask on behalf of your two sons, whom you say are destined for the Ministry, total exemption from all ” complicity in this war,” in which you rightly say England is ” standing forth as the protector of weak nations,” and you say you have ” stood for 25 years for duty to God, State, and Church.” As you truly say, ” War is admittedly a gigantic evil,” but I am not aware that Christ has ever taught that nations or individuals wrongfully attacked are not entitled to make as strenuous a defence as possible.

The matter, therefore, resolves itself thus: We are fighting to defend ourselves against a nation, which knows no creed but that of force and might, and if we are defeated it is well known that we shall be utterly crushed and ruined, as a nation, and that the enemy will strive by every means in his power to land in this country and treat us to exhibitions of ” frightfulness ” of which the horror perpetrated in Belgium and France may safely be regarded as mild samples. You say that you and your sons are so averse to ” harming anyone ” that you ” would not take the sword, even against enemies.”

Let me ask you, therefore, this question : Having regard to the brutalities against inoffensive civilians—especially women and children—which have disgraced the German army in Belgium and France, are you or are you not amongst those unnatural curs who have admitted that if they saw their wives and daughters being insulted by German soldiers, they would not take any violent action to save or rescue them, even if it was in their power to do so, either by themselves or in conjunction with others.

If, owing to your objection to “ taking a sword even against enemies,” you have to admit that you would take no steps for rescue or protection under the above circumstances, I hope the female members of your congregation will take note of the fact. As women generally admire courage in a man, they will probably express their opinion of you in plain terms.

But perhaps you will say you certainly would put up a fight to the best of your ability to protect the honour and the lives of your women folk. In this case, you are no genuine conscientious objector to using violence when you or yours are in danger, and I look upon you as humbugs and hypocrites in your refusal to have any “ complicity ” in this war, which is for the purpose of protecting these islands against the savagery of German invaders.

I take it you are against all ” complicity ” either as combatants or non-combatants. Parliament, in its wisdom, has arranged that those with genuine religious objections to combatant service shall be permitted to help their country as non-combatants, who, in limited numbers, have a useful field of work open to them.

I have some respect for those Quakers, for instance, who object to fight but are ready to perform the often very dangerous duties attaching in these days to stretcher-bearers on the battle-field. I, have no vocabulary capable of expressing my contempt for those who refuse to assist in any capacity or to share the dangers and hardships of those who are so bravely defending them from a hideous fate.

If your sons can show conscientious objections to fighting themselves and taking the lives “ even of their enemies,” they can no doubt be placed in a non-combatant corps.

In this guise, they can rescue and comfort the wounded, fix wire at night time in front of the forward parapets, dig trenches, dug-outs and latrines, and carry stores and sandbags into the trenches, and perform many other useful and innocuous but necessary duties, and so allow those who are fighting for them to obtain a well-earned rest.

Your sons will be all the better ministers for having been brought into close contact with Death, suffering, and manly courage in the trenches, and will, if they are spared—as I hope they may be—come back with perhaps loftier ideas than they now apparently have as to what constitutes their duty to “ God, the State, and the Church.”

Faithfully yours.

DENBIGH,

Colonel Commanding H.A.C.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

In memory of Lieut R W Poulton Palmer, the famous Rugby footballer and captain of the English XV, who was killed in action about a year ago, a beautiful marble tablet has been placed in the Parish Church at St Helens, Isle of Wight. It bears the inscription : “ In memory of Ronald, Lieut R W P Palmer, B.A, Rugby and Balliol, 1/4th Royal Berks Regt (T.F), younger son of Edward and Emily Poulton. Killed in the trenches in Belgium, May 5, 1915. Age, 25 years. An athletic leader of rare distinction, he was endowed with even greater gifts of love and joy. ‘God is love.’ ”

P A MORSON WINS WELL-EARNED REWARD.

P A Morson, son of Mr Arthur Morson, the esteemed clerk to the Rugby Council, who has been serving as a private in the Honourable Artillery Company, has been granted a commission in the 11th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Second-Lieut P A Morson was educated at Rugby School, and was one of four chums who sailed from England the same day, the other three being Pepperday and the two brothers Bluemel. Two have laid down their lives for the country, and the second brother Bluemel has been seriously wounded. Lieut Morson went out with 150 volunteers on July 1st of last year. He has been through practically all of the strenuous fighting in which the British troops have been engaged since that date. Second-Lieut Morson came home on short leave on Easter Monday night, and returned to the front last night.

SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO AN OLD LAURENTIAN.

News has been received that Flight Sub-Lieut Warner H Peberdy, son of Mr W W Peberdy, of Albert Street, has been invalided home from the front as the result of a serious aeroplane accidont in Flanders. Sub-Lieut Peberdy is suffering from spinal concussion and severe shock to the nerve centres, and is now taking a rest cure in the South of Ireland under medical supervision, where he is making very favourable progress. He is one of the many Old Laurentians who have come back from far corners of the Empire to do their bit for the Old Country. He came from Canada with the first squadron of aviators. Formerly he was a student engineer in the early days of the B.T.H. at Rugby, and after completing his course there he went to the United States. When the war broke out he travelled in Canada to help to organise the Canadian Curtin Aviation School, at Toronto. He acted as manager during the first three months of the school’s rapid growth to the position of the largest civilian flying school in the Empire.

WARWICKSHIRE YEOMANRY IN ACTION.

After taking part in the Gallipoli campaign, the Warwickshire Yeomanry are now fighting in Egypt, and took part in the fighting at Katia on Easter Sunday. Our mounted troops, consisting of the Gloucestershire Hussars, the Warwickshire Yeomanry, and the Worcestershire Yeomanry, who were holding a position in and about the village of Katia, were attacked by a greatly superior Turkish force, before which they fell back, fighting a rearguard action, and inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.

An Objector Sentenced.—Pte Sydney Dodd, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, a conscientious objector to military service, has been sentenced to 21 days’ imprisonment for refusing to do all military duty. Dodd was first ordered by the local Tribunal to do non-combatant service, but as a result of his appeal to the County Tribunal about a month ago he was finally put down for combatant service.

A Rupert Brooke Memorial.—It has been decided to set in Rugby Chapel a memorial of Rupert Brooke. It will take the form of a portrait medallion in marble, based on a photograph by Sherril Schell, which appears as the frontispiece of the 1914 volume of poems. The medallion will be the work of Professor J Havard Thomas. No other memorial of Rupert Brooke is at present in contemplation.

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