at its beginning at least, World War One may have been popular,
it might be said to be a different story in at least one West Yorkshire
Huddersfield there was a significant number of conscientious objectors,
men who fought hard not to go to war.
Barraclough as a young soldier
Barraclough was one of the thousands from West Yorkshire who willingly
volunteered, signing up in Bradford as a teenager. He says: "I
was proud to be an Englishman. If you played football or rugby you
were a sportsman, and if anything like this came along you'd go
without argument, but if you were a yellow-belly you'd do anything
to get out of it."
"getting out of it" wasn't an option in 1916 when mass
conscription was introduced for the first time. More men were needed
for the front line and tribunals were set up around the country
to see why some were unable or unwilling to join up.
Pearce, a lecturer at Leeds University and Huddersfield resident,
has uncovered transcripts of tribunal hearings held at Huddersfield
Town Hall. He says: "In March 1916 one of the key figures in
the war resistance movement in Huddersfield, Arthur Gardiner, came
to the military service tribunal to argue his case for exemption
from military service and the town hall was packed.
this experience was absolutely brand-new in British history and
had never happened before. There had never been conscription in
Britain before, and there had never been any reason to establish
tribunals to adjudicate on people's conscientious objections to
tribunal members were drawn from local councillors and the military
authorities and they were unsure how to deal with this situation.
Arthur Gardiner talked to them about his anti-war attitude in times
of peace as well as in times of war.
military tribunal took place in Huddersfield Town Hall
son, Don Gardiner, says of his father: "He was used to speaking,
able to express himself and had quite a sharp mind so he had prepared
what he was going to say. Perhaps some of the others hadn't thought
it though thoroughly. The tribunal were rather taken aback by this."
Arthur Gardiner told the tribunal: "I have no country. I realise
the interests of the workers in Germany are identical to those of
the workers of England. For that reason I can not march against
them and I will not."
usually the conscientious objectors that came before the tribunal
were Quakers with ethical objections to killing. Cyril Pearce says:
"Arthur came in with a totally different set of arguments because
he felt he had more in common with working men and women throughout
Europe than he had with the people in Westminster who were telling
him he ought to be fighting."
was followed by a succession of other men who objected to what they
saw as a capitalist war in which they did not want to have any part.
tribunal decided that Gardiner was a conscientious objector and
he was granted exemption for two months but, at the end of this
period, his appeal was rejected. He was drafted into the army with
five other prisoners and they were all given a rousing send-off
by sympathisers at Huddersfield Railway Station who sang the Red
Flag as the train pulled away.
Gardiner and his fellow conscientious objectors may have been seen
by some of their fellow citizens as heroes, in the eyes of the authorities
they were nothing more than criminals.
of the conscientious objectors were sent to places like Richmond
Castle before being shipped off to France and the front.
the war many of the conscientious objectors did have difficulty
being accepted back into their communities but Arthur Gardiner went
on to become mayor of Huddersfield.
information can be found in Comrades in Conscience – the Story of
an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War by Cyril Pearce
published by Francis Boutle.