Christadelphians

Christadelphians have been conscientious objectors since the start of their movement, refusing to join any nation's military service. Initially they had been reluctant to adopt a name because of the non-creedal stance of their founder, and it was in order to achieve recognition of their opposition to enlistment into the armies of the American Civil War that they did so.[1] In Britain during the first world war, they formed the single largest group of conscientious objectors, motivated by religious beliefs, who were exempted from conscription to undertake "work of national importance".[2]

Frank Jannaway and the South London Ecclesia

As early as February 1915, Christadelphians petitioned Parliament to grant them "legal exemption from military service", if conscription was introduced. Because of the foresight and the remarkable work of Frank Jannaway, supported by the South London Ecclesia, the Government's Central Tribunal worked out a formula on 6 April, 1916 to meet Christadelphian objections to undertaking non-combatant roles. Prior to then Military Service Tribunals had treated each Christadelphian appeal on what they saw as its individual merits, and by August 1916 some members had been enlisted, court martialled and imprisoned.[3] Confusion about the Christadelphian's cause also arose because some brethren, mainly in Birmingham, accepted any work that did not require the taking of a military oath, even in munitions. This did positive harm to the way members were regarded by tribunals and the public. The South London Ecclesia was acutely aware of the damage done their cause by those members willing to produce weapons, but unwilling to use them, and on a number of occasions they exhorted all brethren to "seek those occupations furthest removed from munition work".[4]

Meanwhile Frank Jannaway continued to negotiate with the Army Council to get imprisoned Christadelphians released and to safeguard their position. He compiled a special register of bona fide Christadelphians of military age and in August 1916 the War Office and the Central Tribunal arranged for all Christadelphian cases to be referred directly to the Pelham Committee. As a result about 1,400 Christadelphians were immediately granted exemption by the Army Council[5] and by the end of the war the Pelham Committee had dealt with a total of 1,716 applications from Christadelphians.

Hamilton Hall Ecclesia, Forest Hill

In Lewisham, at the outbreak of the first world war there was one Christadelphian Ecclesia, Hamilton Hall in Forest Hill, it was founded in 1907[6] and is still in use today. Details of eight Lewisham based Christadelphians can be found in the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors, and so far one more name, Mr. Harrington's, has been found in the local press. Their names and available details are listed below and all undertook work of national importance. So far research suggests that none undertook work that directly helped the waging of war.

Brown, J.I Cardall, W.V.A Cuer, Alfred Lanham Cuer, Edwin Wedge
Davies, Thomas N. Harrington, H. Payne, Alfred H. Smith, Charles H.
Vingoe, Frederick

Note on Sources: Copies of the Minutes of the Pelham committee are held in the archives of Harvey, T. Edmund, Library of the Religious Society of Friends Temp Mss 835

References
1. Christadelphian Research, http://www.christadelphianresearch.com/conscientiousobjection.htm
2. John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919, London OUP 1970, Appendix C.
3. Frank George Jannaway, Without the Camp: Being the Story of How and Why the Christadelphians were exempted from Military Service. Published by the Author, London 1917 pp.22-24
4. Frank George Jannaway, Without the Camp: Being the Story of How and Why the Christadelphians were exempted from Military Service. Published by the Author, London 1917 p. 249
5. John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919, London OUP 1970, pp. 114-115
6. Churches in the Hundred of Blackheath, compiled by L.A.J Baker and published by the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society 1961.

Books
Frank George Jannaway, Without the Camp: Being the Story of How and Why the Christadelphians were exempted from Military Service. Published by the Author, London 1917
John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919, London OUP 1970


Ann O'Brien, Volunteer at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, April 2015, revised 25 October, 2015.

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