Brett, Joseph

He was born in September 1892 in Chelsea and died in 1976

6 Ffinch Street, Deptford

The 1911 census shows him living at this address with his father Joseph, mother Kate and two sisters. In 1917 he was single and worked as a general labourer and box maker.

Joseph Brett was a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and an atheist. He provided the original inspiration for the Conscientious Objection Commemorative Stone unveiled in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London on 15 May, 1994 by the composer, Sir Michael Tippett.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War:
He did not present himself before a Military Service Tribunal nor report for duty when called up. He was arrested at home as an absentee and handed over to the 6 London Regiment and was court martialled at Newton Abbot on 23 February, 1917 where he was sentenced to 112 days hard labour in prison. On 12 May at the Central Tribunal in Wormwood Scrubs Prison he was found to be a genuine conscientious objector, Class A and was referred to the Brace Committee Home Office Scheme and to its work centre at Talgarth, Wales and later to Wakefield and Dartmoor work-camps.

As a conscientious objector who had been court martialled and imprisoned Joseph would not have been allowed vote for five years from the end of the war.

After the First World War:
Now married with two children his family had moved to Bermondsey to escape the ridicule of his refusal to fight. Joe Brett found only one job after the war and when he ran out of unemployment insurance he was sent to a Government Labour Camp.

Having opposed the war, Deptford would not have been a comfortable place for Joseph to live in; it had had witnessed violent scenes on 17 October, 1914 when a mob of men and women attacked a dozen shops occupied by Germans, wrecking several of them; its Mayor Sir W. Wayland had raised no fewer than 4,700 recruits in 1915 in response to Kitchener's appeal to the heads of municipalities and it was notorious for its use of non-unionised labour and political apathy.

Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors.
Short Biography included in "International Conscientious Objectors Day. 15 May 1914" in a pdf written by the Peace Pledge Union
There are also Wikipedia entries online

Ann O'Brien, Volunteer at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, November 2014.

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