Byngham, Henry John


33 Harcourt Road, Brockley

He was aged 19 in 1916. He was probably a Quaker and was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Dulwich branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War:
He may not have presented his case to the local Military Service Tribunal and was conscripted into the 10 London Regiment at Salisbury. He first court martial was held at Hurdcott Camp on 19 July 1916 and he was sentenced to 6 months hard labour commuted to 112 days to be served in Winchester County Prison; his sentence was increased to 18 months hard labour on 27 July 1916

On 14 August, 1916 the Central Military Service Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs held Henry to be a genuine conscientious objector, class A and recommended him to the Brace committee. He was then discharged to the Home Office Scheme and can be seen in an October 1916 Dyce Camp photograph (photo.28). After six months he rejected or was rejected by the Home Office Scheme and was returned to his unit. He was court martial again on 16 March, 1917 at Teignmouth and sentenced to 2 years hard labour commuted to 6 months.

Prison experiences
Henry was now an absolutist and began a cycle of disobeying orders, being sentenced to a period of hard labour in a civilian prison and on discharge being handed back to the army for the cycle to recommence. By January 1919 had served 3 to 4 sentences and more than two years in prison. He was released in April 1919 under two year rule, whereby all prisoners convicted of army offenses would be released if they had served two years or more.

He was then dishonourably discharged from the army and was told that he faced another two years in prison if he tried to sign up again!

After the First World War:
As a conscientious objector who had been court-martialled and imprisoned, Henry would not have been allowed vote for five years from the end of the war.

Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds, Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors

Ann O'Brien, Volunteer Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, September 2016

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