Frayling, Walter Russell


He was born at Cliffe-at-Hoo, Kent and was 29 years in 1917


24 Wellbottom Road, Brockley

Walter Frayling was a Chemist's Assistant, he was single and lived with his father Walter and mother Emily.

He was a Quaker who attended the Peckham Prayer meeting and was a member of the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was the Secretary of London and Middlesex Quarterly Meeting Peace Committee.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War

Walter appeared before the Military Service Tribunal at Deptford on 24 July, 1916 and claimed absolute exemption. This was not granted and his appeal was heard by the London County Appeal Tribunal, where exemption was conditional on his being accepted as doing Work of National Importance. His case was heard by the Pelham committee in September 1916, but Walter refused to accept its conditions or to leave his own work and report for duty.

On 8 November, 1916 he was arrested as an absentee and tried at Greenwich Police Court where he was fined and handed over to the Royal Fusiliers. He was first court martialled at Hounslow on 20 November and sentenced to 112 days hard labour, commuted to 6 months. At the central tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs on 26 November he refused to accept the conditions of the Home Office Scheme.

Prison experiences

Walter was an absolutist, believing that any alternative service supported the war effort and conscription. He now began a cycle of disobeying orders, being courts martialled and sentenced to a period of hard labour in a civilian prison on discharge he would be handed back to the army for the cycle to recommence. From 1916 to 1919, he served three sentences of hard labour and more than two years in Wormwood Scrubs, Wandsworth and Pentonville prisons.

He would have been supported while in prison by the No-Conscription Fellowship and by Quaker chaplains and visitors.

Conscientious Objectors still in prison in April 1919 were released under what became known as the “Two Year Rule”, whereby all prisoners convicted of army offences were released if they had served two years or more and Walter was finally released. As with all others in this situation he was dishonourably discharged and his discharge papers stated he faced another two years in prison if he tried to sign up again, proof if it were needed that the military had no sense of the absurd.

After the First World War
His address on release is shown as c/o 99, Jermingham Road, New Cross. As a conscientious objector who had been court-martialled and imprisoned Walter 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
Dulwich N-C.F What are Conscientious Objectors? July 1917 in the Cumbria Archive Centre ref:D/Mar/4/97

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

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