Griffiths, Alexander

He was born in London and was 24 in 1917

30 Musgrove Road, New Cross

Alexander was a teacher and a member of the National Union of Teachers and the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship. He was a Congregationalist and was also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War:
He appeared before the Military Service Tribunal in Deptford where his claim to be a conscientious objector was rejected. He did not report to his regiment and his arrest as an absentee was reported on 15 September,1916. He was handed over to his regiment the Royal Fusiliers and was first court-martialled at Hounslow on 29 September when he was sentenced to 6 months hard labour. At the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs on 23 October, 1916 he was found to be a genuine conscientious objector, class A, and referred to the Brace Committee (Home Office Scheme). He was sent to the Dyce Camp (photo 60), but he rejected the Home Office Scheme and was in turn was rejected by it.

Prison experiences

Alexander was returned to his regiment where he was again court martialled on the 13 January 1917 and was sentenced to 2 years hard labour commuted to six months. He was now an absolutist believing that any alternative service supported the war effort and conscription and he began a cycle of disobeying orders, being sentenced to a period of hard labour in civilian prisons and on discharge being handed back to the army for the cycle to recommence. By January 1919 he had served three sentences and had been imprisoned for more than two years in Maidstone, Wandsworth and Pentonville prisons.

He would have been supported in his stance while in prison by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

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 Alexander was finally released then. 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 humour.

After the First World War:
As a conscientious objector who had been court martialled and imprisoned Alexander 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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