Turner, Sidney Robert

1881 - 1972
He was born in Redhill and was 36 in 1916

98 Drakefell Road, New Cross

Sidney Turner was an architect and was single. He was a former liberal who had been a member the Deptford Liberal Association and the Strand Liberal Club and in all probability broke with the party over the Military Services Act. He a was a free thinker, had no religion and was a member of the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War
He appeared before the Deptford Military Service Tribunal on May 25, 1916 and his statement to the tribunal is printed in the Dulwich NCF leaflet July 1917 p.5. He asked for absolute exemption as he had "held conscientious objections to war over fourteen years" and objected to the "leprosy of militarism''. His request was rejected.

He was conscripted into the 10 London Regiment and, when he failed to report to his regiment, he was arrested as an absentee and appeared before Mr Hay Halkett (Metropolitan Police Magistrate). The Kentish Mercury, July 21 1916 reported the Magistrate as saying that it was "an extraordinary travesty of the English language - that a man who has received notice to do what he has not chosen to do is supposed to have done it: that a man who has not joined the colours is deemed to have done so." He was remanded in bail at £10 so that he might prosecute an appeal. On 28 July the Kentish Mercury 9 reported that he had been returned to court, was fined 40s and was handed over to the army. He was said to have told the court: "I shall not be a soldier : they can shoot me if they like"

His first court-martial was held at Hurdcott on 11 August, 1916 when he was sentenced to 112 days hard labour. At the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs on 21 August he was held to be a genuine conscientious objector, class A, and referred to the Brace Committee.

Prison experiences

Sidney rejected the Home Office Scheme as an absolutist believing that any alternative service supported the war effort and conscription. He was returned to his regiment and again appeared before a court-martial on 28 November, 1916 when he was sentenced to 2 years hard labour at Exeter prison. Sidney now 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 1919 he had served three sentences and had spent more than two years in gaol in Exeter, Wormwood Scrubs, Winchester, and Wandsworth.

Conscientious Objectors still in prison in April 1919 were released under what became known as the “Two Year Rule”, whereby all kinds of prisoners convicted of army offences would be released if they had served two years or more. When Sidney was finally dishonourably discharged from the army 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 before courts-martial and imprisoned he would not have been allowed vote for five years from the end of the war.

Note The Peace Pledge Union hold his personal collection of papers.

Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds, Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors
The Kentish Mercury, July 21 and July 28, 1916.
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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