A Mother and Her Son's Conscience

Transcript of a Report from the Lewisham Borough News March 17, 1916


"I may mention that whatever decision you come to I shall not take any action against the Germans. I believe if I murder any Germans I shall have to answer for the consequences before God" said a young man, whose mother appeared with him before the Tribunal on Friday evening to support his claim for exemption on health and conscientious grounds. He was a Baptist.
Mr. Harry, the military representative, asked him if he had joined any anti-conscription fellowship and if he had attended any meetings.
Applicant : I do not belong to any society but on one occasion I attended a Brotherhood Church at New Southgate.
When did you attend there? - Last Sunday evening.
Do you object to non-combatant service? - I object to helping the military machine in any way.
The Chairman suggested that if applicant were given a non-combatant certificate he could do scavenging at the front, which would help to maintain health and save life at the front.
Applicant : No I should not be willing.
Mr Harry : Your mother is here; have you brought her her to give evidence on her behalf? - Not as regards the conscientious objection.
May I ask your mother if she is a conscientious objector?
The Mother : Yes, I am and I have brought up my boy as a conscientious objector and taught him that it is wrong to take life.
Supposing the Germans were over here and attempted to ill-treat you, would you expect him to stand aside and let them do so?
Mr. Marchment protested that the question was an improper one, but the Tribunal held otherwise, and the son retorted, "We are not in those circumstances now".
The Chairman said that he did not think that the lady's opinion was of much importance.
Applicant said that he would defend his mother if attacked by a ruffian, but he was not going into training for deliberate and cold blooded murder.
Mr Harry remarked that the applicant appeared to have learned the anti-conscriptionists' formula well. He gather that from his parrot-like answers.
The mother protested that her son did not take his principals from the Anti-Conscription Fellowship. She had brought him up to believe it was wrong to take life or enter in any fight.
The youth made the statement, quoted above. It appeared that the lady had another son, unattested, but who was appealing the following day. The application for exemption was refused".

Lewisham Borough News, March 17, 1916

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

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