A family affair: Cardiff’s conscientious objectors

We know very little about most of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors (COs) in the First World War.  There are just 66 names are to be found in the Pearce Register, the most comprehensive list of men who refused to go to war on religious, ethical, political or social grounds, often with only the sketchiest details of their backgrounds, motivation, tribunal, prison or other records.

In her third blog, Maggie Smales takes a look at those for whom being a conscientious objector was a family affair.

The oldest Cardiff man on the Pearce Register was actually too old in 1916, at 64, to be called up for active service.  William Trimnell was a herbalist, originally from Bristol, who had lived in Wales since the 1870s and operated from premises in Roath.  Trimnell regularly advertised all kinds of medical potions in the English and Welsh press e.g. Y Celt on 7 November 1884.

Dymuna W. TRIMNELL ddwyn i sylw y cyhoedd yn gyffredinol y ffaith fod ganddo yr ystoc helaethaf o Lysiau Seisnig a Thramor, Gwreiddiau, Rhisgl, Blodau, Hadau, Dail, &c., yn Neheudir Cymru.

(W. TRIMNELL wishes to bring to the attention of the general public the fact that he has the largest stock of English and foreign vegetables, roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves, etc., in Southern Wales.)

However, it was for a rather different matter that William Trimnell was brought before Ton Pentre police court on 29 June 1916.  He was charged with distributing in Gilfach Goch near Tonyrefail “pernicious literature… likely to prejudice recruiting, training and discipline of His Majesty’s forces”.  Citizens of the World, the offending pamphlet, contained proposals for armaments reduction and promoted a world-wide organisation against war.

According to the Rhondda Leader of 17 June 1916, the case was dismissed by the Stipendiary magistrate who declared the pamphlet to be:

“…a thing of shreds and patches true, and a crude attempt to apply its principles internationally.   We had gone to war to prevent war in the future, and he did not see anything in the pamphlet likely to influence young men not to recruit.”

Within his own family, Mr Trimnell undoubtedly did influence young men not to recruit.  Two of his younger sons, both of whom worked with him in the family business, Henry John (born in 1878) and Abraham Joseph (born in 1888), were conscientious objectors.

Henry Trimnell and Abraham Trimnell  may have been considered to need more training, or not fit enough, as they were first posted to 60 Training Reserve Battalion of the Welch Regiment at Kinmel Park, Abergele near Rhyl towards the end of 1916.  Here, having refused to serve they were both sentenced on 23 November 1916 to 2 years with hard labour,  commuted to 1 year 253 days, in Wormwood Scrubbs. They were both brought before the Central Tribunal on 27 December 1916, and having been found to be “Conscientious Objectors Class A”, both were referred to the Brace Committee for posting to suitable work of national importance.

They may have been absolutists, or perhaps their civilian placements were over-ruled, but both were recalled to the army, to different regiments.  Abraham, the younger man, was assigned to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  The regiment had been sent to Ireland at the end of November 1917, and on 23 July 1918 a court martial in Limerick sentenced Abraham to a further two years of imprisonment with hard labour.  Henry was assigned to the Reserve Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and was court-martialled at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool on 27 June 1918 and was also sentenced to two years with hard labour.

The Pearce Register tells us nothing about the specific motivation for the Trimnell family’s pacifist stance.  However, it is likely that there were strong socialist ideals in the family.  The local press reveals that the oldest Trimnell daughter, Henrietta, or Hetty (born in 1876), who was something of a bluestocking, was an active member of the Cardiff Labour Church.

The Evening Express in 20 August 1894 reported that:

At the Cardiff Labour Church on Sunday evening an able and interesting paper was read by Miss Trimnell on “The Work on the Labour Church and the New Movement.” Miss Trimnell is a student at the Cardiff University College, and those who know her prophesy a brilliant career for this gifted young lady.

Labour churches provided a stepping stone towards socialism for those who found that the established churches failed to condemn the worst excesses of capitalism.

The Trimnell family were not the only Cardiff family with more than one member on the Pearce Register.  Another example were the Dodge cousins, Frank (born in 1889) and William James (born in 1892).  Their fathers Samuel and James Richard Dodge were brothers from Crewkerne in Somerset, and had settled in Cardiff and founded a business as hay and corn merchants.  Both boys worked for the family firm.  Frank Dodge , a married man, was brought before a Military Service Tribunal in Cardiff, who must have found him to be a genuine conscientious objector as he was assigned to work of national importance, which he apparently undertook from 31 July 1916 until 25 April 1917, first farm work, then as a porter on the Great West Railway in Hereford and finally market gardening.  William James Dodge, also married, was brought before the same Tribunal and assigned to farm and market garden work between 31 July 1916 and 2 October 1917. We don’t know what happened to them then, but since the distribution of corn and grain was the kind of activity considered to be “in the national interest” presumably they returned to their original trades.

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Cardiff’s Conscientious Objectors: Religion and Politics

We know very little about most of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors (COs) in the First World War.  There are just 66 names are to be found in the Pearce Register, the most comprehensive list of men who refused to go to war on religious, ethical, political or social grounds, often with only the sketchiest details of their backgrounds, motivation, tribunal, prison or other records.

In the second instalment, Maggie Smales looks at the ‘Cardiff’s Conscientious Objectors: Religion and Politics’.

Religion:

Details for most of Cardiff’s COs are sparse, but where the Pearce Register reveals motivation, it is clear that religion, and membership of certain denominations in particular, was the most common.

We can deduce that at least seven of the men were Quakers. The Religious Society of Friends declared its commitment to peace in 1660 and since then has opposed all wars.  Quakers resisted the introduction of conscription in 1916 and many chose to register as conscientious objectors. However most of these Quaker men in Cardiff did choose to join some kind of non-combatant service, feeling this was the quickest way to end the war.

For example, the architect Laurence Angus joined the Friends War Relief Victims Service (FWRVS) as a volunteer at the start of the war and went with them to France in November 1914.  Nonetheless when conscription was introduced, he was brought before the Military Service Tribunal for Dinas Powys and Llandaff in April 1916 but was granted Exemption from Combatant Service conditional on remaining with the FWRVS.  He went on to serve with the FWRVS until the end of the war. Norman Edmunds is reported as hut building in France with the FWRVS from August 1915.

The Christadelphians were another religious group who were committed to pacifism from the time of their foundation in the first half of the nineteenth century.  They avoided activities that are regarded as “of the world” including military service.  Five Christadelphians are identified on the Pearce Register.  Like William Jones, they all accepted work of national importance.  William was actually allowed to stay where he was as manager of the Maypole Dairy (a national chain at the time) in Canton. This was felt to be punishment enough in view of his poor health and the fact that densely populated Canton was not a particularly salubrious area.

There were four men in Cardiff identified as members of the (Plymouth) Brethren, another denomination which refused to carry arms.  Thomas Charles Mason, a furniture packer from 33 Llanfair Road in Canton, was typical.  He joined the Non-Combatant Corps in Cardiff in June 1917 and was finally demobilised in January 1920.

One man whose case was mentioned in the press was Arthur Spurgeon Gage (born 1893), son of a carriage builder, who in the 1911 census was living with his parents in 211 Mackintosh Place in Roath.  Arthur was the Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Wales, which made him more prominent than many COs, and a local minister, Llewellyn Williams, wrote to Y Cymro on 1 August 1917 to protest:

AT OLYGYDD Y CYMRO.

Annwyl Syr, A fedrwch chwi fforddio ychydig o’ch gofod prin i air ar y paragraff a ganlyn, a ymddangosodd ym mhapurau Caerdydd heddyw-Gorff. 23.

(To the editor of Y Cymro

Dear Sir, Can you afford some of your limited space to air the following paragraph, which appeared in today’s (23 July)  Cardiff papers .)

Arthur S. Gage (24), Welsh Secretary of the Students’ Christian Movement, was charged at Cardiff today with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. Defendant claimed that the law of conscience was above the law of the land, and that was absolutely contrary to the life and teaching of Christ. Defendant was fined £5, and ordered to be handed over to the military.”

The Reverend Williams went on to write about the value and important of the Student Christian Movement and to regret:

Ond y mae’n amlwg fod y gwaith, er ei bwysiced, yn ddibwys ddigon yng ngolwg ein hawdurodau milwrol, ac i bob golwg, y maent o’r farn v bydd egwyl o orffwys yn awyrgylch iachusol Wormwood Scrubbs neu Dartmoor neu Garchar Caernarfon yn llawer mwy o wasanaeth i’r wladwriaeth ar ran Mr Gage na chynorthwyo i Gristioneiddio Colegau Cymru, a gwasanaethu’r Gymdeithas sy’n dipyn o swcwr i’r bechgyn a’r genethod di brofi a sy’n heidio o gysgod a gofal cartrefi i wynebu bywyd coleg a’i beryglon diri.

(But it is clear that the work, important though it is, is trivial in the eyes of our military authorities, and apparently they think that a break in the wholesome atmosphere of Wormwood Scrubbs or Dartmoor or Caernarfon prison will allow Mr Gage to serve the state better than assisting Christianity in the University Colleges and serving a movement which brings succour to inexperienced boys and girls who come from the shelter and care of home to face the countless dangers of college life ‘.)

Arthur had been posted to the Non-Combatant Corps of the Welch Regiment in Oswestry, but refused to go.  He was court-martialled on 4 August 1917 and sentenced to 112 days imprisonment with hard labour in Wormwood Scrubbs.  The following month, the Central Tribunal found him to be a Conscientious Objector class A and at the beginning of November 1917, under the Home Office Scheme, he was sent to Knutsford Work Centre in Cheshire.  Pearce notes that he went on to do postwar work with the Friends War Relief Victims Service.

Politics

A second group of COs were political activists of the left who saw the First World War as an imperialist war and as an example of the ruling classes making a war that the workers had to fight. Nine men on the Pearce Register are identified as being members of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), sometimes in combination with membership of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and/or the Trades Union Movement.

An example was James Ewart Edwards, born in 1883. The son of a schoolteacher, in the 1911 census he was still living with his family in the schoolhouse in Eglwysilan.  He became a schoolteacher himself and was an NCF member and a trade unionist.  Pearce notes that the Military Service Tribunal in Cardiff awarded him exemption from combatant service only. He was called up and given a medical, but was found to be unfit for military service, transferred to Army Reserve Class W, and allowed to return to his teaching post. He was one of four Cardiff LEA teacher Conscientious Objectors asked to resign by the City Council.

 

Who were Cardiff’s First World War Conscientious Objectors?

We know very little about most of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors (COs) in the First World War.  There are just 66 names are to be found in the Pearce Register, the most comprehensive list of men who refused to go to war on religious, ethical, political or social grounds, often with only the sketchiest details of their backgrounds, motivation, tribunal, prison or other records.

Over the next five days, a different blog will be published to offer an insight into the lives of these men who have remained out of the spotlight. In this first instalment, Maggie Smales looks at the ‘Cardiff’s Conscientious Objectors: the Young and the Old‘.

From the Register we can deduce that most COs were single men in their early to mid-twenties. The youngest for whom we have a date of birth (18 August 1900) was a grocer’s assistant called Bertie Crocker, who lived in 7 Glamorgan Street in Canton and was a Baptist.  When Bertie was eighteen years old he was called up to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He refused to sign his army papers and was court-martialled in Cardiff on 16 September 1918 and sentenced to 6 months hard labour in Wormwood Scrubbs.  He went in front of the Central Military Tribunal in Wormwood Scrubbs on 4 December 1918, almost a month after Armistice Day.  Here he was finally accepted as a ‘Conscientious Objector Class A’ and was referred to the Brace Committee Home Office Scheme which organised work of ‘national importance’ for men who were found to have a ‘genuine’ conscientious objection.  On 13 December 1918 Bertie was transferred to Army Reserve Class W for men ‘whose services are deemed to be more valuable to the country in civil rather than military employment’ and he was sent to work on Dartmoor.

One of the oldest men to refuse call up was a Mr T Stephens, who was 44 in 1918, married and a foreman in a flour mill.  He went before Glamorgan County Military Service Tribunal and in October 1918 it was decided that in view of ‘his age, domestic circumstances and his trade’ he should be allowed to stay where he was. Mr Stephens worked for Cardiff and Channel Mills, owned by the Spillers company; at least one other conscientious objector, a furniture salesman called Mr GS Lavers, was also directed to work there by the Military Service Tribunal in May 1917, as this was considered to be work of ‘national importance’.

Another man in his early 40s when he was called up was Walter Sirrell.  Born in Hereford in 1876, by the time of the 1911 census Walter was living in Cardiff at 110 City Road with his wife and three children all under the age of 10.  His occupation was given as ‘Shopkeeper, Tailor and Outfitter’.  At some point he had also lived in Llandrindod and so his arrest caused interest in the district.  The Brecon and Radnor Express reported on 13 June 1918:

‘Mr Walter Sirrell, formerly of Llandrindod Wells, has been arrested at Cardiff as an absentee under the Military Service Act, and has for two weeks been a prisoner in gaol. He has refused all Army service as a conscientious objector. He is 42 years of age, married, and several children. During his residence at Llandrindod Wells he was manager of Mr C. M. Binyon’s outfitting business, and he was for some years Hon. Secretary of the United Temperance Society, a teacher in the Friends’ Sunday School, and a Christian Endeavourer.’

There was even a short notice in Y Cymro on 20 June 1918:

‘Yn y carchar y mae Mr Walter Sirrell, gynt o Landrindod, am ei fod yn gwrthod gwneud dim gyda ‘r fyddin am ei fod yn wrthwynebwr cydwybodol.’

(Mr Walter Tirrell, formerly of Llandrindod, is in prison for having refused to have anything to do with the war and for being a conscientious objector.)

After about a month in prison he went before the military tribunal in Cardiff on 3 July 1918 and was sentenced to six months hard labour in Wormwood Scrubbs.  Six weeks later, the Central Tribunal at Wormwood found him to be Conscientious Objectors Class A and referred him to the Brace Committee.  However he was clearly an absolutist who refused any form of alternative service, as the next reference to him in the Pearce Register is that he was serving a sentence to Cardiff Civil Prison in May 1919, six months after the end of the war.

Albert E Rudall

By Seren O’Brian

Albert Rudall is the only Newport man mentioned on a commemorative stone in Tavistock Square, London, which records the names of the 69 Conscientious Objectors who died as a result of mistreatment during the First World War.

Albert was born in late autumn 1887 and christened in St Mark’s Anglican Church, Newport on the 2 November. He is mentioned in two censuses; in 1901 he was living at 145 Shaftesbury Street with his parents Tom and Emma, his older brother Thomas and his younger sister Rose, and in 1911 he was living in 25 Wheeler Street, Newport with his parents, and sister. By this stage, Albert was already working as a brewer’s labourer. Otherwise we know that he was one of eight children, of whom five were still alive, and his family was English speaking.

Albert was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) both of which were opposed to war.  As a single man aged 28 he was one of the first to be called up under the Military Service Act which came into force on the 2 March 1916.  He refused to serve and was arrested as an absentee on the 30 April 1916, tried on the 1 May by Newport Magistrates, was fined 40 shillings and handed over to the military authorities. His case was refused by the Military Service Tribunal in Newport and the County Appeals Tribunal so he was drafted into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Cardiff where yet again he refused to obey military orders.

The No-Conscription Fellowship kept records of what happened to every member and published information in sympathetic newspapers such as the Pioneer. On the 20 May 1916 we can read a report from Emrys Hughes, himself a member of the NCF:

South Wales Conscientious Objectors. THEIR POSITION UNDER THE MILITARY NOTE FROM EMRYS HUGHES.

The following summary of the South Wales Conscientious Objectors has been prepared by the Wales Division of the N.C.F. for us, and is complete up to the 10th inst. We have had a letter card this week from Hughes, in which he mentions that […]  G. Dardis, C. James, R. James, E. James (Risca); P. Pope, A. Rudall, A. J. Hewinson, H J. Davies, B. G. Davies D Herbert (Newport); I. Shepherd, J. Shepherd, and W. Jones (Pontypridd); [were] transferred 10/5/16 from Garrison Artillery Barracks, Cardiff, to Kinmel Park Camp, Abergele..

In Kinmel Park, which is situated near Rhyl, Albert was brought before yet another court martial on the 25 May and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with hard labour, commuted to 112 days with hard labour. The Pioneer picks up the story on the 10 June 1916:

NINE SOUTH WALIANS SENT TO WORMWOOD SCRUBBS. Comrades Percy Pope, Albert Rudall, Arthur J. Hewinson, G. Reynolds, Dorian Herbert, J. H. Davies, Trevor C. Griffiths (all of the Newport Independent Labour Party and No- Conscription Fellowship Branches), Joseph Shepherd (Pontypridd), and W. T. Jones (Treforest) were on Friday removed from Kinmel Park to Wormwood Scrubbs to commence their period of two years’ hard labour for “disobeying in such a manner as to show willful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.”

Once prisoners arrived at Wormwood Scrubbs they were allowed to send an “official letter” to their families. The whole form was printed, and all that had to be filled in by the prisoner was their state of health, and how long it would be before they were allowed to write another letter home. We don’t know just what Albert wrote but one of his fellow Newport prisoners is quoted by the Pioneer:

In this case the words, “My sentence is two years,” were added in writing: H.M. Prison, Wormwood Scrubbs, June 3rd, 1916. Dear Father, I am now in this prison, and am in usual health. If I behave well I shall be allowed to write a letter about 7 weeks time and to receive a reply, but no reply is allowed to this. My sentence is two years.  Signature, ARTHUR HEWINSON.

After two months Albert went before the central tribunal at Wormwood Scrubbs and finally was accepted as a ‘Class A’ i.e. a genuine conscientious objector. Under the auspices of the Home Office Scheme he was found ‘Work of National Importance’ mending roads at Clare in West Suffolk.

The Pearce Register doesn’t tell us any more about Albert’s war service but just one month before the end of the war he sadly died as a result of his poor treatment as a conscientious objector. On the 19 October 1918 the Pioneer reports:

In Memoriam. DEATH OF ALBERT RUDALL, C.O. We regret to announce the death of Albert E Rudall, of Newport, Mon. Comrade Rudall was an old I.L.P.er, and one of the original C.O.’s to be arrested under the Military Service Act. After his imprisonment he was released on to the Home Office Scheme and worked at Keddington, Warwick and Dartmoor.

A short while ago he was allowed to proceed home to find work under the H.O. new scheme of Exceptional Employment and, owing to the time-limit imposed in such cases, was compelled to undertake work for which he was entirely unsuited. The result is he has left us for good. His Newport comrades are filled with grief at the loss of so sincere, unassuming, but enthusiastic a supporter of freedom and international brotherhood – a grief which we feel sure will he reflected throughout the whole C.O. movement.

The Shepherd Family of Ystalyfera and Pontypridd in the First World War

By Maggie

Tevia Rudinsky left behind his wife and baby son in Siemiatycze in Russian Poland when he fled to Britain to escape conscription into the Tsarist army in 1877, at the start of the Russo-Turkish war.

Conscription in 19th century Russia was particularly severe – men could be conscripted for 25 years and Jews were explicitly singled out for harsh treatment with boys as young as 12 potentially liable for military service.  Forced conversion was not unusual. Such historic memories, and the fact that Russia not Germany was associated with the most brutal manifestations of anti-Semitism in the years leading up to the First World War, had a considerable influence on the often hostile attitude of Jews of Russian origin to the idea of compulsory service in the British Army.By 1916, when conscription was first introduced, Tevia Rudinsky, now aged 60, and having meanwhile changed his name to Tobias Shepherd and taken on British nationality, was living in Cambria Villa, 3 Tyfica Road in Pontypridd with his wife and his British-born younger children. He owned a successful shop selling glass, paper and decorating materials in Ystalyfera in the Upper Swansea valley.  Three of his younger sons were liable for conscription and all three became conscientious objectors, as did his daughter, the author Lily Tobias.

The Conscientious Objectors

Isaac Shepherd- the oldest of the three young men, was 24 in 1916, and working as a decorator. He was an active member of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF).  However, the Conscientious Objector’s Register notes that his main motivation for his decision to resist conscription was his Jewish faith.

On 2 May 1916, Isaac was arrested in Pontypridd with his brother Joseph, tried in the Magistrates’ Court, fined 40/- (£2) and handed over to be taken to the recruiting office in Cardiff.  He was held in Garrison Artillery Barracks in Dumfries Place and then transferred on 10 May to Kinmel Park Camp, Abergele, near Rhyl.

On 31 May 1916, Isaac was sentenced by a court martial at Kinmel Park to 2 years’ hard labour.  He was held in Walton Prison in Liverpool from 9 June until 1 September 1916.  He was then released on leave pending instructions about his Home Office Scheme placement under the Brace Committee.  In comparison to his brothers, Isaac seems thereafter to have been given a relatively easy time by the authorities.  Llais Llafur, the local radical socialist newspaper in Ystalyfera, reported on 30 September 1916:

“As announced in our column last week, Mr Isaac Shepherd… has been released from prison where he has served time as a conscientious objector.  He has now returned to his home at Ystalyfera and will manage the business at the Wern paper stores”.

Isaac was officially transferred to the army reserve class on 20 December 1916.

Solomon Shepherd was 20 in 1916 and working as a wallpaper and glass salesman in the family firm. He was brought before the Military Service Tribunal in Pontardawe on 28 April 1916 where his claim, based on his Jewish faith and ILP and NCF membership, was dismissed.  A county appeal in May 1916 was similarly dismissed and the following month he was arrested, tried in Swansea Police Court on 21 June 1916, fined 40/- (£2) and handed over to the military authorities.

On 1 July 1916 The Herald of Wales & Monmouthshire Recorder reported his trial thus:

Solomon Shepherd, of Ystalyfera, who was arrested at Ystalyfera by P.C. Cook, was charged with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. When the charge was read to him, he replied, “I object on principle.” The police officer produced two circulars found on defendant, and handed them to the magistrates. Major Jessel said defendant had been notified three times – on May 8, June 1, and on June 10 a reminder to report himself in 24 hours. He had taken no notice. He said he did not intend to serve. He had caused trouble. Defendant: I’ve caused no trouble. Major Jessel: It has been reported to me that you have. Mr. J. H. Rosser: If you don’t obey orders you get into trouble. Defendant: I object to it. Mr. Rosser: A great many object to it – shirkers like yourself. Defendant: I am no shirker. If others had done their duty I would not be where I am now. Mr. Rosser: You will pay 40s. and be handed over to the military. You must do your duty and not try to get out of it.

Solomon was held for a couple of weeks in Cardiff Barracks and then at a court martial on 14 July 1916 was sentenced to 112 days’ hard labour.  After serving his time in Cardiff Prison he was released on 13 October 1916 to the Home Office Scheme.

The high number of conscientious objectors held in prison and scandals arising from the harsh treatment of some COs had led to a government decision to provide an alternative for “absolutists” who refused not only to obey military orders but also to undertake any war-related work. The Brace Committee, named after the eponymous Home Office Under Secretary of State, organised work of ‘national importance’ for men whom a central tribunal found to have a ‘genuine’ conscientious objection.  These work schemes were often poorly organised, with the men living in appalling conditions that amounted to imprisonment and punishment by another name.

Under the Home Office Scheme, Solomon was sent to work at waterworks near Llangadog in Carmarthenshire.  Here his health broke down and he went home to see his doctor.  On 6 January 1917, Llais Llafur reported:

Mr Solomon Shepherd, of the Wern paper stores, who has served four months in a civil prison as a conscientious objector, was home during the early part of the week. He has now accepted alternative service, and is engaged on the Llyn-y-Fan water works. The camp, at which about 80 conscientious objectors are employed, is about a nine mile tramp from the nearest station, Llangadock. 

Solomon was recalled to his unit on 21 January 1917.  He must have ignored the summons as he was arrested again on 23 February 1917.  At a court martial on 24 April 1917 at Kinmel Park Camp near Rhyl he was sentenced to 2 years’ hard labour.

Joseph, the youngest of the three brothers, was an academic high achiever who entered Cardiff University in October 1915 with a John Cory Scholarship worth £25 a year and a Glamorgan Exhibition worth £40 a year. He was arrested in Pontypridd with his brother Isaac on 2 May 1915.  Llais Llafur reported on 6 May 2016:

Isaac Shephard (23) and Joseph Shephard (19), Pontypridd (late of Ystalyfera) were charged at Pontypridd on Tuesday with being absentees under the Military Service Act. Both pleaded not guilty and asked for a remand. Isaac said that he wanted to obtain legal advice, while the younger defendant stated that he held a four years’ scholarship at the University College, Cardiff, and wished to consult the Principal and the Registrar. They were each fined 40s. and ordered to await an escort.

After being held in Garrison Artillery Barracks in Dumfries Place in Cardiff, Joseph was transferred on 10 May 1916 to Kinmel Park Camp. From here, next day, he wrote a letter on behalf of himself and his brother, appealing for help, particularly with respect to the provision of kosher food.

My brother Isaac and I are being kept in the above hut owing to our conscientious objection to all forms – combatant and non-combatant – of military service.  We are the sons of extremely orthodox Jewish parents. Our upbringing has always tended to uncompromising hostility to military service, and we intend, Sir, to be faithful to the Jewish atmosphere which we have always breathed.

After describing their arrest and sentencing in Pontypridd, the letter continues:

The armed escort […] took us to Castle Arcade Recruiting Office, Cardiff. Here in addition to the jeers and abuse that always assail the conscientious objector, we had sneers and threats of a very anti-semitic flavour. Despite all attempts at intimidation (threats to be shot, tortured etc.) we refused to sign anything or be medically examined.

During their nine days of incarceration in the Dumfries Place barracks:

[…] we had no complaints to make about our treatment or our food. We expected to suffer hardship and we must not complain whilst suffering it.  At Cardiff our friends and relatives kept us well supplied with food, a hot kosher dinner being sent in every day. Here we don’t know what to do about dinner; we shall probably have to go without any unless arrangements can be made with the commanding officer […]

 At a court martial in Kinmel Park on 25 May 1916, Joseph was sentenced him to 2 years’ hard labour in Wormwood Scrubs. Alongside his Jewish faith, he also emphasised ILP and NCF membership as his motivation for refusing military service.

The Merthyr Pioneer reported on 10 June 1916 that nine South Walians had been sent from Kinmel Park to Wormwood Scrubs on the same day.

Comrades Percy Pope, Albert Rudall, Arthur J. Hewinson, G. Reynolds, Dorian Herbert, J. H. Davies, Trevor C. Griffiths (all of Newport ILP and NCF Branches), Joseph Shepherd (Pontypridd), and W. T. Jones (Treforest) were on Friday removed from Kinmel Park to Wormwood Scrubbs (sic) to commence their period of two years’ hard labour for “disobeying in such a manner as to show wilful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.”

Joseph’s case was eventually reviewed by tribunal on 1 September 1916 and he was released to the Home Office Scheme, which in his case took the form of road mending at Clare in West Suffolk.

The Reluctant Soldiers

Meanwhile Tobias Shepherd’s older sons Moses and Barnet followed a rather different path in their attempts to avoid conscription.  Both had been born in Russia, Moses/Moshe, also known as Moss, in 1877 and Barnet in 1884.  They were not included in Tobias’ British citizenship application in 1904, so technically were ‘aliens’.

When conscription was introduced in 1916 the question arose of what to do with ‘friendly aliens’, especially Russian Jews of military age.  It was first agreed that they would be allowed to join the British Army voluntarily; their failure to do so in any great numbers led to a decision in June 1916, finally implemented in summer 1917, to conscript them on the same terms as British citizens or offer them the chance to return to Russia and join the army there.

Barnet seems to have been first conscripted in 1917 and attempted an appeal on the grounds that he had people dependent on him who would not be able to maintain themselves if he were forced to enlist in the army.  On 12 July 1917, the Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News reported a second unsuccessful tribunal hearing.

A meeting of the Carmarthenshire Appeals Tribunal was held at Llandilo (sic) on Thursday… Barnet Shepherd, 24, College Street, Ammanford, came up for a re-hearing, supported by Mr. E. Harries, solicitor, Swansea, who said one of the grounds of application, that he was a Russian subject, would not be gone into, as it was laid down that had nothing to do with the Tribunal.

The Clerk said the applicant was 34 years of age, and Class A. The application was dismissed at the first hearing, and a re- hearing granted.’ He claimed in the first instance that he was not liable for military service, being a Russian subject; secondly, he had a wife and five children, the eldest being nine years old. He had been in his present business twelve years, and had a large stock worth £12,000, which would take a considerable time to dispose of… He was only left himself in the business, and it would be impossible for his wife, being ill, or anyone else to manage the business. […] He was practically the only glazier left in the district. He formerly employed five men, and all were in the Army except one. Three of them were glaziers, and he did the glazing now, besides carrying on the shop. His wife was in a delicate condition of health, and had been suffering for two or three years past. If he were called away his business would have to be closed down, and it would not be possible to re-build it after he came back from the Army. He claimed that this was a case within the decision of the Central Tribunal, being a one-man business, and it was a case of serious domestic hardship. […] 

The appeal was dismissed, applicant not to be called up for a month. 

Barnet did then join the army but at some point, probably after the end of the war, he deserted.  On 21 February 1919 the Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser reported:

Bertha Shepherd, wife of Pte. Barnet Shepherd, formerly in business in College Street, Ammanford, was charged under D.O.R.A. (Defence of the Realm Act) with withholding information as to the whereabouts of her husband, who is a deserter from the forces; and further with being an alien she changed her residence without giving notice to the registration officer […] Inspector Davies gave evidence and stated that defendant was a Russian subject. Cross-examined he had nothing direct to prove that the wife’s statements were incorrect. Re-examined he understood from her that she was in touch with her husband. Mr. Griffith, addressing the Bench, said the husband was a Welsh-speaking Jew, while the defendant came from some part of Germany or Russia, and had no friends here, and was not conversant with British law. The Bench found the defendant guilty of a technical offence in changing her residence without notification, and she would be fined the costs, with half-a-guinea advocate’s fee. As regards withholding information there was not sufficient evidence to justify a fine.

Moses/Moshe/Moss Shepherd was also called up in 1917 and again tried to avoid military service, in his case (falsely) on grounds of age.  On 20 April 1918, the Herald of Wales and Monmouthshire Recorder noted:

On 26 January of this year Alfred Moses Shepherd (sic), of Grove Place, Swansea, described as a Russian subject, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at Swansea Police Court for making a false declaration in order to evade military service. Shepherd appealed against this sentence, and the appeal came on for hearing before the Recorder at the Swansea Quarter Sessions on Thursday.

Mr. Marlay Samson […] for the respondents […] dealt with the various sections of the Military Service Act. When war broke out Shepherd registered as an alien (Russian), and later in 1917 a Proclamation was made by the King calling upon all Russians of military age to join the Colours. These men could either return to Russia for that purpose or remain in this country and join the British Army. Shepherd, on registering in 1914, had said he was born in January 1879, but on his form of appeal for exemption sent to the Tribunal he said he was 44.  In view of that fact (the army) did not oppose the application, and the Tribunal decided that as he was 44 he was ineligible.

Enquiries were (later) instituted and proceedings were taken as the result of which Shepherd was convicted and sentenced. Evidence was then called. Mr. Llewelyn Williams submitted that when Shepherd stated his age to be 44, any doubt cast on that was a matter for a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to decide. The man had not been called before the Tribunal, and in any case the Tribunal could not decide the question of age. Shepherd adhered today to his statement that he was 44.

The Recorder upheld the conviction, but reduced the sentence from six months to one month.

After serving his sentence, Moses joined the army, serving latterly in the 9th Labour Battalion, which was formed in April 1918 from non-naturalised Russians domiciled in UK.  By that stage, following the October Revolution, Russia was out of the war and considered to be an enemy power. As a result the Russians were kept segregated; probably for fear that they might spread the revolution to Great Britain, with the 9th Battalion being stationed at Fort Scoveston, near Neyland in Pembrokeshire.

Like his younger brother Barnet, Moses also deserted at the end of the war.  On 4 January 1919 Llais Llafur reported:

At Swansea on Monday, Mrs Fanny Shepherd (35) of Grove Place, Swansea, was charged with withholding information in her possession which might reasonably be required to furnish particulars concerning Pte. Moses Alfred Shepherd, “he being a deserter from the Russian Labour Company at Fort Scoveston”, from Detective-Sergt. Gubb on 28 November. Defendant refused to inform Detective-Sergt. Gubb of the whereabouts of her husband, Pte. Moses A. Shepherd. Mr. Edward Harris, for the defence submitted that defendant did not know where her husband was, and that she only had a vague idea of the town in which he was staying. She had stated to the detective, when asked, that she would make inquiries. Pte. Shepherd was granted special Jewish leave in September last, and had never returned. A fine of 40/- was imposed.

The Author

Lily Tobias (née Shepherd) was Tobias Shepherd’s oldest daughter and his first child to be born in Wales. Lily was a committed socialist and began to write short pieces for the influential local socialist newspaper, Llais Llafur, in 1904 when she was in her late teens. She and her sister Kate (mother of the poet Dannie Abse) were both active supporters of the Independent Labour Party.  With her husband Philip (they married in 1911) she was also very involved in the Jewish literary and debating society movement in South Wales.

As a political activist and a writer, Lily fought for female suffrage, the rights of working people and a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.  She, like her younger brother Joseph in particular, held a strong socialist pacifist belief that the First World War was being fought for imperialist interests against the interests of the workers.  Fenner Brockway, editor of the Labour Elector (the newspaper of the ILP) and co-founder of the No-Conscription Fellowship, knew her well. He remembered her in conversation with Leo Abse as “an active and belligerent pacifist… showing great resourcefulness and courage in defying the authorities and assisting draft dodgers, and those in prison”.

Lily’s second novel Eunice Fleet drew on her brothers’ experiences as conscientious objectors to draw a picture of a middle-aged  businesswoman trying to live with the negative reactions of herself and others to her late husband’s stand as a conscientious objector in the First World War.  First published in 1933, it was considered radical at the time, making the suffering of pacifists, rather than the suffering of soldiers, its central concern.

Sources

Details of the tribunals and sentences of the three younger Shepherd brothers are taken from the Conscientious Objector Register to be found at https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/

All newspaper sources quoted can be found in the National Library of Wales digitised database http://newspapers.library.wales/home

Information about Lily Tobias, as well as Joseph Shepherd’s letter to his family from May 1916, is taken from Jasmine Donahaye: The Greatest Need: the creative life and troubled times of Lily Tobias, a Welsh Jew in Palestine  (Honno, Dinas Powys, 2015).

The story of E. P. Jones, Pontypridd

By Aled Eurig 

From a Pontypridd family, E.P. Jones objected to war on religious grounds. As a Christian, he believed that war of any kind was wrong, and that no-one had the right to kill their fellow human beings just because they were of a different nationality, or because your government told you to do so. He belonged to the No-Conscription Fellowship (an organisation that encouraged men to refuse war service) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (a peace group) – but stressed that his stance as a conscientious objector was taken as an individual.

After refusing to serve (in 1915, at the age of 25) E.P. Jones’ story follows a pattern that was typical of conscientious objectors in World War 1: they would appear before a tribunal, then be sent to prison when they refused to serve, then back in front of a tribunal, and back to prison. This was called the ‘cat and mouse’ treatment. He served terms in Caernarfon, Wormwood Scrubs and Walton (Liverpool).

Eventually E.P. Jones was released to do ‘work of national importance’. This involved building a reservoir above the village of Llannon (Carmarthenshire). The work camp was in a very remote location, and the Llanelly Chronicle reported that the men spent their time ‘up on the bleak top of the hill’. E.P. Jones himself described the work as hard, fit for a ‘qualified navvy’. Some of the camp guards were cruel and unjust: one objector, Frank Davenport, was sent back to prison for refusing to go to work in a snowstorm, whilst another fled back to prison because of the ‘callous neglect’ he had suffered in the camp.

This contrasted sharply to the welcome that the COs received from the local community. In the words of E. P. Jones:

The Tumble was special like that. You would go for tea with them on Sunday, and everyone, every denomination, was kind with everything; they let us borrow books from the library. You could not get more kindness.”

Once a month E.P. Jones was allowed home for the weekend. He was disappointed by the way he was treated by the ‘important people’ (the elders and the deacons) in his chapel: they were very cold towards him, some refused to look at him or speak to him.

North Wales Women’s Peace March 1926

Stephen Thomas
Volunteer – Wales for Peace
Peace March

Following the horrors and destruction of the First World War (1914-1918) many women around the globe became activists in the campaign for arms reduction and for the end of war as a means of settling international disputes. Across Britain a variety of women’s groups came together to organise a peace pilgrimage to London for a mass demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926. In north Wales, under the leadership of two tireless peace activists, Mrs Gladys Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts, a procession of peacemakers travelled for five days through the towns and villages of north Wales to reach Chester. Eventually 28 north Wales’ pilgrims joined the 10,000 women at the Hyde Park demonstration.

World War 1 unleashed unimaginable levels of death and destruction across the whole planet. Millions of people, both military and civilian, were killed or suffered serious injury – estimates for casualties run from 30 million upwards, but the true number will never be known. From Britain alone over 723,000 service personnel were killed in the conflict and over a million more were seriously injured. The war had destroyed the lives of so many young men on the battlefield that by 1921, there were one million more women in Britain than men, aged between 20 and 39. It meant that many women were unable to find partners in life or have children and raise a family. The impact of the war on Britain was devastating both socially and economically.
As early as 1915 there were organisations of women around the world calling for mediation between governments to end the war. By 1919 the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) had become a permanent committee with a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism, supporting the US /France Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, as the basis for creating a peaceful world order.
The women of Britain were very much involved in these quests for peace, freedom and equality. (Remember, in Britain, it was only in 1918 that all males over the age of 21 finally won the right to vote. And it wasn’t until 1928, and the Equal Franchise Act, that the same rights were applied to women over 21 for the very first time). In light of this struggle to have their voice heard, under the slogan ‘Law not War’, a variety of women’s groups from across Britain came together in 1926 – as wives, widows, mothers, sisters and friends – to organise a huge peace pilgrimage to London.
The women peacemakers of north Wales began their march in May 1926 with a meeting in the village of Penygroes, just south of Caernarfon. As was reported at the time “To the first meeting at Penygroes in South Carnarvonshire on May 27th came five streams of pilgrims winding their many blue flags down the hill-sides, and over 2000 persons were gathered in the little market square from villages far up in the hills.”
The pilgrimage continued across the towns and villages of north Wales for five days until, some 150 miles later, they reached Chester. At the time, a newspaper reported “There were on the main route 15 meetings and 16 processions besides many meetings on side routes…Through the villages the pilgrims in six cars and charabancs went along the Caernarvon Road, and at one place after another they found crowds across the road which insisted on speakers getting out and addressing them from the steps of the local war memorial… Everywhere they were welcomed, everywhere there was interest and enthusiasm, never once was there a single hand raised against the resolution.”
Without modern ‘social media’ to help, it was a great enterprise to spread the news of the pilgrimage to all the remote villages and hamlets of north Wales in the 1920s. They would rely largely on newspapers and post to carry their message. But it all needed effective organisation and for this the north Wales pilgrimage can be thankful for Mrs Mary Gladys Thoday from Llanfairfechan.
Mrs Thoday (nee Sykes) was born in Chester in 1884. She was a botanist having studied at Girton College Cambridge, which had been established as the first Cambridge college to admit women in 1869. In 1910 she married at Wrexham David Thoday, who later became Professor of Botany at Bangor University. Gladys was an intelligent and determined woman of her time and became a tireless activist for the abolition of war. She wrote in 1926 “We realise that the great success of the pilgrimage is due to the many helpers who in every place had done their part because they believe that it is full time that REASON shall take the place of FORCE and arbitration be tried first in every international dispute before there is resort to WAR.”
Among the 28 north Wales pilgrims who finally took part in the peace demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926 were Mrs Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts. These two women addressed the crowd of 10,000 that day in central London – Mrs Roberts spoke in the Welsh language. Following the peace pilgrimage these two women later became the English speaking and Welsh speaking secretaries of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council (NWWPC).

Cartoon
In 1928, under the professional guidance of Mrs Thoday and Mrs Roberts, the voice of women in north Wales was linked to other parts of Britain and the wider international peace movement when the NWWPC became affiliated to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Although the North Wales Women’s Peace March had ended, a Welsh women’s voice had been added to the international call for disarmament and world peace. Their actions played a part in the eventual signing by 62 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an agreement in 1928 which hoped to outlaw war between nations and prevent another World War.