#whitefeather diaries

Hilda's cousin faces prison

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Hilda's cousin Roderick Clark remained in Britain but provided support to the group that Hilda had set up – the Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC). He was active in administering it and recruiting volunteers. He was also an anti-war activist and campaigned against conscription.

When he found himself conscripted, Roderick was advised by some that he might be given exemption on the basis of his work helping war victims through the FWVRC. Roderick seems to have regarded this as an easy way out however, and applied for exemption as a conscientious objector. He adopted a somewhat provocative tone at his tribunal, declaring his anti-war activism as just as important as his work supporting war victims. Here is the speech he gave to the tribunal in Purley in March 1916.

I believe that God is Love and that war is a violation of the law of love, participation in which I cannot reconcile with the teaching of Christ.

As a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship I am united with others whose refusal to take part in war is specifically based upon our belief in the sanctity of human life. Under no circumstances could I conscientiously undertake any work designed to assist directly or indirectly in the prosecution of war or to release others for such work.

In common with other conscientious objectors it is my desire to serve humanity and we cannot rest satisfied with any employment which does not afford scope for this sense of vocation. I am always glad to consider suggestions from any quarter as to how I can render truer and more enduring service for humanity. The tribunal may consider my business, and my work upon the Executive of and as Secretary of the Selection of Men Workers Sub-Committee of the Friends War Victims Relief Committee, to be work of national importance.

But in fairness I should add that I myself consider of at least equal importance other forms of work in which I am engaged, such as (1) as a member of the National Advisory Committee of the No-Conscription Fellowship and upon the Croydon Branch Committee of the same, in upholding liberty of conscience; (2) as chairman of the Committee responsible for the Monday lunch-hour meetings at Devonshire House in maintaining the right of public meeting; (3) as a member of the Executive of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which is an inter-denominational and international organisation standing for a principle which we humbly believe to be vital to Christianity and working for reconciliation in whatever ways are open to use.

Since the tribunal may not agree with me in considering these forms of service to be work of national importance, since if circumstances changed and a way opened for me to give up a larger amount of time to such work, I might at any time feel it right to do so, and since I cannot accept any decision as ultimate, except that of my own conscience, I respectfully ask for absolute exemption from the provisions of the Act.

Despite his sarcastic tone, Roderick was originally granted exemption. Things changed later in the war, when he was ordered to join the army. Refusing to do so, in 1918 he was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour.

Source: The Friend, 10 March 1916.

Related Materials

Volunteers loading up mattresses for distribution
Tuesday 8 March 2016

Hilda continued to work with refugee children after her return to France.