About Howard Marten
Howard Marten was the son of a London shopkeeper and became a pacifist at an early age. As a teenager, he campaigned against the Boer War, making himself unpopular at school. His father was a Quaker and his mother a Congregationalist. Howard became an active Quaker and, not long after leaving school, found work as a bank clerk in Piccadilly.
The inner light
Poetry played an important part in Howard's life. He wrote a good many poems throughout the war years, neatly written down in a carefully preserved notebook. Early on in the war, he wrote a poem about the Quaker notion of the “inner light”, which played such an important part in his pacifism.
Oftimes poor frail humanity, in search of the scheme divine
Is tossed and buffeted body and soul, yet in every heart doth shine
The light that lighteth every man who into the world is born
Though at times its low and feeble glow of radiance bright is shorn
Which the soul, in agony, struggles and feels and rattles the human bars
Of the earthly cage, which should beauteous be, mankind so often mars,
We read our wise and learned books; we worship at Mammon's shrine;
Power and might usurp the place of the love that is all divine
For the customs and ways of man we find but alleys blind and dark
When peace of mind each heart might find if in patience it would but hark
To the still small voice which daily gives its counsel firm and true
Listen and there God's spirit in thee will ever thy strength renew.
The idols that Howard contrasts with the worship of God are power, might and money – “we worship at Mammon's shrine”. He can see the links between money and war. Sometimes governments go to war for commercial reasons, while the existence of international arms companies means that war is always profitable for a few.
Are peace campaigns more effective if they are linked to calls for economic change, or is it better to focus on single issues? Do you have a view on this?
Howard had arrived in France with sixteen other COs, all of them knowing that they faced the death penalty if they disobeyed orders while deemed to be on “active service”. After imprisonment and various punishments, four alleged ringleaders were singled out and court-martialled. Howard was one of them.
Imprisoned in Harwich Redoubt, Howard and the other COs decided to refuse work of a “military character” but agreed to cleaning and catering. In another edited extract from Howard's writings, he describes life as a prisoner at Harwich – and how it was cut short.
Howard was now deemed to be in the army. He was taken to an army barracks where he was held in the guard room.
On the introduction of conscription Howard Marten sought exemption as a conscientious objector. He went before a local tribunal to argue his case.
On 28 December 1915, the Cabinet agreed to introduce conscription for unmarried men aged 18–40. Howard was 31 and not married. He knew his opposition to war was about to become extremely personal, but this was still for him part of a wider struggle and a bigger faith.
As 1915 wore on, the casualties mounted, the number of volunteers dropped and pressure to introduce conscription intensified. Howard Marten knew that conscription would affect him personally. He later talked about his life in London as the war progressed.
While Laurence was growing more sympathetic to the armed forces, bank clerk Howard Marten was campaigning fervently against the war. Faced with the possibility of conscription, he was one of thousands of people to join the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF). He later talked about the people he found in the group–including those not from the peace movement, but from the police.
In this week's extract from Howard's later conversations about the war, he links both principle and personality in describing the formation of his views.
As a peace activist, Howard was involved in several groups campaigning against the war. Anti-war organisations included the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Union for Democratic Control.