Love your enemies and make them tea
Quakers and other peace activists were often faced with the question of how to respond to those who strongly disagreed with them – particularly those who threatened violence. They were able to put pacifist principles into practice when a violent pro-war mob tried to invade an anti-conscription rally at Devonshire House, which was then the London central offices of British Quakers.
Accounts of the incident differ. This report appeared on 21 April 1916 in the Cotton Factory Times, a left-wing newspaper serving workers in the cotton industry.
A good story which has only been partly told or altogether mistold in the papers attaches to the Convention of the No-Conscription Fellowship which was held in London a fortnight ago.
The Convention was held in Devonshire House, the premises of the Society of Friends, and the place was besieged by a more or less violent crowd, who ached to show their patriotism and good citizenship by storming the building and breaking up the Convention. The entrance to Devonshire House, however, is barred by iron gages, twelve feet high, so the crowd could do little but howl and bombard the stewards in the passage with bags of flour.
Three sailors, however, and three civilians, managed to scale the gates and drop on the inside. But passages in Devonshire House are long and winding, and the intruders were quickly surrounded by stewards. The group engaged in conversation, and before long the invaders were brushing the flour off the stewards' clothes. Following this, they were invited to tea, and afterwards let out, one by one, into the howling mob in Bishopsgate. Within a quarter of an hour the crowd had melted away.
This little episode was certainly a victory for the pacifist method. Had the stewards acted on the militarist theory they would have pitched the intruders bodily – and bloodily – into the street, and so laid a good foundation for a riot.
Source: Cotton Factory Times, 21 April 1916.
Hilda was busy working with refugee mothers and children in France. In July she wrote to her parents in Somerset to congratulate them on their golden wedding anniversary. She apologised for not being there in person and for seeing them so rarely.