FOR HIS NAMES SAKE - CHAPTER 12

For His Name's Sake.

Being a Record of the Witness given by Members of Churches of Christ in Great Britain against Militarism during the European War

1914-1918

W. Barker, Printer, Mansfield Road, Heanor

1921.


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The Home Office Scheme.

BY E.C. GOULD.

ONE feels honoured to contribute to the pages of this little book, and glad to find a place amongst those who, from their conception of the mind of Christ, are constrained at all times to follow the path of non-resistance and to refrain in all circumstances from taking the lives of their fellow men.

From the previous chapters, the reader will have gained a knowledge of the course of events, and of the experiences of objectors to military service prior to and during the term or terms of imprisonment which they served, so that explanation of prior events is unnecessary here in dealing with one's experiences subsequent to release from prison in order to engage in work of National Importance.

When a man serving a term of imprisonment undertook, before the Central Tribunal, to perform work of National Importance he came under the control of the "Home Office Committee for the employment of Conscientious Objectors."

Except in a few instances, he was sent in company with others of his comrades who had


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given a similar undertaking to one of the Work Centres described elsewhere. In the few excepted instances, men were sent direct from prison to the place where they were to perform the work of National Importance.

The Work Centres, which were first commenced about October, 1916, and at which the ordinary prison duties and tasks were performed, may have been regarded from different points of view. By some, they may have been regarded as a sort of convalescent home where, after the weakening effects of prison life, the men might recuperate before going out to more strenuous labour under private employment; by others as a kind of purgatory where the men might expiate their "crime" or "crimes" of having worn the prison garb, whence at the expiration of this intermediate period they would be allowed to mingle once more, to an extent, with their fellows. Whether or not either of these was the official point of view, it was the official intention with regard to the practical working of the scheme, that the men should stay but temporarily at these Centres, while private employment was being found for them outside with individuals and firms, or at a Camp (where the number warranted the step) formed by the Home Office Committee, and of which an agent or agents were appointed to take control. It is the fact, however, that a large amount of the men's time was spent at the Centres, and a good number were there without having been sent at all to work outside.

Men were sent to "outside" employment at places in all parts of Great Britain, and where the larger numbers were employed an agent was, or agents were, appointed to supervise


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the work, as at the Camps. Where only a small number was employed, a Home Office agent paid visits of enquiry and inspection. The number of men employed at any particular place varied from time to time; the conditions also under which the men lived and worked at the different places varied considerably, being very bad indeed in some instances. The larger Camps were those engaged on quarrying, timber cutting and hauling, building, roadmaking, waterworks schemes, etc. Whether at Dyce (Aberdeenshire), Llangadock (S. Wales), Ditton Priors (Salop), Sunk Island, nr. Hull (Yorks), Ballachulish (Argyllshire), or elsewhere in comparatively small numbers, these Camps had something in common, and that was an absence of the monotony and gloom inseparable from a prison building and institution. Too much space would be required to give a description of all the Camps which were formed or to tabulate the Scheme, if one were able. It must, therefore, suffice to describe one's own experiences in Camp, under this "outside" employment section of the Scheme.

Leaving the ancient cathedral city in Yorkshire, where, from the time of the commencement of the Work Centres, five months had been spent, in company with about forty comrades, one journeyed by rail to a destination far North, up into the Highlands of Scotland. One remembers, just before leaving the Centre, casting a surreptitious glance at a Scotch comrade's baggage, to see how the spell correctly the name of one's destination! It was at the end of March, and as the journey continued through the night, probably one's first real glimpses of "Bonnie Scotland" were had as the train proceeded somewhere in the


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vicinity of Callander in Perthshire. These first glimpses from the carriage window leave now upon the mind a picture of God's handiwork, untrammelled and unmarred; of fine, tall trees in dense profusion, and in the background, standing out against a sky of blue, the snow-covered peak of some lofty and majestic mountain. The journey from here to Ballachulish, a small village at the entrance to Loch Leven, has largely passed from memory, but leaving the village (which is the railway terminus) we proceeded up the Loch by steamer. As the atmosphere was cold and damp, and the bare mountain ranges on either side were half enveloped in cloud, we were glad when the boat slowed down and came to a halt at a newly constructed landing stage. Seeing comrades on land (the Camp having been formed some months previously), one knew that "H.M. Road Board Camp" had at last been reached. Coalasnacon, the scene of the Camp, consisted of one home-stead only, and was situated midway between Ballachulish, with its slate quarries, and Kinlochleven, the small town situated farther on at the head of the Loch.

The work in hand at the Camp here was the construction of a roadway the whole length of Loch Leven, from Ballachulish to Kinlochleven, and, as has already been indicated, the Loch is hemmed in on either side by mountains, some close at hand and some more distant from the water's edge. The reader will thus readily see that as the road was to be constructed on one side of the Loch, between it and the mountains, a great deal of hard work was necessary to make it level, on account of the very uneven nature of the ground. Rising early and washing in ice-cold water, one went to breakfast at 7 a.m.


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At 7.30, the head ganger (a man who had reached the allotted span, yet who was straight as a rod and could swing the hammer with anyone) blew his whistle, and with pick and shovel one made off towards the road with one's comrades. Some were engaged with pick or mattock, clearing away heather, grass and soil, some with picks were breaking away rocks and stones, and others were filling wheelbarrows with the soil and stones. Others were wheeling the barrows away over planks laid down as far as the road was built and tipping the refuse over at the end. So the roadway was gradually built up and extended, to meet another section being similarly constructed by another party of men from the opposite direction. The level of the road could, of course, only be maintained by either digging out or filling in, and so one either wielded pick or mattock, hammer or crowbar, or contrived (at the start) to wheel the barrows down the narrow planks. Sometimes large boulders blocked the progress of the work, and this necessitated the boring of holes in the rock and the insertion of dynamite so that the obstacle might be removed. Fuses were inserted in the holes, and on hearing a cry of "Fire!" all in the vicinity would cease work and, seeing the retreating figure of the head ganger, would scramble away to a safe distance. When the fragments of rock had returned to earth, work was resumed and in course of time all signs of the offending boulder were removed. All this may not have been accomplished before lunch time, but it constituted the daily routine, except for a few men such as the camp orderlies, cook's assistants, tailor, carpenters, blacksmith, etc. Lunch was partaken of at 12.30, and during the hour's interval letters were eagerly looked


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for. The day's work closed at 5.30, and dinner was ready soon afterwards. There were eight or nine huts for the men, in addition to the dining room, reading room, stores, carpenter's shop, cook-house, hospital, and living accommodation for the agent and sub-agent.

During the earlier days of one's stay here, the weather was intensely cold, and heavy snowstorms were not infrequent, so that on some days no work was done at all on the road. Later on, work was suspended on account of heavy and continuous rain, but during the latter period of our stay the weather was ideal. We were very fortunate in seeing this part of the country both in winter garb and in all the beauty of spring array, and before we left the summer season had arrived. One cannot attempt to portray the great beauties of nature seen here during the different seasons, but they were such that one had little or no conception of previously, and they made a lasting impression on the mind. It is not within the purview of these pages to tell of visits to Oban, Fort William, and an ascent of Ben Nevis, in company with Bro. T.H. Haynes.

With faces deeply tanned by wind and sun, we returned, at the end of the following June, to the Centre at Wakefield. There we resumed our position in the stoker's squad. While at Wakefield, about the commencement of 1918, the Home Office Committee made it known that men who had been employed under them for twelve months and whose conduct during that period had been satisfactory might take up "exceptional employment." This was to be found by the Committee or approved by them if found by the men themselves. The


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work permitted to be taken up under this new provision was (with very few exceptions) of a manual character only, and was to be not less than 20 miles from a man's home. He was entitled to receive the full wages paid by his employer in respect of his labour, instead of the 4s.8d. per week as heretofore, and if for any reason the employment ceased, the man was to hold himself at the disposal of the Committee. Men found it very difficult to find work under this new scheme, and it was many months before some were able to do so. At the beginning of 1919, a circular letter was issued by the Committee stating that a man might take up employment mentioned in a schedule attached thereto, without previously consulting the Committee, but he should notify them immediately after taking up such employment. This seemed to be an indication that the Committee was probably about to cease its operations, which was in fact the case, for in a short time the remaining Work Centre was closed and the men were disbanded.


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Eternal Justice.


The man is thought a knave or fool,

Or bigot plotting crime,

Who, for the advancement of his kind,

Is wiser than his time.

For him the hemlock shall distil -

For him the axe be bared -

For him the gibbet shall be built,

For him the stake prepared!

Him shall the scorn and wrath of man

Pursue with deadly aim,

And malice, envy, spite and lies

Shall desecrate his name:

But truth shall conquer at the last,

As round and round we run -

The right shall yet come uppermost,

And justice shall be done.


Pace through thy cell, old Socrates,

Cheerily to and fro;

Trust to the impulse of thy soul,

And let the poison flow.

They may shatter to earth the lamp of clay

That holds a light divine,

But they cannot quench the fire of thought

By any such deadly wine.

They cannot blot thy spoken words

From the memory of man

By all the poison ever was brew'd,

Since time its course began.

Today abhorr'd, tomorrow adored,

So round and round we run;

And ever the truth comes uppermost,

And ever is justice done.


Plod in thy cave, gray anchorite;

Be wiser than thy peers;

Augment the range of human power,

And trust to coming years.

They may call thee wizard, and monk accursed,

And load thee with dispraise;

Thou wert born five hundred years too soon

For the comfort of thy days;

But not too soon for humankind,

Time hath reward in store;

And the demons of our sires become

The saints that we adore.

The blind can see, the salve is lord,

So round and round we run;

And ever the wrong is proved to be wrong

And ever is justice done.


Keep, Galileo, to thy thought,

And nerve thy soul to bear:

They may gloat o'er the senseless words they wring

From the pangs of thy despair;

They may veil their eyes, but they cannot hide

The sun's meridian glow;

The heel of a priest may tread thee down,

And a tyrant work thee woe;

But never a truth has been destroy'd;

They may curse it and call it a crime;

Pervert and betray, or slander and slay

Its teacher for a time;

But the sunshine aye shall light the sky,

As round and round we run;

And the truth shall ever come uppermost,

And justice shall be done.


And live there now such men as these -

With thoughts like the great of old?

Many have died in their misery,

And left their thoughts untold;

And many live, and are rank'd as mad,

And placed in the cold world's ban,

For sending their bright far-seeing souls

Three centuries in the van,

They toil in penury and grief;

Unknown, if not malign'd;

Forlorn, forlorn, hearing the scorn

Of the meanest of mankind!

But yet the world goes round and round

And the genial seasons run;

And ever the truth comes uppermost,

And ever is justice done.


MACKAY.


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