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From the archives: Non-pacifist objector exempted; letters from soldiers

Peace News 55 years ago

[While conscription continued in the years after the Second World War, PN had regular coverage of the treatment of those refusing to join the military.]

The London local tribunal for conscientious objectors has frequently stated that it cannot exempt a man who does not object to all war, at all times, in all circumstances. But it did so last Friday.

Max Neufeld, an architect, who came to England in his childhood as a refugee, argued that the military defence strategy of this country was, ultimately, based on the use of thermo-nuclear weapons. It was therefore impossible to accept military service without assenting to these weapons, and they raised moral issues which were entirely new in the history of warfare. His conscience forbade him to give that assent...

The Chairman said that the distinction was a fine one, but ... they would register the applicant as a CO.

Letters from soldiers

[There were once pacifist MPs – such as Emrys Hughes, a regularly entertaining PN columnist in the 1950s. He writes here in the context of the British military’s imperial adventures of that era.] When the trouble began in Cyprus they sent the Gordon Highlanders. I asked the Secretary for War why they had gone. He replied, “To deal with the emergency.” I asked if the emergency had become worse since they arrived and if the more soldiers that were sent the worse the emergency would become. A colonel of the Gordon Highlanders issued a statement inviting me to repeat what I had said before the regiment. I replied: “Accept invitation. Bring them home immediately.”

I have not heard from the colonel since, but a group of super patriotic Scots Tory MPs put down a motion on the Order Paper declaring that I had cast a slur on the honour of a famous Scots regiment. .