Newcastle war resisters

Event date(s)

3 September 1939 to 2 September 1945

Description/importance

John Morley and Jack Sadler, conscientious objectors from the First World War, were the main inspirers of the Newcastle War Resisters Group of conscientious objectors, with its motto, ‘The highest morality is the greatest expediency.’ The majority of its leading members were members of the Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.), opposed to what they viewed as being an imperialist, capitalist war. It was one of the largest of such groups in the country. Taking an absolutist stance on objection to the war, many of its members appeared before the courts in the Moot Hall. The organisation met weekly in the Theosophical Hall and attracted an average attendance of around 60. The Word, an anarchist newspaper,described its meetings as instructive, enthusiastic and convivial and its approach to pacifism as mainly political and humanitarian. The absolutist attitude was stressed but exponents of the ‘alternativist’ position, and even war supporters, were invited to speak and be given a ‘critical, but nevertheless a keen and kindly audience.’ In addition to the weekly meetings they also held open air meetings in support of the Peace Pledge Union (P.P.U.) Negotiated Peace Campaign and against the alleged maltreatment of non-combatant conscientious objectors at Dingle Vale, Liverpool in 1940.

The list of members, in addition to the Morleys and the Sadlers, described as the ‘Royal families of Pacifism,’ includes the following: Albert Oxley, Alf Sharp, Jack Walton, Douglas Gordon Maitland, Harry Wood, Constance Wood, Constance Bolam (the first woman conscientious objector in Britain to be jailed), Kitty Alexander, Doris Philipson, John Potter, Frank Gillender (Secretary), Alma Gillender (Peace News distributor), and Edward Archbold. The occupations of the membership were also varied: business men, clerks, tradesmen labourers, typists, and housewives. John Morley and Frank Maitland served on the P.P.U. National Council and the P.P.U. Negotiated Peace Committee. Newcastle War Resisters were therefore significant both regionally and nationally. Up to November 1943 the group members had received 28 prison sentences, a number which was to increase considerably by the end of the war.

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