Frederick Alfred Hubbard - The Conscientious Objector of Whittington Road, Bowes Park

I am a big fan of the Guardian Data blog – indeed it has supplied stories for this website in the past - so I was delighted to see a fascinating link to historical data published on the Guardian site today. This week public records from the National Archive and the case files of over 8,000 men who were appealing against their conscription into the army during the First World War have been made available online.

The files record the cases of men who applied to local military tribunals for exemption from war service. In 1916, the new Military Service Act required all men aged between 18 and 41 to register for military service unless they possessed a certificate of exemption.

To obtain that certificate, men could apply to a tribunal, and if they were refused they could still attempt to be excluded from Military Service by going to the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal. There were seven different grounds on which men could apply for exemption including health reasons and financial obligations as well as conscientious objection to participating in war.

The National Archive allows you to search the records and case files of appeals online – street by street – or you can search by area, for example Bowes Park  or select from a map on the Guardian Website.

Here is one story from our neighbourhood.

Frederick Alfred Hubbard lived at 201 Whittington Road, Bowes Park, just near the junction with Russell Road. Aged 29 at the outbreak of war in 1914, he was employed as a clerk by the National Union of Railwaymen. He travelled into town daily to work at the Union headquarters - Unity House, on the Edgware Road.

Based on his faith convictions Hubbard had applied for – and been awarded – non-combatant status, meaning he did not have to take up duties as a front-line soldier, or in any position that would result in him fighting. Non-combatants did however have a duty to find employment in a role of "National Importance" that aided the war effort.

Despite having approval to avoid direct engagement Hubbard appealed and requested absolute exemption as taking any part in supporting the war effort was against his religious views.

His powerful testimony was written in his own handwriting on the form:

Although I have been passed by the local Tribunal for non-combatant military service I cannot conscientiously undertake such work, and therefore apply for absolute exemption. I do dot desire to be exempted with the view of shirking my duty to my country, but because it is impossible on account of an innate sense of the wrong I should be doing to participate in work connected with the war.

My objection genuinely rests on religious grounds. I do firmly believe that war is wrong and I have held this view for a number of years. I am a Christian and as such in accordance with the dictate of my conscience feel it to be my duty not to partake in the crime of war. I fully realise, in view of what is currently happening, that this is a serious stand to take, but, for the sake of the principles I firmly believe to be right, I shall follow the call of my conscience, be the consequences what they may.

F. A. Hubbard
18th March 1916

It took a month from his application for the tribunal to return its finding and the second part of the form starkly records the decision of the appeals panel:

The applicant does not belong to any sect or denomination having as one of its tenets a religious conscientious objection to Military Service.
No evidence was submitted in support of his claim to be granted absolute exemption from all forms of Military Service on Conscientious Grounds
Mr M Rouse
Clerk to the Tribunal

Appeal Dismissed

C De Salis
17th April 1916

The files of the appeal do not record what happened to Frederick Alfred Hubbard after his appeal for absolute exemption was turned down... It is a story to follow-up... and it is is just one story amongst many hundereds.

Views: 406

Comment by Kathleen Duffy on January 23, 2014 at 17:36

Thank you for that really fascinating piece of local history . 

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