Friday 9 June 1916
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“I am an out and out opponent of militarism and of war for two reasons – first because I believe war is futile and second, the more important reason, because I think war is wrong.” These were the words of Mrs Ethel Snowden (right), socialist and suffragist, and wife of MP Philip Snowden, when she spoke out forcibly against the war and in support of conscientious objectors at a meeting at the Shipley Branch of the Independent Labour Party organised by Bradford Council Against Conscription. She recalled that she had first spoken against conscription on that very platform ten years before but had been told by friends that there was no point because conscription could never happen in Britain. “No one expected it ten years ago but it has become a fact,” she said, “and one of the most deplorable facts of our individual and national experience.” Liberty She was sure that most of the young men who had enlisted thought they were fighting for liberty and yet conscription meant that liberty was being taken away without anyone making a justifiable case for it. She cited a speech in parliament by Winston Churchill which she regarded as one of the most practical arguments against conscription.
“He declared that not more than one in six of our men are being effectively used in this war. Five out of six are either behind the lines or in this country. That being the case, there is no need to introduce conscription.” Arguing against war, she knew, would bring accusations of a lack of patriotism or cowardice and she declared she was full of a sense of the high moral courage shown by conscientious objectors who, she believed, were saving the soul of the nation. Patriotism Tackling those who said that to oppose war was unpatriotic, she said: “That is not patriotism which brags about one Englishman being worth five or six foreigners; it is nonsense. “It is not, as some think, patriotism when a town does away with the German names of streets and substitutes others. “Patriotism will never let me toast my country right or wrong. Patriotism is a sense of responsibility for one’s country, not only for the safety but also for its character and conduct. “As to the country’s safety, there is no safety for any country so long as
war exists and the things which make for war.” Character Mrs Snowden then mocked the military tribunals who always wanted to know whether a conscientious objector would, faced with a German attack, protect his wife’s or mother’s honour and his own good character. “Women ought to know that all this talk about robbing a woman of her honour is all nonsense,” she said. “No woman can be robbed of her honour. It can only be sacrificed by her. “Men cannot be robbed of their good character. Their good character is their own and can only be harmed by themselves. “It is not fair to urge a man to drop his principles by appealing to his affections. The conscientious objector who will not kill and who will, by his principles, make war impossible, is really doing more substantial work for that than those who, however nobly, go out to fight their battle.” Claiming that war was opposed to the spirit of the Christian faith, she concluded: “It is time that men and women took their stand on the fact that war cannot settle anything which cannot be settled in other and better ways. Thus we might hasten the reign in the world of the Prince of Peace.”
“Women ought to know that all this talk about robbing a woman of her honour is all nonsense. No woman can be robbed of her honour. It can only be sacrificed by her.”
Suffragist’s powerful anti-war speech in Shipley
Calverley District Council decided to fight against a new County Council ruling that would stop adult classes being held if they couldn’t reach a minimum number of 13 students. Calverley’s Higher Education Committee ‘considered that it was hardly fair that the same minimum should be required at Calverley with only 3,000 inhabitants as at Shipley with 30,000 inhabitants.’ It was decided to make representations to the County ‘with a view to courses in industrial, commercial and housecraft subjects being formed. ‘They also though that there should be a dressmaking class which had proved of great value.’ Vegetables Referring to winter lectures and practical gardening courses that had taken place, Cllr Dean said he thought they would be wasted if there was nowhere for students to put their new knowledge into practice. He suggested that the Clarke- Thornhill Estate should be approached for a piece of land to turn into allotments. ‘This was a good time for them to utilise their knowledge in the production of vegetables.’ The chairman argued that when they had provided allotments in the past, they had been turned into hen runs within a year. But the majority of the council thought it a good idea and the clerk was instructed to write the estate.
Council fight against restrictions on adult education classes
An editorial dealt with a tricky question arising from conscription: The Shipley Tribunal had many hard cases to deal with at their meeting on Monday. A Considerable number of the applicants for exemption were men who, by virtue of thrift when they were ordinary wage-earners, have built-up small businesses and to whom service in the army would practically mean the loss of all they have. The Tribunal, however, were able to point to the fact that in cases of special hardship the regulations issued by the Government provided for financial assistance and that applicants could look forward to re-establishing after the war businesses which had previously been remunerative. Generally speaking, the Tribunal dealt leniently with the cases and most of them were granted exemption until Sept. 1st. That gives them three months in which to make arrangements for their businesses to be carried on or to be disposed of and if they feel that circumstances justify that course, they may appeal for further exemption. Only when fetched In these cases the Tribunal have no easy task to perform. They have always to bear in mind the needs of the army and at the same time it is their duty to protect as far as possible the interests of small traders who have invested their life savings in businesses on which their families are entirely dependent. At future meetings the Tribunal will have to deal with applications from men who have not attested and who have not shown a desire to help their country in its time of need. These are the men who have declared that they would only go when they were fetched and it does not trouble them because they are called “conscripts.” It is unlikely that Tribunals will deal as gently and as considerately with them as they have done with the Derby men.
Tribunals tackle small business problem
Golf clubs frequently opened their courses and club houses to wounded soldiers, with the clubs at Shipley and Baildon laying on regular entertainments and meals for men from local hospitals But like many cricket officials, Shipley G.C. president, Mr R J Sugden, still felt it necessary to defend playing sport in a time of war. “The committee are trying to keep the organisation together till the boys come back,” he said. “We also believe that those left behind, many of whom are working under great pressure, are entitled to take such exercise as will keep them fit. “And incidentally, the club has been able to raise money for various relief funds and had the privilege to occasionally entertain the wounded in the club house.”
Shipley G.C. president defends war-time golf
“Just now most of us are finding that three shillings will only go as far as two shillings in pre-war days. Nowhere is this felt more than in the butcher’s shops.” So started an examination of food shortages by columnist ‘Scrutator,’ who laid the blame fairly at the door of the government who had taken too narrow a view of the food supply and passed laws that had driven much trade into the hands of neutral shipping. Because of these policies, freight charges had risen by 1,500 percent
and the price of maize, which most farmers used to feed their cattle, had increased to 56s 6d per 480lb, more than farmers were getting for their wheat. Meat market The result was that meat prices had soared. “Last week such scenes were seen in the great London meat market, Smithfield,” Scrutator wrote, “as have never been seen before and a large number of butchers absolutely refused to do business at the prices the wholesale houses were asking. “Thus from one short-sighted action
of the authorities both bread and meat are at the moment being sold at practically famine prices and good English wheat which should be ground up into flour is being used for the feeding of pigs and oxen. “The government commandeered the railways. Why have they not taken absolute control of the nation’s shipping? Had they done so, owners of the shipping belonging to neutral countries would not have been enabled to set the rate of freightage and thus given our British companies the excuse they have to make fabulous and usurious profits.
Government mistakes caused steep rise in food prices
People across Shipley agreed to give up the usual Whitsun holiday. Traditionally, Whitsun was one of the most important holidays in the calendar, a time for public outings, Sunday School walks and showing off new clothes but in 1916 the government wanted people, especially those involved in war work, to sacrifice the holiday. Shipley Council announced they would keep public offices open, including the libraries, and that ‘all workmen shall be employed on Monday and Tuesday as usual.’ Shipley Tradesmen’s Association met to consider the question and decided that shops would close on Monday but be open on Tuesday. ‘The Post Office will be open on Monday and public services and facilities will be maintained exactly as on any ordinary working day.’ Sir James Roberts, owner of Salts Mills, attended a meeting of his staff and said that while he didn’t want to impose any cancellation of the holiday, the present times were exceptional and serious. Youngest “It has always been my practice and always will be so long as I am connected to Saltaire, to confer with the workers on serious questions,” he said. “The present time is one of great difficulty. This is no ordinary war between soldiers of different countries but one that affects the very youngest in the nation and in the settlement of which the youngest worker in the mill can do something “It will hearten our soldiers who are making the greatest sacrifice to know that our workers are doing their bit by giving up their holidays.” On being told that this year children’s celebrations had been put on hold, he said: “This is an added reason why work should continue.” When the question was put to a vote there was unanimous agreement that work should continue.
Shipley votes to sacrifice Whitsun
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