A natural rock outcrop which carries a series of inscriptions left by First World War Conscientious Objectors who were on the run from the authorities, avoiding conscription.
Reasons for Designation
The Conscientious Objectors’ Stone 140m SE of Green Moor farmhouse is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* History: a clear, unambiguous marker that support for the First World War was not universal and that some Conscientious Objectors actively resisted conscription;
* Rarity: the inscribed stone is a very rare, possibly unique physical relic of this important aspect of First World War history;
* Documentation: the inscriptions, by including names and initials, allows actual individuals to be identified, linking in with other surviving documentation, indicating a connection between Green Moor and men who were actively engaged in sedition against the war.
The monument is focused on a rock outcrop overlooking Green Moor Farm. This outcrop carries a number of inscriptions left by men who were Conscientious Objectors (COs) evading conscription during the First World War.
Although Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers for the Army during the opening months of the First World War saw over one million new recruits by January 1915, by the following summer it was clear that fighting had become a war of attrition, and that this would make conscription necessary. The Military Service Act received royal assent in January 1916, making universal military service compulsory. The Act covered single men between the ages of 18 and 40. It was followed in May that year by further legislation extending conscription to married men. Over 1.4 million men were automatically exempted because of their employment in vital occupations. Of those initially called up, only 43,000 joined the Army straight away: a further 0.75 million sought exemption at military tribunals on grounds of health, occupation, education and training, or domestic hardship. Nearly half of these cases were granted, although a very large proportion were only granted temporary exemptions or were later rescinded. By the end of the first year, 1.1 million had been enlisted.
The Military Service Acts also allowed men who had a conscientious objection to taking up arms to appeal to their local tribunals for exemption, Britain being the only one of the belligerent nations in the war to make such provision. Nearly all tribunal records were destroyed in the 1920s so the actual number of men who appealed against military service on grounds of conscience is not clear. Current calculations, based on the work of John Graham (1922) and Cyril Pearce, suggest that at least 20,000 men claimed exemption as COs between 1916 and 1918.
The way in which local tribunals dealt with CO appeals became a major political controversy during and after the war. Very few, fewer than 100, were granted the absolute exemption to which they thought they were entitled. Tribunals presumed that most were motivated by cowardice rather than conscience and, if their objections were acknowledged at all, usually only granted some form of conditional exemption. Most were obliged to take civilian work to help the war effort or to stay in their existing employment because it was regarded as essential. Quaker organisations such as the Friends Ambulance Unit and the Friends War Victims Relief Service recruited almost 1,500 COs prepared to do humanitarian work, these operated away from the front line. Some COs had joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as non-combatants before the introduction of conscription and others were directed there by tribunals and local recruiting officers: some men in the Medical Corps acted as stretcher bearers at the front. In March 1916, a special Non-Combatant Corps was established within the Army which absorbed over 3,000 COs; about 600 of them served in France on support work in quarries, railheads and docks and doing ‘domestic’ work around barracks, all away from the front line. More than 6,000 refused to co-operate in any way and resisted their call-up. Arrested and handed over to the Army they continued their resistance by disobeying orders and were court martialled. After their first sentence, usually 112 days with hard labour, they were offered places at camps engaged in useful, but not war-related work, this known as the Home Office Scheme. However, not all COs accepted the Scheme and about 1,500, known as ‘Absolutists’, spent their war shuttling from prison to court martial and back again until their final release in April 1919. Prison conditions were harsh, every sentence included hard labour: at least 73 died in prison, or shortly after release.
It is estimated that around 3,000 COs chose to evade conscription by going on the run, with a few hundred successfully evading capture through the war. Some took off in early 1916, even before call-up papers were sent out; others chose running instead of facing the tribunal system; whilst many only made a break after failing to gain exemption at tribunal. Many went on the run as irritants to the authorities, never expecting to get away completely, and were eventually arrested or gave themselves up. Many of those who were more determined sought to escape overseas, a favourite destination being Ireland (where conscription was not imposed) with at least a hundred escaping to North America, many using a pre-existing Irish Nationalist escape route via Liverpool. Others sought to evade capture without leaving the country, being hidden by family or friends, or by various networks of contacts and safe houses, some being the same ones that had been used in previous years by Suffragettes hiding from the police. In addition to COs evading the authorities, there were also significant numbers of men going absent without leave from their units, around 2,000 a week being reported in 1917, supporting a thriving black market trade in forged papers.
For a handful of members of the revolutionary Socialist Labour Party (SLP), ‘taking to the hills’ was not about escape but a way to carry on campaigning against the war and to agitate for political change. Forming what they termed ‘socialist flying squads’ they descended on settlements to hold meetings and distribute publications, disappearing again to a safe house to avoid capture. Green Moor, along with Wreaks Farm at Foxfield, Hill Top Farm near Lake Windermere and Clannoch Farm, Carsphairn, near Kirkcudbright were all used by SLP groups. The plan was unsuccessful in its revolutionary intentions but, with the exception of the men at Clannoch arrested in April 1916, the rest proved effective, if temporary refuges.
The farm buildings at Green Moor are associated with a mixed group of COs from Halifax in West Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire, some of them SLP members, others from different socialist groups. The rock, some 140 metres south east of the farmhouse, may have been used as a vantage point from which to see and give warning of police searches. It also became a memorial record of their presence and struggle.
The outcrop has a rough, but formalised, framed inscription that includes the date 1916 and the text CONs OBJECTORS along with the name A BOOSEY and six sets of initials of men who are thought to have used Green Moor as a safe house. Three sets of initials are thought to be of William Richard (Dick), Tom and Harry Stoker: three brothers who were all businessmen in the drapery trade, but also members of the SLP, sons of Dick Stocker senior, a socialist councillor from Wigan. By 1916, Dick Stoker junior was secretary of the Halifax branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship, one of the organisations which opposed conscription. Because of his business commitments, he was granted exemption in July 1916 until November 1st; he then went on the run and evaded the authorities for the duration of the war, in 1918 even visiting Bolshevik Russia. Tom and Harry were both court martialled and served time in prison, but absconded after release. By the end of the war they were still at liberty. Alfred Boosey was a member of the British Socialist Party. He was arrested in Halifax in September 1916 and was sent to Pontefract Barracks where he was ill-treated. He then absconded and remained absent without leave for a year. The initials MC are thought to be of Mark Collins, another Halifax socialist. The men with the initials RH and GH also included in the main inscription have not been identified. Dick Stoker appears to have left his mark twice more elsewhere on the outcrop, once as WRS (close to GH and HS also repeated from the main inscription) and then as WR STOKER next to the date 1926 and two new pairs of initials (AR and ME). These probably marked return visits, the latter to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Dick Stoker’s arrival at Green Moor. There are at least ten other sets of initials (..T, AU.., CH, DC, ES, GH, HS, JP, K, and SS) and one name (J Dawson) inscribed on the outcrop, mainly close to the main inscription. These are also thought to be the names of COs who used the safe house, although the individuals have not been identified. However two (SS and MS) are next to the date 1922, and may thus be unrelated to CO, unless the inscription commemorated a return visit similar to that suggested for the 1926 inscription.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENT: natural rock outcrop carrying a series of rough inscriptions.
DESCRIPTION: the outcrop is on a NW facing hillside of unenclosed moorland, overlooking a crossing point for Green Moor Beck with Green Moor Farm directly beyond to the north west. The outcrop extends roughly N to S for about 12m, being up to 5m wide, with its bedding plane tilted up to the W to expose a relatively flat, but tilted rock surface mainly facing to the E. Most of the inscriptions are on this E facing surface which is also marked by natural NE-SW striations.
The main inscription is framed by an inscribed rectangle and is sited to the centre of the outcrop on a section facing SE. It reads:
TS. GH. MC
RH 1916 A BOOSEY
Around this there are further sets of initials, generally either rougher or more faint:
DC JP (aligned immediately below the main inscription);
NH (aligned to the right);
K (aligned to the left of the main inscription).
ES (all positioned at an angle and above to the left of the main inscription, the ES being much larger and more carefully inscribed than the other letters).
About 2m south of the main inscription is the clearly inscribed name J Dawson. A further 1m beyond is an irregular group of three sets of initials WRS, GH, HS. About 1m NW of the main inscription there is a much rougher inscription which reads:
About 1.5m S of the main inscription, on a N-facing flat section of rock that cuts across the bedding plane of the outcrop, there is a further inscription reading:
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: this is the full extent of the rock outcrop upon which inscriptions have been identified. The scheduled area is drawn as a rectangle 16m by 9m to fully enclose the outcrop and to provide an additional 2m margin for the support and protection of the monument.