Friends and the First World War

On the recent centenary remembrance of the Armistice, a Friend shared with us this thought-provoking and amusing quote from Chapter Twenty-Four of the book, “The Story of Quakerism: 1652–1952,” by Elfrida Vipont (London: The Bannisdale Press; 1954).

“Another peace society was the No-Conscription Fellowship, founded in 1915. This was not primarily a religious society, for it included many members whose opposition to conscription was based on political or humanitarian grounds, but it attracted many Friends who felt that they should welcome opportunities to work with others who shared their convictions, even if they did so only in part. Edward Grubb was keenly interested in the No-Conscription Fellowship. Conscription did not affect him personally, for he was already over sixty years of age, but he threw himself into the work with enthusiasm. During the First World War, peace workers were hampered by legislation which made many of their activities, especially in propaganda, illegal. By obeying their consciences and facing the consequences, they won freedom for their successors in the next generation. Edward Grubb, with some of his younger colleagues on the executive committee, was brought to trial at the Mansion House in 1916 on the accusation that they had published a leaflet calling for the repeal of the Military Service Act. He did not deny the accusation, but used the opportunity to make an impressive declaration of his faith. At one point, the prosecuting counsel broke in with the astonishing remark: ‘But, Mr. Grubb, war would become impossible if all men were to take your view that war was wrong!’”