A photographer and his conscience

Charles Crawlley advert

Among the cases dealt with by the Appeals Tribunal on Thursday was that in which the National Service Representative (Mr Gardner) appealed against the exemption of Charles R. Crawley, 36, married, Grade 1 (a photographer and picture framer and conscientious objector), which had been given by the Local Tribunal for both his principles and domestic circumstances.

Mr Gardner said Crawley was at first a member of the Church of England, and from this he drifted into the Adult School movement, until he finally became a Christadelphian. Such a conscience was still flexible, and the man's views made him a national danger. The Local Tribunal, said Mr Gardner, had considerable difficulty in dealing with the case, and was transferring the responsibility.

Letters were read from Mr F. Holdstock, of the Adult School and the Vicar of Luton (Rev A. E. Chapman) stating that the writers believed Crawley to be honest and sincere in his beliefs.

Mr Gardner (to Crawley): Do you object to all war, or to this war in particular? - I object to all war.

Do you object to the aims for which we are fighting in this war? - I object to the whole of the war as being contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Do you believe that we are justified in taking up the sword for the purpose we have?

Mr Mair [Tribunal member]: Is that a fair question, Mr Gardner? I do not think it is.

Mr Gardner said he took it that Crawley objected to all war, and he would leave it at that. He proceeded to further question Crawley, referring to the aims of previous wars. Asked as to his opinion about these, he said the Most High ruled, and whom He would He set up.

Both the Chairman and Mr Gardner pressed for a definite answer, 'Yes' or 'No,' but Crawley replied that it was a matter for every individual person to look at from his own standpoint. It was pointed out that it was the man's individual standpoint that the Tribunal were trying to get at, but no definite reply was forthcoming.

Mr Gardner: Do you consider your principles very high and serious when you refuse to fight for your country? - Yes.

What sacrifices are you willing to make? - I am quite willing to sacrifice all material things, but removing me from my present position would mean great financial hardship. Still, I am willing.

Asked the kind of photographing he did, Crawley said he did commercial work, straw hat and engineering photography.

Resuming his questioning of Crawley, Mr Gardner asked: Do you know a soldier when you see one? - That is obvious, sir.

Answer the question – Yes, I do.

And do you know a sailor? - Yes.

Do you know that when a soldier or a sailor goes into your shop to have his photograph taken he has been or is going to fight for his country? - Yes.

And yet you reconcile it with your conscience that you should take money from these boys and try to contaminate their minds with your opinions?

Mr Keens [Tribunal member]: That is a serious statement, Mr Gardner. Are you going to bring any evidence on that point? It is most serious. To Crawley: Have you ever made such statements? - I do not remember having done so.

Mr Gardner: He practically acknowledged that at the Local Tribunal. He asked for a lady's address so that he could apologise.

Crawley: No, not to apologise for making such statements, but for any misunderstanding which might have arisen. I deny having made such statements.

Mr Gardner said the case in question was concerning a widow with one soldier boy and one sailor boy. She had related to him the experiences of herself and some friends in the shop, and told how the man had tried to influence them against the war. He (Mr Gardner) wrote and asked the lady to be present at that Tribunal, but she was unwell and could not attend. Otherwise she would have given evidence.

Mr Keens questioned him about these alleged statements, which were emphatically denied. “I can only think these statements are brought forward to prejudice my case,” burst out Crawley “I do not wish to state...”

Mr Mair: If you have denied the statements that is sufficient.

Pursuing his inquiries about the sacrifices Crawley was willing to make, Mr Gardner said: Are you willing to serve on a trawler? - No. Why not? - Because I could never stand the sea (loud laughter).

When gravity was restored, Mr Mair remarked seriously that there were plenty of people who would 'stand' the sea, and the respondent declared that it always made him bad when he went afloat.

Mr Gardner resumed: Are you willing to go into an ambulance? - No, I cannot. I have entered into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and am decided.

The Chairman (hastily): We don't want to know your relations with Jesus Christ or anybody else. We want to know your relations with this war.

A few more or less tempting offers from Mr Gardner met with stolid refusal, until that gentleman was fain to exclaim, “Well, then, the sacrifices you are willing to make amount to nothing at all.”

Having reached this point, the Tribunal requested the man to withdraw, and subsequent discussion resulted in the decision to order Crawley to find work of national importance to the satisfaction of the Pelham Committee [Committee on Work of National Importance], to whom the Clerk said he would refer the case.

[The Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph, August 3rd, 1918]