Sutton conscientious objector's story unearthed for WW1 centenary

Scullard is second from the right

Scullard is second from the right

First published in News
Last updated
This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter covering Wandsworth

Peace campaigners have uncovered the story of a man who survived the death penalty after refusing to fight in the First World War.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s oldest non-sectarian pacifist organisation, is working to bring untold stories of conscientious objectors to light during the war's centenary.

One story they have unearthed is that of Henry [Harry] Scullard, (1890-1964), a conscientious objector who lived in Warwick Road, near Sutton Grammar School.

The Government introduced conscription for the first time in 1916 and those who felt it was wrong to participate in the war faced the imprisonment, hard labour, torture and even the threat of execution.

Harry Scullard, an insurance clerk from Sutton, faced all of this and survived. He was a Congregationalist with a religious objection to taking life.

His application to be exempt from military service was refused at a tribunal hearing and he was arrested, fined and sent to the military in France where he was told refusal to obey an order was a crime punishable by death.

Harry underwent punishments including the dreaded Field Punishment Number One where he was tied with his arms outstretched to a barbed wire fence and left outside for 28 days.

In June 1916 he was told he would be faced with the death penalty unless he decided to fight in the war. He refused and a few days later his sentence was read out to him: "The accused were tried by Field General Court-Martial, had been found guilty and sentenced to death.

"The sentence has been confirmed by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and commuted to ten years penal servitude."

Fortunately for Harry political pressure from supporters back in England had led the Government to denounce military punishments and the army backed away from shooting men most considered to be civilians.

Harry was sent to Winchester Prison in England before being moved to a work camp where he remained until after the end of the war in 1919.

It is thought he married in 1920 to a woman called Gwen Stevens and had a daughter.

PPU’s work on Scullard is part of their Objecting to War project which aims to bring the stories of London men into the light after being forgotten for so long.

Ben Copsey, Objecting to War project manager, said: "Harry’s story shows the remarkable strength and determination needed to be a conscientious objector.

"It shows how difficult it was to stick to your principles in the First World War and refuse to fight in what many believed was a pointless slaughter."

If you would like to get involved or contribute to their research email: londoncos@ppu.org.uk


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