Monday, 27 February 2012

Conscientious objectors

While researching the Bradford Trades Council minutes three names of conscientious objectors have so far emerged. The Trades Council had even before the war broke out been looking for peace, attending the Ninth National Peace Conference in Leeds in 1913. This effort continued throughout the war as demonstrated by a survey of their members in March 1918 to see if they were in favour of a negotiated peace. They had been adamantly against conscription and working to “safeguard the historic right of individual freedom of conscience.”

One of the conscientious objectors named was Revis Barber (full name Mark Revis Barber) who was the son of the Secretary of the Trades Council. His father Walter had previously been a stuff dyers labourer but was secretary of the Trades Council from at least 1911. He was 50 when war broke out in 1914 and too old to go to the front. He and his wife Alice had four children, in 1911 they report that the eldest two sons, Charles and James, had died, both were in the 1901 census as apprentices age 16 and 14. Their third son Mark Revis Barber was 18 when war broke out and their youngest Walter Vereen Annistage Barber was 13. The Trades Council in December 1918 “agreed to make an application for the release of Revis Barber from the Home Office Scheme having served 12 months imprisonment.”

I don’t know what happened to his two older brothers what caused them to die when they had survived infancy and seemed to be doing well as apprentices, or what happened to his younger brother and whether he too was a conscientious objector.

I have just discovered that Revis Barber went on to be an Alderman of Bradford Council and "supported and led the dream of a University for Bradford for many years. In 1965, Alderman Barber signed the Petition to the Queen to create a Royal Charter, thereby establishing the University; he died very soon after."

The other two conscientious objectors that were named in the minutes were  Mr A Emsley a member of the National Union of Woolsorters and Mr W J Greene. This hasn’t given me enough information to confirm any more details about their families but if you know more please get in touch.


Bradford Trades Council minutes 1914-1918 

There is more information about Revis Barber at the Bradford University Archive


  1. That's an interesting find.
    Were the local military service tribunal's hearings reported in the press? Most cases of conscientious objection (presuming the men were of military age in 1916) tended to be right at the start of conscription, March-June 1916. This might give ages, whether married, and so on.

  2. I've not had a chance to check the press yet - I'm not sure what the date of the actual tribunals were two were related to men who had already been in prison for at least 12 months the other I think was just being transferred to Home Office Scheme. I don't know how much the press were allowed to report on the tribunal cases... more investigations to do!!

  3. The Bradford Daily Telegraph briefly reports on the tribunals often focussing on one or two examples but it doesn't name names unfortunately but might give an idea of the persons occupation or area in which they reside. I will check other newspapers at some point.