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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 3, No. 6

"Truth" Says ..

"Truth" Says ...

Whatever may be called civilised and what uncivilised about the present war, it is obvious that a broader and more humane attitude is being adopted in Great Britain towards those who are comprehensively described as Conscientious Objectors, than that which obtained in the last war. Returned soldiers remember vividly the cruelties and atrocities suffered by a number of New Zealand objectors in the Great War after conscription had been introduced. It is no longer a crime to be a "[unclear: Censhie]" to judge by the deliberations and findings of the English tribunals hearing objectors' pleas. Of the first 670,000 conscripted in Great Britain 14000, or 2% were C.O.'s compared with only 15000 out of nearly 9,000,000 mobilized in the Great War. Just because a young fallow comes along and says he is a Conscientious Objector does not mean that he is immediately exempted from war service. Not at all. A man's conscience is not a self-evident fact. Hence tribunals are sitting all over England hearing the evidence of these [unclear: conscience-men] and their witnesses. In their alert examination of these (mostly) well-educated, talkative young men, the tribunal look for signs of sincere pacifism exhibited socially before the war brake out.

Broadly speaking the tribunals attitude is that some [unclear: citizens] of a democracy hold opinions that set them apart from the national effort as completely as [unclear: 10] lunacy, criminality or sickness.

What a contrast to the Great War experience of [unclear: Mark] Briggs (now Hon. M. Briggs, M.L.C. ) and others who were shanghaied to France after conscription had been introduced in 1916. Briggs's case is an alost unbelievable story of sheer [unclear: swism], and vicious atrocity, perpetrated in the name of patriotism and freedom, the details of which almost make the blood run cold. But the facts are amply vouched for.

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Having been arrested for falling to answer his notice of being draughted to the forces, Briggs, was dumped on the military authorities who promptly sentenced him to clink in the camp and later to the civil prison at Wellington. From here he, and thirteen others were forced aboard ship without warning and sent to England for the Home authorities to deal with as unwanted Conscientious Objectors ... such punishments as kicking, punching, starving, and being tied to a post in bitter snow for hours on end, culminated in his being [unclear: dragged] by a wire around the shoulders for a mile long duck walk, and finally through a water, bogged shell hole, his back and thigh for a large area by then being simply raw flesh.

Truth goes on to mention the incidents which occurred in the Wanganui detention barracks which resulted in an enquiry (after the war) and the subsequent court martial of the officer responsible, who however was acquitted by the military court on all charges.