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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 23. September 17, 1968

Books — Use of force


Use of force

Republished at an opportune time is this account of a little Known, and grim, aspect of New Zealand's history: the persecution or conscientious objectors during World War I.

The experiences of Archibald Baxter, his brothers, and many others will enlighten many on the obscured attitude of the authorities during that era of engineered warhysteria. That such events as those which Baxter recounts should have occurred qualifies New Zealand history for inclusion among those of totalitarian regimes, and is an example of what can happen when government authority tacitly permits coercive agencies to use brutality against a reviled minority. Their rejection of militarism caused them to face the wrath of an authoritarian regime that believed conscripts should be mindless subservients whose sole purpose in existing was not to reason why, but to do and die.

Baxter (father of poet James K.) writes quietly, with humility and without rancour, with greater objectivity and detachment than might be expected from one who, with his thirteen fellow objectors, suffered grievous indignities as punishment for their adamant beliefs, which were mainly based on political and religious grounds

They were imprisoned for some months in New Zealand, deported as civilians on a troopship to the battlefront in Europe, often beaten and tortured, sometimes with the notorious "number 1 field punishment". Thev were subjected to hunger and thirst, deprivation of medical attention and denied the most basic requirements. On several occasions they were threatened with summary and immediate execution for refusing to accept military orders. All this in attempting to break them down.

The fourteen deported men experienced the attentions of sadists attracted by the positive sanctioning of their persecution, Conversely, however, other soldiers of all ranks admired their resolution, and often unexpectedly intervened, sometimes at considerable risk to themselves.

To describe here, even with Baxter's temperate narrative, some of the indignities he and his fellow objectors suffered, would be conducive to eliciting emotional responses impairing rational appreciation of this review. An equally substantial impression that Baxter projects is of the sympathy and kindness they received from many, and without which thev might not have survived.

Archibald Baxter … idealist

Archibald Baxter … idealist

We Will Not Cease was first published in 1939 by Victor Collancz of London, but few copies reached New Zealaud before the unsold stocks were destroyed during the Blitz of 1941.

Archibald Baxter: We Will Not Cease. The autobiography of a concientious objector. The Caxton Press, Christchureh, 1968. 189 pages. $1.90. Reviewed by Leslie Slater.