Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and "The Process of Their Conversion"
XVI.—Archibald McC. L. Baxter
XVI.—Archibald McC. L. Baxter.
My object in writing this statement is not to parade my opinions or principles. Neither do I write it as a complaint against the Army, for I believe complaints, as a rule, do little good. My object is an honest one. I wish to make a plain statement of facts which may prove of some value, and if much of which I have to relate discredits me in the minds of some people, the public has at least an honest, if incomplete, statement to judge from, and I might say here at the outset, that I have nothing to conceal, and, from my point of view, nothing to be ashamed of. I have often been asked, "What are my objections to war?" and the argument of the "survival of the fittest" has often been used in support of military methods. I have wondered that educated men can be so illogical, for while this law may be natural enough throughout the animal kingdom, in war it is not the "fittest" who survive, but a great many of the world's fittest and best men are slain, while a still greater number are rendered unfit. I am against war on this ground, and I wonder that any sane person who knows the destruction, the degradation, the misery, and the sorrow page 76caused by war, can regard it as anything else than diabolical in the extreme. Now I have always been a true believer in law and order, and as a citizen I have regard for the thoughts and opinions of my fellows, and also for their feelings. I believe that a man should seek to bring his life and actions into agreement with his truest sense of duty towards God and Man. I believe that the Soul of Man is not, and cannot be, subject to any earthly State, for no earthly State is perfect. For this the military authorities designated me a "Defiant Objector" in New Zealand, but in France they told me that they believed me sincere, although I had not changed my opinions. I believe that passive resistance to evil is the power that will yet conquer the world, and I believe, that that form of militarism that goes on the principle that Man is merely the property of Man, will find that there are men who will oppose such principles, though they be subjected to the most barbarous cruelties, or put to death, or shut in cells and bound with all the chains and fetters that were ever forged on the anvils of Hell. I am not against the soldier; the troops I came in contact with know that, I judge no man for his opinions. I have my failings like other men, but I stand for Universal Brotherhood. I view all men as comrades and brothers in different stages of moral, intellectual, and spiritual development, and I know that far above all earthly States is to be found the awakened Soul of Man struggling onward and upward, away from long cherished delusions towards that universal harmony which to know in its fullness would be perfect comprehension, freedom, and love.
I was arrested at my home in Brighton by the local policeman in company with another officer. I had not received notice to go into camp, and had just returned home from a hard season's shearing. The local police officer said he had come to see me on business relating to farming statistics, and I walked with him a short distance from the house, where his friend appeared, and I was informed that I was under arrest. I asked for permission to go into the house for my clothes, and when this was refused, I asked the officer to come in with me, or go in himself, but he refused, and ordered me into his cart. My mother then brought out my hat and coat and I was driven off. I was taken to the Kensington Drill Hall, and from there was marched down to the Central Battery by four guards with fixed bayonets, and was there locked in a cell. Next day I was sent to Trentham Camp, and was there charged before the Camp Commandant with being absent without leave. The case against me was dismissed, but I was not set at liberty. I was kept a prisoner in company with William Little, my brother John, and some others in the "clink." After a few days, my brother Alex. was brought in, and we were then sentenced to twenty-eight days' detention for refusing our kits. When we arrived at the Detention Barracks at Wellington, we were put on bread and water for three days for refusing to take page 77off our civilian clothes and change into denims. We were afterwards charged before a courtmartial (and got three months' jail for the same offence. We were taken back to Trentham when our time was up and were sentenced to another twenty-eight days' detention. We were sent again to the Wellington Detention barracks, where we were asked if we intended to take off our clothes this time. We replied that we did not, and no further pressure was used. We were locked in our cell most of the time for about a fortnight, when, early one morning we were marched out by about a dozen military police. We were put on board a transport, and when we were put into the guard-room on board we met ten other Objectors who had been put on board during the night. I had met most of these men in jail, and they were pleased to meet us again. There were then fourteen of us in all. The thing we felt most at the time was not being allowed to bid our friends good-bye. We were kept in that guard-room, and most of us being sick, we were in a bad way for some time, but afterwards, by the Captain's orders, I think, we were taken out on deck for fresh air, and were also given a chance to keep our quarters clean.
Before we reached Capetown many of those on board were down with measles, and about twenty men, including Albert Sanderson, my brother John and myself, were put ashore at this port. I saw no more of the other Objectors till I met some of them in France, except Robert Gray, whom I met at Sling Camp. He was doing gardening work there at the time. Gray told me that he and his comrades had been stripped of their clothes a few days after their ship left Capetown. He said that their clothes were thrown overboard and that they were pulled out naked and had had the hose turned on them. When we were put ashore at Capetown I was sent to the military hospital at Maitland in company with others, my brother and Sanderson being sent to another hospital.
After about three weeks we were all gathered up again and sent to the Castle at Capetown. We remained there for some weeks, and no men could have been more friendly than the troops who were with us there. The lieutenant in charge was a New Zealander, but had not been in New Zealand for twenty years. He told me that all he would ask of my brother and I was to answer the roll call. Sanderson had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment in New Zealand, and as his time had not yet expired he was sent to a military prison in Weinberg. All the rest of us were sent after this to Simonstown. My brother and I were in civilian clothes and were at absolute freedom. Our stay there did us a great amount of good. A band of us used to go out each day exploring the country, and we saw many interesting things—things that were new to us in plant and animal life. I was sorry that Sanderson was confined to a prison cell while we roved out at will, through scenes of the most wonderful rugged beauty. Altogether we spent about three and a half months there, page 78and if we had any wish to escape from me army we had nothing to do but to walk away, but that would have been against our principles.
My brother, Sanderson and I left Capetown with the other New Zealanders on a passenger ship, the Llanstephen Castle. There were about nine hundred negroes on board, who were being sent out by the South African Government to work behind the lines in France. We had a good enough time on the voyage and were not made prisoners, but had complete freedom. Sanderson became ill, and was so far down at one time that I thought he would never reach England. No men could have been more friendly than those New Zealanders who were with us at Capetown and on the voyage to England.
When we arrived at Plymouth we were lined up on the wharf, and a British officer came along and asked, "Who are these men in civilian clothes?" When he was told he said he did not know what to do about us, and went away to find out. When he came back he sent us along with the other men to Sling Camp. For some time after arriving at Sling Camp I was at liberty. I was still wearing civilian clothes, which I refused to give up, but eventually they were taken away from me forcibly and I was then dressed in uniform. I was put in detention for refusing orders, and each day I was taken out by the Military Police for exercise, always handcuffed, with my hands behind my back. I was also handcuffed in the same way while in my cell. It was snowy weather, and for want of circulation I could hardly move a limb. I was suffering from neuralgia and protested against such treatment. I think it was the only time I ever did complain in the Army. The Military Police said it was the adjutant's orders, but that they would see the provost-sergeant. The latter came in and took the handcuffs off and told me to come out into the guard-room and have a warm at the fire. I have nothing to say against the military police at Sling, I heard the adjutant's orders, which were that if I did not choose to promise obedience I could freeze."
Almost every day I was visited by officers and sometimes by a chaplain. They argued with me sometimes for hours at a stretch. One parson told me that he was very much interested and glad that he had met me. He had heard about me, and had evidently expected to meet a crank or an egotist, who had no regard for any law, human or divine. He talked with me for a long time, and told me that he agreed with me on most points, but that his views were not so extreme. He offered to do anything in his power for me, and promised to call and see me again.
After this, the colonel and the adjutant paid me another visit, and informed me that I was being sent to France with the next draft. I was glad to hear this, for I knew that my comrades were there, and I hoped to meet them again. They told me that if I went along quietly with the other soldiers I would be all right They asked me if I would do this, and I replied that I realised that I was in their power, and that they could send me wherever they wished.page 79
When the draft was ready to start, the sergeant, the military police, and a few soldiers who knew me shook hands with me, and wished me the best of luck. They asked me what I would do when I reached France, and I replied: "They can send me to France, they can send me into the trenches or anywhere they like. All that I can conscientiously do I will do, but what I cannot conscientiously do I'll refuse to do, no matter what the consequences." They cheered, and I was then taken out and attached to the draft and sent off.
Next day I arrived at Etaples, and there met Patton and Harland. Patton told me he had been in a compound tor twenty-eight days for refusing orders, and had been punched by a guard while in prison. He had been on No. 1 Field Punishment. At the time of which I write both Patton and Harland were at liberty, and I remained with them about two days, and during this time had my freedom.
I was then taken before Colonel Mitchell. He said that I was to proceed to Abele with a draft, and that he would be up there in a few days, and would see me there.
I went with the draft, and when we reached Abele I was put in a hut with the other troops, and in the morning was given an order, which I refused to obey. I was then left for a few days until Colonel Mitchell arrived. I was taken before him several times for about a week. He said he did not wish to send me to "clink," but that he could not leave me among the other troops. He gave me into the charge of the military police, and told me to remain with the police for the time being. I stayed with the police in their quarters for some time, and was allowed a certain amount of freedom. The police were very friendly, and I was well treated by them.
Colonel Mitchell had told me that he would look into my case, and see if he could do anything for me. The next time I was called before him he told me that he had done all in his power for me, and that if I did not obey orders he could not do other than treat me as any other soldier who disobeys; that I was regarded as a soldier by the N.Z. Government. I explained my attitude, and he said that he very much regretted to have to punish me, but if I did not obey his hand would be forced.
I was then taken and given an order, which I refused. I was taken before him again, and was sentenced to twenty-eight days' No.1 Field Punishment. Next day I was taken to a compound, where I received orders from the sergeant, which I again refused. I was then reported to the officer in charge, who told me that he would have to tie me up, but he hated to have to do this to any man, and was not doing it to other prisoners. I remained there for about a week, but was not tied up. An officer came to the compound and had a conversation with me, and said that I should not be permitted to live. I was then taken out of that compound and sent to another called Mud Farm. The men there were being tied up, whether they obeyed orders or not. This compound was in charge of a lieutenant page 80of the Imperial Forces and a N.Z. sergeant. After I had been there for a few days, tied up three hours each day, Kirwan was brought in under escort and put in a tent in the same enclosure with me. There were a good many prisoners there, but only one New Zealander beside Kirwan and myself. Kirwan had been sentenced for the second time to twenty-eight days' No. 1 Field Punishment for refusing orders. While doing the first term he had been put in close confinement for a time on biscuits and water. While we were there we received the same food as the other prisoners. It kept our body and soul together. The weather became very cold and rough. The poles on which we were tied were in a very exposed place by the roadside, in view of the passers-by. The other prisoners were not tied up in all weathers, but Kirwan and I were. On one occasion we were tied there in a bitter snowstorm. I was too numbed to feel when taken off, and suffered much from the effects.
We were both taken from this place back to Abele, where we were again taken before Colonel Mitchell, who said that as we still refused orders there was no alternative but to send us up the lines, and also pointed out to us what it would mean if we refused to obey orders under fire. He told me that he thought at one time that I might change my mind, and I replied that he judged me wrongly, that I was quite sure of the ground on which I stood. He said he was sorry if he had judged me wrongly, but thought it most regrettable that I should take up such an attitude.
We were then equipped with steel helmet and gas mask, and given into charge of a provost sergeant. We were taken from place to place behind the lines all that day, and stopped that night at a place where we met Mark Briggs. On the morning after Kirwan and I arrived there we were taken before a colonel, in company with Briggs. This colonel told us that he was sending us up the lines, and if we disobeyed orders we would have to stand the consequences. Prior to going up before him, I was given an order by the provostsergeant in charge of us, which order I refused. He instantly dealt me a blow in the jaw, which knocked me down. Each time I tried to rise he struck me again. When I had got up the last time he had gone out of the hut. When I saw him again I asked him if he had anything personal against me, but he said he had not; he had his orders and intended to carry them out. I told him that was all I wished to know.
From there we proceeded with the provost-sergeant to the Belgian Chateau near the old an officer. This officer told us what he thought of us, and asked me why it was that I had refused to obey orders. When I replied, he complained of my want of modesty in setting forth my objections, and for saying that I would stand firm on my convictions and to the truth as I knew it, no matter what happened to me. I answered that he had spoken freely to me, and that I might as well page 81speak frankly and honestly—that I had certainly no wish to give offence. He also spoke to Briggs, and then dismissed us. We were then taken to a hut, and told to stay there until further orders. We were next brought before a captain, who received us one at a time. When I was taken in before him he said he wanted me to realise my position in the Army. He said that I was not justifying my existence. I told him why I objected and why I refused orders, and he said that the trouble was that none of the fourteen men who had been forcibly sent out of N.Z. could claim to be conscientiously opposed to war, at least not lawfully, as they did not belong to denominations in the tenets of whose creed war is forbidden. He signed a document and gave it to me, and sent me to another Camp. This document stated that I was not under military control. He sent a runner with me, who took me to this Camp and presented me to Headquarters there. They took my name, and gave me to understand that I was attached to the Battalion. I presented the document the captain gave me and they took a copy of it, and said that they would wait till they saw the captain. He came to the Camp later in the day, and told me that I could do anything I chose: that I could start when I liked and stop when I liked, and that I would not be under any military control whatever, as the document stated. He said that I would not be asked to do anything that would be against my conscience. When I asked whose control I would be under, he said that I would be under his own private control. I told him I had been attached to the Battalion as soon as I arrived there. He said that they should not have attached me, and asked me if I had shown them the document he had I realized that everything there was under military direction, and given me. I told him that I had presented it, and I also said that that the paper he had given me was absolutely worthless to me if any other officer was put in his place. He said he had looked on me before as a fanatic, but that henceforth he would regard me as an absolute obstructionist, and that he would rather see me with my skull knocked in behind a parapet than that I should ever see New Zealand again. I said: "Well, sir, I think you are very uncharitable and unjust, for I have no such wish towards you." He said: "Well, at any rate you are not much better than the men who are being sent to jail in New Zealand." I said that I had no doubt that they were sending better men than me to jail. He said that he had instructions from Headquarters regarding us, and that he wished to warn me. He said that these instructions were very harsh, and that if I did not listen to reason violence was sure to be used against me. I told him that violence had already been used against me, and that I was prepared for whatever was in store for me. He then sent me back to the camp I had just left, the Belgian Chateau.
When I got there the provost-sergeant came to the hut I was in and told me I was to get no food until I promised to obey orders. I remained there for three days without food, I was not locked up, but page 82he told me I was not allowed to draw my rations there, and I did not ask for anything except once, when I asked the orderly in the sergeants' mess if he had any tea left over. He told me there was some, and said to help myself, as he was not allowed to give me anything. I took some tea in a tin, but the provost-sergeant came up at the time, grabbed it out of my hand, and emptied the contents. Next day the cook called me over to the dug—out and gave me some food. He gave me food the next day also, and the sergeant did not interfere.
Next day I was sent back to the Otago Camp, and remained there. About two days after, an officer came to me and said that Kirwan wished to see me. He said that Kirwan wished to speak to me alone, and asked me to promise not to influence him in any way that would thwart the purpose of the Army. I made no promise, but he sent Kirwan down to see me. Kirwan told me that he had refused orders all the time he had been there, and that he would always reserve the right to refuse when he could not conscientiously obey. I agreed with him on this point absolutely. He told me he was being sent to a Base Hospital. I did not see Kirwan again.
The captain to whom I have already referred spoke to me again, and told me that he would see about getting me a hut or dug-out to myself. When I had last seen him I was in a hut alone, but at this time I was with a platoon. I told the captain that I would much rather stay where I was, for all the soldiers were friendly to me, and that I know a good many of them before.
I heard one day that Mark Briggs had been badly knocked about. I went into the medical hut and saw him. The provost-sergeant told me that Briggs was not expected to live, and that if he did live he was to be shot. Briggs told me that he had been dragged on a rope along the "duck walk" for about a mile by four men, and then thrown into a shell hole. At the time when I saw him there first he was lying helpless on a bed, and the M.O. came in while I was there and attended to his injuries. I was about to leave, but he said I could remain, so I watched him dress Briggs's back, nearly the whole lower portion of which was torn raw. Briggs was very pale, and looked like an old man, but was not downhearted. When I came out of the hut I met the provost—sergeant, and he said: "Well have you seen your friend?" I said that I had seen his own dirty work, and he replied: "That's the way you'll be to-morrow." He said what had happened to Briggs was Briggs's own fault, and that no man but a madman would endure it. Next morning the sergeant came to me and said: "Now, Baxter, to begin with, we are going to give you the father of all hidings before you leave this hut." I told him if those were his orders, and he deemed it his duly to carry them out, I would make no complaint. He then ordered the men who were with him to bring me along. I went with them, and the sergeant led the way to a place behind the front trenches, where he took me before an officer and explained the seriousness of my position. The sergeant said that he did page 83not wish me to be under any misapprehension as to what was going to happen. He said he was going to give me an order, and if I refused to obey it I would be instantly shot dead and that he himself would do the deed. I told them that I fully realized the position. The officer said that nothing I had to say now mattered, and reminded me that I was not in N.Z., but in France under shell fire. I was then given an order by the sergeant, which I refused to obey. The sergeant struck me on the mouth, and ordered me again, and I again refused. He then struck me under the jaw, making my mouth bleed, and when I refused again he said I was to get nothing but this treatment until I obeyed. He struck me again on the face and on the body several times. I told him that under the circumstances I would neither obey nor retaliate though he punched me to death. Some of the troops who were looking on called out to him to stop, and he then took me along to a pillbox and ordered me again, and when I again refused, he kept digging me in the ribs for a while and ordering me again and again. The work he was ordering me to do was to my mind equal to combatant service, and I told him I would rather be shot than do it. He then took me along till we met an officer, and he asked the officer if he could direct him to a place that was being heavily shelled. The officer pointed out an ammunition dump at some distance, and told him to take me along there for a while. The provost-sergeant took me to this place, which had been heavily shelled a few minutes before, and ordered me to stand there. When he was leaving me he said that he hoped that a shell would get me and blow me up to my Maker. The fire was very heavy for some time, and then slackened off, and I stayed where I was. When the sergeant came back he said I was a fool to stay there, and that I must have wanted to commit suicide. He said that he had done his part, and was not in love with the job, and that he did not want to have anything more to do with me, for he believed me mad. He then left me, saying that he would have to send in a report concerning me, and that in the meantime I should stay with the Otago boys. I did so, and did not see much of this sergeant again, for he left a few days later.
After this, Colonel Mitchell came to me and asked me how I was getting on. I told him that I was all right. He asked me if there was anything he could do for me, and I said that I did not know of anything. He asked if I had no request at all and no complaints, and I replied that I had none. He then said he was not going to allow me to be punished again, and would have to see the General about me. He told me he thought that I must have a mental twist, and I replied that he could think what he liked, but that I had nothing of the kind. He said that he would see Headquarters about me, and that if I had any request or complaint to make to communicate with him.
A few days after this we left the Ypres front and went back to Abele. I camped that night in a hut with Mark Briggs and several others. Briggs could hardly walk. It was a cold night, and when he page 84lay down on the floor I noticed that he had no blankets and offered him mine, but he refused to take it. The next morning the same officer who was there when Briggs was knocked about came into the hut and ordered me to go out to drill, and I told him that I did not go out on parade. He ordered me again, and I refused, and he then struck me in the face, knocking me down. I got up and he ordered me again, and when I refused again he kicked me and then struck me another blow and knocked me down, while I was down he kicked me several times about the body. I was knocked out, and he then ordered four men to carry me on to the parade ground. They picked me up and carried me out of the hut. When they got me out on the duck-walk the officer ordered them to lift me up high and let me fall on my back on the boards. He ordered them three times, but each time they let me down very gently. He then ordered them to proceed, and they carried me out on to the parade ground and set me on my feet, but I felt beat out, and lay down against my valise.
Colonel Mitchell passed along the ranks with some other officers and asked me what was the matter with me. I told him that I was right enough, and he passed on. I lay there for an hour or two, while the troops shifted to another camp not far distant. Four men came to me, and said that they had been sent to bring me down to this other camp, and that they had been told that if I would not walk they were to carry me. This camp was only about half a mile distant, and I walked with a man supporting me on each side. They gave me several spells on the way, and when they got there they took me into a hut and put some blankets over me and brought me a drink of hot tea.
I lay there until the afternoon, and the officer who had dealt with me in the morning came in and ordered me to go out on parade, but I made no answer. He asked me if I was going out and I said "No." He said that he would have me dragged out. He then left me, and in a while two men came and told me that they had been ordered to bring me out. They took me out and laid me down a few yards from the hut. From there I was taken before the Medical Officer, who asked me what was the matter. I told him that I had not paraded sick of my own accord but had been brought there, that I was bruised from head to foot, but had no complaint to make against anyone. He gave me some tablets, and I was taken back to the hut, and remained there that night.
Next morning we left that place and set out for the Somme by train. We were crammed into trucks in the usual way, and as I was not well I had a hard time. I do not remember the names of the places we were at out there. My health seemed to have given way, but I did not go on sick parade. No violence was used while at the Somme or after. I was taken to a dressing station one morning by two soldiers. I had to be carried at that time, and had not much life left in me. I was put on an ambulance waggon and sent off to page 85a hospital, where I was attended to, and a day or two after was sent to Boulogne, and received into hospital there. After the Medical Officer examined me he asked me if I had been under heavy shell fire, and I told him that I had on many occasions. He asked me how I came by certain marks of old bruises, and I told him some of my history. He asked me if I had been knocked down by a shell at any time, and I told him that I had, but that I had not been hurt. He then told me that he was glad I had told him all about myself, and that he did not blame me for my opinions. He told me that he would do anything he could for me, that I had been sent in there a sick man, and his business was to make me well.
I was very weak at this time, and about five weeks later, when I was sent to England, I had not picked up much, being still just over eight stone, about three stone below my ordinary weight.
This Medical Officer at Boulogne was one of the broadest-minded and most generous-hearted men that I have ever met, and he had a fine sense of humour, It was a good thing for me that I met him for at that time I was driven to the brink of an abyss. After I had been in hospital for a few days in England the M.O. came to me and asked me why I disobeyed orders in France, and I told him what the orders were, and he began to argue with me on the law of "the survival of the fittest." I told him that to my mind the fratricide and the suicide are much the same, and that the man who kills his fellows, believing that he is doing wrong, commits moral and intellectual suicide. He told me that I, through what I called passive resistance, and what he would call my stubbornness, had put myself in a position of absolute dependence on the Army. I replied that I was not ungrateful for what had been done for me, but that I thought the Army was responsible for me, for the military authorities knew what I was before ever they sent me out, but, if he did not want me there, all he had to do was to allow me to go out, and that I would look after myself and find my way back to New Zealand on my own. He talked to me no more, but sent me to bed for three days for what he was pleased to call my insolence.
There were a good few of the N.Z. boys there, and they were all good friends with me, and after a few months I was much better. We were visited by a N.Z. colonel one day, and he told several of us that we were being sent back to N.Z. He told me that he had heard about me, and was surprised to find me so well. He wished us a safe voyage home, and then left us. A few days after we were told that we were to embark at Southampton the following day. We crossed from that port to Le Havre, and travelled down through France by rail to Marseilles, and there embarked on the Maraama, after spending a few days at a place near the town. We went ashore at Colombo for a day and also at Albany, and then came on to Auckland, and next to Wellington.
When we came in at Wellington the M.O. called me and said that page 86I was to go before Colonel Allen and Mr. Myers. I went along with the M.O., and he showed me into a room where these two gentlemen were sitting and the M.O. introduced me to them and went out. Mr. Myers asked me to sit down, and then asked me a few questions about my health. Sir James Allen asked me if I was still of the same mind with regard to military service, and I told him that I was. He then asked me if I had been badly treated while in the Army, and said that they had been charged with treating me and other Objectors very cruelly. I said that I had received treatment that I would call cruel. He asked me if I had any complaint to make to him, and I replied that I did not think that I should make a complaint while the men against whom I would have to make it were not here in New Zealand. He then asked me what I was doing while at the front, and I told him that I was given a document by the Commanding Officer, which stated that I was not under military control, and all that I had done in the Army was done by me voluntarily, out of a sense of fairness to the men I was with. He asked me whether I was a Conscientious Objector, and I answered that I was called one in the Army, but did not call myself by any name. He said: "Why did you object to military service?" and I replied, "Because I am against war." He then asked me did I know anything about No. 1 Field Punishment, and I replied, "Not much." He said that a letter that I had written from France had been published in the papers, and that I had stated in that letter that I had been subjected to this punishment, and asked if that was true. I told him that I did not know that the letter had been published, but that it was all quite true.
I think I have told pretty well all that passed at that interview except that Sir James asked me to describe No. 1 Field Punishment, and I stood against the cabin wall and showed how my arms were fastened and how my legs were tied at the knees and ankles. Sir James asked me, "What do you intend doing now?" and I said, "I don't know yet what is going to be done with me," and he said that there might possibly be an enquiry into these matters, and I said that if there was I would speak the truth.
Mr. Myers asked me concerning my condition when in hospital. I told him that I had been put in an observation ward for a day or two when I first went in, and that I asked the Medical Officer why he put me there, and he asked me if it troubled me, and I said that it did, and the Medical Officer then took me into another ward, where there were some New Zealanders.
This closed the interview, and I went back to my ward, and presently two friends came on board to see me I was surprised to hear from them of a message which had been received by my people from Base Records, stating that I had been admitted to hospital in the United Kingdom, and that "my mental condition was causing anxiety." I cannot believe that any of the Medical Officers in the hospitals were responsible for such a statement, and certainly no New Zealand M.O. page 87could make such a statement, for I never met a N.Z. Medical Officer from the time when I was taken from the dressing station in France until I went aboard the hospital ship at Marseilles.
Shortly after I arrived at home a statement concerning me appeared in the Otago Daily Times, headed "Baxter Case,—The Conscientious Objector," and it was declared in this statement that I had set up my will in opposition to the will of the community. Now, I would like to say in this connection that with me it was not a matter of setting up my will against the public, but of doing what I believed to be right, and refusing to do what I believed to be wrong; and I do not believe that all that was done to me and to other Objectors was done by the will of the community.
All that I need to say in conclusion is that, although it was said that I appealed as a Religious Objector, as a matter of fact I did not appeal before a board on any ground at all, although I sent in a notice of appeal in which I stated that I would not act against my belief, and that by the help of God I would do no violence to any man. I was told in France that in my case it was not a question of services at all, but of submission. I did not see that it mattered whether I appealed or not, for I did not look for exemption. My real appeal was my conduct in the Army, and I have been discharged with a good character.
(Signed) A. McC. L. Baxter.