The Diary of a Conscientious Objector


by Dorothy Spence, formerly United Reformed Church Minister in Milton Keynes, now living in retirement near Penrith.

My father, Harold Ernest Wild, 1896-1979, became a pacifist at the start of the First World War, in response to the militarism which pervaded most parts of society, including the Church. It was the churches’ attitude, in particular the call to ‘fight in the name of Christ’ which he found intolerable. At about this time he read through the whole of the bible, and came to the conclusion that it was not God’s will to fight, and that Jesus, in particular, taught us to love our enemies, not to fight them. Up to the outbreak of war he had been a keen Christian, a member of Rusholme Wesleyan Methodist Church, and had even, at one point, considered ordination to the ministry of the church.His response, when his call-up papers came, was to ignore them, and that led to his arrest.

However, he was badly disabled, having what was (many years later) diagnosed as a congenital hip displacement, and as a consequence, one leg was five inches shorter than the other, and so he walked with a pronounced limp, and no reasonable medical examination would have declared him to be fit for active service. My father preferred not to make an issue of this, but to be arrested along with his colleagues. At his trial, however, the newspapers made much of it – for the first time they had seen someone who wanted to claim CO status, but who didn’t need to have been called up anyway.

My father kept a detailed diary of events around this time, and also kept a scrap book of newspaper cuttings. The following is an edited version of his diary which was entitled “Events.” All these events took place within the vicinity of Manchester, unless otherwise stated. My father’s diary usually refers to events happening in the evening as at ‘night.’
The account ends with an extract from a letter my father wrote me in 1974, about his conscientious objection.

My editorial comments and summaries are in [square brackets and italics].

Dorothy Spence, 2010 & 2011

Click on the links in the bar above or below to read the diaries.

1915   1916   1917   1918   1919   Letter 1974