First, a definition from "The Great War"


Second, the physical requirements of a WW1 recruit.

The original height for a man volunteering when war was inevitable,  had not been considered properly and the authorities were inundated with volunteers of every height and shape. Fearing a 'swamping' for there were relatively few uniforms, little accommodation, few officers and little equipment reserves, a minimum height of 5' 8" was set as one of those criteria for enlisting.  This debarred lots of volunteers, and once the numbers had diminished and time had been given to a rethink and a replenishment of the shortfalls mentioned above, the 'doors were reopened' on the 11th October 1914 for recruits with a minimum height set at 5' 5". On the 5th November 1914, that requirement was lowered to 5' 3" where it stayed for the rest of the war.


Third, how WW2 recruiting was organised

Records show that the vast majority of conscientious objectors [CO's] were not necessarily averse to wearing a military style uniform, and were willing to "serve" as long as the role they were given was not a combatant role, and therefore they would not be called upon [or expected] to take part in the 'killing machine'.  However, there were one or two who went so far as to refuse to wear a British armed forces uniform even though no weapons or any sort were involved. To them, the uniform itself was indicative of causing physical harm to enemies and to them, a declared anathemaisation.  Here is a story of one such person. Remember that Britain was still at war until the 2nd September 1945 when the Japanese signed the surrender document and WW2 officially came to an end, and not on VJ day [August]  as is commonly thought.

Now, rather ASHAMEDLY

[my words and meant]  because being a CO flouts all the rules of defending one's country as I understand it] we had conscientious objectors in my family! However, if there ever can be mitigating circumstances this is one which is remotely acceptable assuming that one does a war related job in lieu of a uniformed job carrying weapons of war. These three members of the Dykes family were Quakers so their cop out was based on a religious concept BUT they were jailed and didn't serve their country in any known way.

Potted history of my family

My paternal great grandfather ARTHUR BENNETT DYKES married Sarah Alice Ingham on July 9th 1872 and had three children one of which was my grandfather Bennett DYKES. ARTHUR was widowed on the 8th February 1899 when his wife died of renal failure at the age of 30. It is recorded that she died in hospital in absolute agony and without a pain killer and no anesthetic as we understand it today, with a surgeon trying to remove a diseased  kidney.  They were members of the CofE faith. Later, my grandfather married and he and his new wife became Methodists. In 1901 Arthur Bennett  married his second wife Louisa Smith and moved to a different property though still in the same town. There, Arthur Bennett sired a new family of six more children, four boys and two girl, one girl  dying when aged four. The fourth born child, a boy, Maurice, served in the British army during the greater part of WW2. Soon after this second marriage the family changed their faith to Quaker who were sworn conscientious objectors - Louisa was born into a Quaker family! The new family, my grandfathers half brothers and sister had little to do with my grandfather and Arthur's first  family. When the WW1 came Arthur's three sons by his second marriage [Maurice was not old enough] were called to arms but played the conscientious objector card, They were Frank DYKES who was jailed locally in Leeds, his brothers CECIL and ARTHUR being jailed a long way from home in Durham, for a lack of response to the summons to don a uniform.

This is a letter [below] their mother Louisa wrote to the governor of Durham Prison asking him to give  enclosed letters to her two sons Cecil and Arthur when they come out of prison finishing with "Much obliged". Note the number '1378 Dykes' at the top of the letter which may have been one of the boys prison number. Why, when they come out and not whilst they were in, suggests a subsequent punishment of the Rule of not being allowed personal letters during their time behind bars? However, and a bloody big HOWEVER, I use this opportunity to mention the rich and well connected who today would be classed as vermin, and even back then, were reviled by the majority and admired by the few of their own classes. They were perverts, homosexual and lesbians, who chased 'art' and nothing more throughout WW1 whilst millions were being killed. In all of history they were the most profound pacifists and dodged war service because of their connections,  connections which attracted the same perversions and sub human behaviour in mankind as they themselves were! They were known and very famous as the BLOOMSBURY GROUP and this little script will help you to assess the group as a whole.

The sickening groups of privileged educated rich people who were not only conscientious objector’s but used the war for their own gain getting freedoms when ordinary men who were conscientious objectors  were “put to work” or imprisoned” like my family whose only real crime was being a Quaker although I am not condoning CO’s for one moment, family members included. They ended the war as famous people allowing millions to die in France and Belgium or come back home to a broke country often hopelessly maimed or suffering severe shell shock. As they were famous to some, to men like me they were beyond contempt as being the scrum of the land. 


The Bloomsbury Group—or Bloomsbury Set—was a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century, including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. This loose collective of friends and relatives was closely associated with Cambridge University for the men and King's College London for the women, and they lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London. According to Ian Ousby, "although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts. Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality of all deviations.

The letter below reads - "Dear Sir, Will you kindly give the enclosed letter cards to my two sons Cecil and Arthur Dykes when they come out of prison.  Much obliged. Yours faithfully [Mrs A.B] which stands for her husbands initials viz Arthur Bennett ][Dykes] - dated Sept 21st 1916"  This could suggest a nigh on two year sentence but I don't know for sure?


I follow this with a few pictures.

My first picture shows Louisa Dykes and her surviving children at the start of the 20th century with her youngest daughter Mabel now deceased and her youngest son Maurice [left] a mere child but destined to fight in WW2 in North Africa and Italy. Frank and mum Louisa standing, Dora, Cecil and Arthur seated.  

This is my great grandfather Arthur Bennett Dykes


For those wondering about my use of things like 'half brother of GG'  these pictures are taken from a book I wrote for my grandkids on the family which shows ever birth, marriage and death certificates, cause of death descriptions where and why, and scores of personal snippets on each family members included war service from the the Crimean War onwards.

This picture below shows the grandchildren of Arthur Bennett and Louisa and the first shows four men and a lady the two either side of her [Ruth Dykes] are twins Peter and John Dykes, and on the left Ivor and Maurice right. Quite out of the blue back in the dying days of the 20th century, Ivor contacted me through my website and we shared much news on the family. He sent me these pictures and Louisa's letter and I was able to fill him in on my side of the family, starting with Arthur Bennett's eldest son from his first marriage to Sarah Alice Ingham  - Bennett Dykes the Methodist and my grandpa - who died in 1899 after being married to my great grandpa for 27 years.

There was a relationship between that side of the family to my father Harry Dykes who was a cousin of sorts, ergo so am I in whatever order? After several on line meet-ups we got to know each other quite well and clearly enjoyed our keyboard chats. That was followed by his niece,which I recall being the daughter of the twin John Dykes called Rowena Dykes who contacted me by letter and was able to impart the details of yet another layer of generation to which she belonged: being STILL using her maiden surname was a well known thing to do for professionals in the arts, although of course  she might have been a spinster?  I was excited because I really do enjoy computer compositions [charts, graphs, and general EXCEL type work] which usually only business people get involved with, and I composed my answer missing nothing out of the Dykes story, so to speak. I naturally told her about my life as a boy, my two careers one in the navy and one as a London businessman, my marriage and family etc etc and then nothing - absolutely - from either Rowena or Ivor. This confused me and  I made several attempts to reengage with Ivor on line, but thought better of sending another letter to Rowena [no email address or telephone number was added to her letter] whereas mine had landline. mobile and email included. I even knew where she worked for the BBC in television backstage, but refrained from that route in case I was branded a weirdo or a stalker. Finally it dawned on me [or at least I thought it had but I'll never know for sure] that I had gone on a lot in my letter about my naval career, and Quakers might not have welcomed such a response being devout conscientious objectors and anti-war come what may and for all events. Ships have guns and missiles and submarines [at least the ones I served in had torpedoes] which for people like Arthur Bennett's second marriage are unmentionables, which led to the scuppering once again, after scores of years divorced, of getting back together again

ADDED in 2020 - And for my final picture it is of the same group above, only more casual. Maurice is standing, and I can finish off a good note to tell you that I am in touch with Maurice who is now 95 and very frail, through his  daughter Kathryn. Twenty years ago Maurice was very active in the Royal British Legion.


Added Monday 20th January 2020 two lovely photographs of our WW2 soldier Maurice,  taken on the 3rd January 2020 on his 98th birthday.  He is being treated and chaperoned by his two lovely daughters Pauline left and Kathryn right. Were I to be in a pub when I am 98 I would be well chuffed. Well done all of you.

Conscientious Objector (Treatment)


HC Deb 09 October 1945

Mr. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the case of a conscientious objector, named Roy Woodward, now at the State Hill Detention Barracks, Castleton, near Rochdale, particulars of whose alleged treatment at these barracks have been sent on to him; and whether he is prepared to have an investigation made into all the circumstances of the case.

Mr. Lawson

This case has been investigated and the facts are as follow: No. 97007722 Private Roy Woodward was registered as a Conscientious Objector to do non-combatant duties by the Northern Appellate Tribunal on 29th May, 1945, when he appeared on an appeal from the decision of the local Tribunal that he should do full military service. He was posted to the Non-Combatant Corps and was called up on 2nd August, 1945, on which date he reported to No. 12 Pioneer Corps Holding and Training Unit, Prestatyn. On 14th August, 1945, he was tried and convicted by Court-Martial on a charge of disobeying a lawful command, namely, refusing to take a kitbag when ordered to do so. He was sentenced to 56 days' detention and was admitted to No. 15 Military Detention Barrack, Stakehill, Castleton, near Rochdale, to serve his sentence. On admission, his civilian clothes were taken away from him, in accordance with the rules prescribed for Military Detention Barracks and Military Prisons. These rules provide that once a soldier has been admitted to a Detention Barrack his plain clothes will be taken away at the time of the medical inspection, and he will then be dressed in uniform. Private Woodward was given his military clothing to put on. This he refused to do, although efforts were made by the Commandant, the Assistant-Commandant, and also by members of the Staff, to induce him to change his mind.

Private Woodward's father called at the Detention Barrack and was permitted to interview his son. It was hoped that he would succeed where others had failed, but Private Woodward persisted in his attitude and refused to put on any military clothing. For the sake of decency and health he was dressed on several occasions by the Staff, but immediately removed his clothing at the first opportunity, and wore only a towel round his waist. The whole of the time during which Private Woodward was dressed in a towel, military clothing was in his room ready for him to put on.

On 1st September, 1945, Private Woodward was charged with a further offence of disobedience, and was remanded for trial by Court Martial. On 4th September he was allowed to dress in his civilian clothes and was removed from the Detention Barrack to a military unit to await trial. He was brought to trial on 17th September, 1945, and was sentenced to 93 days' imprisonment without hard labour. This sentence will enable him to appear again before the Appellate Tribunal for the purpose of pleading his conscientious objection to military service, and arrangements to that effect are now being made. He is at present in custody at His Majesty's Prison, Strange ways, Manchester.

Whilst Private Woodward was in custody at No. 15 Military Detention Barrack, he was treated with every possible consideration. He was committed to the Detention Barrack concerned as a result of his conviction by Court Martial for an offence against military discipline, and on his admission to the Detention Barrack he necessarily became subject to the rules and regulations applicable to such establishments, which include the wearing of military uniform. He was kept under observation by the Medical Officer who was consulted throughout as to what steps were necessary in the interests of the soldier's health. He was visited by his father twice and his mother once, and his parents would have been permitted to visit him again on 9th September if he had remained at the Detention Barrack. In addition he was granted an interview with a Quaker, Mr. Sutherland, on 29th August, 1945.

It will be appreciated that Private Woodward was sent into the Army on a finding of the Appellate Tribunal, with full knowledge that that course would involve the wearing of uniform. The military authorities, both at the Court Martial of 14th August, in the matter of the sentence awarded, and subsequently in the Detention Barracks, were therefore justified in assuming that it was not unreasonable to require Private Woodward to accept the consequences of the finding, and he must himself be held responsible for the periods of time he spent clad only in a towel, while his uniform was available to be put on.

The case was not discussed in any further Parliamentary Debate.  We must assume that Woodward did his time and was released, not just from Detention but from the Army.