Quaker Strongrooms blog at the turning of the year

Library reading room, 1925-1927 (Lib. Ref. 93/AL/12)

Library reading room at Friends House, 1925-1927, by Hubert Lidbetter, architect (Library reference: 93/AL/12)

It’s time to look back over the past 12 months on the Quaker Strongrooms blog and ahead to what 2015 may bring. Our posts were unusually focused on one topic over much of the year, reflecting the importance of marking the World War I centenary from a non-militaristic point of view – so if that’s not your interest, thanks for sticking with us and look out for changes ahead!

 2014 started with a personal response to the records of the India Conciliation Group by our reader Sue Smith of Oxford Quaker Meeting, followed by a look at some unusual (for us) volumes of papers on equine veterinary medicine by Bracy Clark. While we weren’t surprised that other researchers made forays into the ICG papers this year, the appearance of a new novel about the reforming veterinarian Bracy Clark later in the year was an unexpected coincidence.

Bracy Clark. An essay on the bots of horses and other animals (1815)

Bracy Clark, An essay on the bots of horses (1815)

For the rest of the year the blog concentrated exclusively on World War I topics, highlighting some of the resources held by the Library, to support Quaker meetings and others marking the centenary over the coming years. We’ve already seen the fruits of some of this research in a host of events, exhibitions, publications from meetings and individuals around the country, not to mention the White Feather Diaries project.

We kicked off our World War I series with a blog post on Friends Peace Committee (predecessor of our present day Quaker Peace & Social Witness), actively promoting peace and international conciliation since the late 1880s. That was followed by Experiences of conscientious objectors, highlighting some of the unpublished resources held by the Library – prison diaries, letters and The Winchester Whisperer, a clandestine C.O. prison newspaper.

Lionel Sharples Penrose FAU service card

Lionel S. Penrose FAU service card

The longest blog post this year was a whistle-stop tour of resources on the Friends Ambulance Unit, including contemporary publications, archives and members’ diaries – a useful introduction to the work of a Quaker effort already becoming the focus of so many centenary projects. It’s great to be able to announce that the FAU personnel record cards have now been digitised and will very shortly be available to search online [now available online at http://fau.quaker.org.uk]. And since the FAU blog post appeared, the records of FAU Motor Stores have been made available and added to our online catalogue.

The Wartime Statistics Committee sounded dry, but like the FAU, its records include a fascinating resource for discovering individual histories – a sheet for every conscription age male Quaker or associate reported to the Committee by meetings around the country, with details of wartime service (peace witness, relief, religious or military). The returns have proved invaluable for researchers, including Cyril Pearce (author of Comrades in conscience) for his C.O. database soon to be made public by the Imperial War Museum.

The Society of Friends and the social order

We looked at contemporary publications too, with posts on peace pamphlets and wartime periodicals. After a personal highlight by our Visual Resources Development Officer focusing on the photograph album of Alan Burtt, a young FAU member just out of Sidcot School, putting his school-time enthusiasm for amateur photography to very different use in war ravaged northern France, we published a broad overview of World War I visual resources held by the Library – immensely important as a source of illustrative material for Friends marking the centenary and as a historical source in their own right.

SSA13 Ambulances at Gizaucourt by Arthur N. Cotterell (Library reference: MS Vol. S284)

Ambulances at Gizaucourt. Watercolour by Arthur N. Cotterell (Library ref: MS Vol. S284)

Looking ahead to 2015, expect the blog to return to a wider range of topics. We don’t predict a drop in World War I related enquiries or visits to the Library, but it’s clear that research in other areas continues to flourish. The blog will carry highlights, news and glimpses of work behind the scenes, as well as images to bring it all to life.

Lined up already are reports on our 15 month project to catalogue the large archive of the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (an organisation which extended beyond the end of the First World War and into post-revolutionary Russia of the 1920s), highlights from the Hawkins Collection of early Quaker printed works (the latest stage in our retrospective cataloguing project), and a look at recent conservation work made possible by the BeFriend a Book fund.

We hope 2015 will be a peaceful and prosperous year for all and look forward to seeing you then – whether you are visiting the Library in person, contacting us from afar or visiting us online!

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Library resources for researching World War I: visual resources

For the past nine months our blog has been focusing on printed and archival resources for researching World War I and its aftermath. At last it’s the turn of the Library’s “visual resources” – ever-present in the blog and on our Facebook page, but well worth exploring in greater depth. They encompass a wealth of material, including photographs, art works, prints, postcards, costume and artefacts, valuable both as a historical resource in their own right and as a rich trove of illustrative matter. We are delighted to have been able to source and supply images for a host of displays, books, pamphlets, educational resources and websites marking the centenary of World War I.  

This post provides an overview of the Library’s visual resources for World War I.


Visual resources in the archives of Quaker organisations

 Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU)

Among the records of the Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919)  (TEMP MSS 881) are photographs, prints and other visual material in the following series:

Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC)

The newly catalogued and re-packaged Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee archive includes a very large collection of visual material (YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS) documenting Quaker relief work in England, France, Holland, Poland, Russia, Germany and Austria, 1914-1926, in 21 boxes (242 folders, 28 photograph albums and 2 scrapbooks) and 7 small boxes (glass plate negatives). Our online exhibition, World War I: responding with compassion gives a glimpse into the collection.

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil, from FEWVRC Russia Famine album (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/7/1/63)


Visual resources in personal collections held by the Library

Some collections of personal papers relating to World War I are rich sources of visual material – drawings, photographs, postcards, scrapbooks, badges and clothing. Some prominent examples are:

  • Florence Barrow papers on Russia (TEMP MSS 590) including photographs from Efimovka, Russia, 1917 and Sermaize, France
  • Paul S. Cadbury papers (TEMP MSS 999) including Friends Ambulance Unit photographs, postcards, sketches, badges and uniforms
  • Rachel E. Wilson papers (TEMP MSS 1000) including photographs, sketch book and medal
  • Terence Lane papers (TEMP MSS 585) including prison badge, postcards and concert programmes relating to his imprisonment as a C.O.
  • Edward Horner (Library reference 93/ALBUM 31 and 32) – two albums of photographs documenting  FEWVRC  work with refugees in and around Dôle (including the Maison Maternelle at Châlons-sur-Marne) and work on board the hospital ship “Western Australia”).


Edward Horner album

Page from Edward Horner FEWVRC album – scenes from Maison Maternelle de la Marne (Library reference: 93/AL 31)


Visual resources – World War I works of art and objects

The Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) numbered several artists among its members. Some of their work was used to illustrate the official history, Tatham and Miles, The Friends Ambulance Unit 1914-1919.  

Cotterell, Ambulances at Gizaucourt

Ambulances at Gizaucourt by Arthur N. Cotterell, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S 284)

R. W. Nevinson (1889-1946), later an official war artist, served with the FAU from October 1914 to January 1915, working as stretcher bearer, driver and orderly. The Library holds a first edition of Modern war: paintings by C.R.W. Nevinson (1917), which includes reproductions of paintings like “La patrie” (one of the Tatham and Miles illustrations above), “Motor ambulance driver”, “The doctor”, and “In the observation ward”.

Ernest Procter (1886-1935), the most well-known of the Quaker artists in the FAU, was stationed at Dunkirk. Though not an official war artist, Procter sketched and painted his experiences. The Imperial War Museum has many more of his World War I paintings and drawings, but we do have a set of ten black & white and colour prints among the FAU archives described above (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/EP) and a sketch, Kitchen Dugout, France 1917 (F081).

Less well known is Donald Wood (1889-1953), a Leeds artist who was stationed with SSA19. For some years the Library has held two panels of a triptych entitled ‘The passersby on a road near La Panne, Belgium, 1916’.  We have the middle panel and the right panel (Library references PIC/F002 and PIC/F183), but the whereabouts of the left panel is unknown. Both these panels have been cleaned, repaired and framed.


Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood

Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood (1916) (Library reference F183)

Described on his FAU personnel card as a wallpaper manufacturer, Arthur N. Cotterell (born 1885) is well represented in the collections. Sets of prints of his sketches of FAU SSA13 and the area of France where they were stationed are held in the Paul S. Cadbury Papers (TEMP MSS 999/4/7) and the FAU archives (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/COT and TEMP MSS 881/PRI/SSA13)

A little gem from the manuscript collection is the Autograph book of Friends Ambulance Unit members from 1914 to 1917 (MS VOL S 284) presented to Leslie B Maxwell (1894-1953) on his retirement as officer in command of the FAU at the end of 1917. The book was signed and illustrated by FAU members, with original contributions by Allen Chandler, Arthur N. Cotterell, Sims May and Ernest Procter.

Ernest Procter's room, France

Ernest Procter’s room, France, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S284)


Marne 1914-1919 is a small bronze sculpture by Ethel Pye (1882-1960) located in our Reading Room. Ethel Pye, a sculptor working in bronze and wood, was the youngest of seven siblings. One of her sisters was Edith M. Pye (1876-1965), nurse, midwife and Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) worker, who established a maternity hospital for refugees in Châlons-sur-Marne, France (Maison Maternelle de la Marne), during the war. Ethel Pye also went to Châlons-sur-Marne for FWVRC in 1917. She later presented a replica of her sculpture to the Châlons Maison Maternelle de la Marne as a memorial to the remarkable work of the FWVRC.


Objects from World War I and the post-war years can also be important visual resources. These range from medals and certificates awarded to individuals for relief work abroad to embroidered textiles produced by refugee women, or the toys and woodwork made by prisoners of war at Knockaloe Camp, Isle of Man. These objects can be seen from time to time in Library displays and elsewhere (the current display on the work of FEWVRC shows a selection of handicraft from POW camps, such as wooden toys, metal ornaments and embroidery). To find out more, contact the Library.

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe, Isle of Man (Library reference MO52)


Rachel E. Wilson nurse's uniform and photographs

Apron and armbands worn by Rachel E Wilson (later Cadbury) while working as a Friends Ambulance Unit VAD in World War I, with photographs. Part of the Rachel E. Wilson Papers (Library reference: TEMP MSS 1000)






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World War I images: photograph album of Alan Burtt, Friends Ambulance Unit SSA19

Readers of this blog will have noticed that we have been focusing intensively on the centenary of World War I. Alongside the usual wide range of research, one in five visits to the Library this year have been by readers researching World War I topics  – the Quaker peace testimony, conscientious objection to military service, war relief work and the lives of individuals involved. Enquiries to the Library on these subjects have gone up too, not least from Quaker Meetings organising  local events and exhibitions around the country. In particular, there is a demand for images for illustrations and displays, and our colleague Melissa Atkinson has been busy researching the image collections for World War I related material. We asked her for a personal highlight.

With the WWI centenary upon us, the Library has been inundated with enquiries. I have discovered so many interesting visual items that it is hard to single one out. I have chosen to write about a photograph album that has gripped my attention (Library reference TEMP MSS 881/ALB). As with any photo album, a story unfolds after every page and I am captivated by the visual story told by its young creator – (Philip) Alan Burtt (1897-1991) who volunteered with the Section Sanitaire Anglaise 19 (SSA19).

FAU SSA19 Photograph album cover

Photograph album of Section Sanitaire Anglaise 19
(Library reference: Temp MSS 881/PHOT/ALB)

The Sections Sanitaires Anglaises, collectively referred to as “the French convoys”, made up the Belgian and northern French section of the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU).  They helped transport wounded soldiers from battlefields to hospitals as British motor ambulance convoys working under the French army. FAU was one of the voluntary Units along with the Order of St. John Ambulance and of course the British and American Red Cross.

This album traces Alan Burtt and his unit’s movements around the towns of Coxyde, Zuydcoote, Nieuport, and Pont D’Oye the coast, the trenches and the combat zone.

Alan Burtt was still at Sidcot School when war broke out, and a keen member of the school photography club. While at Sidcot, he would have heard first-hand accounts of conditions on the continent from the former pupils who came back to talk about their war service, whether in the FAU, doing relief work with civilians, or in the army. Alan Burtt signed up for the FAU in July 1915, and trained at Oxhey Grange, Hertfordshire, before leaving for Dunkirk in January 1916 aged 19.

 He was stationed with SSA19 from October 1916 to July 1917, working as an orderly and driver. He transferred back to England to the FAU agricultural section and worked with the Wensleydale Pure Milk Society (a Northallerton dairy farming cooperative founded in 1905). After about a year, he undertook further relief work with the Italian Ambulance Unit which was administered by the British Red Cross.

Like many other albums, autograph books or scrapbooks in the Library, Alan Burtt’s photograph album is a compilation of material from various sources – his own photographs, photographs taken and exchanged by comrades, and copies from official sources (in this instance, French Army photographs). Nonetheless, this a quite a memento for a desperate time. I find the collection both poignant and fascinating. For me, as a curator, these images reveal an aptitude for photography, and sensitivity to the subject. Even though an amateur photographer, Alan Burtt manages to balance devastating subject matter with poetic landscapes and personal experiences.


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Library resources for researching World War I: periodicals

Where would you look for news, reflections, debate or comment on World War I events as they unfolded? Contemporary magazines, newsletters and reports are a fruitful resource for researchers studying Quaker thought and activity during the war and its aftermath. This blog post aims to give an overview of periodicals held here relating to relief work of organisations like Friends Ambulance Unit or Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee, as well as those from the peace and anti-conscription movement. We touch on general Quaker magazines of the period too: inevitably, wartime issues are a recurring theme.

Relief work periodicals

Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) produced four annual reports from 1914 to 1917 (Library reference:  Pers U/F7/AMB/1). In 1916 a monthly (later irregular) FAU magazine started up, featuring poetry and creative writing by members of the FAU. The Library has two incomplete sets, between them including the total 6 issues published until 1921 (Library reference: Pers/F7/AMB). After the end of the war, the Friends Ambulance Unit Association magazine ran for six issues between December 1919 and September 1921, aimed at keeping former members of the FAU in contact with one another (Library reference: Pers/F7/AMB).

FAU Association Magazine

Friends Ambulance Unit Association Magazine
(Library reference: Pers/F7/AMB)

Various FAU Sections Sanitaires Anglaises printed souvenir magazines, including artwork, verse and short stories, as well as some accounts of work in the field.

The Swallow: a monthly journal issued by members of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, Uffculme Hospital, Birmingham (Library reference: Pers/F7/AMB) is unique as the only periodical specifically connected to a project in England. Uffculme Hospital helped fit replacement limbs for those injured in military action.

The Swallow 1(3) May 1917

The Swallow: a monthly journal issued by members of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, Uffculme Hospital, Birmingham, vol. 1, no. 3 (May 1917)
(Library reference: Pers/F7/AMB)

We hold the printed reports of the Friends Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians & Hungarians in Distress for 1914-1919 (Library reference: Pers/EMER). In 1919 it merged with the Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) to form the new Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC): the reports for these two committees cover the years 1914 to 1923 (Library reference Pers/F7/WAR).

FWVRC report, 2 (Feb - Oct 1915)

Friends War Victims Relief Committee Report, no. 2 (February – October 1915)
(Library reference Pers/F7/WAR)

A number of short-lived newsletters and journals emanated from Quaker relief work in Europe, as follows (our copies are bound together; Library reference: Pers/B/AMI) –

  • L’Ami, published by FWVRC Vol. 1, no. 1 (10th month, 1915)
  • L’Éclaireur de la mission, published by FWVRC at Châlons sur Marne, Vol. 1, nos. 1 and 2 (1917)
  • L’Équipe, published by the American Friends Reconstruction Unit, nos. 1-4 (14 August – 4 September 1917)

These were succeeded by a new monthly journal, Reconstruction: journal of the Friends’ relief missions in Europe (April 1918 – May 1920) (Library reference: Pers/B/REC). This in turn was replaced by International service: bulletin of the Society of Friends’ relief missions in Europe, which ran for 35 issues between 1920 and 1923 (Library reference Pers/INT). Reconstruction and International service include field reports and photographs, reports from the London office, personnel movements, occasional obituaries of relief workers, such as Violet Tillard (International service, no. 18, March 1920), as well as art and poetry features. There are articles by prominent Friends such as Anna Ruth Fry, Edith Pye, Corder Catchpool, Carl Heath, Elizabeth Fox Howard and T. Edmund Harvey (the editor of Reconstruction).

Reconstruction 1(9), Dec.1918

Report on relief work in revolutionary Russia, in Reconstruction, vol. 1 no. 9 (December 1918)
(Library reference: Pers/B/REC)

Peace and conscientious objection periodicals

The No-Conscription Fellowship came into existence in the early months of the war, bringing together opponents of military conscription of all stripes. The Tribunal, its newspaper, was published in 182 issues from March 1916 to January 1920 (Library reference for facsimile reprint: Pers/TRIB; Library reference for original edition: SR 051.57. To help preserve the original, readers are expected to use the facsimile reprint whenever possible). We also hold The C.O.’s Hansard: a weekly reprint from the official parliamentary reports (Library reference: Pers/CENT). This too was published by the No-Conscription Fellowship, 1916-1919. As the title suggests, it covers parliamentary debates on issues relating to C.O.s, often focusing on particular cases of interest raised by sympathetic MPs. Other peace periodicals include reports and newsletters from newly formed pacifist organisations such as the Northern Friends Peace Board and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, as well as the National Peace Council (formed 1908). Details can be found on our online catalogue.

Other Quaker periodicals

The Ploughshare, published by the Socialist Quaker Society between 1912 and 1920, ran articles on militarism and conscientious objection during the period (Library reference: Pers/PLOUGH). It was co-edited by Hubert Peet (1886-1951), himself imprisoned as a conscientious objector: The Ploughshare includes coverage of his case. You can read more about The Ploughshare in an earlier blogpost.

Ploughshare 1916 p226-227

Reports on censorship, imprisonment and debates on alternative service, in The Ploughshare (1916) p.226-227
(Library reference: Pers/PLOUGH)

War and the Social Order Committee Circular letter and news sheet, published 1917-1919, reflects Friends’ growing interest in social and political causes of conflict (Library reference: Pers L/WAR). At a local level, The Doncaster link, newsletter of Doncaster Quaker Meeting, includes accounts of relief work Yorkshire Friends were involved in, such as a hostel for German children, along with the work of FAU and FEWVRC (Library reference Pers L/LINK). General Quaker periodicals also carried occasional articles relevant to the war, including Friends quarterly examiner (shelved in the Library reading room) and Workers at home and abroad, the monthly magazine of the Friends Foreign Mission Association and the Home Mission & Extension Committee (Library reference: B/Q5/MON). The Friend, the weekly Quaker magazine (also shelved in the reading room), contains invaluable material for researchers, such as reports of Quaker relief work, regular reports and statistics on conscientious objectors, and correspondence on the war. Most of this material has been catalogued to article level, and can be searched on our growing online catalogue. You can also access The Friend 1914-18 Digital Archive online, as part of an annual or monthly subscription.

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Library resources for researching World War I: peace pamphlets

It’s sometimes said that the richness of a library’s collection can be judged by the number and variety of its pamphlets. This Library has over a thousand boxes and volumes of pamphlets, which we aim to catalogue individually.

Pamphlets have long been used to popularise political or religious ideas, or as an important campaigning tool, and can be issued speedily in response to unfolding events. Cheap to produce and distribute, they can be printed in much larger numbers than books – yet their physical flimsiness means their chances of survival are often lower. Pamphlets, posters and ephemera are frequently among the rarest items in library collections. When they survive, they can be a rich primary source on the opinions and activities of pressure groups, campaigning bodies and individuals.

The Library holds hundreds of pamphlets produced before, during and immediately after World War I. The collection is not limited to Quaker material, but includes pamphlets of all kinds, both religious and secular[1], on a wide range of peace and war related topics[2]. Among them are a core of 400 plus “War Tracts” collected by Philip Millwood, donated by him to the Adult School Guest House, Guildford in 1921 and arriving at this Library in 1930.

All of the peace pamphlets have been catalogued, as part of our ongoing Retrospective Cataloguing Project, and can be searched using our online catalogueTIP: For a more effective search use “Advanced search” and select Library catalogue > Books, to search by title, author, organisation, publication year or subject – or use “Expert search” and search in Library catalogue > Books for a wider range of search options, including date range, publisher, language and publication type.

Grants for the 18 month peace project included funds for dis-binding 37 tightly bound volumes of “War tracts” and “Peace pamphlets”, conserving and re-housing the pamphlets in archival quality boxes, for better preservation and ease of use.


[1] Publications of the following organisations are represented:

Alternative Service Guild
American Association for International Conciliation
Anti-Conscription League
British Stop the War Committee
Fabian Society
Fellowship of Reconciliation [active from 1914 –  ]
Friends Peace Committee
Friends Service Committee
Friends War Victims Relief Committee (1914-1919)
Independent Labour Party (Great Britain)
National Council against Conscription
National Council for Civil Liberties
National Peace Council [1908 – 2000]
No Conscription Fellowship [1914- ]
Northern Friends Peace Board
Rationalist Peace Society [1910 – 1920s]
School Peace League
Socialist Quaker Society
Swiss Committee for the Study of the Principles of a Durable Treaty of Peace
Union of Democratic Control [1914- 1960s]
War & Social Order Committee (1915-1928)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Workers’ Anti-Militarist Committee
World Peace Foundation [organisation in Boston, Mass., active from 1910]

You might also search these publishers:
Limit Printing and Publishing – owned by George Lansbury
Headley Brothers – a favoured Quaker publishing company
National Labour Press
War and Peace – pacifist journal founded by Norman Angell, October 1913

[2] Some World War I related subject areas covered  by peace pamphlet collection:

Peace, international understanding, arbitration, foreign policy and diplomacy, Hague Conference, peace conferences, militarisation, armaments, disarmament, League of Nations

Military training, Military Service Acts, Australasia Defence Acts, conscription, pacifism, non-violence, conscientious objection, absolute conscientious objection, tribunals, prisons, prison ministers, Defence of the Realm Act (1917), censorship

Christianity and war, Just war, atrocities, women, refugees, relief, food supply

Christian socialism, social justice, League of Nations

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White Feather Diaries

The white feather diaries is an online Quaker storytelling project to mark the centenary of World War I. It offers an insight into overlooked aspects of war: resistance to killing and the relief of suffering.

White Feather

Going live on Monday 4 August 2014, The white feather diaries follow the lives of five young people who lived a century ago and opposed World War I. Their stories, published periodically over the next three years, take us from the outbreak of war to the introduction of conscription and groundbreaking legislation recognising conscientious objection. Through daily posts and tweets they share their moral dilemmas and difficult decisions.

The period 1914–16 was a time of social, political and religious upheaval. The white feather diaries capture this change through individual journeys. All five diarists featured were, or became, Quakers.

For those wanting to delve further into these fascinating stories, each blog entry includes rich background material about the content of the post or the diarist and their contemporaries.

The white feather diaries blog starts on Monday, and you can get involved now by liking the Facebook page or following the White feather diaries on Twitter.

Research for the project drew on some of the resources held here at the Library, such as the Hilda Clark Papers (Temp MSS 301), Howard Marten’s papers, including White feather: the experience of a pacifist in France and elsewhere (Temp MSS 67/4), the John Brocklesby Papers (Temp MSS 412) and John Hoare: a pacifist’s progress: papers from the First World War, edited by Richard J. Hoare (1996).

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Library resources for researching World War I: Wartime Statistics Committee

The Wartime Statistics Committee was established by Meeting for Sufferings in June 1917, a year after the introduction of conscription, to collect statistics on men of military age. Its records are of value for researchers interested in British Quakers and World War I at a national, local and individual level.

In the years up to the war, the Society of Friends campaigned vigorously for peace and against militarism, as an expression of its continuing peace testimony.  The declaration of war in August 1914 presented a new challenge, as patriotic fervour swept the country and voluntary enlistment soared in response to a mass military recruitment campaign.

Like other young men of military age, young Friends were exposed to intense pressure to enlist, and from March 1916 they were obliged to do so by law. Many objected on grounds of conscience, appearing before their local Military Service Tribunal: some offered themselves for alternative work (such as service with the Friends Ambulance Unit), while others were “absolutists” who refused all service associated with the military (and were frequently imprisoned). Some Friends did enlist, however, as two recently published accounts of Quaker schools and World War I describe (Sidcot in the Great War by Christine Gladwin, and Great ideals: Leighton Park and the First World War by John Allison and Charlotte Smith).

What can the records of the Wartime Statistics Committee tell us about these choices?

Wartime Statistics Committee returns

Wartime Statistics Committee “Returns of service during wartime” – 1 of the 4 Kalamazoo binders (Library reference YM/MfS/WSTC/R/1-4)

The Wartime Statistics Committee was set up in June 1917 under the convenorship of Edith M. Ellis (1878-1963). Its remit was to obtain and tabulate statistics of members and attenders of military age who were working for, or in connection with, Friends Emergency Committee, Friends War Victims Relief Committee or Friends Ambulance Unit.  In July Meeting for Sufferings decided that “associates” (i.e. non-Quakers closely associated through adult schools, Bible study groups, or similar) should be included, as well as members and attenders.

No minutes of the committee have survived, but we can follow its gradual progress in reports to Meeting for Sufferings. It finally reported[1] on 3 November 1922 that returns had been obtained from all but seven monthly meetings[2]. In most cases the information covered the period up to December 1917, a few going on to March 1918.

YM Proc 1923 p.232

Wartime Statistics Committee final report to Meeting for Sufferings, November 1922 (Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1923, p.231-232)

The brief report tells us that an analysis of 1,666 returns for members of the Society of Friends showed, for example, that 40.2% of men of military age applied for, and were granted, exemption as conscientious objectors, and 17.3% on other grounds, while 33.6% enlisted. However, these statistics are far from straight forward, as we found when preparing this blog post. The report refers to figures for members of the Society of Friends – presumably excluding hundreds of returns for attenders and “associates” – but it is not even clear whether all members’ returns were analysed. Tantalisingly, no mention is made of data gathered on occupation, age, pre-war social or religious service, specific wartime occupation (for example, which Quaker organisation, whether combatant or non-combatant military service). The report suggests that this rich data was tabulated, but unfortunately no tables survive. As we discovered though, a file on the “Statistics Scheme” among the records of the Service Committee (Library reference YM/MfS/SER/3/2) does include sample tables and keys to at least some of the codes used on the returns.

While the analysis and final report may be scanty, the returns from which they were compiled do survive, and are of great interest for researchers. These “Returns of service during wartime” (Library reference YM/MfS/WSTC) consist of record sheets for named individuals sent in by monthly meetings, grouped by wider quarterly meetings (QM) into four “Kalamazoo” binders. The arrangement is described on our online archive catalogue, as follows:

South Australia Two Months Meeting (Melbourne and Sydney Monthly Meetings are in volume 4), Bedfordshire QM, Berkshire & Oxon QM, Bristol & Somerset QM, Cumberland QM, Derby, Lincoln & Nottinghamshire QM, Devon & Cornwall QM, and Durham QM.

Essex & Suffolk QM, Kent QM, Lancashire & Cheshire QM, and London & Middlesex QM.

Norfolk, Cambridge & Huntingdon QM, Sussex, Surrey & Hampshire QM, Warwick, Leicester & Stafford QM, and Western QM.

Westmorland QM, Yorkshire QM, Scotland General Meeting, South Africa (Cape Monthly Meeting) and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney Monthly Meetings; South Australia returns are in volume 1)

Each monthly meeting’s returns are filed alphabetically by surname, members separate from attenders and associates. The return sheets include sections for personal details, pre-war occupation, pre-war social, religious or public work, employment or service record since the start of the war, and a record of tribunals, courts, decisions and sentences. Click on one of the images below for a closer look.

The returns offer scope for a re-analysis of the national or regional data about the wartime experience of Quakers and those associated with Quaker meetings, and, perhaps more importantly, fascinating biographical data for those researching individuals or local meetings during the war.


[1] Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1923, p.231-232

[2] Witney, Witham, Canterbury & Folkestone, Ratcliff & Barking, Alton, Southampton & Poole, Staffordshire, and Hereford & Radnor



The Committee’s 1922 report states that 1666 returns of members of the Society were analysed. Some heroic work has been done by one of our volunteers (a former colleague) to count all existing sheets in the series and tabulate them by Quarterly, General, 2 Months and Monthly Meetings. Her work shows that the Committee eventually filed nearly 2500 returns, enlarging the potential data set by 50%. Future statistical work on the returns, to draw out information they offer (such as occupation, age, pre-war social or religious service, specific wartime occupation), could be most informative. Researchers who have already drawn on these records include Cyril Pearce (author of Comrades in conscience) for his C.O.s database, and Barry Mills (for his paper, The achievements and limitations of the Northern Friends Peace Board 1913-1920).

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