Griffin, Walter (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 9790
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 230, Number Of Items 8
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


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Object description

British civilian absolutist conscientious objector imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs, Fort Burgoyne and Canterbury Prison, 1917-1919

Content description

REEL 1: Background in Leamington Spa, 1897-1914: family; education; question of patriotism and attitude to militarism; employment in local industry from age fourteen; religious beliefs; story of conversion to Pentecostal faith; nature of Pentecostalism and reason for later rejection of faith; reaction to outbreak of war and effects of war on daily life. REEL 2 Continues: Recollections of period as conscientious objector in GB, 1916-1918: attitude to recruiting posters and conscription, 1916; question of Christian beliefs and attitude to war; reason for refusal to participate in Pelham scheme; attitude to military organisation; opinion of Tribunals for conscientious objectors; question of absolutist stance and refusal to undertake work of national importance; opinion of role of conscientious objectors in First World War; question of support from Pentecostal friends; story of witnessing bayonet practice; reason for refusal to kill; question of rejecting call-up papers; reaction of mother; story of arrest and being allowed to spend Christmas at home, 23/Dec/1916; story of being put under military supervision and sent to join Warwickshire Regt at Woodbrook Barracks; question of expecting to be shot; story of refusing to obey orders and reaction of NCOs. REEL 3 Continues: question of conscientious objectors being sentenced to death; description of accommodation and sleeping arrangements in guardroom at Woodbrook Barracks; story of conscientious objectors refusing to wear uniform; question of treatment of conscientious objectors; memory of other conscientious objectors including Wilfred Littleboy; question of wearing uniform; story of being paraded in front of company as example and reaction of soldiers. Aspects of period in Wormwood Scrubs Prison, 1917: description of prison and cells; reception procedure; amusing story of Cockney prisoner; description of cell and furniture; memory of slate floors worn down by prisoners feet; cell windows. REEL 4 Continues: further description of cell; question of mental attitude to imprisonment; description of furnishings and sanitary facilities; further comments on mental attitude and question of release; memory of wounded ex-soldiers; opinion of prison chaplains; question of release and re-arrest under 'Cat and Mouse' regulations; description of confinement in Parkhurst and Portsmouth barracks; story of journey by train to Dover and problem of lack of sanitary facilities; memory of Jehovah's Witness Jim Houton. Aspects of period in Fort Burgoyne, Dover, 1917: description of Fort and accommodation in cell; problem of damp; memory of singing hymn; opinion of food; memory of air raid. REEL 5 Continues: further description of cell; story of prisoner escaping during air raid. Aspects of period in Canterbury Prison, 1917-1919: description of journey under armed guard to Canterbury; comparison of facilities in Wormwood Scrubs and Canterbury prisons; question of visits and communication with family; description of cells and searches by warders; story of making and concealing own writing materials; question of self-improvement and education while in prison. REEL 6 Continues: story of sewing mailbags in groups and question of silence; exercise periods; question of following prison rules and regulations; two stories of defiance of regulations by conscientious objectors; nature of punishments; relations with prison warders; story of conscientious objector Charles Watkins and prison governor; state of health during imprisonment and question of weight; problem of boils and treatment; story of tooth extraction without anaesthetic. REEL 7 Continues: amusing story of service in prison chapel; opinion of sermons; opinion of food including Christmas Dinner; question of Home Office food rationing including sugar; story of being denied food parcel; question of being told of Armistice and release from prison, 4/1919; description of physical condition on release. Aspect of post-war life and employment: problem of adjusting to civilian life after imprisonment; story of obtaining job with Cadbury's; question of hostility against conscientious objectors; story of returning cheque from government 'for services rendered'. REEL 8 Continues: problem of obtaining new clothes; story of being given suit by Quakers; question of contact with anti-war organisations; nature of pacifist beliefs and attitude to Christianity; attitude to arms control and international relations; comparison of treatment of conscientious objectors in First and Second World Wars; story of working with conscientious objectors and refugees in GB, 1930s/1940s; question of influencing other pacifists; attitude to membership of organisations; opinion of Society of Friends; question of isolation as conscientious objector.

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