The ‘Home Office Scheme’ in July 1916 offered conscientious objectors, whose reasons for objection were considered genuine, an alternative to prison.  This would be a Work Camp where they would live communally, wear civilian clothes, and undertake ‘arduous work’.

Ditton Priors Camp dates from March 1917, and was largely forgotten both in the village, and by historians of conscientious objection until 2012 when Dave Hinton, son of one of the objectors brought three photographs into Ditton Priors Local History Centre.

Railway and hut

This view easily placed the site on Hillside, at 1000 ft on the slopes of Brown Clee Hill, alongside the Incline Railway.  This line transported dolerite from the quarry on Abdon Burf to the railway station in Ditton Priors.  The men were put to work as stone breakers in the quarry.

Group in snow

In June 1918 the hut was deliberately burnt down, as described by John Wilson Graham in ‘Conscription and Conscience’ in 1922.

“On June 16th 1918, soon after midnight, the wooden house where twenty-five C.O.s were sleeping at Ditton Priors, Shropshire, was burnt to the ground in twenty-five minutes, and all the clothes and property in it were burnt, worth £225.  Joseph Sturge, a well-known Friend from Birmingham, went over to investigate, and was satisfied that it was an intentional burning.”

We have no other evidence of this attack, apart from verifying that Joseph Sturge was from a respected Birmingham family.

 Autograph book of Reuben Challinor

Further research revealed that one of the conscientious objectors who spent a short time at this camp was Reuben Challinor. He kept an Autograph Book which is now held at the Imperial War Museum. Of the 35 men in the pictures, this gave me the names of 12 of them.

Then I looked at a database of conscientious objectors compiled by Cyril Pearce. Linking the signatures in the book with names on this database, revealed some of the stories of the men in the pictures.

Reuben K Challinor. Born 1893, Chorlton on Medlock. Was arrested in a Police sweep at a Bertrand Russell meeting in Manchester.

Frank Clarke. South Normanton, Derbyshire

Herbert Bransby Clarke. Born 1894. Quaker. Clerk to a chartered accountant.

Frederick Cleveley. Born 1895, Bournbrook, Birmingham. Chocolate moulder.

Frank Cook. Born 1895, Nottingham. Trimmer’s legger, hosiery dyeworks. Church of Christ member.

Gilbert Grant. Born 1894, Sheffield. Warehouseman. No Conscription Fellowship and Independent Labour Party member.

Charles Stanhope Harrison. Nottingham. Weaver and Wesleyan local preacher.

Albert Henry Hinton. Born 1897, Smethwick. Grocer’s assistant. Quaker. (Father of Dave Hinton, who brought us the photographs)

William Holmes. Bingley, West Riding, Yorkshire.  No Conscription Fellowship and Quaker.

John William Hudson. Born 1891. Padiham, Lancashire. Cloth Looker in cotton mill. British Socialist Party – Padiham branch.

Frederick McCormack. Born 1894. Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire.  Van man. Motivation: Religious.

John Thomas Passant. Born 1895.  Heath Town, Wolverhampton, Staffs. Time keeper and wage clerk.  No Conscription Fellowship, Wolverhampton Branch Secretary

Christopher Stewart Purnell. Born 1898, Towbridge, Wiltshire. Insurance clerk. Sunday school teacher.

Alfred Lesley Smart. Born 1894. Derby. Commercial traveller. No Conscription Fellowship Branch Secretary.

Joseph Tilford. Born 1896. Stapleford, Nottinghamshire. Lace maker.

Iram Gladstone Wall. Born 1892. Lace draughtsman. Stapleford, Nottinghamshire.

Cyril Pearce is a former lecturer at Leeds University, who has spent the last 20 years researching conscientious objectors. His research is now available online  blog.livesofthefirstworldwar.org/conscientious-objectors-in-the-first-world-war/

search.livesofthefirstworldwar.org/record?id=gbm%2fconsobj%2f7789

By Rona Cobb