Workshops are underway to create original stories, poems, scripts and writing of all genres, based on historical research carried out by Courage of Conscience volunteers. Matt Knighton and Katherine Robinson from Write Here Write Now Young Writers’ Group have been busy searching newspaper archives to unearth forgotten stories of COs.
We were excited to discover a trail of articles about Albert Hardy – born circa 1878 , of 13, Wallsend, Newbold Rd, Chesterfield. Albert was a coal merchant and a Methodist, who was refused exemption from military service by the Chesterfield Tribunal. After the tribunal ended and Albert left the court, he was followed out by Mr Tilleard, the military representative, ‘He then made a running kick at Mr Hardy, catching him on the thigh and exclaimed ‘You are a worm. I’ll make you fight for your country’ (Yorkshire Telegraph 19th Jan 1917).
COs were commonly subjected to physical and verbal abuse, but as we followed the story we discovered that in a brave move, Albert then issued a summons against Mr Tilleard for assault. The case was unanimously dismissed by Derby County magistrates, and Mr T’s solicitor was reported at being ‘amazed at the effrontery of the complainant, who, after declining as a conscientious objector to assist in the protection of his King and country, asked the King to protect his own miserable skin’ (Birmingham Gazette 20th Jan 1917).
Imagine our delight when we unearthed a letter from Albert Hardy himself, published in the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 3rd Feb 1917. In an impassioned defence , Albert writes: ‘I can joke about what I received at the hands of Mr Tilleard but I feel that a principle of government has been trampled underfoot. In its place has been established a mode of government [i.e similar to the German government] that we as a people have been pouring out blood and treasure for the last two and a half years to destroy; civil government has or is, gradually giving way to military government… I am not sorry I was kicked if by being kicked I may contribute my small share in not allowing the seeds of military law to take an abiding root in the land of my birth.’
Refused exemption, Albert was court-martialled for refusing to take military orders with the Sherwood Foresters and sentenced to 112 days hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs, then transferred to Wakefield Work Centre, under the Home Office Scheme.
Are you a descendant of Albert Hardy or do you have similar stories? We’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to write about Albert and many other Derbyshire COs, our next workshop is on Saturday 5th December at Chesterfield Library, 11am – 1pm. Everyone 16 – 30 is welcome to come along, no previous experience of creative writing is necessary.