18 May 2020
In 1914 Wilfrid Littleboy (1895-1986) was a Quaker CO living in Birmingham. By 1919, he had served time in Wormwood Scrubs and in Dorchester Prison. Published for the first time, this private collection of his letters tells the story of how this middle-class accountant came to be imprisoned, and what happened to him inside.
A Quaker Conscientious Objector follows Wilfrid’s decision as an absolutist conscientious objector to voluntarily go to prison in 1917 rather than join the armed forces. He served his prison sentences cheerfully, with an abiding faith in his choice, and an increased awareness of working-class politics.
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A Quaker Conscientious Objector contains the letters kept in a hitherto private family collection, supported with a contextual introduction and an epilogue, explanatory lists of Wilfrid’s correspondents and friends, and his reading lists. Wilfrid’s letters bring to life the realities of conscience, military discipline, and early twentieth-century prisons. The letters are uplifting and engaging, vividly telling the story of hope through faith, books and nature, alongside the daily endurance of prison conditions in wartime Britain.
Wilfrid Littleboy went on to hold national Quaker leadership positions. His experience as a CO helped sustain in British law the right to conscientiously object to war, and influenced Quaker discernment on conscription and conflict during the Second World War and beyond.
Watch the video introducing the book, with readings by the editors, Rebecca Wynter and Ben Pink Dandelion.
You may also be interested in other Handheld books about pacifism:
The Conscientious Objector’s Wife: Letters between Frank and Lucy Sunderland, 1916-19, edited by Kate Macdonald
Rose Macaulay, Non Combatants and Others. Writings Against War (2020)