18 May 2020
In 1914 Wilfrid Littleboy (1895-1979) 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.
‘The excellent 46-page introduction gives a history lesson sufficient to locate Littleboy in a time when the Quietist period had ended and Friends felt renewed vitality.’ – Friends Journal
‘Worth the wait for the intrinsic value of the letters themselves; the interest of the writer’s life; the illustrations the letters provide for an understanding of developments in British Quaker history in the twentieth century and in particular the secularisation and politicisation of the Society. The Introduction by Rebecca Wynter and Ben Pink Dandelion makes a valuable and accessible guide to Wilfred Littleboy the man, to his letters and to the Society of Friends in the twentieth century.’ – Journal of the Friends Historical Society
‘The personal papers of individual men and women who chose to say “No” to that war and suffered the consequences occasionally see the light of day in a more general publication about war resisters but rarely are they published in their own right. This collection of the British First World War conscientious objector, Wilfrid Littleboy’s Prison Letters, is one of those rarities and all the more welcome for it … as a
record of one man’s experiences as a CO they are exemplary. Handheld Press and their editors are to be thanked for making it possible
for us to share them as they are for having brought other hitherto private papers of CO testimony to a wider readership.’ – Cyril Pearce in Peace & Change
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)