Chapter 24 » 24.23
The dilemmas of the pacifist stand
Corder Catchpool (1883–1952) served in the Friends Ambulance Unit during the First World War, but on the introduction of conscription he returned to England to give his witness as a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for more than two years; later he worked for reconciliation, especially with Germany. He told the Court Martial which sentenced him at Dovercourt on 28 March 1918:
There is hardly a moment when my thoughts are not with the men in France, eager to help the wounded by immediate human touch with their sufferings. This I was privileged to do during nineteen months spent at the Front with the Friends Ambulance Unit from October 1914 to May 1916, when it was still possible to give voluntary service. At times the impulse to return to this work becomes almost irresistible. May God steady me, and keep me faithful to a call I have heard above the roar of the guns. By the feverish activity of my hands, I might help to save a fraction of the present human wreckage. That would be for me no sacrifice. It costs far more to spend mind and spirit, if need be, in the silence of a prison cell, in passionate witness for the great truths of Peace. That is the call I hear. I believe that only spiritual influence will avail to free the world at last from war, to free the soldiers’ little ones and confused struggling humanity itself from all that men and women are suffering now. I honour those who, in loyalty to conscience, have gone out to fight. In a crisis like the present it would be unbecoming to elaborate the reasons which have led me to a course so different. Today a man must act. I believe, with the strength of my whole being, that standing here I am enlisted in active service as a soldier of Jesus Christ, who bids every man be true to the sense of duty that is laid upon his soul.