The case of Glen Herbert Hayler

Court martial on Conscientious Objector in the Constable's Tower, Dover Castle Taken from the Dover Telegraph, May 31st 1916

A district court martial of exceptional interest was held at the Constables Tower, Dover Castle, on Friday, May 26th, when a conscientious objector was charged with disobeying the lawful commands of a superior officer.

The accused man was Glen Hayler, described as a private in the 5th Batt. Royal Fusiliers. He is the son of Mr Guy Hayler, a well known temperance advocate and social reformer. The charge against the accused was that when on active service he wilfully disobeyed the lawful command of Sergt. A. E. Oakley. His superior officer, when ordered to parade on the morning of the 19th May, at 6.45 a.m.

The accused statement:
Gentlemen, - I am being tried by a military court martial for disobeying military orders. It is perfectly true that from the moment I was arrested until now I have refused to obey such orders, and I must continue to do so, regardless of the consequences. I would respectfully remind the court that I am a civilian, and not a solder, nor will my deeply religious convictions ever permit me to become a soldier. As a conscientious objector, I claim that Parliament, in the Military Services Act, 1916 exempted me from military duties. This is clearly proved by Section III., (1) "An application may be made by in respect of a man for a certificate of exemption from the provisions of the Act on the following grounds" (f), "on the grounds of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service." (2) "A certificate of exemption may be absolute, conditional, or temporary, as the local tribunal think best suited to the case."

At the local tribunal, I stated that I was a conscientious objector, and that my objection to war was of long standing. I was brought up in a home where the principles of peace were taught. Under my fathers roof have slept men and woman from all parts of the world, who were engaged in trying to benefit there fellows. Listening to their conversations, I began to understand something of the idea of the brotherhood of man. Later, by reading and study, I was able to reason these things out for myself, and I came to the conclusion that war was absolutely wrong; that men, the wide-world over, were brothers, and that international matters, as national matters and local matters, could best be settled by peaceful means. To accomplish this end, men should refuse to slaughter one another, or to assist in any way the organisation of militarism. This led me to the conclusion that under no circumstances could I ever become a solder, nor assist in the preparation or conduct of war. Parliament has recognised that such as I exist, and I therefore claim absolute exemption on the conscientious grounds. In taking my stand on what I sincerely believe to be the right, I can only say these are my firm convictions, and by these I must stand.

At the appeal tribunal, my father gave evidence that these principles had been held by me from boyhood; that I had declined, while at school, to be drilled by a military officer, and had taken a strong religious stand against war. I also explained to the appeal tribunal that as a Christian I was opposed to all war. I endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to convince both the tribunals of the sincerity of my views on these matters, but they failed to appreciate the strength of my religious convictions. The Chairman of the local tribunal declared that I had no conscious, and the appeal tribunal refused not only to give me the protection to which I an entitled by law, but even to permit me to appeal to the central tribunal.

All my associations, in church work, social and private enterprise, from a boy have been, in one form or another, in connection with work for the up-lift of my fellow men. When a boy at school, I assisted my brother in the formation of a society consisting of solely of our school companions, and for years we met at my fathers house every week. The one object aimed at was to attempt to lift the thoughts of the boys to higher things, and thus the better prepare all of us to become more useful individuals and citizens. For some time I filled the office of secretary and editor of the monthly magazine. Later, I became lecture secretary of the guild of good life, connected with the Congregational Church at Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, of which I was a member, and of which the reverend W Glover was and still is the Paster. For health reasons, I was sent into the country to learn gardening, and for two years and a half was with the Earl of Carlisle, at Castle Howard, Yorkshire, and on leaving to come to London with my parents, I received the highest testimony for my work and character. For five years I was gardener with John F Edell, Amburst Park, N., and on leaving, in 1915, to better myself, Mr Edell gave me a most gratifying testimonial. Mr Edell was fully acquainted with my conscientious objection to warfare. For the past twelve months, I have been gardener to Lady Cory Wright, Highgate, N., at whose house I was arrested May 12th, and who will, I am sure, speak of my religious convictions and determination not to take part in war.

As proof that I am most anxious to serve my country at the present time, otherwise than in the army, I wrote to the hon. T W H Pelham, chairman of the committee charged with the duty of selecting suitable occupation of national importance which those who, for conscientious reasons, are unable to give military service, and who, because of such reasons are by law exempted from such service, maybe called upon to enter.

In this appeal, I stated; "I am ready to serve my country in any useful capacity under civil control. I am a gardener of some experience, and at the present time my work is finding food for some fifteen persons. I am ready to continue this work under my present employer, or to undertake similar work elsewhere for the Government, under civil control."

Mr Pelham replied; "unfortunately, we are not allowed to deal with any cases unless they have been referred to us by the tribunals."

The Local Government Board having determined that conscientious objectors could return to the local tribunals to have their cases reheard, with a view to work of national importance being found for them by the Pelham Committee, I applied on May 13th to the local tribunal for a re-hearing of my case, and the matter is now under their consideration.

When before the police magistrates, I asked for a remand until my case had been again before the local tribunal. This was refused, but the military representative stated that if I was called upon by the tribunal to give evidence, I should be allowed to attend. Under these circumstances, it does appear to me that I ought at least to be free until this matter is settled. In saying this, I don't wish the court to misunderstanding me, for under no circumstances can I possibly change my religious convictions so as to become a party to warfare.

I hope that it will be thoroughly understood that my views on this question are of long standing, and that they have been widely known for some years past. I have such deeply religious conviction of the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man, together with a firm belief in the sanctity of human life, that the very thought of taking part, either directly or indirectly, the killing of my fellow creatures, is so repugnant to me that it is utterly impossible for me to obey military orders.

In conclusion, I respectfully place these matters before this court, in the hope that my sincerity may be established, and that in accordance with the statement made by Lord Kitchener in the House of Lords on May 22nd, I may be handed over to the civil authorities. If I again fail to establish my sincerity, I can only resign myself to the persecution which may follow, in the full assurance that God will give me strength to bear any penalties which may be imposed upon me for being true to my most sacred conviction. You may be able to do as you will with my body, but my soul will still be free.

All parties concerned were then requested to leave the court-room, and on returning, evidence as to character was given, and the inquiry was concluded, the accused being removed, under arrest.

The finding of the court will be promulgated in due course.

We understand that the accused [Mr Glen Hayler] has been sentenced to six months' “detention” in a military barracks.

Taken from the “Dover Telegraph,” May 31st, 1916

link to the Hayler's at Bulmer

link to Guy Hayler's introduction to Lady Carlisle

link to Guy Hayler's letter to Right Hon. H. H. Asquith, 1915

link to Guy Hayler's publications

link to Glen Hayler's Court martial


Dr Jonathan Hare, The University of Sussex
Brighton, East Sussex

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