Let your placard speak

Let your life (or your placard) speak

This is a story about a placard, a way of communicating with people you know and don’t know.

The first time I saw it was at the Leeds subset of the Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration.


Salaam Alaikum

What does the message to Trump and the crowd say? Salaam Alaikum: peace be unto you

The second time, the next edition went to the Leeds flash response to Donald Trump’s immigration ban.  It drew attention; its designer spoke on Look North ‘We have to stand up for what is right. Racism is wrong. Xenophobia is wrong.’


The third edition went out into the Market Place in Otley in the newly gathered dusk.  Children came up ‘what does that say?’ Time after time Rob replied ‘Peace, Love, Community’. Peace, love, community, repeated the audience like a mantra or religious response. In one corner of the square the repeated words were quietly entering heads and hearts.

Not everyone can take this kind of placard out to start talking. I, for one, can neither read, write nor speak Arabic. But Rob is learning Arabic, because he and Owen are in the Grace Hosting scheme receiving refugees and asylum seekers into their home.  It’s a bit embarrassing as you sit scoffing scones at the kitchen table to be joined by slim young men observing Ramadan; it makes you feel really fat and greedy, which you are.

But the points which make it such a good method of engagement are simplicity, evocation of curiosity, depth of meaning, and invitation to respond and repeat. Perhaps somewhere Placard Making 101 has already told you all this, but it seems worth sharing.






Allan Cox 1898 – 1915

Quakers responded to World War 1 in many different ways.  Here is a story of a young life taken from the Find our More sheets in the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition at the Leeds City Museum. Some people have said ‘what a waste of a life….’  Would you agree?

Allan Cox was a young Quaker who chose to fight. In the census of 1911 Allan was listed as a pupil at the Friends School, Low Green, Rawdon. He was thirteen years old. His parents, Herbert and Annie Cox lived in Beeston and were members of Carlton Hill Meeting. His father is described as a ‘shopkeeper, dealer and pie maker’. His shop was at Houghton Terrace. The history of Rawdon School by Walter J Kaye (Batley Fearnsides 1882) tells us that an application for a scholarship (£9 + £15) received on behalf of Allan Cox was agreed on III.6.1908 (then aged 10). At the outbreak of war in 1914 he would have been 16.

In 1915, aged 17, Allan enlisted in the West Riding Division of the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) as a driver (service number: T/3484) and was based at Strensall Camp in York. The role of the RASC in the field falls into two main parts, supply and transport. It is doubtful whether Allan ever left England or fulfilled his role as a driver. He died in the Military Hospital, Fulford Road, York on 15th June 1915.

His death certificate suggests that he was still in training when an accident occurred: “Died from fracture of the base of his skull accidentally caused by his being thrown from the horse he was riding in the riding school at Strensall Camp”. The Grave Registration Report Form gives his father’s address as 10 Colville Terrace, Burton Hill just off Beeston Road.

On 16th June 1915, a notice appeared in the Yorkshire Post, giving Allan’s age as 19. He had lied about his age in order to enlist. Allan is interred in the Quaker burial ground at Adel, one of two war graves there. His headstone matches the other Quaker gravestones in its simplicity.

Sources: Thanks to Adel Quaker Meeting and the Family History Unit of Leeds City Library for their help with the research


Isabella Ford 1855-1924

Here is another story from the Find out More sheets at the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition in the Leeds City Museum.  The only story here where the central character is a woman.

Isabella Ormston Ford was the youngest of eight children of Robert Lawson Ford, a Leeds solicitor and Hannah Ford, nee Pease, from a well-known Quaker family. The Ford children were brought up in an atmosphere of radical liberal politics, women’s rights and humanitarian causes. Visitors included prison reformer Josephine Butler and women’s health pioneer Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. It is claimed that Robert and Hannah established the first night school in England, formed in Leeds in 1850 for the benefit of the mill girls.

Isabella became an early member of the Fabian Society. When the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was founded in Bradford in 1893 Isabella immediately joined and formed a Leeds branch. In 1903 she became a member of the national executive of the ILP and the following year her book, “Women and Socialism” was published by them. She worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for women in the city’s mills. She helped to form a Machinists’ Society, and founded the Leeds Tailoresses’ Union, to organise dissatisfied female workers. She publicised the women’s cause, spoke at meetings, and arranged for relief for those on strike. She wrote several books on women’s pay and working conditions. With her sister Bessie and sister-in-law Helen, Isabella formed the Leeds Women’s Suffrage Society in 1890. As a Quaker and pacifist Isabella abhorred violence and opposed the use of force in obtaining the vote. She was known therefore as a suffragist, rather than a suffragette. In 1907 she was elected to the executive committee of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Isabella was passionately opposed to war. In summer 1914, she helped Helena Swanwick organize a peace demonstration in London. Once war was declared, her energies were used primarily in the peace movement. She led peace demonstrations on Woodhouse Moor. Many of the suffrage movement leaders were fiercely patriotic. Isabella Ford took a stand against the war, arguing for women’s groups to urge a ceasefire and a negotiated peace. She became increasingly isolated and was forced to resign from the executive committee of the NUWSS in 1915. In March 1915, she wrote about the war in the Leeds Weekly Citizen:

“Women have more to lose in the horrible business than some men have; for they often lose more than life itself when their men are killed; ….. the destruction of the human race too is felt more bitterly and more deeply by those who through suffering and anguish have brought the human race into the world.”

Isabella spent the last six years of her life (1918-1924) promoting peace and international co-operation through her work for the Women’s International League. From 1919 to 1922 Isabella Ford was a delegate to the annual Women’s International League Congress. As well as all that…  Isabella wrote three novels; was a witty speaker; was an accomplished pianist and an artist; and was president of the Leeds RSPA (animal protection). She also concerned herself with Green issues and the Girl Guide movement.

Sources: The Ford family; Quentin Fowler and Adel Quaker Meeting; Sybil Oldfield ‘Doers of the Word’ published 2006 Clive Barrett ‘Ellen Heaton Lecture’ 2014.

Herbert Senior 1887-1997

Here’s a post about another Leeds conscientious objector who became one of the Richmond 16.  With thanks to Gary Perkins, author of Bible Student Conscientious Objectors in World War 1

As a young man, Charles Herbert Senior admired the writings of American Bible teacher, Charles Taze Russell. Since 1877, Russell had anticipated that 1914 would be a time of great distress. As Christians, Bible Students expected to be unpopular and could be identified by ‘cross and crown’ lapel badges they wore, which reminded them that one had to bear adversity before experiencing glory.


Senior became an early member of the Leeds Ecclesia of the International Bible Student Association, and toured the British Isles between 1914-16 as a member of the 20 person team presenting the Photo-Drama of Creation in all major towns and cities. The Photo-Drama commenced operation in June 1914 and was strong in its condemnation of war, particularly the role of religion in supporting it.

Like most Bible Students of conscription age, Senior anticipated a time when “They will hand you over to local courts … for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matthew 10: 17, 18) This appeared to be the case when Senior applied for exemption as a conscientious objector in March 1916. Here, Senior was told that if everybody in England was of his opinion “the Germans would have no difficulty in overcoming us.” He replied explaining that “if everybody was of my opinion there would be no war at all.” The comment was met by rapturous applause from the public gallery which consisted of several well-known members of the Society of Friends in Leeds and members of the local IBSA Ecclesia. Despite this, his Tribunal granted exemption from combatant services only (i.e. he was expected to join the Non-Combatant Corps).

Arrested by the Police to appear before a Magistrate charged with “having failed to respond to the notice calling them to join the colours,” Senior was subsequently handed over to the military authorities and taken to Priestley Hall where he refused to sign enlistment papers and undergo medical examination. As he saw it, he had not willingly been put into the army, so he felt no compulsion to follow commands or orders as if he accepted the authority of those in charge.

Transported to Richmond Castle, it soon became apparent that Senior, four fellow IBSA members and a hard core of CO’s from other organisations were not prepared to become the soldiers the Tribunals had intended. Military drills were not adhered to and uniforms identifying these men as soldiers were discarded.

Eventually orders were given for the transfer of the Richmond 16 to France where, under Military Law, insubordination or mutiny on active service were considered serious offences and thereby liable for capital punishment.  On 6 June 1916 on the Quayside at Boulogne, a Sergeant asked the men if they were prepared to unload Army supplies.  Senior was the first to be asked and refused saying that “my Christian principles will not allow me to do any work for this war.” He later explained:

To me there was no difference in principle in unloading shells … and putting that shell into a gun to be fired for the killing of men.  It was all part of the same process.

The other men also refused orders, which led to a Field General Court Martial under the serious charge of ‘refusing to obey a superior officer in the face of the enemy.’ Ultimately this resulted in the infamous ‘death sentence’ episode of 24 June 1916, which was referred to in Rowland Jackson’s letter sent to the Watch Tower:


Loving Christian Greeting to all the dear ones in Christ Jesus! We were “read out” on Saturday last, and the verdict you will be anxious to hear is now public: “Sentenced to suffer death by being shot, but commuted to 10 years’ Penal Servitude.” We are still peaceful in the knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s loving care, and are not too greatly concerned, for have we not agreed to be faithful to the Lord, come what may?

After the Great War, Senior became a Pilgrim or Travelling Overseer for the IBSA and proved an inspiration to thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses (as the IBSA was named from 1931) throughout his life.

Although sought after by many young females, Senior remained single, seeking first kingdom interests as he saw it, while he patiently awaited his upward calling.  His favourite illustration says much about his disposition and involves a young child given a piece of paper and pencil by his father.  The child would attempt to draw a picture which invariably went wrong, causing the child to return apologetically to the father who was only too pleased to provide a new sheet for the child to make a fresh start.  When Senior died in 1977, with his vision of a heavenly kingdom still burning bright within him, many believe he went to meet his Father and was given both a new canvass and a crown.


Sources include:

  • The Yorkshire Evening Post, 13/03/1916, p.5
  • Senior’s personal recollections
  • The Watch Tower, 01/09/1916, p.269 [R5953]
  • TNA WO 363 ‘Burnt’ record for Senior
  • The Pearce Register of British World War One Conscientious Objectors

© http://www.forthesakeofthekingdom.co.uk

Gervase Ford 1883-1963

Here is another story from the Find out More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition in Leeds City Museum.

Gervase  Lawson Ford was Isabella Ford’s nephew. In 1916, when conscription was  introduced, he was 33 and living with his wife Eleanor Mary and one year old daughter Cara, at 15 Lifton Place, now the site of Leeds University Students’ Union building. Eleanor was his second cousin from the Pease family. (Isabella’s mother Hannah – his grandmother – was from the same family). Gervase was a ‘birthright’ Friend (accepted into membership by virtue of his parents being Quakers). In 1916 he was working as a solicitor but busy with many Quaker responsibilities. He registered as a conscientious objector and at his tribunal he was given ‘Conditional exemption’ which meant he had to offer service in another way.


He joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) on 27th June 1917. His records show that his ‘Uniform and training allowance’ were paid for by Mrs E M Ford (his wife Eleanor).  He trained at Jordans from 27th June until 22nd July before starting his ambulance duties. His records note that he had a ‘part knowledge of cooking and a little French’. He also had ‘capabilities for [a] position of responsibility’. He organised ambulance work at Dunkirk –  the FAU were pleased to make use of his admin skills.

On 24th January 1919 he left France and was demobilised. He returned to his family in Leeds, now living at 61 Albion Street. At the end of the war Gervase and Eleanor had a second daughter, Ursula, who lived until February 2011, aged 92. Gervase was head of Ford and Warren, solicitors. He and Ursula actively supported Breckenbrough School, a Quaker school for boys near Thirsk. Gervase died in 1963, aged 80. He and several other members of the Ford family are buried in the Quaker Burial Ground at Adel.

Sources: Quentin Fowler, Adel Quaker Meeting, Library of the Religious Society of Friends, Online records of the FAU http://fau.quaker.org.uk

Robert Long 1882-1953

Here is another story from the Find our More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition at the Leeds City Museum.

Robert John Long was born in Bristol, the son of a carpenter. By 1901, at the age of 19, he was a Board School Pupil Teacher and by 1911 he had moved to York and was married to Mary Ellen who came from Baildon. Both he and his wife worked for the Rowntree family in York. When the Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) was founded in January 1913, Robert was appointed as the first Organising Secretary at the age of 31 with a salary of £200 per year and expenses. He held the post for 29 years. The areas of work set out for him included promoting knowledge and enthusiasm for Quaker principles, influencing public opinion, providing speakers, organising lectures and conferences, promoting study activities, distributing literature and provision and equipment of peace vans to go on tour.


He, his wife and their two sons, John Wilfrid and Robert Arthur, moved to Leeds where Robert set up his NFPB office at Carlton Hill Quaker Meeting House. By 1914 the family had moved to Rawdon and had become members of Rawdon Quaker Meeting. It was there that he wrote a well-known NFPB pamphlet entitled ‘What shall we do?’ in which he proclaimed:

‘May it never be said that our peace principles are an excuse for shirking duty. England needs her Quaker sons and daughters at the present hour. Men and women are wanted who will serve in the humdrum services of life no less bravely than the soldiers on the battlefield.’

Initially Robert travelled widely on the Board’s behalf for talks, conferences and meetings, but from early 1916, when conscription was introduced, he needed to be at the office much of the time to advise and support conscientious objectors. In several cases he was able to put men in touch with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) and support them at their tribunal. He appeared before the Yeadon Tribunal and stated that he considered his present work a vocation which he could not give up during the war. He expressed the belief that, in appearing before the Tribunal, he was doing national service. He was standing for the liberties of England and expressed his willingness to sacrifice by accepting the consequences of refusal. Alfred Taylor vouched for the fact that Robert Long was a genuine man who did not seek an easy path. Richard Swain, Clerk of Rawdon Meeting, stated that Robert’s life and conversation afforded abundant evidence of the sincerity of his convictions on peace. Absolute exemption from military service was given to him unanimously.

Robert retired from the NFPB on 31 October 1942. He moved back to Devon where he died on May 21 1953 aged 71. In a tribute to him in The Friend 26 June 1953 a Friend wrote: ‘What he had was an intense concern for the work and a never-failing faithfulness even to the smallest detail. It is to these qualities that Friends owe the large amount of Quaker peace activity in the North’.

Sources: Howard Long and Sara Braithwaite, grandchildren of Robert and Mary Long; NFPB; Quaker Family History Service; West Yorkshire Archives Service; The Friend; Special Collections, Brotherton Library.

Ernest Shillito Spencer: One of the Richmond 16

Another story from the Find out More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition held in Leeds City Museum.

Ernest Spencer was 19 in 1916 living at Well Close Mount, Carlton Hill and working as a clerk in a clothing factory. He was a Quaker at Great Wilson St Meeting in Leeds, took part in the Adult School and belonged to the No Conscription Fellowship. Under a heading of ‘Childish Behaviour at the Tribunal’ the Yorkshire Post tells us that on 28.4.1916 he was one of four men called to a Military Service Tribunal in Leeds. Each man in turn was invited to sit down to present his case, but each said this was a military order which he refused to obey. With cases unheard the men were taken to the Recruiting Office where they refused medical examination. They were taken to Chapeltown Barracks, then to York and then to Richmond Castle, the base of the 2nd Northern NonCombatant Corps. (More information about the Richmond 16 can be found in the exhibition case from the Bradford Peace Museum.)

On 27.5.1916 Spencer was tried for using insubordinate language to a superior officer and sentenced to a further six months detention.Two days later Spencer and 15 other men were taken to France to the battlefield. His military record tells the stark story which followed. “Tried by ‘F.G.C.M.’ at Boulogne for disobeying in such a manner as to show wilful defiance of authority and lawful command given personally by his superior officer whilst in the execution of his office. Sentenced to death by being shot.  12.6.16 Commuted to 10 years penal servitude. 12.6.16 Transferred to England to undergo his sentence 5.7.16”

From France he was sent back to Winchester Prison, then appeared at a Tribunal in Wormwood Scrubs on 14.8.16. After that he accepted the Home Office Scheme and went in October to the notorious Dyce Camp near Aberdeen, where his picture appears in one of the group photos.


Little was known about him after this and some wondered if he had survived. However, records show he married in 1925 and died in1957. He continued to live in Leeds where his wife Enid’s baking was much appreciated in Quaker circles (for Monthly Meeting teas). Both he and Horace England were stalwart volunteers helping Robert Long of the Northern Friends Peace Board promote the cause of peace. Their task was distributing posters.

Sources: Pearce CO Register, Ros Batchelor and Mary Rowntree (née England)

The England Family

Another story from the Find out More Sheets from the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition held at Leeds City Museum.


The picture shows Elizabeth England and her two youngest sons in 1896. In 1916 all five of the sons in this family registered as Conscientious Objectors. Their father was a Quaker, a tailor, and they lived in Consort Terrace, Belle Vue Road.

Jack was 35 in 1916. He was granted Exemption from Combatant Service (ECS) on condition he served with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). He worked in various agricultural projects with the FAU in the UK till 1919.

Habbershaw was 32 in 1916. He was granted Exemption from Combatant Service when his employer appealed on his behalf. He continued in his work in the railway offices.

Matthew was granted ECS on condition he continued in his occupation as a single-handed boot and shoemaker in a small shop on Raglan Road.

Ernest was 26 in 1916. Though granted ECS he stuck out for absolute exemption, went absent and eventually faced a Court Martial. He had several spells in prison and on the Home Office Work Schemes. His health was poor and he was badly treated in prison. The film made for the exhibition tells more about this. After his Court Martial in 1917 his mother went to Leeds Station to see him taken on a train to Wormwood Scrubs in London. She caught a chill which led to her death. Ernest was allowed out of prison (with guard) to see her just before she died.

Horace was 24 in 1916, a journalist with the Leeds Mercury and Bradford Observer. In February 1975 he recorded some of his WW1 memories with Peter Liddle. From this record in the Liddle collection and his daughter Mary, still alive in 2016, we know more about him than the other brothers. Horace England was granted ECS in May 1916 but did not accept the conditions and filled his time with cycling. (He had left his job because his unconcealed opinions brought pressure on him.) In June 1916 he was arrested, tried in Leeds, and held in Leeds Town Hall. His mother brought his dinner down to him with a knife and fork, but he was not allowed these utensils and had to eat his sausage and potatoes with his fingers. Horace and two other men, including an ‘agitator’ Abraham Marks, were marched down to the train station through a noisy crowd of hundreds. Horace was taken to York where he was forcibly dressed in khaki and then to Richmond Castle, where he and his two companions did not obey orders on the parade ground. He said he was then court martialled and sentenced to thirty days which he served in solitary confinement in Richmond Castle, where he wrote his name on the wall. At the end of the sentence he was sent back to Leeds. Records suggest that he was ‘unfit’ but he was not told that. He was ordered to report to military authorities in Leeds but he just went home instead and never heard anything more.

In later life Horace England was caretaker of the Quaker Meeting House at Carlton Hill, now Broadcasting House, Leeds Beckett University. This placed him at the centre of Quaker and Leeds life and he was well known.

Sources: Horace England’s daughter Mary Rowntree has been very helpful in providing information.  Cyril Pearce – CO Register     The 1914-18 Archive of the Friend journal.



The Friends Ambulance Unit

This piece from the Find out More sheets at the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition at Leeds City Museum sets the context for the service of William Roylance and Donald Wood.

In August 1914 a letter to the Quaker magazine the Friend suggested that young men Friends should form an ambulance corps to go to the scene of active operations. This was to be under the Red Cross to help the suffering of the primary victims of the war. Philip Baker a York educated young Quaker who wrote this letter and asked for funding for the project was to become the first leader of the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). [He later married the head nurse, Irene Noel, and they both changed their name to Noel-Baker]. Later in life he was a Labour MP and received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on disarmament. Yorkshire Liberal Quaker MPs Arnold Rowntree and Ted Harvey and other older Friends were also involved in starting the FAU. Somebody had to provide the £3000 a year it cost to run the Unit.


Despite opposition from within the Quaker organization, which never officially supported it, the Friends Ambulance Unit was launched. It began with 43 men and ended with 640 in Europe, and 720 in Britain, including women. 142 came from Yorkshire, 39 from Leeds (including William Roylance and Donald Wood). Of the 1500 people who served with the FAU less than half were Quakers. These volunteers were all unpaid and also covered the cost of their own uniforms and expenses.

* 26 died in service, many were wounded, 96 were awarded the Croix de Guerre.

* 15000 Belgian Refugees were fed and clothed.

* 27,000 inoculations against typhoid were given.

* 33,000 cases were transported in two hospital ships.
* 520,000 patients were carried in four ambulance trains.

* 260,000 sick and wounded were carried in ambulances which covered 2.5 million kilometres.

Among Quakers the Friends Ambulance Unit was very controversial. Some people thought it was a way of helping the suffering while not killing others. Others thought it worked too closely with the military, wearing almost indistinguishable uniforms, accepting military authority at times and helping men to recover and return to the fighting. The Red Cross and the French Government appreciated the work and awarded the Croix de Guerre to the SSA (Sections Sanitaires Anglaises) groups. Until 1916 FAU members were all volunteers. They received only basic living expenses and had to pay for their own uniforms.

Section Sanitaire Anglaise 19, with William Roylance top right



The Military Service Act of 1916 changed the dynamics of this voluntary service. The FAU Committee applied for all serving with the FAU to obtain automatic exemption from combatant service, though some preferred to register and present themselves before a tribunal. Tribunals also began to specify service in the FAU as a condition of exemption and this brought the problem that some of the men so directed could not afford to support themselves without a wage, and paid work within the FAU had to be found for them. The FAU was disbanded in 1919 but revived from 1939 until the end of National Service in the UK.

Donald Wood

Donald Wood 1889-1953

Another piece taken from a Find out More sheet at the Courage, Conscience and Creativity Exhibition at Leeds City Museum.


Donald Wood came from a Quaker family in Leeds where he lived at 11 Quarry Mount.  When he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit in September 1915 he was 26 and his ‘normal occupation’ was recorded as ‘artist’.  He agreed to pay for his own uniform and training.

He was sent first to serve as an orderly at the Alexandra Hospital at Dunkirk ‘We had a peep into the wards & I got introduced to the Matron, a little dark woman, she told me she had worked in the Leeds Infirmary for three years.’  He also met William Roylance and shared tea and bread and jam with him and then collected his washing for him.

In October he was moved on to Poperinghe, nearer the action. His diary went with him.

‘Must make a note hear & now before I forget:

This day the 19th of Dec. 1915. I was awakened at 5AM. from deep & delightful sleep by the sizzle & exploding of a shell in such close proximity <that> the mud, stones & small peices of shell came pattering on the hut roof, we had hardly realized the fact when another & yet another came.

The stupid lamp would not light some ass had turned the wick into the lamp too low. We got into our cloths [sic] as slick as pos. at the same time wondering where the next was coming.’


Four months later he was assigned to work with SSA14, which was the 14th of the Sections Sanitaires Anglaises,’motor ambulance convoys’ which were assigned to French Army units. He stayed with this unit till he was demobilised in 1919.

He drew sketches in his own diary, but the most notable work which came out of his experience in Europe is shown at the top back of the display case. Look for the ambulance creeping into the picture on the extreme left. When this picture was shown in Bradford in 1919 the Yorkshire Post (11/10/1919) said

A work which is certain to attract much notice is a frieze in water colour by Mr Donald Wood, entitled ‘The Passers By’ which is based on the many types which were to be seen on a road near La Panne, Belgium, in 1916 not far from the fighting line. It is crowded with incidents, cleverly compiled, enriched by humour, and deftly drawn, and it should be worth reproduction on a much larger scale in a suitable environment.


He continued to work as an artist in later life exhibiting at the Royal Academy and other important collections, with studios in London and Scotland.

Information has been given by the Starkie branch of Donald Wood’s family in Leeds and London. ‘Passers by on the Road to La Panne’ is in the collections of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.