Sidney Kemp Brown was a ‘schoolboy’ from a Quaker family in Letchworth, boarding at the Quaker founded Bootham School in York when he received his call up papers just before his 18th birthday on 28 July 1918. On 17 July 1918 he appealed to the local tribunal in York for exemption from National Service on two counts – firstly to continue studying at Bootham School with a view to sitting a History Scholarship to Cambridge in December 1918 and also on the grounds of conscientious objection.
In support of this appeal he completed the ten questions on the Application on the Grounds of Conscientious Objection Form. In his answer to Question 8: ‘Can you state any sacrifice which you have made at any time because of the conscientious objections which you now put forward?’ Brown states: ‘As a boy at school I have not had occasion to make any such sacrifice.’ In answer to ‘which kinds of national service would he be prepared to do?’ he states he would work as a “student teacher” or for the Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Committee
The Headmaster of Bootham at that time, Arthur Rowntree of the well-known York Quaker Rowntree family, wrote a letter in support of Sidney’s application and appeared at the Tribunal with him on 30 July 2018.
Transcription of Letter [no paragraphs]:
‘To the members of the York City Tribunal:
Gentlemen: I write to support the application of Sidney K. Brown on the ground of conscientious objection. He has been a pupil in the school since 1913. He is a birthright member of the Society of Friends and has attended the religious meetings of that Society regularly whilst he has been in York. I have frequently had conversations with him and know that he is a thorough-going Quaker, holding the tenets of the Society of Friends including the views of the Society on peace and war. I also beg to support his application for the postponement of his other work until after December when the Scholarship Examination will take place. S. K. Brown hopes to go to the University when the war is over: he has a reasonable prospect of winning a scholarship.’ I am, Yours sincerely, Arthur Rowntree, Headmaster.’
The decision of the York Local Tribunal was an exemption till 1 January 1919, to allow Sidney to sit his scholarship, and that he was to join the Friends Ambulance Unit.
On 20 August 1918 Sidney appealed to the North Riding Tribunal against the Local Tribunal decision because as an absolutist he felt that he could not join the Friends Ambulance Unit as they were ‘part of the organisation for war’. He wished instead to join the Friends War Victims Relief Committee, as set out in his answers to the ten questions for conscientious objectors to answer. This organisation helped the civilian refugees of war. The Secretary of this organisation Ruth Fry wrote a letter supporting his appeal, stating that Sidney would be of great service in the workshops in the Jura region of France.
Ruth Fry writes: ‘Subject to the permission of your Tribunal, my Committee have accepted him for work at our hut-building centre in france, and as we are in urgent need of workers I hope very much that the necessary exemption may be granted.’
His appeal was upheld with an exemption to sit his scholarship in December 1918 and join the Friends War Victim Relief Committee by 1 January 1919. We are not sure whether Sidney did join the FWVRC or whether he gained his scholarship to Cambridge, we do know however, that he became an Assistant School Teacher in York as listed in the 1939 census and that he died in 1978. There is photograph of him in 1935 held by Bootham School Archives along with some diaries that he wrote as a schoolboy in 1914.
Sidney K Brown returned to Bootham School as a School Master in 1927 and remained there until 1964. He taught History, Geography and Economics. He was Senior Master from 1946 to 1964.
More information on the Friends War Victim Relief Committee can be found at: http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/298/Friends-War-Victims-Relief-Committee-FWVRC
The story of Sidney K Brown was researched by Maggie Wilson who volunteers with the Grounds for Appeal project.