The Southampton First Primitive Methodist Circuit was proud of its young men who had answered the call to serve King and Country. They recorded as much in the minutes of their quarterly meetings. Local Preachers in the forces were kept on the plan with “on service” against their names, and when they were killed in action, their names remained marked in black on the plan, not just for the customary quarter, but for the duration of the war.
But the Circuit also supported at least one conscientious objector:
31 May 1916
‘9. That this Quarterly Meeting of Officials of the Southampton First Circuit, Primitive Methodist Connexion, held on May 31st 1916 hereby expresses its complete confidence in the sincerity of Mr Charles Mason in his conscientious objection to military service.’
The local papers were reporting the military service tribunals considering the cases of conscientious objectors and “essential workers.” They name no names, but it is difficult not to identify Charles Mason the Primitive Methodist Local Preacher from this report in the Hampshire Advertiser, 24 June 1916.
RECOMMENDED FOR NON-COMBATANT SERVICE.
‘A chief clerk in a laundry office applied for exemption on the ground that, twelve years ago he was saved by the grace of God, and two years later he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, which removed sin from his heart, at the same time filling it with the love of God, which enabled him to love his enemies, and to desire that even they might be saved. Since he received that experience his life had been lived according to the teaching of Jesus Christ, his Saviour, who expressly declared that His purpose was not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Applicant did not object to non-combatant service, as it in no ways violated or compromised his conscience, and he was willing to engage in service which was purely for saving of life. – The applicant was recommended for non-combatant service.’
There were many opportunities in Southampton to engage in service “purely for saving of life.” The Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley was nearby, and large local houses had been converted to convalescent hospitals run by the Red Cross.
The only other record I have found is from the Quarterly Meeting Minutes, 4 September 1918
‘IV That we receive with regret the request of Mr C Mason for no appointments on account of his absence from the circuit on duty.’
I hope to find out more about Charles Mason in the future. Perhaps he will be in the British Red Cross records when their indexes reach the Ms http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War