Dann, William Leighton (1890-1961)

'A Pronounced Pacifist'

William Dann described himself as a ‘pronounced pacifist’, who could in no circumstances undertake military service, whatever the consequences. He was a Primitive Methodist, a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and had ‘held and expressed his present views both in private and in public’ for many years. His father, John Dann, was a Primitive Methodist Minister, and before the war William was working as a solicitor’s clerk.

When his claim for exemption as a conscientious objector from military service was rejected by a Military Service Tribunal, he was outraged – declaring that his case had not been considered impartially.

Military Service Tribunal

Chairman: Are the Primitive Methodists against defending their country?

Dann: I am not appealing as a Primitive Methodist but as a conscientious objector.

Chairman: Are you prepared to expect other people to defend your country, and not yourself?

Dann: I don’t wish them to. I don’t wish anybody to defend me personally.

Chairman: But your country is attacked now. Are you prepared to defend it?

Dann: I am not. I held these views before, and now the chance comes I am going to put into practice my belief.

Chairman: Are you prepared to defend your wife’s or sister’s honour?

Dann: Yes, by every means in my power apart from force. But that is a question apart.

Chairman: How could you defend them without force?

Dann: I can’t say. The point is irrelevant. I contend that under the Act I am entitled to exemption. I shall not be able to obey any orders from the military authorities. Although I am totally opposed to accepting work under the military authorities, I am trying to make arrangements in connection with my business, and I propose taking up voluntary ambulance work under the Friends’ Society, which is unpaid.

Chairman: You are prepared to save life?

Dann: Yes, voluntarily. I am not prepared to take the military oath.

His appeal was dismissed.



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