Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen


Arthur Thomas Dootson

Arthur Thomas Doodson
[wrongly called Dootson throughout the tribunal reports in the newspapers and on the Pearce list]

Shaw Recruiting Tribunal 7 March 1916
Reported Oldham Chronicle 8 March 1916

At a meeting of the Shaw Recruiting Tribunal on Tuesday evening, four appeals by conscientious objectors were heard.

…. Arthur Thomas Doodson of 1 Manor-road, Shaw, presented his case for conscientious objection. He is 25 years of age and is engaged in the testing of electrical instruments and other scientific work for the Manchester Corporation. He also raised the point of ill health, producing a doctor's certificate to show that he suffered from chronic catarrh of the middle ear, but this point was of secondary importance to the appellant.

His claim stated that as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, it was impossible for him to reconcile himself to war. Doodson is a member of the Community of the Sons of God, whose place of assembly is at Halifax. By taking the oath of attestation he would be a member of the instrument of war.

Councillor Clegg said that with regard to the deafness, the Tribunal could not decide. It would have to be decided by the Medical Board at Ashton. With regard to the conscientious part of the objection he noticed that the appellant said he would not help in any way the prosecution of war. "You don't object to living in this country," asked Councillor Clegg, "where you are protected by the army and the navy and the civil forces of the Crown?"
Doodson: No, I don't object in the least. My position on this world is like that of the Saviour. I am a pilgrim. I am a stranger in this country. My citizenship is not here, it is in heaven.
Councillor Clegg: We ordinary men of the world would say if a chap said this to us and wanted us to believe it, he ought to go to the other place.

Mr Robert Mellor suggested that the logical position was that the man should go and live on a desert island if he held such views. He was protected here and someone had to do it for him. He objected to voting for Municipal and Parliamentary elections, so he was no use here.
Appellant retorted that it was the duty of the state, if they thought that of him, to clear him out.
Mr Mellor: You are enjoying the benefits of this protection. You are a parasite here.
Mr E Sutcliffe: From what you say, you don't enjoy life.
Doodson: Well, I have not found it very enjoyable so far. The appellant went on to speak of his attainments. He left university with a first class pass in science; then he became a Master of Science and next year he hoped to take the degree of Doctor of Science. All this work was being done under the greatest disability. His disability was the greatest a man could have. He had not enjoyed life that much up to the present.

It might be as well for them to know that he was not altogether useless. His scientific research work had been recognised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Australia and they did him the favour of asking him to join the committee for research. He contended that he was not altogether shirking his duty. He was of far more value to the State than some people might consider him to be but he had taken his stand on conscientious grounds alone. Some of them seemed to think that they (of his community) accepted the benefits and did not give anything. "We cannot give anything which is apart from the law of God," he said. It was their duty to pray for the King and for peace.

Councillor Clegg: In a case like the present it is a good job there are not so many who are of your sect.
Appellant: It is not a sect. A sect is the following of the preaching of some particular man.
Councillor Clegg: Well, I call myself a Christian but I don't go on the same lines. It is a good thing there are not a large number attached to this body, or community, or whatever you call it. What would have been the position which followed if everybody here had held those views?
Doodson said that he could not see where the position which at present existed would have existed, because if all men were Christians there would have been no war.
Mr R Mellor: Unfortunately they are not.
Councillor Clegg said that the Germans would not have held the same view and that would not have saved us.
Doodson asked how asked how this would affect his position provided he did the things he ought to do.

Councillor Clegg: I see there are a lot of texts quoted here but I have not taken the trouble to read them. I suppose you believe in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
- Yes.
Councillor Clegg: You would succor anybody in need?
Appellant said that he would not go into a non-combatant branch of the army because, as such, he became part of the military machine. The non-combatant branch of the services existed solely for the purpose of assisting others to kill. If he became part of the military machine, say in the R.A.M.C. he did so for the purpose of patching up men in order to assist them to go again to the war.

Councillor Clegg: You would not care to go mine-sweeping?
- It is in the same category.
Councillor Clegg pointed out that science had probably been the most devastating agent in this war.
Appellant: It is the greatest grief to me that it has been so.
Councillor Clegg: Still you remain a member of the scientific profession?
Doodson: I could not use my scientific abilities for the prosecution of the war. I can use them for the nation as a whole.
Councillor Clegg suggested that Mr Doodson had taught students who were probably now engaged in connection with the war and asked if doing so he had not helped others to do these things?
Doodson: No because I am not teaching them to prepare instruments of war. It is not right to me to use scientific instruments for the destruction of human life. Those whom I have taught are individuals just as I am. They are responsible for themselves.

Councillor Hopwood: I think you are exploiting God to save your own skin and I think it is nothing but deliberate and rank blasphemy. A man who would not help to defend his country and his womankind is nothing but a coward, a cad. You are nothing but a shivering piece of unwholesome fat.
The appellant protested against the use of such language to him. He had not come here to be insulted and he objected to the use of such words.
Councillor Hopwood said he didn't care, it was true: he thought so.

Councillor Clegg said they had heard the man's reasons. The application was not wholly on conscientious grounds but partly in regard to physical disability. The medical board would decide the latter part. The members refused to allow exemption.

Appellant asked if the medical board would have to say that he was exempt but Councillor Clegg said he could not answer for them.
Doodson: Then I cannot go before the medical board. My main ground is a conscientious objection.
Councillor Clegg: Yes, but unfortunately you have shifted your ground a little. The members have refused you appeal on conscientious grounds. To my mind you objections are not satisfactory.
Doodson: Have I not proved to you that I have a real conscientious objection?
Councillor Clegg: You say in the first instance your appeal is not altogether on conscientious grounds. That gives a loophole at once.
Doodson: I don't know that it does.

Councillor Clegg: We have refused it on conscientious grounds but we refer you to the medical board on the question of physical disability. If you decide to appeal, your appeal will go forward without you having to go before the medical board. If the Appeals Tribunal refuses the appeal, then you will have to present yourself to the medical board.

Doodson intimated that he would appeal.


Oldham Chronicle 11th March 1916

A Protest
To the Editor of the "Chronicle"
I notice that at a meeting of the Shaw Recruiting Tribunal one of the members of the tribunal used the following epithets to a conscientious objector: "Coward," "Cad," "Shivering piece of unwholesome fat." So far I have seen no protest made against this intolerable insolence and I feel that someone ought to protest in the name of Civic decency, so I am writing this brief letter.
Whatever our views about warfare, we are surely agreed that a man's conscientious difficulties ought not to expose him to vulgar abuse of that description.

I am, yours &c.,
Aubrey T Stevens
Sunnyside, Waterworks Road, Oldham

[Rev Aubrey Thomas Stevens was minister at Waterhead Congregational Church, Oldham]


House of Commons Debate 15 March 1916
from Hansard Archives

82. Mr. SNOWDEN asked the President of the Local Government Board what action he proposes to take upon the conduct of Councillor Hopwood, a member of the Shaw, near Oldham, local tribunal, who told an applicant for an exemption on the ground of conscientious objection, on 7th March, that he was exploiting God to save his own skin, that he was a deliberate and rank blasphemer, a coward and a cad, and nothing but a shivering mass of unwholesome fat; and if he will ask the council who appointed this member of the tribunal to exercise their powers under the instructions to dismiss a man who has shown himself incompetent for the duties of his office?

Mr. HAYES FISHER The question of revoking the appointment of any member of a local tribunal rests with the local authority appointing it, and I think I can safely leave this case in their hands.


Meeting of Crompton District Council 20 March 1916
Reported Oldham Standard 21 March 1916

At a meeting of the Crompton District Council on Monday evening at which Councillor A Clegg presided, the Clerk read a letter from the Local Government Board respecting the language used by Councillor Hopwood at a recent sitting of the local tribunal to a conscientious objector and forwarding a copy of a question asked by Mr Philip Snowden in Parliament and Mr Hayes Fisher's reply. The letter stated that the revoking of the appointment of any member of a local tribunal rested with the local authority appointing it and he thought he would leave the case in their hands.

Councillor Leach: I am sorry that Mr Hopwood should have thought it fit to come out with such language and to the man he did. I think it reflects on the gentlemen who appointed him. I deplore that the language was uttered by a member of the Crompton Tribunal. I would like to enter my disapproval of such language. I think Mr Hopwood is sorry for it and I think it is on his conscience.

Councillor Hopwood: It was on but it is not now.

Councillor Leach: It was not the language of a gentleman in my opinion. Perhaps Councillor Hopwood will gracefully retire from the tribunal.
Councillor Hopwood: No.

The matter was dropped and Councillor Hopwood retains his position on the tribunal.


Salford Hundreds Appeal Tribunal 13 April 1916
Reported Oldham Chronicle 14 April 1916

Arthur Thomas Doodson, 1 Manor-road, Shaw, electrical tester for the Manchester Corporation, appealed against the decision of the local tribunal. He objected to serving in the war on grounds of conscience, being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and a member of the Community of the Sons of God. He could not serve in any capacity in the war, combatant or non-combatant, because to serve in non-combatant service meant equally being concerned with combatant service in the prosecution of the war.

The Chairman, respecting the man's religion, asked: What denomination is yours?
Doodson: We only call ourselves Christians.
The Chairman: Christians in the broadest sense I suppose?
Doodson: Yes.
The Chairman: And as such Christians in the broadest sense you have got an objection to the helping of the wounded?
Doodson nodded assent, so it appeared, and Judge Mellor, continuing to read his appeal, noted that he came not to destroy life but to save life. "But you refuse to save life, you know," he observed. The appellant's written statement stated that the community to which he belonged took no part in politics and never voted, neither in Parliamentary nor local elections. They believed in obeying but not taking part in the making of laws.

The Chairman: Then according to you, if everybody became Christians there would be no laws, because there would be nobody to make laws?
Doodson: There would be no necessity to make laws.
The Chairman: Oh I see. If they were all Christians they would be perfect.

Applicant said that his application was based on religious and conscientious grounds whereas the Shaw Tribunal chose, and gave their decision, on the question of his deafness. It was true that he based his objection partly on the ground of his physical disability (deafness) but he was at pains to make it clear that he had a conscientious objection. The chairman of the local tribunal told him that he had given them a loophole through raising the question of his deafness and referred him to the medical board. They failed to examine his conscientious objection.

Judge Mellor: I take it that you are a conscientious objector?
Doodson: Yes.
The Chairman said that what they did at that tribunal with reference to gentlemen who held similar views to his, was to refer them to Mr Pelham's Committee, which was considering how best to utilise their services for the benefit of their country. "What is difficult for us to understand," he observed, " is that while people might have an objection to killing people, they also have an objection to saving people."

It was decided that Doodson be referred to Mr Pelham's Committee for non-combatant service.
Doodson was referring to his services to the State in civil life but the chairman observed: "You don't want us to decide on this but you want us to decide on conscientious grounds."

Applicant asked if he would be given an opportunity to present his case to Mr Pelham's Committee and the chairman said that he thought Mr Pelham's Committee would give him every opportunity for putting forward his case. He supposed the applicant would hear something about it from somebody, though, as it was a Parliamentary Committee, Heaven knew what it would do. He was not responsible for it. He had enough responsibilities here.


[The following is based on Doodson's obituary on the Royal Society's website]

Arthur Thomas Doodson attended Liverpool University where he gained a B Sc degree First Class in chemistry and mathematics followed by his M Sc in 1914. He then worked for Manchester Corporation testing electronics, commuting from his home in Shaw.

In 1916, after his tribunal appeals, Doodson took up a position at University College, London, working in the statistics department under Karl Pearson. When he joined, the work was associated with finance but the department was put to Government work on ballistics, calculating high-angle trajectories, a new subject in those days. This was a challenge to Doodson's conscientious objections but he had made a promise to remain.

Pearson put Doodson in charge of the work on ballistics and he became partially reconciled when he learnt its principle use was the protection of London from Zeppelins. When Pearson retired on health grounds in 1918 Doodson took his place, becoming Head of the Computing Department of the Anti-aircraft Gunnery Branch of the Munitions Inventions Department. He refused an invitation to remain after the war and resigned in March 1919. Later in 1919 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science by Liverpool University.

During the war Liverpool University became interested in tidal research and Doodson's wartime work had included the effect of the wind on calculations. He joined the new Tidal Institute and in 1929 went to live at the Bidston Observatory from where tide tables throughout Europe and many parts of the world were calculated. He became the world's authority on tidal calculations. Doodson numbers and Doodson coefficients are still in use today in tidal predictions.

During World War Two the Admiralty turned to Doodson for an optimum date for the 1944 D-Day landings, a combination of low tide and full moon was required. He offered June 5th to 7th and June 6th was chosen. The matter was top secret.

Doodson made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1933 and remained at the observatory until his retirement in 1960.


Arthur Thomas Doodson was born in Boothstown, Worsley, 31 March 1890.
In April 1919 he married Margaret Galloway, with whom he had two children, Joan born in 1927 and Thomas in 1931. Margaret died soon after the birth of Thomas.
In December 1933 he married Elise Mary Carey.
His daughter Joan died in 1936.

1939 Register:
Living at the Bidston Observatory, Birkenhead :
Arthur T. Doodson: Married, b. 31st March 1890; Occ.Scientist
Elsie M. Doodson; Married; b. 21st August 1897; unpaid domestic duties.
Thomas Doodson, b. 4th March 1931; at school
Eva McLoughlin; single; b. 8th November 1908; domestic servant.

Arthur Thomas Doodson died Birkenhead, 10 January 1968


Further reading about his life and work at :

* Bidston Observatory HERE
* Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society : Arthur Thomas Doodson

He has an entry on the Pearce List. HERE

Contributed by Dorothy Bintley

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