During the First World War, Jack Harbour of Greatness Terrace, who worked as a railway porter at Bat and Ball railway station, was charged with not reporting for military service. Harbour appealed on the grounds of his conscientious objection to fighting.
His case was dismissed after cross-examination. Judge Parry presiding asked
What are you doing now?
Harbour: I am a railway porter
Judge: The railways belong to the State, and are therefore a military organisation. A good many troops go through your station, so you help them in that way?
Harbour: That is my daily work
Like all other railway companies, the South Eastern & Chatham Railway, had passed into Government control on 4th August. The priority now was the transport of troops and goods. Passenger traffic was not a priority and would be heavily curtailed during the war with priority given to soldiers, sailors, reservists, and recruits. Instructions were issued that no non-civilian was to be left behind by any train.
Records show that Jack subsequently served in the war with the Non Combatant Corps.
With thanks to Matthew Ball for this research.
This article will feature in Matthew's book 'The Great War and its Legacy'.