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Field Punishment No.1 (2014)

In 1916, the New Zealand Government secretly shipped 14 of the country's most outspoken conscientious objectors to the Western Front in an attempt to convert, silence, or quite possibly kill them. This is their story.


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Credited cast:
Archibald Baxter
Byron Coll ...
Mark Briggs
William Little
John Baxter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Damien Avery ...
Sandy Baxter
Tim Carlsen ...
Richard Chapman ...
Lawrence Kirwan
Old Soldier (as Dan Cleary)
Dunkirk Warder
Robert Hartley ...
Aussie Bill
Sergeant Bolton
Lieutenant-Colonel CMO


In 1916, the New Zealand Government secretly shipped 14 of the country's most outspoken conscientious objectors to the Western Front in an attempt to convert, silence, or quite possibly kill them. This is their story.

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conscientious objector | See All (1) »


The war heroes we never heard about







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22 April 2014 (New Zealand)  »

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User Reviews

Humankind's Greatest Ever Obscene Atrocity
18 January 2015 | by (London, England, UK) – See all my reviews

Amid all the commemorations of the centenary of World War 1, by far the finest is this New Zealand anti-war film of 14 of its most brave, courageous,and noble citizens: contentious objectors all, refusing as best they could – in the face of intolerable cruelty and torture from NZ Army officers and NCOs – to collude in the industrial-scale insanity of Europe's mass killing slaughter-fest.

If the film seems to focus most of it's attention on pacifist objector Archibald Baxter, it's likely because he published 'We Will Not Cease – The Autobiography of a Contentious Objector' in 1939:

"The author made his opposition to the war and his attitude to conscription clear in the first years of the conflict, and after the passing of the Conscription Act, he was arrested without even receiving notice that he was required to serve in the Army. In company with other objectors, he was moved from jail to jail. He was transferred on board a troopship to France, and upon arrival there was officially tortured by means of the field punishment known as crucifixion. He suffered unofficial as well as official punishment, and was, on several occasions, beaten up. He was placed alone in an area which was heavily shelled and before he was through with the various attempts to make him change his mind, he was physically and mentally exhausted: prison, bad food (or no food), punishments, illness and nervous strain were at last too much for him and he collapsed, seriously ill, and had to be transferred to a hospital. He was taken (quite unnecessarily it appears) to a mental hospital, which fact was subsequently used against him by the authorities. […]

When this book was first published, at the beginning of the Second World War, I sent a copy to Mark Briggs, who had suffered with me in France, with this inscription: 'In memory of days that we can't yet afford to forget.' "

~ Archibald Baxter, 'We Will Not Cease – The Autobiography of a Conscientious Objector', 1968 edition »

The film's most memorable hero is Mark Briggs, one of the courageous few socialists who opposed the mass killing of workers "by workers for the benefit of the rich", on the basis of his revolutionary internationalism. Born the son of a Yorkshire farmer, Mark's remarkable tenacity and stubbornness shines through as a paragon of how the best of us can defy the anti-human barbarity of the modern military killing machine.

Given humankind's continuing division into nation states, and the ongoing military imperialism (as in 'the highest stage of capitalism') that continues to bring death and destruction to our sisters and brothers in other lands, it's little wonder that much of the global film industry is given over to celebrating men who'll kill Johnny Foreigner for a military wage. Kudos to these Kiwi film-makers for highlighting a far greater and more worthwhile flavour of bravery – the courage of convictions that empowers men to refuse to kill others overseas for the blood money of their local boss class.

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