the men who said no
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William Marshall Wheeldon (1892-1937), Derby, was a schoolteacher and socialist. He was dismissed by Derby Education Committee because of his CO stand, Refused recognition as a CO, he was imprisoned at Derby, Wormwood Scrubs, Durham and Wakefield. After WW1 he was refused reinstatement as a teacher and sought a new life in Russia, working for the Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Service in 1923; he took Soviet citizenship, entering government service as a translator in 1929, but in 1937 was arrested in Stalin’s purge and summarily executed.



Will was born in Bootle, Lancashire. When he was seven, the family moved to Derby where he grew up and became a schoolteacher.
Before the war, with other schoolteachers he ran a breakfast service for schoolchildren. During a visit by Queen Mary to Derby City, these schoolteachers refused to accompany children to the street parade and forgo the breakfast service. As a result, Will and the other teachers were disciplined by the Derby Education Committee; in an act of solidarity, his sister Hettie, also a schoolteacher, resigned and went to work in Ilkeston.
Like the rest of the family, he was physically active, being awarded medals for a junior water polo championship, for the Derby & District Swimming & Life Saving Association and the Royal Life Saving Society; and politically active possibly with the Socialist Labour Party, involved in adult education for which he probably wrote a short, but dull, Marxist economics book (1920 The ABC of Economics)!

Will, his mother, Alice Wheeldon, and his sisters were opposed to the war. In 1915, they all joined the No Conscription Fellowship; for a time Hettie Wheeldon was the Secretary for the Derby branch. Alice provided a ‘safe house’ to Conscientious Objectors.

After the introduction of conscription in 1916, Will appeared before Derby Borough Police Court charged with “wilfully obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty”; the police were moving five conscientious objectors from the prison to the railway station. Will was found guilty and sentenced to a month's imprisonment.

Will was court-martialled by the Military Tribunal, served 56 days hard labour in Derby Prison and was then released into the Army which took him to Seaburn hutments, Roker, Sunderland. He escaped and went “on the run” to Southampton where sister, Winnie and his brother-in-law, Alfred Mason, helped to support him.

In 1917, he was again court-martialled and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, possibly at Hylton Prison. At this time, his correspondence with our grandfather Alf Mason, who was also in prison awaiting trial for the Wheeldon conspiracy to murder case, shows a cheerful spirit and enquiring mind.
In 1919, Will was granted temporary prison leave to attend his mother’s funeral.

Newspapers described the scene: Will took  “...from his pocket a red flag of about three and a half feet square, and, fluttering it in the wind, place it impressively..”  on her coffin that was laid in an unmarked grave, followed by a stirring oration from Mr John S Clarke.

Will was finally released from prison in mid-1919, when the The Times reported that:
“Derby Education Committee have decided to inform William Marshall Wheeldon, a conscientious objector, that they have no post to which he can be appointed. He is a [the] son of Mrs Wheeldon, who with her married daughter and son-in-law was convicted of conspiracy to poison Lloyd George.”
Unable to get work as a schoolteacher at the end of the war, in 1921 Will went to the Soviet Union with the Friends’ Emergency  and War Relief Service working with them on famine relief in Buzuluk, in southern Russia, until 1923.
He remained in the Soviet Union, settling in Samara an industrial city on the Volga. In 1924, Will married Zena (Snejeda) Ivanov, and possibly had two children; their married name was Wheeldon or ‘Vildon’. Will and Zena moved to Moscow, staying at the Hotel Lux where most foreign Comintern officials were put up.
In 1928, Will was visited by his eldest sister Nellie, active in the English cooperative movement, and probably accompanied by Tom Bell, an executive member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and his son, Oliver. Nellie worked as a Corrector in the English Section of the Comintern and also stayed at Hotel Lux.
In December 1929 Will was recruited as a translator by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern). He translated articles about agricultural production. He enjoyed the warmth and environment of Sochi in 1934 when he was being treated for rheumatism. Winnie Mason, his youngest sister, corresponded with Will and obtained a passport for the Soviet Union, although his letters strongly urged her not to come. Nellie left for the USA. Winnie lost contact with both Will and Nellie, and was looking for them until she died. 
The 1990s release of embargoed records showed that Will had been a strong supporter of Leon Trotsky. On 5 October 1937, orders signed by Stalin were issued for Will’s arrest. The Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court convicted him of espionage and membership of a subversive group and sentenced him to execution by firing squad on Christmas Day 1937. He was executed in Lubyanka prison.
In 1992, the British Foreign Office notified our mother Sheila Mason, by then his closest living relative, of his death.

This account is incomplete



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About the men who said NO


Born: 1893
Died: 1937 shot in Russia
Address: 12, Pear Tree Road, Derby
Tribunal: Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs
Prison: Durham, Wakefield.
HO Scheme: Wakefield Experiment*
CO Work:
Occupation: Teacher




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