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FELIX HAROLD WHITE 1884 - 1945  


Felix White is now known more for his music than his pacifist beliefs - a successful composer, music teacher and pianist, several of his works remain popular today.

He grew up as the oldest of five children in a large, poor family. His father was a Coal Merchant while Felix and his brothers worked as car-men transporting coal around Surrey, before he became a music teacher. At a young age he was taught to play the piano by his mother and quickly became relatively well known, with one of his works played at the Proms in 1907.

Felix applied for exemption at Kingston tribunal in early 1916 and stated that he was a Conscientious Objector for “artistic reasons”. We now think that he may have had an extra reason - in 1914 he had married Marta Scholten, a Swiss-German woman. Like many British people who had come from Germany, she had been afraid of the racism German people felt at the start of the war and had changed her name to Elizabeth - a much more English-sounding name. Perhaps Felix did not want to fight men who could be his relatives?

We know that Felix disagreed with the war and refused to be conscripted. He appealed against the Kingston verdict to the County and Central tribunals, but was not given absolute exemption. He was exempted from Combatant Service, and only if he did “Work of National Importance”.
Sheet music

Like many COs, Felix was not allowed to continue in his own work, or work near to his wife and family. The Tribunals could order COs to take jobs at a certain minimum distance from home, and set a (very low) maximum rate of pay. This was meant to simply make a CO's life as difficult as possible - a very petty act of punishment! He was sent to work on a farm in Cornwall, later moving to a farm in Hemel Hempstead.

His work on the farms would have included very early mornings followed by constant chores and hard conditions. Using primitive tools he would work as a labourer doing general menial chores around the farms for two years. Farmers would sometimes refuse to let COs sleep indoors, leaving them in barns, tents and gardens even in the depths of winter. Felix would have found it very hard to find money for a train ticket to see his family and likely would have spent much of the two years on the farms without ever seeing his wife.

After the war, Felix was reunited with his family. He went on to compose many pieces of music for piano solo and orchestral groups, including his “Fanfare for a Challenge to Accepted Ideas”, a piece inspired by his dedication to resisting war and militarism.





Felix White

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Born: 1884
Died: 1945
Address: Kingston on Thames
Tribunal: Kingston on Thames
HO Scheme: [1]
CO Work: Farm Labourer
Occupation: Music Teacher & Composer



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