Frederick Pethick-Lawrence lived in South Holmwood. Before the war he had been one of the leaders of the militant ‘suffragettes’, jointly editing ‘Votes for Women’ magazine with his wife, Emmeline, and standing bail for hundreds of women with his own money. In 1912 he had been imprisoned and forcibly fed after going on hunger strike.
During the war he served as treasurer of the Union of Democratic Control, the leading anti-war organization. Many left-leaning politicians, journalists and intellectuals argued that the conflict was not a war of working people, who had more in common with the working men of Austria and Germany than with the upper classes of their own country, and who stood to suffer most and to gain least, whatever the outcome. In 1917 he stood for election as the ‘Peace by Negotiation’ candidate in a Parliamentary by-election in Aberdeen. He and his supporters, including Ramsay MacDonald, were pelted with coal and vegetables.
In 1918 Fred was conscripted at the age of 46. He refused to serve as a political objector. The Dorking Military Tribunal awarded him an exemption on condition that he undertake work of national importance. He worked at Wattlehurst Farm near Capel for the rest of the war.
Fred was selected as the Labour Party candidate for Hastings in the general election of December 1918. But as an anti-war candidate who had not fought he stood no chance of winning. He withdrew his candidacy after being the target of abuse in the press.