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Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and "The Process of Their Conversion"

XXVI.—After The Verdict

page 144

XXVI.—After The Verdict.

The long-delayed report, with its verdict of guilty, and the Magistrate's declaration that the officials at the Detention Barracks had lied to him, while the statements of the prisoners were substantially true, was like a bombshell dropped among the National Government supporters; but only the Labour members were ready to force the Government's hands in the matter.

On December 6, Mr. L. M. Isitt (Christchurch North) asked the Minister of Defence, without notice, "whether any punishment had been allotted, and, if so, what punishment it was, on the men who were responsible for the cruelties practised on the military defaulters in the Wanganui Detention Barracks." Sir James Allen said "the report of the Commission recommended the removal of the staff. The staff had all been removed except the lieutenant in command, and he would have been removed but for the outbreak of influenza, which had rendered it difficult to at once replace him." Mr. Isitt asked "if that meant that the men responsible had been dismissed or merely removed to another position?" Sir James Allen: "The staff has been removed."

On the same day also without notice, I sought information from the Minister as to "whether the House would be afforded an opportunity to discuss the Wanganui Report, and, if so, when? Also, whether he would lay on the table all the papers in connection with the term of office of Lieutenant Crampton?" Sir James Allen replied that "anything that was not of a confidential character in connection with the officer referred to—and he did not know that there was anything confidential—he would be glad to lay upon the table. In respect to a discussion upon the report of the inquiry referred to, he might say that the honourable member had an opportunity of discussing that report at any time he liked; but he could not see that there was any object in wasting the time of the House over a discussion upon the report now."

On December 9, Mr. Witty (Riccarton) asked the Minister of Defence, "if it was correct that one Smith, formerly Lieutenant Crampton's right-hand man at the Wanganui Detention Barracks, was at present a sergeant in the military police at Christchurch; and, if so, was that the removal the Minister spoke if?" Sir James Allen replied that "he could not tell the honourable gentleman, but would make enquiries. At present he did not know."

The papers in connection with Crampton's Samoan record were not laid on the table of the House, and when it appeared that all discussion was likely to be burked, I took advantage of the third reading of the Appropriation Bill to raise a protest. My remarks are reported in "Hansard" thus:—

"I wish to refer, to the case of Lieutenant Crampton, a man who was formerly Provost-Marshal, Commissioner of Police, and Judge of page 145Native Affairs at Samoa. He became involved in trouble with a native women [sic: woman] there. He was courtmartialled three times. He escaped on the more serious immoral charge, but was found guilty of having assaulted a woman. It was proved that he had thrashed her with a stick. For that crime he was merely reprimanded, and his return to New Zealand was recommended. He came back to New Zealand, and for some reason best known to themselves, the Defence Department placed him in control of the Wanganui Barracks, and gave him charge of the Conscientious Objectors and other military defaulters, and we have had laid on the table of the House the report of the Magistrate, Mr. Hewitt, showing that Lieutenant Crampton, while in charge at Wanganui, was guilty of almost indescribable brutalities, so far as the prisoners under him were concerned. I want to ask for an assurance that this man will not be retained as a military officer, that men will not be placed under his charge, and that he will not be allowed to exercise the powers over them which he exercised over the prisoners at Wanganui. I want to go further than that, and demand from the Government that Lieutenant Crampton shall be placed on trial for the crimes of which he was guilty at the Wanganui Barracks. I think the House ought to insist on the fullest explanation by the Government as to why, knowing Lieutenant Crampton's record, knowing the serious charge on which he had been tried at Samoa, knowing that he had been found guilty of brutally ill-treating a half-caste woman—why, knowing all this, he was still allowed to retain his position as an officer in the Defence Forces, and why he was given that important position at Wanganui. I have made in this House and outside it repeated attempts to get at the bottom of this case, and to get Lieutenant Crampton's record as regards Samoa, but for some unaccountable reason, delays occurred that were irritating, and which seemed to those of us outside the inner circle, to be altogether inexplicable The Christchurch 'Sun' has given the public the information which I have given to this House, and I think the position is a most serious one. … I ask from the Cabinet an explanation with regard to Crampton, and an assurance that he will not be allowed to remain a day longer in the Defence Forces of New Zealand."