On 25thFebruary 1916 he asked for total exemption to the Leith Local tribunal sating: “I here will respectfully claim absolute exemption on the ground of a conscientious objection, based on spiritual, ethical and economic principles. War, in my opinion, is totally adverse to the teachings of our Lord as given both in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Ten Commandments. Holding, as I do, the sacredness of human life I believe war to be inhuman. We should not take that which we cannot give. War, according to my learning, is irrational, futile and economically unsound. Attached all my life to function Rd –Church […] can testify to my strict attendance to devotional duties.
On March 15thhe was assigned to the non-combatants corps. He appealed writing: “I appeal on the ground of dissatisfaction with the decision of the local tribunal in refusing my application for absolute exemption based on spiritual, ethical and economic objection to war. To reconcile my conscience with war, under any circumstances, is possible as I certainly believe war to be incompatible with the teachings of Christ, spiritually or morally- I respectfully solicit a reconsideration of my application with a view to granting full and absolute exemption.”
On 28 March 1916, the appeal dismissed. The following day he appealed to the Central Tribunal writing: “I respectfully solicit permission to appeal to the Central Tribunal on the ground of dissatisfaction with the Appeal tribunal based on the belief that my case was prejudiced through inability to understand the necessary legal procedure in putting my case before his lordship. Sheriff Maconachie, who disallowed my written statement and confined me to the base fact a youth of 21 is certainly at a disadvantage in pleading his case before a trained judge, consequently, I was unable to separate fact from argument in the above mentioned statement. It is a fact, however, that at two consecutive courts I have, without doubt, established my claim as a conscientious objection: therefore I would with your permission plead before the higher court for complete and unqualified exemption because it is absolutely impossible for me to reconcile my conscience with military service of any nature.”
He was part assigned to the Non Combatant Corps and court-martialled in Hamilton on 6 May 1916. He was at home from 6 May 1916 to 29 May 1916, and in France with BEF from 30 May 1916.