On 28 February 1916, William Baillie applied for absolute exemption, stating: “Firmly believing as I do that all human life is sacred I can not and will not be false to my deepest convictions by engaging in military service. I hold that nothing can justify war and in support of my belief I am prepared to suffer any penalty rather than accept a decision of this tribunal which does not harmonise with my beliefs.”
On 16 March 1916, he was granted exemption from combatant service only. He appealed, writing: “I made a claim for absolute exemption to the local tribunal on the grounds that I had a conscientious objection to taking human life, as I believed it to be sacred. I stated that I considered engaging in warfare either as a combatant or as a non-combatant, a violation of my deepest convictions. I have been granted an exemption from combatant service only, which does not meet mu conscientious objection which the local tribunal recognises I hold.”
The appeal was dismissed. He was court assigned to the Non Combatants Corps in Edinburgh. He was court-martialled in Hamilton on 5 May 1916 and sentenced to 112 days hard labour, then commuted to 42 days in Barlinnie. He was court-martialled in Hamilton on 18 July 1916 to 18 months hard labour in Barlinnie civil prison. Two later court martials in May 1917 and in December 1918 condemned him to a further 18 months each. By January 1919 he had served three sentences and more than two years.