Committed Christian Frank Money pays the price for his beliefs

Frank Money with his wife Ruth and son John

Frank Money with his wife Ruth, born Read and their first child John Money, born in 1921.

‘I find it impossible to take part in a struggle which has for its object the killing of men. God alone is the giver of life. . .’[1]

In January 1917 Frank Money explained why he had failed to comply with the demands to attend a parade and military medical board. His appeal was principally on religious grounds, he wrote in a letter to the Defence Department, and a closer study of the New Testament had strengthened his beliefs that he had ‘no right to take a life, or even assist other men to do so.’ He continued: ‘I know this action to be contrary to the laws of the land, nevertheless I am fully persuaded this action to be right in the sight of God.’[2]

He continued to maintain his strong belief that no true Christian could participate in warfare, and suffered the consequences; which in his instance included a total of two years and four months in prison.[3]

Frank Money had moved from Christchurch to a farm near Morrinsville, with his mother and brother Harry in September 1916, just two months before he was called up. Although farmers were not automatically exempted from military service, it seems likely that the move was to provide the brothers with a reason to appeal against military service if they were balloted, as farming was considered an essential industry.[4]

 In January 1917 Frank appeared before the Military Service Board at Paeroa and argued that if he were to leave the farm it would have to be sold. Their 160 acre farm had 35 acres in grass and they were milking 15 cows. Frank Money also put forward a religious argument for his appeal against military service, telling the board he was a Baptist with views similar to the Quakers regarding the bearing of arms. Because he was not a member of the Quakers, however, the board could not accept this argument, nor did they accept the farming argument, and after asking whether he would have taken up arms to stop Nurse Cavell from being shot (Frank replied that he didn’t think he would), his appeal was dismissed.[5]

Born in Kalkie, near Bundaberg, Queensland on 3 January in 1885 Frank Money was the youngest in the family of John and Elizabeth Money and attended school at Woongarra. A family tragedy when his father and only sister drowned had a profound effect on the young boy, not quite seven years old. His first recorded contact with a church was in 1902 when he was entered on the roll of the Bundaberg Salvation Army Corps, along with his mother and brothers Tom, Edwin and Herbert. [6]

In 1903 Frank and his fourth brother Harry moved to Otago, New Zealand, where they initially worked at McSkimming’s Pottery near Balclutha. Their mother, Elizabeth and other members of their extended family arrived in Christchurch a year later and lived in a rented house in Fitzgerald Avenue (then known as East Belt). Harry and Frank joined the rest of the family in Christchurch in 1904 and in 1905 three brothers, Frank, Harry and Edwin set up a picture framing business in Victoria Street. They later moved the business to Colombo Street.

Frank did not stay long in the business although Edwin carried it on for the rest of his life. Frank left to learn the carpentry trade from Walter Joseph Fowler a building contractor and member of the Salvation Army Band. Frank probably with Fowler’s help, proceeded to build houses for several family members: one in Cranford Street for his mother - where Frank also lived - and two in Mersey Street for his brothers Harry and Edwin.

On arriving in Christchurch the Money family had joined the Salvation Army: Frank Money joined on 5 December 1904 and played the E flat bass horn in the band. But in 1910 the Moneys left the Salvation Army and moved to the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church where Frank joined the Men’s Bible Class. Here he came to know Charles Mackie, a founding member of the National Peace Council, and this friendship may have encouraged Frank and his brother Edwin to become Christian Pacifists. Frank also seems to have had connections with the Richmond Mission, the fundamentalist sect which began in Christchurch in 1911 and whose members included several conscientious objectors.[7]

On 27 May 1917, a few months after his Military Board hearing, Frank was arrested at the farm. The diary he kept for the first year of his imprisonment provides an extraordinary amount of detail about the experience of being an imprisoned religious conscientious objector in Aotearoa New Zealand during World War I. Letters written by CO prisoners generally made light of any discomfort, both because the letters had to pass a censor and the prisoners themselves did not want to upset their families. Frank Money’s diary gives insight into the low points of prison life, especially the time spent in civilian prisons, while also acknowledging the collegiality of the conscientious objectors and the often humane treatment they received from prison staff.[8] Despite efforts to keep objectors separate from civilian prisoners, it is clear that for logistical reasons prisoners like Frank Money spent more than a few nights locked up with criminals.

Frank Money had a gentle introduction to detention, with the local constable allowing him to stay another night at home after his arrest. He also seems to have been kindly treated during the long rail journey to Trentham Military Camp, via Paeroa, Te Aroha, Frankton and Wellington. After two nights in ‘clink’ while he went through the routine of refusing to accept his ‘Issue’ of kit, he appeared before the Camp Commandant who remanded him to ‘Hut 21’ where he found himself with a congenial group of mostly religious conscientious objectors.[9] A fortnight later he was taken before the Camp Commandant and sentenced to 28 days detention.

Frank Money served this first sentence in the Alexandra Barracks in Wellington, where he found himself among a mix of conscientious objectors and defaulters. For the first week the men were given light duties mainly cleaning the barracks. But later they were also given some heavier work outside, demolishing sheds, and inside Defence Headquarters where they shifted heavy furniture from room to room. Then they were put to work breaking up bricks to make a road around the Headquarters building. With his experience in the building trade Frank Money found it impossible to work as slowly as his colleagues. A debate about whether ‘detainees’, who were not yet prisoners, should be asked to do such heavy labouring work, and whether by doing it they were fools or scabs, was debated over several days. Some men carried out a go-slow policy in an attempt to get better food, and a deputation waited on the corporal to ask for a better food allowance. As a result Frank recorded they received some gravy for dinner and a small piece of mutton for tea.[10] When they were not working the detainees were locked up in their cells, either separately or collectively, whichever they chose.

It is clear from Frank Money’s diary that the conscientious objectors were able to spend considerable time discussing issues that concerned them and that their time in the barracks was reasonably pleasant. Frank noted that he endorsed the stand taken by the Quaker Conference to not  do any work under military authority and said he personally ‘would prefer to stay in Detention or Jail for the duration of the war, rather than submit to the Military’.[11] He also heard stories from other detainees that affirmed the stand he’d taken against the military. A conscript from Timaru for example, told them he regretted being in uniform and had been given three days in detention for being unshaven. There was also a returned soldier who did not want to return to the front line and told stories about men in the trenches being sick of the war and wounding themselves in order to get away from it.[12]

Frank Money had a missionary zeal and sought out opportunities where he could talk to other men about Christianity though he now felt alienated from the church. When he heard church bells ringing on Sunday he wrote: ‘This however does not concern me as I only look upon such institutions as social centres. I believe the true Christian of today is to be found outside her walls’. [13]

How Frank Money manged to conceal his diary from the authorities is not known. A search of his room resulted in him losing stamped envelopes and writing materials, but somehow his writing paper, which came from an obsolete Military book he rescued when he was asked to burn it, [14] and his diary were overlooked. He was, however, reprimanded – it is not clear for what misdemeanour – and threatened with not being allowed to write or receive any further letters.[15]

At the end of his 28 days’ detention in the Barracks, Money accompanied by his brother Edwin, visiting from Christchurch, returned to Trentham where he was put in Hut 19. Once again he went through the routine of refusing to take his issue of kit, and was then put in ‘clink’: a room about 20 by 3 [yards] occupied by 14 men. This was a low point for Money who described his companions as either ‘sexual degenerates’ [16] or soaked in beer. Two had been fighting. Money slept on the floor alongside two other conscientious objectors, McGuire and Lomax, and expressed his distaste for the ‘low type of humanity’[17] he was being forced to mix with, commenting that they were a very good reason for not wanting to go to the war.

The following day he was taken before the Commandant, remanded for court martial and returned to Hut 21, where he found himself among old friends. While there were differences in their ideas, he reported, they all agreed that: ‘War is the Devil and no Christian can retain the favour of God while meddling with it’.[18] It was the same day, 14 July 1917, that they heard the discomforting news that 15 comrades had been put aboard a transport ship for France or England. This was a shock, but Money records that within five minutes he felt able to go to the ‘very end of this thing and trust my Lord’. [19] That night they had a rousing sing-song of hymns but he admitted to going to bed the next night wondering if there were any truth in the rumours that they were all to be transported.[20]

On 19 July 1917 Frank Money came before a Court Martial at Trentham Military Camp charged with disobeying a command of his senior officer. On 26 July he learnt that his sentence was 11 months with hard labour and he was taken to the Terrace Jail on 27 July. Here his fingerprints were taken, all his clothing and belongings were removed and he was issued with a prison suit and his hair was shorn off. This was a second low point for Money: On that first night when he was locked in his cell with his meal of porridge and bread, he admits to weeping and reflecting on what ‘standing for truth and righteousness had brought me to, the result of course of a wicked and ungodly Government at the head of affairs.’[21] The impression he got of his fellow prisoners at the jail was not good but the following day he was moved to the Mt Cook jail, also in Wellington where he mostly worked at his own trade as a builder. Gradually other Christians arrived at the prison until there were seven who were eventually permitted to join in Bible study. Frank continued to try and reach the other prisoners through prayer and faith, but regretted that he did not seem to have succeeded. Some of the civil prisoners were ‘hard stuff’[22] he wrote.

On 29 September Money was taken back to the Terrace Jail where he did a little bit of carpentry for a few days before being sent south to Christchurch where he stayed at the Addington Women’s Prison for 13 days before being transferred to Paparua Prison.[23]

By 17 February 1918 Money was beginning to think about his release date which was less than six weeks away. His Christian faith was still strong: ‘God has called me to bear witness in this manner and I care not what may happen for He is more than all that may be against me’.[24] He felt rested and spiritually refreshed, because since his school days he had never had so much leisure time. ‘Eight hours per day go as you please style. 16 hours in the cell’.[25] The food at Paparua, he said was uncommonly plain, but always good and just a little more than they needed.

When he was released from Paparua on 28 March he was met at the gates by a ‘Red Cap’ (a military policeman), taken to the military barracks in Hereford Street and locked in a guard room where he was visited by family members and friends. The following day he was escorted by train and boat to Wellington and then to Trentham where he was put in Hut 19 and told he was a free man.[26] On 3 April he once again went through the routine of being offered his kit and refusing it, and was then put into ‘clink’ with one objector, McRae, and three other offenders. On 4 April he appeared before the Commandant, was urged to take on ambulance work, which he declined and was remanded for Court Martial which was held on 15 April. This time his sentence was for two years, which he served initially at the Terrace Gaol and then at the Waikeria Prison Camp near Te Awamutu, less than 50 miles (80 kilometres) from the farm where he had been living at the time of his arrest. The diary he started the day he left Paparua Prison stopped on the day he was taken to the Terrace Jail after his Court Martial, the most likely reason for this being that diary writing was not permitted.

While he wrote no diary in Waikeria, the few extant letters show him to be cheerful and in good health. By October 1918 he had come to believe that the ‘plain living’[27] of eating porridge twice a day was good for him and he reported he had never felt so well before.

He could not say much about their living conditions, no doubt due to the censorship of prisoners’ letters, but he reported that conditions were on the whole fairly satisfactory. His fellow objectors had a wide range of beliefs and he felt that many of the ‘infidels’ in prison had a ‘noble spirit and high ideals towards the brotherhood of man’. [28] While ‘civilised Christianity’ had failed miserably, that only made it more imperative that ‘we who are standing for the truth should be faithful’.[29]  Lamenting that his time in prison was ‘miserably wasted’, he had none-the-less done a little water colour painting and spent much time reading and studying the scriptures. Most of his working hours had been spent at his own trade.  

By April 1919 he was wondering how much longer he might spend in prison. A letter to nephew Herbert Money shows he had stayed closely in touch with his family but he had also made good friends in prison: ‘far more worthy I think than those sacrificed on account of my ideas’[30] – perhaps a reference to some of his former church friends. Fellow conscientious objector Samuel Salter, from Wellington, was his next door neighbour and had become his best mate. A month later Frank was still cheerful and said his health was good. He was disappointed not to have been released and had no idea when it might happen.[31]

It was in prison that Frank met the three Read brothers who were also religious conscientious objectors, and ‘very dear friends’.[32] Once he was released from prison on 1 September 1919 Frank Money went to stay with the Read family in Levin and it was there that he met Ruth Read whom he married in June 1920.[33] The couple made their home in Morrinsville where Frank’s brother Harry had also settled. For a time they worked together as builders, but Harry had broken his wrist in a motor bike accident and it was difficult for him to work as a builder. In February 1920 Harry became a taxi driver, while Frank continued to build several houses in and around Morrinsville. Frank and Ruth had three children and as a family they attended the Brethren Gospel Hall in Morrinsville.  [34]

Frank’s health was not good after he came out of prison. He tried a sea voyage back to Queensland but this did not help. By March 1927 he had been forced to stop work, describing his illness as ‘a form of rheumatism known as peliosis or septic’ and saying his constitution was run down. He was anticipating that he might need another stay in the public hospital.[35] Later that same year Frank, Ruth and their three children moved to Lower Hutt and it was in Wellington that Frank died on 1 August 1929 aged just 44. The cause of death was said to be renal failure. [36]

Margaret Lovell-Smith


[1] Frank Money to the Defence Department, 20 January 1917. Photocopy of original letter in Money family private collection.

[2] Frank Money to the Defence Department, 20 January 1917.

[3] The main source for family information in this essay is the chapter about Frank Money in H. Bramwell Cook and Neroli Williams, We’re in the Money: The History of the Money Family, pp.3 7-38. Money family private collection.

[4] Paul Baker, King and Country Call, (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1988), pp. 117, 119-120.

[5] ‘Military Service Board: Sitting at Paeroa’, Ohinemuri Gazette, 10 January 1917, p. 2.

[6] Cook and Williams, We’re in the Money: the History of the Money Family, pp. 36-39.

[7] Email, H. Bramwell Cook to Tony McCahon, 17 September 2002. Copy of email in author’s hands.

[8] ‘F Money. My Diary 1917’. Photocopy of diary in Money family private collection.

[9] ‘F Money. My Diary 1917’, 27 July 1917.

[10] ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 11 July 1917.

[11]  ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 4 July 1917; P. S O'Connor, 'The Awkward Ones: Dealing with Conscience, 1916 – 1918', New Zealand Journal of History, October 1974, p.125. The statement made by the Auckland monthly meeting in January 1917 said that the principles of the Society of Friends could embrace neither combatant nor non-combatant service, for even the latter meant ‘supporting and becoming part of the vast military machine’.

[12] ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 11 July 1917.

[13] ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 24 June 1917.

[14] ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 2 July 1917.

[15] ‘F. Money. My Diary 1917’, 7 July 1917.

[16] Frank Money “Diary of Military Detention and Camp Life” [July 1917, p. 3] Photocopy of diary in Money family private collection.

[17] Frank Money “Diary of Military Detention and Camp Life” [July 1917, p. 3.]

[18] Frank Money “Diary of Military Detention and Camp Life” [July 1917, p. 8.] It later became clear that fourteen, not fifteen, men had been transported.

[19] Frank Money “Diary of Military Detention and Camp Life” [14 July 1917, p. 8.]

[20] Frank Money “Diary of Military Detention and Camp Life” [15 July 1917, p. 10.]

[21] Notes by Frank Money about his experiences since he was sentenced, dated 16 September 1917. Photocopy in Money family private collection.

[22] Notes by Frank Money about his experiences since he was sentenced, dated 16 September 1917.

[23] ‘Paparua, 23 December 1917’. Photocopy in Money family private collection.

[24] ‘Paparua, 23 December 1917’.

[25] ‘Paparua, 23 December 1917’. Includes additional notes dated 17 February 1918. Photocopy in Money family private collection.

[26] ‘Diary F. Money’, 28 March – 20 April 1918. Photocopy of diary in Money family private collection.

[27] Frank Money to Mr and Mrs Mackie, 12 October 1918, Series 1016, Box 25, Folder 106, Charles Mackie Papers, Canterbury Museum.

[28] Frank Money to Mr and Mrs Mackie, 12 October 1918.

[29] Frank Money to Mr and Mrs Mackie, 12 October 1918.

[30] F. Money to Herby [his nephew Herbert Money], 13 April 1919. Photocopy in Money family private collection.

[31] Frank Money to Mr and Mrs Mackie, 11 May 1010, Series 1016, Box 25, Folder 106, Charles Mackie Papers, Canterbury Museum.

[32] F. Money to Herby [his nephew Herbert Money], 13 April 1919.

[33] The Levin Chronicle, 9 June 1920, p. 2.

[34] Cook and Williams, We’re in the Money: the Money Family History, pp. 38-39; The Levin Chronicle, 9 June 1920, p. 2.

[35] Frank to Herbey & Netta, 15 March 1927. Photocopy in Money family private collection.

[36] Cook and Williams, We’re in the Money: the Money Family History, pp. 38-39, Money family private collection; ‘Deaths’, 2 August 1929, Evening Post, p. 1.