It was 10 years ago when Victoria Manthorpe’s mother died and she came into possession of boxes of family letters, papers and photographs.

The result is a brilliant and fascinating book called Different Drums: One Family, Two Wars which takes us on a journey through the life and times of the Manthorpe clan.

Victoria, former administrator with the Norwich Society, is already a respected author. A founding member and chair of the Norfolk County Council committee for the Development of Literature in Norfolk.

Her new book is close to home and introduces us to members of her family.

Eastern Daily Press: Walter and Jennie in their back garden in Norwich during 1926

The story starts with her grandfather Walter Manthorpe, a conscientious objector during World War One, and then her father, also Walter, chose his father’s path but in a new way.

“This is a Norwich story and I have tried to name all the other Norwich CO’s that my grandfather came into contact with because they all supported each other and identified strongly with Norwich,” says Victoria.

Her grandfather was not a political radical. A quiet Quaker from a working class background. His family had moved from Yarmouth to Norwich where Quakers were well-integrated into society.

Walter’s father, Hamilton, was running a Quaker coffee and chocolate stall on St Andrew’s Plain – an alternative to beer for the men heading for work at the factories around Colegate.

Eastern Daily Press: Young Walter, aged about 19, who was a member of the “players” at the Maddermarket Theatre in

Teetotaller Hamilton and his wife Eliza joined the Society of Friends.

Walter went to Avenue Road School and in 1913 opened his own Health Food Store in White Lion Street. At the time dismissed by many as off-beat and cranky. A nine-day wonder.

Walter fell in love with Jane Swann and lived on Trafford Road in the city for the rest of their lives. They compromised on matters of faith and were married in 1915. Their son, also Walter, was born in 1916

By the time of the First World War he had no doubts about his course of action although and was forced to make a choice and refuse military service.

He knew how CO’s were being treated but said later: “I disagreed with war itself as not being an answer to the problem. That was my attitude.”

After progressing through the tribunal procedure and was imprisoned at Mousehold Barracks and then Wormwood Scrubs.

Eastern Daily Press: A coal party at Dartmoor

He was then sent to Dartmoor Prison and to a variety of tough work camps around the country.

Near starvation and solitary confinement, hard labour and a lack of medical care. Walter avoided trouble but refused a demand he should spy on fellow prisoners.

He was present during the demise and death of another Norwich man , William Firth. Throughout it all he kept his faith in non-violence and his determination to resist state incursion into matters of conscience.

Walter’s letters described the anxieties and deprivations of prisoners as well as their inspirational moments.

Following his release, the book tells how he started to fulfil his ambitions as a champion of whole food and vegetarianism. His ideas about food and organic farming were decades ahead of his time.

Eastern Daily Press: A group picture of the COs from Norwich at Dartmoor in 1917/8. Walter top left. Probably taken at

He and his wife developed their modest city centre shop becoming respected members of the community. In the 1920s he was elected chairman of the Norwich District Grocers’ Association.

They had two sons. Walter and Jack and they became of age as Nazi Germany embarked on its invasions. The bonds of blood and ideology were tested as the two brothers faced choices which would define their futures.

In 1935, young Walter was articled to a firm of  surveyors, land agents and auctioneers in Norwich and was a “player” at the Maddermarket Theatre.

But he had his eyes set on London and Walter had already left home and was part of a residential community in London called Youth House – he chose his father’s path when war broke out.

He was sent to Blackpool to requisition property for the war effort – a difficult position since he was, for a short time, joint secretary of the Blackpool Peace Pledge Union. He was called before a tribunal in February 1940 and his statement of objection made clear his grounds to be humanitarian.

Walter was given partial exemption and took up ambulance and then forestry work.

His younger brother Jack qualified as a flight instructor and was stationed in Juby on the Isle of Man and was due to be sent to South Africa, when in May 1942, his plane crashed over Scotland and all four RAF personnel on board were killed.

Eastern Daily Press: Jack Manthorpe who was killed when his plane crashed in 1942. He is buried at St John the Baptist

Walter worked surveying in the fens for land drainage and designed cottages on the Sandringham estate and then extensive public housing before working in London for the Central Office of Information.

He was involved with the Festival of Britain and then went to work for London County Council, studying for a degree in Town Planning from London University. Walter and his family emigrated to Canada in 1956.

Victoria’s extensive research and fine writing has made this an important and compelling book, with rare photographs, looking at the lives of a father and son, their families and friends, through letters and documents CO’s during both wars.

It is an important book in which Victoria tells an often forgotten story so well and says: “As we become more and more dependent on each other for global survival, pacifism may again find its time and its advocates, but no doubt in some new way.”

She gives us the opportunity to understand the conflict between patriotism and conscience that united and divided families during two world wars.

Different Drums. One Family, Two Wars by Victoria Manthorpe is published by Poppyland Publishing and is in the shops now priced at £14.95. You can also buy it from