See and hear World War One and Two conscientious objectors recalling their experiences on the Voices for Peace interactive CD
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION TODAY BRITAIN
Information for members of the British Armed Forces on the procedure for discharge as conscientious objectors.
1. All members of the UK Armed Forces, regular, part-time and reserve, have a right to apply for discharge on the grounds of a conscientious objection to continued service.
2. With minor variations, the procedure is essentially the same for all three services, all ranks and both genders.
3. The first formal step is a written statement of your conscientious objection. This should be a truthful account of your own beliefs in your own words, signed and dated by you.
4. The statement must then be submitted to your Commanding Officer with a covering letter applying for a discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection as disclosed in the statement. Ask also to be assigned to non-combatant duties whilst the application is being considered. Keep copies of both the letter and the statement.
5. You will be asked to submit further written evidence. This could be references from professional people with whom you have discussed your position, such as a minister of religion or a solicitor, or letters from friends who know you and your views well. These people need not agree with your views. What is important is that they can say that they believe you to be sincere in your views, and it is best for you to have at least two such people, who are not members of your own family. Keep copies of these letters.
6. Your Commanding Officer, assisted by the Chaplain (even if you have no religion), will investigate your sincerity, usually by interviewing you.
7. Your Commanding Officer will then submit a report, including a report from the Chaplain, your statement and other written evidence, to your Division Commander. The report will include a recommendation as to whether or not s/he considers that your application for discharge as a conscientious objector should be approved.
8. You will again be interviewed and informed of the Division Commander's decision. If your application has been approved you will be discharged.
9. If your application has been rejected, you should be informed that you have a right of appeal to the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors (ACCO), using form 6A1-1.
10. ACCO is an independent committee of civilians appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and chaired by a lawyer.
11. ACCO will receive all the documents from both you and your Commanding Officer, and then invite you to a hearing.
12. ACCO normally sits in London in a building not owned by the Ministry of Defence. If you are overseas at the time of your application you should be returned to the UK. You may wear civilian dress for the hearing if you wish. Procedure is relatively informal.
13. You will be invited to speak directly to the Committee about your beliefs, how you came to develop them, and to answer questions .You may also call witnesses, who can claim travelling expenses but not loss of earnings. You may be represented by a lawyer (but legal aid is not available), or a friend.
14. Your Commanding Officer will also be represented, and a report on your character and recent conduct will be given.
15. You will not be told of ACCO's decision on the day, because their advice has to be formally accepted by the Ministry of Defence. If their advice is favourable, you will be discharged. If their advice is not favourable, you have a right to a further application if you can obtain further evidence of your sincerity in conscientious objection.
16. The relevant references for the Army are QR 1975 para 9.402, AF B 132A, D/DM(A)/7/5/3 (M1(A)), Issue 12, Instruction 6, and TA Regulations 1978 para 5.188. There are equivalent references for the RN and RAF.
17. The following bodies may be able to advise you further on your position as a conscientious objector:
Peace Pledge Union, 1, Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel 020 7424 9444 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At Ease, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS, Tel (Sundays 5-7 pm only) 020 7247 5164