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OBJECTING TO WAR
FIRST CO TO DIE
2 EUROPE GOES TO WAR
3 COUNTDOWN TO CONSCRIPTION
4 FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN SOCIETY
5 NO CONSCRIPTION FELLOWSHIP
6 THE SECRET PRESS
7 MANY TRADITIONS
8 THE TRIBUNALS
9 TRANSCRIPTS
10 THE 'won't-fight-funks'
11 THE COST OF CONSCIENCE
12 UNWILLING SOLDIERS
13 ALTERNATIVES AND DILEMMAS
14 PRISON
15 THE MEN SENTENCED TO DEATH
16 COERCION FAILS
17 DYCE
18 DARTMOOR
19 THEY WORK IN OVERCOATS
20 THE MEN WHO DIED
21 WINDING DOWN
21 SELECTION OF BOOKS
22 FROM CALL UP TO DISCHARGE


WHY WAR? supplement



Although protest did not prevent conscription, it succeeded in ensuring that from the passage of the first Military Service Act in 1916 conscientious objection was recognised in principle, if by no
means always in practice.

4 FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN SOCIETY

In March 1916, when the Military Service Act came into law and conscription was introduced in Britain, the patriotic enthusiasm that marked the beginning of the war was giving way to weary grief as more and more families lost sons, brothers, fathers, fiancés and husbands. There seemed no foreseeable end to the war once supposed to be ‘over by Christmas'.

From now on all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called up. Exemptions for reasons of health, demands of home, work or work of national importance were included as was a clause for conscientious objection, inserted to neutralise some opposition. Civil servants who refused to be conscripted on grounds of conscience had their pension rights cancelled.The promise that married men would not be conscripted did not last long and eventually, as the casualties mounted, all men up to the age of fifty were being conscripted.

At the end of the debates that brought the Military Service Act into being there was only one resignation. Before leaving the Cabinet, Sir John Simon, the Liberal Home Secretary, asked: ‘Does anybody really suppose that once the principle of compulsion is accepted you are going to stop here? ... The real issue is whether we are to begin an immense change in the fundamental nature of society.’

See report from The Guardian 1916

Harold Bing, a WW1 CO, notes how conscience and responsibility for one's actions have since been given force by international law

Many conscripts believed that to join was to perform their moral and civic duty, in any case not to do so would have brought them in front of a court martial.

Harold Bing at an International conference

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