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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

13 ALTERNATIVES AND DILEMMAS

At the beginning of the war a group of young Quakers, trained in first aid, set up a humanitarian project in France, which they called the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). Most of its 1,200 members were pacifists; they were all civilians; and they worked closely with the fighting soldiers. 'Our ideal as a voluntary unit is to ease pressure on overworked or inadequate staff.' The FAU provided its COs with a way to support the wounded but not the war. They cared for anyone they found wounded, including Germans - 'One has to help the latter mostly by stealth, but it is lovely to be able to do so now and then'. To the French army, the FAU seemed an organisation of 'amiable and efficient cranks'. There's no doubt that the drivers of the FAU ambulances and the workers at their hospital and dressing stations on the front line were brave and dedicated, feeling, as one said, 'privileged to try to patch up some of the results of this ghastly mistake'.

But after conscription was introduced, for many COs (a number of whom were given exemption on condition that they served with the FAU) the complexity of the situation became increasingly problematic. In 1914 some FAU workers had feared they might be taking potential non-combatant work away from volunteer soldiers, who consequently went to their deaths instead. In 1916, it was unwilling conscripts whom the FAU's presence might be forcing into the front line. FAU staff also thought that their exemption was unfair to other COs, whose hardships they felt they should be sharing. Many resigned, and soon joined their 'refusing' colleagues in prison.

Even in prison, choices created dilemmas. Some apparently innocent prison tasks turned out to be part of the war effort, and had to be resisted. Those who refused to do any work at all were punished with solitary confinement and bread-and-water diets for long periods.

Another kind of dilemma concerned the 'Home Office Scheme': work camps set up by the government in 1916 after the Central Tribunal had decided that, on re-examination, 4,378 prisoners were 'genuine' objectors after all. Was agreeing to go to these camps actually an act of war-support? Some COs thought it was, and stayed in prison. Others thought it might be a progressive move, possibly leading to enlightened penal reform, and went. The camps varied. Some were relatively comfortable, others barely habitable. Work varied, too, from the unpleasant (making fertiliser from dead animals) to the utterly futile (manual labour for non-existent projects).

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