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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

16 COERCION FAILS

Following the public revelation of the treatment of COs in France in the summer of 1916, the Prime Minister promised in the House of Commons that such brutality would never reoccur and as thousands were killing each other in the Battle of the Somme, a new policy came into force. Cases of all imprisoned conscientious objectors would be reviewed and those agreed as genuine would be released from prison provided they accepted to undertake work of national importance under the control of a new civilian committee in what came to be known at the Home Office Scheme. Any man who refused, or whose plea of conscience failed to satisfy the Tribunal, would be returned to complete his sentence in jail.

Clifford Allen, a leading member of the No Conscription Fellowship, responded to this from his prison cell and said that those who accepted this would be nothing other than 'slaves playing with liberty', and therefore cease to 'count in the struggle'. His letter is an indication of the tensions within the NCF and of the different motives men had for resisting conscription, but had little effect on most of the men who, increasingly desperate and isolated, were willing to go along with the new proposals. 4,378 men on re-examination were declared to possess a 'genuine' objection to the war. 267 applications were turned down and 692 men refused to appear before the Tribunal.


:: work of 'National Importance' on Home Office schemes


Then as today inefficiency and mean mindedness turned what could have been a satisfactory solution into a shambles. COs were told that they were going to be given 'work of national importance'; many, in fact, looked forward to it, believing that their professional skills, as teachers, doctors, clerks or craftsmen, could certainly be of benefit to the country. The Home Office committee, on the other hand, along with a large section of the public, were obsessed with the need for 'equality of sacrifice'. As The Times saw it, what was required was a 'form of arduous and unremunerative public service'. From the start, a spirit of punishment and retribution bedevilled the scheme.

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