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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








DERBY SCHEME

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After 1902 and the end of the Boer war, there were opposing opinions about recruitment for the British armed forces. Some people were strongly in favour of compulsory call-up for men (conscription). Others believed that the army should continue to rely on its career soldiers who chose to sign up and that compulsory conscription is very 'unenglish'.

Though in 1914 there had been many volunteer recruits, many of these had been killed, and men were needed to replace them. In 1915 the Prime Minister was forced to create a coalition government, and some of its members were men who wanted conscription. They began to exert influence. A law was passed to make a list of all men and women between the ages of 15 and 65 – with a pledge that it would not be used for military recruitment. When the register was completed, it showed that there were 2,179,231 men in Britain who were single and the right age to serve in the army. Now the task was to get these 2 million to join up.

The Earl of Derby, who had gathered 5 battalions of volunteers in 1914, was made director of recruiting. He introduced ‘the Derby scheme’: men were simply asked to state formally that they were willing to serve in the army. The Prime Minister promised that no married men would be asked to join until every single man had volunteered.

By the end of 1915 a further 250,000 men had been killed in the Dardanelles campaign alone. More men were needed, and were expected to volunteer. Stories about ‘slackers’ appeared in the press, and men who had not joined up were frequently treated with hostility where they lived or worked. Conscription began in the spring of 1916, and there was little support or sympathy for men who chose to face arrest rather than be conscripted.

The number of men joining up each year is revealing.

1914 1,186,357
1915 1,280,000
1916 1,190,000
1917 820,646
1918 493,562

About half a million men reached the age for military service each year. Many men were also needed to work in vital industries at home: agriculture, coalmining, steel-making and, of course, arms manufacture, all crucial to a country taking part for the first time in ‘total war’. It is clear that conscription did not unearth a significant number of 'slackers' but it did cause untold misery to COs and others whose families sank into poverty with the loss of a breadwinner.

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