Hounded from Pillar to Post: The Experiences of FWW Conscientious Objectors

This Thursday join Ben Copsey, Manager of the “Objecting to War” Project at the Peace Pledge Union, as he explores the lives and experiences of the 20,000 British Conscientious Objectors during the First World War. In today’s post we give you a sneak peak at a relatively unknown topic.

With the introduction of Conscription in 1916, men who believed they could not fight in the war were left with a difficult choice. Abandon their principles and take up arms, or face ridicule, arrest, assault and prison as Conscientious Objectors.

First World War conscientious objectors. Courtesy of the Peace Pledge Union.

First World War conscientious objectors. Courtesy of the Peace Pledge Union.

Over three hundred Post Office workers from around the country made the difficult decision to refuse to fight and kill in the First World War. Whether religious, political or ethical men, each one made a stand on the principle that noone should be forced into the army – a stand that for many would lead to years in prison, ostracism, and for some, death. Their motivations, experiences and opinions make a fascinating collection of sometimes odd, often passionate and always interesting stories of resistance and dissent. Post Office COs came from every area and community – from Jewish Sorters in the East end and Anarchist Postmen in Glasgow to Quaker Telegraphists in Liverpool – and experienced everything that could happen to an objector during the war, whether working with an ambulance service, going on the run or stubbornly refusing to compromise from the inside of Wormwood Scrubs, the men of the Post Office who stood up to say “No” to war provide a perfect snapshot of Conscientious Objection.

Many of their experiences are coming to light for the first time, telling a fascinating tale of courage, resistance and conviction of men standing up for their principles and the right to refuse to kill. While myths of Conscientious Objection still paint them as cowards and traitors, this talk will discuss why ordinary men
made an extraordinarily brave decision – and what happened to them as a result.

Join us this Thursday (6 November) from 7pm-8pm at the Phoenix Centre to find out more. Book your ticket online today to avoid missing out!

2 responses to “Hounded from Pillar to Post: The Experiences of FWW Conscientious Objectors

  1. Louise Harper

    This article is making these men out to be suffering heroes. No one WANTED to be at times waist deep in mud, rats, human excrement and dead bodies, they went because the safety of their families depended on them fighting for their country. They went because they were not COWARDS.
    No normal person wants to take life, but if ones homeland and family are under threat, what has to be done is done. Whatever these men “endured” it was nothing compared to the atrocities our grandfathers ENDURED.
    If it had been left to men like these, many of whoms only conviction was to save their own skins, one can only imagine the consequences for Great Britain. More honest to say I dont want to go, than it is against my beliefs or convictions. My Grandfather left a wife and five children to keep Britain safe for ponces like these. He was blown to pieces at Hill 60, He ENDURED!

    • Hi Louise,

      Thank you for your comment – our intention was only to share a part of untold history not to glorify any group. Indeed people like your grandfather were the heroes of the First World War.

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