Conscientious objectors

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  • The Nature, Extent and Significance of CO's in WW1
    • Nature
      • Battles such as Ypres and the Somme had cost Britain a vast number of casualties. By 1916, volunteers to join the British Army were starting to dry up. In response to this, the government introduced conscription in 1916 - where the law stated that you had to serve your country in the military for a certain period of time.
      • Many men refused - for political reasons, but mostly because of religion - it was inconsistent with beliefs.
      • 'conscience clause' which allowed people the right to refuse to join up if it went against their beliefs. Those who claimed to be conscientious objectors had to face a tribunal to argue their case as to why they should not be called up to join the army.
    • Extent
      • 16,000 COs
      • 750,000 tribunals
      • Had to accept work for the war - become a non combat corp, or do work of national importance at home.
      • Were also absolutists who refused to accept any work towards the war. 1200 went to jail.
    • FAU
      • Quaker run ambulance service ran by Phillip Noel Baker, they wanted to assist on the western front - they deemed the Ambulance service provided by the government would be 'woefully inadequate'
      • They did it because they believed making sacrifices to help people are pleasing to God.
      • Many after ww1 became test subjects during ww2 for scabies/calcium deficiency because they had sustained good health and went to be COs during WW2.
      • After 6 months of service: 3000 wounded bandaged up, 15000 ambulances, 20000 vaccinated against typhoid and 4 hospitals.
      • They also donated socks, pillows, handkerchiefs, 3000 supplies in total.Allowed the government to focus on supplying the priority.
      • Helped on the home front, provided milk (prevent calcium deficentcy) and clean water (diseases) to civilians, preventing a greater loss of life.
    • Work at home.
      • Farms - allow country to be fed, and run smoothly - someone had to do it.
      • Mining - not a womans job, needed coal to make weapons.
    • Work in the army.
      • Repaired roads and rail - allow for ambulances, delivery of supplies.They also buried the dead, away from soldiers -morale.
      • Sanitation, huts and baths allowed for the morale of soldiers to remain well - also allowed them to relax and prevent disease, ready for another day.
    • Jail Refrom
      • Treated like murderers - crime was not as bad.
        • Campaigned against harsh treatment eg. silence rule, neglect, racism, censorship.
      • Led to a Labour Research Department Report 1922
        • The report was very influential, deemed the conditions of the prison were weakening the capability of the prisioner.
        • Heads were no longer shaved, clothing and visiting regulations were relaxed, hard labour removed.


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