Conscientious Objectors In Their Own Words

Before the First World War there had never been compulsory military service in Britain. The first Military Service Bill was passed into law in January 1916 following the failure of recruitment schemes to gain sufficient volunteers in 1914 and 1915.

There were approximately 16,000 British men on record as conscientious objectors (COs) to armed service during the First World War. This figure does not include men who may have had anti-war sentiments but were either unfit, in reserved occupations, or had joined the forces anyway. The number of COs may appear small compared with the six million men who served, but the impact of these men on public opinion and on future governments was to be profound.

Nellie’s husband in The 306:Day is one such Conscientious Objector, in prison for his beliefs.

In recognition of Conscientious Objectors Day, discover the stories of individuals who vehemently opposed the First World War in this fascinating article and interviews with COs by The Imperial War Museums, Lives of First World War project.

image: IWM Q 103094
‘On The Stool’ Postcard of a conscientious objector prison