Deserters, Conchies and Reds

Bristolian opposition to the First World War

The Bristol Deserter – Alfred Jefferies – His War Story During World war One nearly 300 British soldiers on the Western Front were shot at dawn for deserting or for ‘cowardice’. One victim, Alfred Jefferies, a Bristolian, was executed on 1st November 1916. Based on official archives, including war diaries and court martial records, Geoff Woolfe describes Alfred’s tragic war story, whilst questioning the extent to which the full facts of some war events can be known. Freedom of Soul Two weeks […]

Opening the Archives

Resistance to World War One in Bristol

In a long tradition of Opening the Archives events the excellent Central Reference Library staff have done us proud in presenting a collection of primary sources relating to resistance and reaction during World War One. So come on down and sample the actual sources in the Bristol Room, from anti-war posters, flyers and pamphlets to jingoist vitriol. Highly recommended.

Women Resisting the Great War

The Friends of Alice Wheeldon In 1917 a Derby socialist and feminist in the anti-war movement, Alice Wheeldon was sent to prison on the evidence of an agent provocateur for plotting to kill Lloyd George. The evidence was flimsy, her accuser so dubious the prosecution kept him away from the trial. In this new, revised edition of The Friends of Alice Wheeldon Sheila Rowbotham reveals how militarism and fears about security contrived to devastate the lives of an ordinary family in Derby. The […]

Hidden Histories of World War One

Bristol Radical History Group are hosting the international History From Below network conference which brings together historian-activists from all over Europe. This is a great opportunity to hear international perspectives, as participants in the conference give short presentations on hidden histories of World War One. In addition we will be exhibiting a collection of anti-war art by one of the most influential graphic artists of the 1980s, Gee Vaucher of CRASS, who will be discussing her work […]

World War One: Arming All Sides

After the First World War many believed the arms trade to be a primary cause of war. The unprecedented scale of death and destruction wrought by modern weaponry led a majority of people to support disarmament and international conciliation. The Arming All Sides project questions what role the arms trade played before, during and after the war, what opposition was mounted to the trade and how the war affected what people thought about making and selling armaments. Join us to explore how the arms […]

1914-1918: The War within the War

As we mark the centenary of the First World War, this epochal event is usually remembered as a bloody conflict between rival alliances of nations. But there was another struggle as well: between people who regarded the war as a noble and necessary crusade, and a brave minority who felt it was tragic madness and who refused to fight. Writer Adam Hochschild describes this battle in an illustrated talk, focusing on the country where that tension was sharpest, Great Britain. Adam Hochschild's […]

The Nightmare Trail

By Davis Adams
Scenes from the Life of Poet and War Casualty: FW Harvey The poet FW Harvey (1886-1957) spent the last thirty years of his life in Yorkley in the Forest of Dean. I was brought up in the Forest of Dean and was always taught that Harvey was our very own war poet and First World War hero who won a medal for “conspicuous gallantry” which included killing a number of German soldiers at close quarters. However this book is about Harvey the man, who was both human and flawed. The book challenges some […]

Should Britain Go to War With Germany?

Anti-war politician Kier Hardie addresses a protest in Trafalgar Square (Sunday August 2nd 1914)
Opposition to WW1 in Bristol in August 1914 War enthusiasm? There is a perception in Britain that popular patriotic pressure drove politicians to declare war on Germany on August 4th 1914 and that the population somehow desired war. This so-called ‘war enthusiasm’ has been characterised in the popular memory as: "cheering crowds outside Buckingham Palace, long lines outside recruiting offices and of soldiers marching away singing 'Tipperary'" . These images have been recently promoted by TV […]

Should Britain Go To War with Germany?

Mass meeting, debate and resolutions With Ernest Bevin (National Organiser Dockers Union) and Ben Tillett (General Secretary National Transport Workers Federation) On Narrow Quay by the Arnolfini, Bristol On Sunday 2nd August 1914, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country against Britain's entry into what became the first World War. In Bristol an anti-war demonstration on the Downs was followed by a mass meeting of Dockers on the Grove to discuss the worrying situation on the […]