A rich and complex history: conscientious objection to the military in the First World War (Lois Bibbings)

This talk revisits what we know about objectors – in terms of their thoughts, motivations, decision-making and actions as well as how they were seen and treated – in order to reflect on the importance of portraying this (and other) rich and complex stories of protest and resistance.

 John Percy Fletcher, Thomas Gregory, and the Quaker campaign against compulsory military training in New Zealand and Australia 1909–1915 (Martin Crick)

Compulsory military training for young males aged 14 and above was introduced in Australia and New Zealand in 1909. It aroused fierce opposition in both countries, and many saw this as a trial run for the introduction of conscription in England. The Society of Friends sent members to both colonies to oppose the training, one of whom, John Percy Fletcher, became a leading figure in that opposition. They campaigned vigorously at home too, raising large sums of money to fund the opposition, and alerting the public to what they saw as the looming threat of conscription. Thomas Gregory in Bristol was a key figure in that campaign. Through their stories I will examine the Quakers’ role in the opposition to conscription in the two colonies between 1909 and 1914 , before briefly examining how that affected events during the First World War.

Autograph books autobiography (Cyril Pearce)

Between 1916 and 1919 Britain’s First World War conscientious objectors took their autograph books with them as they moved from one work centre and work scheme to another. The entries they persuaded their comrades and friends to make in these books have left us with a rich seam of autobiographical material and impressive art work which often says as much about individual CO’s as any carefully-crafted post war autobiography and from men who would never aspire to literary self-exploration. This short presentation – taken with the material already exhibited – will hope to share some thoughts about this sort of informal autobiography and to encourage anyone who has, or knows of, such a book to make sure it is treasured.

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