‘Degrees of Conscience’ (Catharina Clement)

The story of three tribunals, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham in North Kent, and how they treated their conscientious objectors. Rochester, despite its Conservative and ex-military mayor, was very tolerant of the conscientious objectors and granted most of them exemption. Chatham and Gillingham on the other hand had Liberal mayors, but were much harsher towards their conscientious objectors. This talk will discuss why there was this huge difference in exemptions and why some groups received more favourable treatment than others. Through the accounts of some of the conscientious objectors a tale will emerge of imprisonment, alternative service, enlistment and even death in action. I will try to examine why they took the decisions they made. Ultimately what degree of conscience did these men display?

‘WW1 Conscientious Objectors – Victims of Militarism?’ (Gerry Barton & John Babb)

With our end of 20th century perspective, some view conscientious objectors as victims of the then prevailing militarism. Using mainly the actual words of many of those involved, including COs, tribunal clerks and members, this perspective will be examined , showing the different contemporary attitudes and experiences of conscientious objection in Staffordshire. This dialogue is based on research done by Gerry Barton and John Babb using the surviving Mid-Staffs Appeal Tribunal papers, local newspaper reports and other archive material.

‘The conscription of miners, conscientious objectors and Welsh agitators in the Forest of Dean’ (Ian Wright)

This talk will discuss the conscription of miners in the Forest of Dean which led to conflict and dissent within the their trade union, the FDMA. It will give an account of the role of Welsh conscientious objectors in encouraging the Forest miners to resist conscription and, in August 1917, to pass the following resolution:

That we, the Forest of Dean miners, call upon the various Trade Unions of this country to take the necessary steps with the view to ascertaining the views of the workers of all countries to negotiate an immediate and honourable peace.

The talk will describe how the passing of this resolution led to the defeat of the FDMA full time agent, who supported conscription, and the election of a more militant leadership within the union.

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