CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS - BEYOND BRAVERY: THOSE WHO STOOD UP FOR THEIR BELIEFS
What is a conscientious objector?
It is a person who refused to fight in the war through personal beliefs, such as religion or an objection to fighting/ violence.

You can find out more about conscientious objectors during World War I here:

Conscientious Objectors

You could also watch this documentary:



Letchworth and Conscientious Objectors
Letchworth was known for its conscientious objectors. Letchworth was in fact founded by a Quaker. A Quaker is a type of Christian and they are known for being pacifists. This means that they are against violence and would refuse to fight in any war. In 1916 the British government introduced conscription which forced every man to join up and fight for the army in the war. Conscientious objectors refused and instead had to carry out work for the government which didn't involve fighting.

The conscientious objectors were forced to work in jobs that involved hard labour, such as manual lifting. Quite often they would be working on farms. This work was of "national importance" as it involved growing food to feed the soldiers and keep the country from starving. On the farms their main duty was ploughing. Unfortunately, there was quite often no plough and so the workers had to dig by hand! The workers paid was very little, they were only paid 4d an hour. This paid for food and housing was free.

A camp was set up for conscientious objectors at Manor Farm in Norton, just outside of Letchworth. The men and women who lived here were often in the papers for holding anti-war demonstrations and the conscientious objectors at Letchworth made local and national newspapers for their protests. Sixteen Letchworth men were imprisoned during the course of the war for not obeying military authority and acrrying out their work in protest.

True Story
In November 1916 6 Conscientious objectors were arrested on Letchworth railway platform, supported by a crowd of supporters and friends/family whilst singing hymns. They were doing this as ameans of peaceful protest against the war. The opinions of many of the local soldiers and officers on the objectors were changed by the meeting and the arrest the 6 ringleaders. One of the officers described his men as having "not understood the position of the conscientous objector then [before the incident]; now they are very courteous". (Mail newspaper article, 23/11/16)

True Fact- One member was Herbert Morrision (later Baron Morrison of Lamberth) who would go on to marry a Letchworth girl. He went on to hold many important government positions after the war as a politician; including Minister of Transport, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister in the first Atlee government and Leader of the House of Commons.

Possible Story Ideas:
- Tell the story of the protest at Letchworth station
- Tell the story of a consicientious objector in prison


Key Sources:

Source 1: Extract from a Poem written by a Conscientious Objector

‘In my cell so cold am I…
Out go the lights, but sleep, though near,
Comes not with all my writhing (rolling around trying to sleep);
For of my home and loved ones dear
I’m thinking, thinking, thinking.’
This poem was written by a conscientious objector who was put in prison for refusing to fight and probably protesting against the war. Whilst not in prison he worked at Norton Farm which was camp for conscientious objectors.

Think:
- We don’t know who exactly wrote the poem- does this make it more or less reliable?
- It was written by an a real conscientious objector who was based at Norton Farm- does this make it more or less reliable?
- It was written during the war- does this make it more or less reliable?

Source 2: Newsapaper Article Regarding Conscientious Objectors From 1917
Arrest of Conscientious Objectors
A police report from Newport Pagnell has been received by the Hitchin Recruiting Authorities (the people responsible for making sure everyone in the local area who should in the army had joined up).
It concerns three conscientious objectors (men refusing to fight in the war) found cruising on the rivers in Buckinghamshire, with two canoes stocked with provisions (food) and stores.
Their names are S.H. Oglivie, 21, Cyril Oglivie, brother, of Letchworth; and Charles Leighton, 24, of London. Cyril Oglivie was remanded (ordered to appear at court) for proof when he came of military age (age needed to fight in the army). The two other men were handed over to the military authorities (army).
Think:
- Newspapers are written to inform the local community about events- does this make them reliable?
- It was written during the war- does this make it more or less reliable?

Source 3: Photo of Conscientious Objectors at Manor Farm, Norton

Conscientious_objectors.jpg
The conscientious objectors at Manor Farm, Norton. The man on the left is Herbert Morrison.


Think:
- What does it tell you about what the conscientious objectors were like as people? Think about the way they are dressed and their appearance.
- Think about the way has been set up- does the crowd seem natural in the way they are standing?- does this make it more or less reliable?
- What was the purpose of this photo do you think?- does this make it more or less reliable?
- It was taken during the war- does this make it more or less reliable?