Conscientious objectors in World War 1

Thomas Hannan of Maryhill, Glasgow. he was imprisoned in 1917 as a conscientious objector.
Thomas Hannan of Maryhill, Glasgow. he was imprisoned in 1917 as a conscientious objector.

During the First World War approximately 16,000 men refused to fight and became conscientious objectors, usually on moral or religious grounds. There have been a number of recent publications that discuss the subject, including Ann Kramer’s ‘Conchies: conscientious objectors of the First World War’ (2014). Personal stories of those involved can be read in ‘We will not fight: the untold story of World War One’s conscientious objectors’ by Will Ellsworth-Jones (2008), ‘The courage of cowards: the untold stories of First World War conscientious objectors’ by Karyn Burnham (2014) and Felicity Goodall’s ‘We will not to go to war: conscientious objection during the World Wars’ (2010).

Joyce A Walker has written a book which focusses on the Dyce work camp in Scotland. It is titled ‘A cloak of conscience? Dyce Work Camp, conscientious objectors and the public of NE Scotland, 1916′ (2011). The camp was only open for 8 weeks in 1916 and this publication looks at its history and the opinion of the local people at the time.

A free online library resource regarding the life of the Scottish conscientious objector, Thomas Hannan of Maryhill, Glasgow, can be viewed on the library’s Experiences of the Great War online resource. This tells the story of his background, his thoughts on the war, his imprisonment and his career in the Labour Party up until his death in 1941.

Finally a contemporary document may be of interest: ‘The No-Conscription Fellowship: a souvenir of its work during the years 1914-1919′ (1920). This organisation was set up by Fenner Brockway, the editor of the anti-war newspaper ‘Labour Leader’. It was formed in the autumn of 1914 to support those who objected to taking up arms. The book contains a history of the Fellowship as well as details of those who were imprisoned or shot. Women were extensively involved in this society, which held its final meeting in November 1919.