Free public talk explores treatment of men who objected to conscription during WWI
Press release issued: 4 November 2010
Some of the ways in which conscientious objectors to compulsory military service were viewed and treated in England during WWI are the focus of a forthcoming public talk [9 November], by Lois Bibbings, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol.
The Twilight Talk will provide an intriguing account of how these men — who opposed the war because of religious, moral and political belief — were perceived during this conflict.
The Military Service Act 1916 included a 'conscience clause’. The clause allowed people the right to refuse to join the army if it went against their beliefs. Anyone who claimed to be conscientious objector had to face a tribunal to argue their case as to why they should not be called up to join up. However, some men either refused to cooperate with the authorities or their case was rejected.
Uncooperative conscientious objectors could be imprisoned or otherwise penalised when their beliefs led into conflict with the government. Unsurprisingly, they were often deemed to be cowards, traitors, despicable criminals and degenerates. However, at the same time conscientious objectors were also sometimes considered to be heroes and patriots — upstanding and intensely moral folk.
Lois said: “We all know stories about the Great War but these tend to focus upon soldiers and warfare. This talk will explore some of the tales that could be told about the men who objected to conscription in the First World War. Who they were, how they did it, and what happened to them.”
The free talk, entitled ‘Remembering conscientious objectors’, will take place on Tuesday 9 November from 6 pm to 7 pm at Armada House, Telephone Avenue, Bristol, BS1 4BQ. For further information contact Diane Thorne in the University’s Centre for Public Engagement, tel (0117) 3318318, email Diane.Thorne@bristol.ac.uk.
Lois Bibbings is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at the University of Bristol.