Oldham Historical Research Group

'THE GREAT WAR',     'THE WAR TO END WAR',     'WORLD WAR 1'
'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
                                                                                                  
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION IN WW1

Glossary of Useful Terms & Miscellaneous Facts

Certified (Reserved) Occupations
These were the occupations in which it was deemed that it was of greater importance and benefit to the country's war effort to keep the skilled or qualified men employed rather than recruit them into the army. The men were issued with badges and the necessary documentation to prove their exemption status to any tribunal (or criticism from the general public). Their situation could come under review, as the war continued.
Men employed in a certified occupation were frequently not allowed to enlist, even if they wished to do so.

* Note: The term, 'work of national importance', should not be confused with that of 'Certified / Reserved occupations', when used in connection with the Tribunal decisions.
* You can download freely, from the National Archives, the collection MH47/142/1 which includes a 14 page pamphlet with a complete list of certified occupations (plus many other papers pertaining to the 1916 Military Service Act, tribunals etc.).
Conscientious Objectors
COs were men who applied for exemption from military service on the ground of conscience, after the Military Service Act was introduced in 1916.
* Read more
Conscientious Objection
Conscientious Objection was introduced as an exemption category in the Tribunal appeals after the Military Service Bill of 1916 was enacted. A man could apply for exemption from Military service on grounds of conscience.
Approximately 400 COs were granted absolute exemption; approximately 6,500 COs were given conditional exemption from military service and instructed to find 'work of national importance'; approximately 5,000 men were sent for military service in the Non-combatant Corps; approximately 2,500 appeals were dismissed entirely by the Tribunals and those COs enlisted in combatant regiments. Approximately 1,200 men ignored their enlistment papers and did not appeal to a Tribunal and approximately another 6,000 men ignored the Tribunal decision after appeal ... these men were sent to prison.

(Figures from p.42 'Refusing to Kill' published by the Peace Pledge Union.
Conscription
Conscription was introduced in Britain, for the first time, with the Military Service Act of 1916. Government deemed it a necessary measure because more soldiers were being killed or wounded and disabled than were being replaced by volunteer recruits.
* Read more HERE external link to page on Peace Pledge Union website
Derby (Group Scheme) 1915
The Groups Scheme was introduced in October 1915, by Lord Derby, to encourage men to attest to a willingness to enlist but actual call-up was deferred.
Under the scheme, men were place in groups according to age and which would be the order in which they were mobilised.

* Read more
Exemption certificates
Exemption certificates could be absolute, temporary or conditional. They could all be revoked or re-assessed at any time, depending on changing circumstances either nationally or personally.
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Read more ...
Friends Ambulance Unit
The FAU was set up by a group of Quakers (the Society of Friends) just after the war started. It was an independent and voluntary unit relying entirley on donations from Quaker sympathisers.
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Read more ...
Independent Labour Party
The ILP were firmly of the opinion that the war should be brought to an end through a negotiated peace; that war was the exploitation of the working man for the financial gain of business men and owners.
* Read more HERE external link to page on Peace Pledge Union website.
Irregular discharge
A soldier could be discharged for a multitude of reasons but sometimes there is a record of 'irrgular discharge'
* Read More:
Military Service Act 1916
The Military Service Bill was introduced at the beginning of January 1916, received the Royal Assent on January 27th and the Act came into force on the 3rd March 1916.
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Read more ...
National Registration Act 1915
In July 1915, Parliament passed the National Registration Act which created a register of all men and women between the ages of 15 and 65, identifying their age, occupation and number of dependants (excluding wives).
* Read more ...
No-Conscription Fellowship
In November 1914, Fenner Brockway, a commited pacifist, socialist, and editor of the 'Labour Leader' (the ILP newspaper published in Manchester), had a letter published declaring that conscription would soon be enforced. Encouraged by the support he received, he co-founded the No-Conscription Fellowship from his home near Manchester, along with Clifford Allen.
* Read more ...
Non-Combatant Corps
The Non-Combatant Corps was a government initiative to conscript pacifists who would not agree to carry a gun or kill another man, but would wear uniform and accept the authority of the military.
* Read more ...
Pearse Register
A comprehensive list of Conscientious Objectors from WW1, sourced from personal and public papers, letters, documents, diaries and Tribunal records where they have survived. At the moment there are almost 18,000 names on the list and it is still growing as more names emerge as volunteers work through local newspapers and archives. The list is the work of Cyril Pearse, a former senior lecturer at the University of Leeds and it has been made available to the public through the Imperial War Museum website, 'Lives of the First World War'.
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Pearse list on the IWM website, 'Lives of the First World War' HERE. You will need to register but there is no charge to view the entries.
Prisons
Prison was where the absolutist would find himself within a short period of time. Depending on their capacity, both mental and physical, to withstand the unimaginably hard conditions and treatment, they would spend months or even years in prison.
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Read more ...
Reserved Occupations
See Certified (Reserved) Occupations at the top of the page HERE
Royal Army Medical Corps
Formed in 1898, the RAMC consisted of less than 10,000 men in 1914 but by the end of the war numbered 113,000. They were non-combatants and carried no weapons but were part of the military machine and, although not a fighting force, lost almost 7,000 men killed or died of wounds in the conflict ....
* Read more
The Society of Friends (Quakers)
The Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are frequently known, was founded in England in the mid 17th century. They are a Christian foundation, believing in a God who communicates directly with each individual believer, and not through ministers or religious rituals. A fundamental tenet of their approach to life is the belief in the equality of all human beings and that social justice, pacifism and freedom of conscience are of prime importance.
Tribunals (Military Service)
The Military Service Tribunals were set up by the Home office to consider appeals for exemption from military service. The first Tribunals were set up to consider men who had attested under the Derby Scheme but felt they were entitled to exemption (Conscientious objection wasn't a category at this time as conscription had not yet been introduced) Tribunals set up after the Military Service Bill had a 'ground of conscience' category included.
* Read more ...
Tribunal (Military Service) Records
After the war ended, a directive was sentout to local authorities to destroy the records of the Military Service Tribunals' proceedings. Just a few sets were kept for future reference and some were overlooked (mistakenly or otherwise) and survived the cull.
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Read more ...
The 'Tribunal'
Newspaper
The 'Tribunal' newspaper was produced on a weekly basis by the No-Conscription Fellowship, from March 1916 until 1920.
It reported on happenings at the local Tribunals and offered advice and support to conscientious objectors and their families.

* Read More ....
Wakefield Experiment
"The Wakefield experiment was one of the last, and shortest-lived, attempts made by the government to encourage Absolutist COs to compromise on their principles. Ausgust and September 1918 were awash ..."
* Read more HERE external link to page on Peace Pledge Union website.
WO 363
The collection WO 363, held at the National Archives, Kew in London, consists of the Military Service Records of soldiers in WW1. They are also known as the 'Burnt Records' as over half of the collection was destroyed in a bombing raid during WW2. Those that remain (about 40%) are in a poor condition, water and fire damaged, but can still add a great deal to our understanding. They can be accessed at the National Archives or through subscription Family History sites such as 'Ancestry' and 'Find My Past', and frequently available to use in Public and Local Studies Libraries.
More information at TNA HERE
Women's International League
In late April 1915 about 1200 women, from countries already at war, or soon to become embroiled in it, met at the Hague for the Women's International Congress to discuss how world peace could be achieved. From this congress sprang the Women's International League, later to become known as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
*
Read more ... in the pages 'Campaigning for Peace'
* Read more HERE external link to page on Peace Pledge Union website.
Work Centres / Camps
The unexpected numbers of COs who were going to prison for their absolutist beliefs were becoming the cause of acute embarassment for the government. A solution needed to be found and the Home Office came up with a scheme ...
* Read more ...
Work of National Importance
Work of National Importance was a Home Office Scheme that worked on the premise of 'equal sacrifice' ie., of those remaining behind and those serving in the military.
* Note: The term, 'work of national importance', should not be confused with that of 'Certified / Reserved occupations', when used in connection with the Tribunal decisions.
* Read more ...
Link to Glossary of Terms and other information
Link to Local conscientious Objectors
Link to Local Reports - Tribunals and Occurences
Link to Finding more informations elsewhere

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