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Jim

"Conshies"

On another thread, the matter of conscience has arisen.
With the start of WWI being marked in this centenary year, the matter of those who would not fight as a matter of conscience has arisen in a few news articles on BBC Radio Scotland.
These people were treated with bile and revulsion by many in the general populus in both World Wars, yet many refused to fight for cultural, political or religious reasons.
Were they just as much herose as those buried on the battlefield?
gone

deleted
Shaker

I'd say it took nads of stainless steel to be a CO, especially given the atmosphere at the outbreak of World War One (which we didn't really see second time around). Anybody who took that position and stuck to it through the public revulsion, imprisonment and beatings-amounting-to-torture that many received deserves respect.

Floo wrote:
One of my Grandfathers probably wouldn't have described himself as a conchie, but didn't like the idea of killing others. He acted as a medical orderly during WW1 going into the battlefield to retrieve the wounded.


There were objectors and objectors, though. Some, like Floo's grandfather, were happy to take a non-combatant role: others saw that as still assisting in the prosecution of war and steadfastly refused even to do that. The composer Sir Michael Tippett was one of the latter during World War Two and did a couple of months in Wandsworth.
Jim

Yep.
It took a heck of a lot of guts to maintain the position of refusing to take up arms, especially amidst the jingoistic attitude which pervade the start of both world wars.
In my community, those - usually communist or Christian Brethren - who refused to fight were treated like persona non grata for four decades and more after WWII.
It took guts even to remain in, or return to, the semi-rural area where I live, knowing the stigma which went with the term 'conshie'.
Rose

Re: "Conshies"

Jim wrote:
On another thread, the matter of conscience has arisen.
With the start of WWI being marked in this centenary year, the matter of those who would not fight as a matter of conscience has arisen in a few news articles on BBC Radio Scotland.
These people were treated with bile and revulsion by many in the general populus in both World Wars, yet many refused to fight for cultural, political or religious reasons.
Were they just as much herose as those buried on the battlefield?


Some of them were!

Those that helped the injured, and disposed of bombs.

Just because killing someone goes against someones conscience doesn't mean they can't find something they could do to help people.

Even staying at home and being a fire warden or MP took some guts!
Especially if you are trying to rescue people from a damaged house that has a bomb in it!
Julie
trentvoyager

Stating the bleedin' obvious here - but if we were all CO's then wars would be a lot more difficult for the powers that be to prosecute.

I know it's unlikely ever to happen, human nature being what it is, but the logic of the CO's postition from that standpoint is infallible.
Rose

Jehovahs Witnesses are conscientious objectors. That's one of the reasons Hitler had so many of them gassed alongside the Jews.

That and the fact they refuse to conform to nationalism or support and flags etc.

Didn't go down very well with the Nazis because they were so nationalistic.

But yes I suppose it does take guts to stand your ground!

Julie
IvyOwl

Not all conshies took their stance for the same reason. Some thought it through more carefully than others, they refused to be manipulated by the 'bravery' and 'patriotic' rhetoric of the powers that be while others were perhaps more into self preservation. Yet others took the 'thou shalt not kill' commandment as an absolute. But by and large I would say that anyone who took that stance showed guts in the face of all that opposition.

One of my uncles (A born again believer of the Plymouth Brethren variety) was one. He spent the war as an orderly in a military hospital and the experience left him extremely traumatised.
Rose

As a religious group I quite like the Quakers, they are very open and accepting of people be they gay or anything else.

I think they tend to be conscientious objectors as well.

https://www.quaker.org.uk/WWI

Julie
Ketty

Re: "Conshies"

Jim wrote:
On another thread, the matter of conscience has arisen.
With the start of WWI being marked in this centenary year, the matter of those who would not fight as a matter of conscience has arisen in a few news articles on BBC Radio Scotland.
These people were treated with bile and revulsion by many in the general populus in both World Wars, yet many refused to fight for cultural, political or religious reasons.
Were they just as much herose as those buried on the battlefield?


I don't think you can compare Jim.  Each a hero in their own way, maybe.

Thank goodness we live in more enlightened times - or do we?  Due to men's lust for power and control and land and money, boys have always been 'cannon fodder' throughout the ages.  It was what they did, and how they were raised to expect to be.  One would hope that in these days where war is fought in a different way, that people would have more understanding and respect for those whose conscience, for whatever reason, would not allow them to even consider killing another human being.
Jim

Slight correction, Julie.
The WTBTS were not always COs.
They were even encouraged to take the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag before the mid 'forties.
Another doctrine they swept under the carpet.....
cyberman

Shaker wrote:
I'd say it took nads of stainless steel to be a CO,


I entirely agree. I wish I had that kind of courage. To imagine that these guys were publically shamed and punished as cowards is appalling.

Floo I imagine you're rightly proud of your grandfather the MO. As Shaker says, some would not even do that - fair enough - but being an MO meant putting yourself between your patients and danger on a daily basis. Good for him.

Shaker, you're a Dad's Army fan - isn't there a storyline (maybe in the film version?) in which they find that Godfrey was a CO in WWI, and Fraser et al are all very angry about it, until they learn he earned the George Cross or the Military Cross or something for courage under fire as an MO?
Jim

cyberman;
Yep.
There IS such an episode, where Godfrey is kicked out of the platoon for being a conshie, only to be unvielled as a hero for stretcher bearing and life saving in the trenches.
Jimmy Perry wrote that episode as a tribute to a CO he knew from childhood, and as someone he admired for extraordinary courage.
There were, however, incidents in WWI where conshies were assaulted and villified.
Before the 'Bevin Boys' were introduced as conscript miners, some conshies went down the mines voluntarily instead of being called up.
Many had 'accidents' down below, or were victimised to a terrible degree. As you know, my town was steeped in mining - and many older miners in the sixties were openly ashamed to admit some of the things they inflicted on 'conshies' (Usually Brethren) miners...from putting faeces in their lunch boxes, to almost drowning them in flooded seams.
To continue in their view took incredible courage and conviction.
Shaker

trentvoyager wrote:
Stating the bleedin' obvious here - but if we were all CO's then wars would be a lot more difficult for the powers that be to prosecute.

I know it's unlikely ever to happen, human nature being what it is, but the logic of the CO's postition from that standpoint is infallible.

This is very true. It's one of those situations where there's strength in numbers - if enough combatants on both sides put down their arms (mutinied, essentially) and said to the powers-that-be "Fight your own bloody war - we won't" then wars would come to an end. That sort of thing however relies on a great enough number of those who join in - if it's confined to a small number, you're sunk.
Rose

Shaker wrote:
trentvoyager wrote:
Stating the bleedin' obvious here - but if we were all CO's then wars would be a lot more difficult for the powers that be to prosecute.

I know it's unlikely ever to happen, human nature being what it is, but the logic of the CO's postition from that standpoint is infallible.

This is very true. It's one of those situations where there's strength in numbers - if enough combatants on both sides put down their arms (mutinied, essentially) and said to the powers-that-be "Fight your own bloody war - we won't" then wars would come to an end. That sort of thing however relies on a great enough number of those who join in - if it's confined to a small number, you're sunk.


Hitler would have invaded us, just like he invaded other countries.

Surely it was worth fighting to keep him out?

Julie
trentvoyager

Rose wrote:
Shaker wrote:
trentvoyager wrote:
Stating the bleedin' obvious here - but if we were all CO's then wars would be a lot more difficult for the powers that be to prosecute.

I know it's unlikely ever to happen, human nature being what it is, but the logic of the CO's postition from that standpoint is infallible.

This is very true. It's one of those situations where there's strength in numbers - if enough combatants on both sides put down their arms (mutinied, essentially) and said to the powers-that-be "Fight your own bloody war - we won't" then wars would come to an end. That sort of thing however relies on a great enough number of those who join in - if it's confined to a small number, you're sunk.


Hitler would have invaded us, just like he invaded other countries.

Surely it was worth fighting to keep him out?

Julie


Julie - when I said "if we were all...." I wasn't limiting it solely to the British.
Rose

trentvoyager wrote:
Rose wrote:
Shaker wrote:
trentvoyager wrote:
Stating the bleedin' obvious here - but if we were all CO's then wars would be a lot more difficult for the powers that be to prosecute.

I know it's unlikely ever to happen, human nature being what it is, but the logic of the CO's postition from that standpoint is infallible.

This is very true. It's one of those situations where there's strength in numbers - if enough combatants on both sides put down their arms (mutinied, essentially) and said to the powers-that-be "Fight your own bloody war - we won't" then wars would come to an end. That sort of thing however relies on a great enough number of those who join in - if it's confined to a small number, you're sunk.


Hitler would have invaded us, just like he invaded other countries.

Surely it was worth fighting to keep him out?

Julie


Julie - when I said "if we were all...." I wasn't limiting it solely to the British.


Ah! That's true, if people hadn't listened to Hitler in the first place, there wouldn't be an issue!

Leaders can't do it alone

Julie
Jim

Julie...
Don't go down the "What if..." road.
That leads to "What if the people hadn't listened to the warmongers in 1914...would there have BEEN a Hitler to listen to?"

It's speculation, nothing more!
Richie

Re: "Conshies"

Jim wrote:
On another thread, the matter of conscience has arisen.
With the start of WWI being marked in this centenary year, the matter of those who would not fight as a matter of conscience has arisen in a few news articles on BBC Radio Scotland.
These people were treated with bile and revulsion by many in the general populus in both World Wars, yet many refused to fight for cultural, political or religious reasons.
Were they just as much herose as those buried on the battlefield?


Will stick my neck out and say no

The war was not an honourable thing, and certainly unlike the 2nd WW the enemy was not fighting for an ideology which was running against basic decency, but once the war was up and running and once it had gotten to the point of total war then their refusal was wrong.

For those who chose to help in other ways, such as being a medical orderly, or driving the ambulances found a honourable middle ground, not committing to fighting but committing to the preservation of the wounded and dying soldiers, the others chose to do nothing
Jim

Yet isn't the right to say "No, I do not support war and I will do nothing to aid it" a perfectly acceptable position, whether one agrees with it or not?
Richie

Jim wrote:
Yet isn't the right to say "No, I do not support war and I will do nothing to aid it" a perfectly acceptable position, whether one agrees with it or not?


In a war that has not seen the mobilsation of an entire nation state yes.

The Falklands, Iraq, Afgan wars, all of these wars it has (certainly the last two) been perfectly acceptable for people against warfare of any sort to state that and have demos/marches etc in favour of peace.

WW1 was a time of national mobilsation, so no, there are jobs to do and if your religious/political beliefs are such that you feel you cannot or should not fight then, you should at least try and find some way to help, be that through essential work at home or the medical corps abroad, the "aint' my problem, I don't believe in killing" line, to me at least, seems a cop out, its an attempt to play the "I'm special" card whilst other people do make sacrifices.

WW1 & 2 are extreme examples of warfare in that they saw national mobilisations and saw much sacrifice, the CO's certainly appear to want to be treated special, to avoid having to make sacrifices and ironically suffered as a result, but I think that the extreme CO's, the ones who wished to not do anything, were in the wrong
Jim

I'm thinking of some of the Clydeside radicals in WWI, who refused to work on the shipyards for political, rather than religious reasons.
They were forced to go to work - by armed troops - and their leaders imprisoned (though popular resentment and strike action resulted in Lloyd George capitulating and letting them go.
Google "John McLean".
If a person's views are so opposite of the government (which he had no vote in electing),  are they not justified in refusing to aid that government in its' effort?
Farmer Geddon

Were the CO's rejecting fighting on religious grounds?

Or just because they didn't want to be killed?

There is overwhelming evidence that CO's kinda figured out that dying for King and Country meant an ignominious death.. It would have all a bit pointless to those behind the lines.. Death to those on the lines..
Lexilogio

I think the term hero depends on the reason for conscientious objection, and subsequent action. Otherwise I could argue that I was a co because I was too lazy to fight....

I think co is valid where the person undertakes other activity, such as medical treatment or stretcher bearing, then they are hero's. If a person is working hard on activities to keep the nation going, such as farming, then yes. Any activity deemed essential, qualifies.
Shaker

Farmer Geddon wrote:
Were the CO's rejecting fighting on religious grounds?

A great many of them, yes.
Jim

Agreed, manyy rejected war on religious grounds.
Others were pacifists due to moral or political persuasion.
Richie

Jim wrote:
I'm thinking of some of the Clydeside radicals in WWI, who refused to work on the shipyards for political, rather than religious reasons.
They were forced to go to work - by armed troops - and their leaders imprisoned (though popular resentment and strike action resulted in Lloyd George capitulating and letting them go.
Google "John McLean".
If a person's views are so opposite of the government (which he had no vote in electing),  are they not justified in refusing to aid that government in its' effort?


I have great sympathy with that. Having no vote makes someone powerless in terms of democracy (something which still afflicts the UK today in a different form), but I stand by the 'total war' aspect.

In a situation where the war wasn't absolute and there being no general conscription then they are free to exercise their distaste for a government sponsered event, but again, we are still talking about a total war that saw the entire population engaged in some way with the effort.

If not in a protected trade then they should be engaged in some fashion, even if it is in a non-combatant role
Jim

The problem, though, is that many non-combattant roles were seen as bolstering the war effort, and many COs were absolutely opposed to war and supporting it in any way, shape or form.
Some, such as those conscripted or volunteered to go down the mines or work on farms.
But what of those who saw coal as aiding the production of munitions?
cyberman

Farmer Geddon wrote:


There is overwhelming evidence that CO's kinda figured out that dying for King and Country meant an ignominious death.. .



(a) What evidence is that, then?
(b) Knowing that there was a risk of death doesn't mean that that was their reason for refusing to fight, does it?
Ketty

I hope that never again are our young men conscripted to fight wars that are none of their doing, and there is no need for others to conscientiously object to going to war.

This is George Michael haunting cover of Don McLean's 'The Grave':


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