Conscientious Objectors

Conscription causes anger in Britain and some refuse to join up - they are called conscientious objectors.

Many people in Britain objected to conscription. In April 1916 200,000 people protested against it in Trafalgar Square in London.

Some people refused to join the army - they were called conscientious objectors. Most were against war because of moral or religious reasons.

Objectors had to go through a tribunal - a court case - to prove that they were truly against war and could not go against their conscience. Those who passed were given jobs away from the battlefields. These included doing manual labour or working on farms or in medical roles.

Some objectors refused to do anything at all related to the war. These people were called absolute objectors. This could lead to being sent to jail or worse. Some were sent to the Western Front, where they could be court-martialed and executed for refusing to fight. Some were indeed sentenced to death, but none were executed and the sentences were commuted (reduced) to imprisonment back in Britain.

All conscientious objectors (or "conchies") had to face angry reaction from the people around them. They were often considered cowards for refusing to fight.

Welsh Conscientious Objectors

George Maitland Lloyd Davies was born into a Welsh family in Liverpool. He moved to North Wales and in 1914 he and Richard Roberts from Blaenau Ffestiniog founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation - a Christian organisation to promote peace. He attended a tribunal and proved he was a conscientious objector but was later arrested for preaching pacifism in public.

Poet David James Jones, known by his bardic name of Gwenallt, refused to enlist and was sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison. Later he was sent to Dartmoor in Devon where he had to do hard labour.

Morgan Jones was born in Gelligaer. He became a politician, joining the Independent Labour Party. Jones was totally against the war, believing it to be wrong. He joined the No Conscription Fellowship and became chairman of the South Wales Anti-Conscription Council. Jones refused to fight. He attended a tribunal where they told him he didn't have to fight but would have to do something to contribute to the war effort. He refused and was arrested.

These men are conscientious objectors- they have refused to fight. This photograph was taken at Dyce Camp in Scotland where some conscientious objectors were sent to work for about ten hours a day breaking up rocks. The camp was closed in September 1916 after a man died as a result of the harsh work conditions.