Conscientious Objectors – Friendship

6,000 men in the United Kingdom were imprisoned during the First World War for refusing to fight. The majority of these ‘conscientious objectors’ (COs) were ordered into the fighting services or forced to join the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC), but 1,500 refused to work in any way that would help the war effort and they remained in prison.

Life in prison was harsh: conditions were poor and prisoners could be subject to punishment.  Additionally, COs could not always count on the moral support of friends and family – many were shunned by their communities for taking the unpopular stand against war. In light of these factors, in order to cope with prison life friendships among prisoners were vitally important. Despite coming from different backgrounds (some COs held strong pacifist beliefs, some held strong religious beliefs about the immorality of war whilst some objected to war on political grounds but were not religious), their opposition to war and fighting united the men and the friendships they developed helped them cope with life in prison.

You can find out about the experience of 16 COs who were imprisoned at Richmond Castle, North Yorkshire, during the First World War at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/york/hi/people_and_places/religion_and_ethics/newsid_8342000/8342995.stm

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