"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Monday, 11 November 2013

Conscientious Objectors

Over the past few days leading up to Remembrance Day I have taken part in many discussions/debates - virtual and real - about white versus red poppies [with a detour about purple poppies], pacifism, whether one can honour the dead and afflicted of all conflicts without wearing any poppy, whether shops should be open before the two minute silence of Remembrance Sunday and more. At times I found myself getting upset, at times verging on anger [not an emotion that I wish to feel] that some of my fellow debaters seem to almost wilfully misunderstand my views.

But one group of 'veterans' is too often forgotten and I am as guilty of this as the rest, but should feel more shame. This group is the Conscientious Objectors, those who refused to bear arms 'for their country' due to their strongly held principles, but could not always convince the tribunals who tried their cases that they should be exempt from military service.

The photograph above shows my parents around 1939, the year of their marriage. As a married woman my mother was exempt from military service but was along with my father, a Conscientious Objector. My father had to appear before a tribunal and, as I understood it, had his appeal for exemption rejected because he would not rule out that he would refuse to fight in every war but stated as he had worked so hard for peace in the years before 1939 he could not in all honesty fight in this war. Again, as I understood it, he was eventually, if not totally exempted, allowed to not 'join up' as long as he retained his job which was considered to be a kind of reserved profession, a journalist [ 'alternative civillian service']

I know that the two of them went through many heart breaks and much heartsearching during the war. Both had brothers and cousins in the military and both worked with voluntary organisations in war aid efforts. I think of them every remembrance day and am so glad that they and their comrades are honoured at Tavistock Square, London on Remembrance Day every year.

To read more about Conscientious Objectors and their stories in World War I click the link here and for World War II here.


  1. A hard topic. What an attractive pair your parents make as well!

    I am pro soldier but anti war. And if I am honest, I find all this hand wringing and dropping a wreath every year a tad hypocritical. I hope that doesn't offend; please hear me out. They always honour the dead because wreathes and a solemn face are cheap; the ones who came back, the ordinary servicemen not officers or generals, seem to have been forgotten. Decent pensions for these people would prove that the state cared about them. As it is, we know how poor and Working class pensioners are treated in this country when 1000s of them die each year unable to afford heating their homes. That is the end of some of these heroes who sacrificed everything for our freedom; and for what? A land fit for heroes? Tell that to millions of pensioners who eat beans on toast every night and dread a cold snap.

  2. Thank you for your comment, T-Childs and for the compliments to my parents - I don't look like either of them! I so agree with what you say, that if we truly hour all those who die as a country we would at the very least look after our veterans and those affected by conflicts. And of course we don't - it is left to charities to do that - those like the British Legion and other military charities. Even some of the food we buy in supermarkets donates some of its profits to 'Help for Heroes' so now veterans are used as a consumer ploy. It wouldn't be funny if it was used in a sit com.

  3. No it wouldn't be funny at all, and less so simply because it is cold hard reality.

    I got told off for this before, but I see your profile picture, I presume when you were younger, and you look beautiful, really attractive!

  4. It would of course be rude to disagree with you so I will thank you for your compliment, but that was taken a long time ago in my hippy days - they say the past is another country!

  5. Curiously enough, you have mentioned this I think, but if your dad is not Welsh I would be surprised as he looks very Welsh. And there is an Ealing film called The Halfway House which has an actor that looks a bit like your dad and he is Welsh. Great film, really atmospheric.

  6. Yes my father was Welsh and the actor you were talking about is Mervyn Johns, a real 'Character actor' who took the role of Bob Cratchitt in the Alec Guiness version of 'A Christmas Carol'. [A Christmas Carol is one of my obsessions see http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/dickens-christmas-carol-and-its.html] You have piqued my interest in the film and I am now ordering it...........

  7. No, I know Mervyn Johns, I actually meant another actor in the film who plays a conductor from an orchestra who is dying and is overworking. The actor was called Esmond Knight who as you will see in his early days was considered incredibly handsome according to Presssburger.

    However, I love Ealing comedies but they did great dramas and this film is excellent.