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Voices Against the War. Conscription: compulsory enrolment into the armed services (forced national service) Su pporters : young men had a duty, above.

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Presentation on theme: "Voices Against the War. Conscription: compulsory enrolment into the armed services (forced national service) Su pporters : young men had a duty, above."— Presentation transcript:

1 Voices Against the War

2 Conscription: compulsory enrolment into the armed services (forced national service) Su pporters : young men had a duty, above all else, to defend their country. When the voluntary rate started to fall the calls to introduce conscription became louder. Reported that recruitment rate fell from 300,000 each month (October 1914) to approx. 120,000 early 1915....conscription seemed inevitable! Re sisters : 1916 Military Service Act meant brought in conscription for all single men aged 19-40. May 1916 - extended to include married men and by 1918 men up to the age of 50. Some men were exempted (excused) e.g. physically/mentally unfit. Others were broken into categories: 1. those involved in work which was vital to war effort, e.g coal miners 2. if service would cause 'serious hardship' 3. those who refused to fight on grounds of their conscience 3 = 'conscientious objectors' or 'conchies' for short. Claimed exemption because of their religious or political beliefs

3 Organisations were formed e.g NCF (No Conscription Fellowship). Condemned in popular newspapers as cowards, peace cranks and 'pasty faces'. Military tribunals judged whether or not to accept claims of CO. Local people e.g. businessmen, landowners, shopkeepers + 1 rep from military Typical argument = I am someone who has worked to establish a better system of society, one that focuses on peace and brotherhood of people of all lands. To take part in war would mean abandoning these values.


5 Across UK 5970 conchies were court-martialled & sent to prison Conditions were harsh - at least 73 COs died due to harsh treatment received in prison. Total = approx 16,000 from across UK refused to fight. Most were pacifists who believed it was wrong to kill another human being 'Conchies' had choices - 7000 agreed to perform non-combat duties e.g. stretcher-bearers in front line. More than 1500 pacifists refused all military service. Argued that performing a non- combat role they would be releasing other soldiers into combat roles and therefore would be fighting 'by proxy'. These 'absolutists' wouldn't take on any work which helped Britain's war effort whatsoever


7 'Alternativists' - prepared to take on civilian work but not supervised by the military. Churches divided over issue of COs - big church groups supported war effort - difficulties lay in speaking out in suffering parishes that were losing men 1300 COs were still in prison 5 months after armistice In May 1919 longest-serving COs began to be released and by August there were no more 'conchies' in prison. Often, they returned to civilian life to find their families shunned them, employers refused to offer jobs and parliament tried to deny them the vote for 5 years.

8 Wave of patriotic war hysteria - Most people believed that when Kitchener launched his appeal for volunteers, men rushed to join up, never questioning the rights and wrongs of the war. At the same time though, 5000 people attended an anti-war demonstration held in Glasgow. The strongest political group to oppose was the Independent Labour Party (ILP) which immediately attacked the official Labour Party's support for Kitchener's recruitment campaign Anti-war opinion was not popular - ILP criticised for being unpatriotic. However, they argued that the war would be fought by ordinary working people whose lives, if they survived, would not change for the better. Why should a ship worker from Glasgow try to kill a ship worker from Bremen? By the end of 1914 ILP membership had fallen to 3000. One reporter said the ILP were regarded as "a poisonous shrub in the glowing flowerbed of British patriotism" (MacDonald and McFarland, 1998:67) Opposition, however, did not die, and in fact gained new life when conscription began in 1916.

9 Treatment of conchies - summary - subjected to ridicule/verbal abuse/white feathers - newspaper campaigns against them e.g. cartoons/articles attacking conscientious objectors - many physically assaulted - forced to appear before military tribunals - sent to front as stretcher-bearers/faced same risks as regular soldiers - some accepted non-combatant duties e.g driving ambulances - imprisonment of absolutists/pacifists extra marks for extra detail e.g. "Pacifists were often imprisoned (1 mark). They were singled out for harsh treatment for example were not given clothes (2 marks).

10 The changing role of women Major turning point in role of women in British society - war opened up jobs that were otherwise closed - right to vote from some in national elections (1918) However, question of how far war caused a complete change in male attitudes towards women open for debate Before 1914 - for most women's place was in the home - no vote = no political leverage to advance further changes - 1897 several local women's suffrage societies united to form NUWSS (suffragists) - peaceful, moderate tactics

11 WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union) - suffragettes - frustrated by lack of progress achieved by NUWSS - more violent tactics, arrests, imprisonment. As casualty rates increased and conscription introduced to swell ranks, women needed to fill the gap on the Home Front. 1. Industries welcomed women - conductors on trams, buses - typists and secretaries - 2000 women found work in government departments - thousands worked on farms, docks, even police - nursing skills put to use helping the wounded, some as close as the front line e.g Mairi Chisholm, Elsie Inglis - doctors, orderlies, drivers in war zones, set up hospitals - over 30,000 Scots women employed to make munitions (even though dangerous and unpleasant e.g explosive mixtures. 61 died from poisoning, 71 from explosions 2. Poltics - many women could now vote 3. Social - not much change, some former suffragettes transferred their campaigning to better conditions for working mothers i.e. access to free child care facilities - within few years after war, over 25% of all working women back in domestic service i.e child minding and house work

12 Changing role of women - summary - women took over jobs left by men - carried out vital work in munitions industry - kept transport going - took on greater responsibility in the home - women worked on farms - coped with food shortages/rationing - joined armed services

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