Conscientious Objectors: Cowards or courageous?

There has been a lot happening recently with the centenary of the First World War. I have been exposed to many stories of the brave men and women who went to ‘fight for their country’.

Military defaulters list, Archive 685
Military Defaulters’ List [1919?], National Peace Council of New Zealand, CCL Archive 685
However there is another side to this and that is those who decided to become conscientious objectors. The conflict came from their beliefs, what their conscience demanded of them and the expectations of government and the beliefs of society.

Looking back on the massive loss of life and at times questionable “intell” and propaganda that has led to many these conflicts it could be said that pacifism is now more widely embraced. Also the massacre at Gallipoli is still widely discussed to this day. Not only were you going to a foreign country to fight but also your life ant trust was place in the hands of your commanding officer.

Little is mentioned these days of conscientious objectors and the courage it took to stick to their convictions, but those that chose this position were degraded, despised, accused of being traitors, and ostracised.

However in recent times opinions have changed somewhat, for example Professor Richard Jackson deputy director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago recently stated,

People who say conscientious objectors were cowards are crazy. They were so brave… they put their lives on the line without participating in the war system and killing other people. North & South magazine, Aug 2016 Issue 365,  ‘Cowards end?’

What is your stance on this subject?

Christchurch City Libraries have some good reading on this subject including books, eBooks, large print versions, and magazine articles. On our website you can access our page of suggested reading on WWI conscientious objectors and WWII, and our eResources – a plethora of interesting databases from all around the world you may search for information on this and many other subjects.

Or try the following:

Cover of Bread and Water  Cover of Indeterminate Sentence  Cover of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

One thought on “Conscientious Objectors: Cowards or courageous?

  1. robertafsmith 5 April 2017 / 6:47 pm

    This is a very interesting facet of World War Diane. Thank you for this blog.

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