|ISSUE 57 SUMMER 2008
|co resource centre opens
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There are a number of reasons but the central one is that the root ‘cause’ of conscientious objection – the institution of war is - still with us and, despite all the hand wringing by the military hierarchy, is flourishing.
The introduction of compulsory military service in Britain in 1916 was a major assault on civil liberties; criticised by some and approved by many. As with most laws that curb civil liberties, the usefulness of legal compulsion in early 1916 over mere vigorous recruiting was doubtful. The values that motivate the steady erosion of civil liberties today owe something to the draconian Military Service Act of 1916. In contrast, the values, which enabled conscientious objectors to refuse to bow to the military will and spend many years in jail, are now widespread. The conscientious objectors of World War One were the pioneers of today’s non-violent protest movement. Their struggle against a domineering state and for a less violent world should be better known. Like so much of the past their struggle has lessons for us today.
The Resource Centre has a unique collection of video interviews with Second World War conscientious objectors which it has commissioned. Many will be used to produce teaching resources for pupils and teachers and all are available to researchers.
The Centre’s work is funded entirely by donations and of course more are needed and welcome.
We were pleased to welcome members and friends to the open day. Visitors were able to see the new exhibition, explore digital resources and view recently recorded video interviews. Amongst the visitors were two of the oldest World War Two conscientious objectors – Geoffrey and Leo.
Leo gave us a glimpse of his time as a CO in the war and had previously given us his prison diary. A part of it – on government issue lavatory paper - is on display.
The exhibition is now open to the public and the various resources are available for research.