Peace Matters Index

co resource centre opens

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- Conscientious objector Resource
  Centre Open Day

- financing development
- human smoke
- winter soldiers
- the struggle for freedom

- complete issue pdf

A visitor viewing one of a series of panels outlining the story of conscientious objection – past and present; the panel is part of a new exhibition specially designed for the Project. Presently the artwork for the exhibition is available for reproduction. More funds would enable printing more copies for wider use.

can you help?
A number of readers have responded to a previous request but many more would be welcome. Scattered around the country in local history museums and archives is a wealth of information about conscientious objectors. Readers’ help in finding out what is available in their locality would be very welcome. If you can help or simply want to know more please contact us.

Today the majority of European male citizens are liable to be called up for military service. Of the 29 European countries enforcing conscription 26 recognise conscientious objection in some form. As Britain abandoned military conscription many years ago why is the PPU and PRET opening a conscientious objection resource centre today?

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 has a collection of original documents, letters, photographs, diaries etc as well as books on conscientious objection and related issues. Videos and films about conscientious objection can be viewed and a database of conscientious objectors in Britain can be accessed. All of these are available for public use.

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.


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