the men who said no

The exact number of men who said 'NO' and refused to be conscripted into the 1914 -18 war in Britain is unknown. Most records have been destroyed. Until recently, based on an estimate made in 1922, 16,000 men has been the generally accepted figure.

In recent years diligent research has increase that number and is likely to be closer to 20,000. Our own 'Objecting to War' project is now uncovering new information about the lives and conditions of these men and is adding to the richness of our understanding of their experiences and the times they lived in.

These men and their supporters, often mothers, wives and girlfriends, came from all walks of life. Resting the siren voice of the military that ensnared hundreds of thousand of their compatriots their reasons for resisting varied as did the intensity of their belief and commitment to it. As a consequence and the vagrancy of the Tribunal system some spend years, often in solitary confinement, in goals around the country while at the other extreme many put on a uniform but refused to carry guns or undertake work that directly contributed to the war effort - calibrations not always easy to achieve. In between men struggled to explain to themselves as much as to others the meaning of the extraordinary situation they found themselves in. To be trained to kill is surely extraordinary enough but then to be ordered by force of law to sail across the channel and kill total strangers is surely even more incredible. Perhaps more extraordinary is that so many succumbed to taking part in this massacre. The states coersive power and men's obedience to it are still urgent qustions of our time.

Our aim here is to record aspects of these men’s lives and contribute to a better understanding of the resistance and objections to that war. Just as importantly we want to mark the stand these men took and remember the courage it took to stand against the crown in a time of war. A similar courage is required of us today as militarisation, the very thing the war was ostensibly fought against, is growing and creeping into civilian society.

The names


About the project
The Men
The Women


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repeal the act

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