the men who said no

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Objects from our Archives:
Remebering Conscientious Objectors

his now rare and fragile booklet was written and assembled by Clara Gilbert Cole and published in 1936. A plea to readers on the inside cover to help fund the printing hints at the felt urgency and intention of the author and publisher. The booklet outlines the experiences of conscientious objectors in World War One and the cruel system that governed their lives. In particular it draws attention to why the men objected.

One might wonder why some 17 years after the last conscientious objector was released from prison Clara Cole felt the need to write this pamphlet. The clue is perhaps in the cover to which somebody, possibly many years after its publication, made an addition. Its modernist style, intentionally or not, calls for more than a passing glance to reveal its meaning. '1914' will emerge out of the background as will '193' followed by a sickle like question mark. This was a publication addressed to the public in a climate of growing anxiety about a possible war with Germany. The Peace Pledge Union was born out of a similar feeling two years earlier in 1934.

‘Will you’ in the title is of course a challenge to the reader to act as the conscientious objectors and war resisters did years before. Over 60,000 registered as CO in WW2 and over 100,000 joined the Peace Pledge Union by the wars’ beginning. Unfortunately the hopes that if enough people objected a war could be prevented were cruely dashed.

At the end of the book Clara notes the variety of demonstrations against proposed conscription laws in towns across Germany and of students of military age moving to Switzerland to avoid being conscripted.


Cover page
Cover of a 1936 anti war pamhlet by Clara Gilbert Cole

Pamhlet can beviewed at our office Monday and Tuesday 9am to 4pm. Please call to book a time. 07971319227



Object One
Oject Two
Object Three


Read The Tribunal the paper of the No-Conscription FellowshipTribunal MastheadLaunched in March 1916 shortly after the first conscientious objectors were being forced into the army. Month by month we publish extract from The Tribunal which include a contextual comentary. Read the instalments here



From: They Did Not Fight