Prisoners of Conscience

Juliet Gardiner looks at what it meant to refuse to fight or lend support to the war effort in the Second World War, the different reasons people asserted this right, and how their actions were interpreted in wartime Britain.

On September 1st, 1939, the day German troops marched into Poland, the House of Commons passed the National Services (Armed Forces) Act conscripting all men aged between eighteen and forty-one into the armed forces. However, the Act contained the proviso that if a man objected to being placed on the Military Service Register and thus eligible for call up, he should apply for his name to be placed on the Register of Conscientious Objectors instead. He would then be called before a local tribunal to explain why he should be exempt from a service his fellow men were compelled to undertake.


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