|Objectors at Dyce Camp in Aberdeen, where they faced 10 years of hard labour. Photograph: Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain
The list includes Horace Eaton, a 27-year-old from Bradford who believed war symbolised “the teaching of hatred and murder”, James Burchell, a gardener from Scarborough who regarded every life as sacred, and Norman Gaudie, a railway clerk, footballer for Sunderland reserves and committed pacifist.Conscientious objection. It seems an odd thing nowadays when whole countries like the U.S. cannot muster the congressional backbone to fight the country's 19-year-old war in Afghanistan. There was a time when the excoriation of such objectors was fierce. And the backbone it took to take a conscientious objector's stance was far from applauded. World War I, World War II ... the list goes on.
All three were among the 20,000 men who registered as conscientious objectors in the first world war for religious, moral or political reasons.
Their stories are part of a heritage project, announced on Friday, which will recognise for the first time the names of 400 men who were barracked or imprisoned at Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire because they objected to conscription.
In the college I more or less attended (Colby in Maine), there was mandatory ROTC -- Reserve Officer Training Corps. Everyone had to take it. I pleaded conscientious objector before some sort of colonel (as I recall) who, without much demurer, allowed me to do so and thus I evaded the college format.
I pleaded conscientious objector, my status was granted AND...
Two years later I had signed on for three years in the army -- a federal mandate at the time. Why the change of heart? Well, first of all, a 19-year-old is never entirely clear in his philosophies. But second, and somehow nagging, I wanted the experience... to acknowledge my killer and cope with it. As it happened, I served my three-year hitch without incident and was never forced to kill anyone. Now I can say I've been in the army ... and I don't doubt that I am still a killer, potential or otherwise. I may wish I were better and I firmly believe that killing another human being is directly wired into killing yourself, but I prefer to do what I can to be honest.
A 19-year-old's philosophies may be flummoxed, but that does not prove a 69-year-old's are significantly cogent and serene by comparison.
But my admiration mat is out for those who plead(ed) conscientious objector.