Conscientious ObjectorsWW1

Not all Conchies were the same you know?


The Conscientious Objectors who tried to escape conscription, were soon labelled “Conchies” by others around them. There was considerable stigma in the refusal to fight, but Conchies had a wide range of reasons for their view point.

The root of a “conscientious objection” was generally a moral or ethical view on war in general. Some Conchies just didn’t believe in the fight, and used this as an argument not to go.

Others used religion as a reason to object.

But still more objected on practical terms. Farmers who needed their labourers working on the farm. Others with practical skills needed to keep the countryside going. Perhaps family members who were the “last men left”, looking for leave to remain and protect the rest of their family.


Look closely at the different types of Conscientious Objectors and investigate where their views came from.

Why did Conchies create such hostility and would such views be acceptable today?


As well as the information sheets in the Resources section, you may like to look at the links to the Peace Pledge Union website and the CO site within the National Archive. You can then return to this page to see how similar arguments were used in Devon.

Consider some of the reasons for objecting: pacifism, Quakerism, political or philosophical reasons. Those who objected altogether – the Absolutists – and those who objected to fighting but would join the war effort – the Alternativists. There were even the Non-Combatants – those who would join the Army but not bear arms.

And what about those who had practical reasons for staying – were these arguments more or less valid than the others?

Teacher Note

This task encourages the use of the web, the use of secondary sources, investigating a topic and reaching supported conclusions.


Peace Pledge Union
National Archives