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We Will Not Fight...: The Untold Story of World War Ones Conscientious Objectors [Hardcover]

Will Ellsworth-Jones
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 2008
In June 1916 Philip Brocklesby, a young second lieutenant just arrived in Boulogne, slipped away from his regiment in a desperate attempt to see his brother who had been imprisoned nearby. But it wasn't the enemy who were holding Bert, but his own army. Bert, along with 34 other conscientious objectors, had been court marshalled for refusing to fight, and was waiting to hear if he would be sentenced to death. The meeting was happy and affectionate, but then both brothers knew it may be their last. Through the amazing story of the Brocklesby family, Will Ellsworth-Jones explores the history of conscientious objection in World War I, charting the experiences of the men who took a stand despite being stigmatised, vilified and facing death. This amazing book also considers the men's lasting legacy. Without the courage of men such as Bert who were prepared to die for their beliefs, we wouldn't have the freedom to voice our beliefs and protest at our government's involvement in conflict. At the end of this touching book, the reader will ask themselves whether they would have had the courage to fight in the trenches, but more importantly whether they would have had the courage not to fight. Packed with unpublished letters, diaries, memoir extracts and oral interviews, We Will Not Fight is a fascinating look at conscientious objection in WWI, and its legacy. 'It is by now a rare experience to read a book on that war which seems wholly fresh and original, but this is such a book. A significant and fascinating contribution to our understanding of the period, and one which deserves to be widely read.' Publishing News

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (1 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845133005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845133009
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 562,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'moving and grippingly readable book'
-- Sunday Telegraph, March 2 2008

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars courage redefined 6 Mar 2008
I had not given the conscientious objectors much thought before I picked up "We Will Not Fight" by Will Ellsworth-Jones, (Aurum Press). The book follows the lives of three brothers from Yorkshire during the First World War.

While two Brocklesby brothers fought for their country and experienced life in the trenches, the story centres on Bert, who fought not to fight. Bert was a conscientious objector. A trained teacher and preacher, he was fundamentally opposed to war and killing.

As a reader you start out sympathetic to Bert. He would not kill. He was following his bible and religion. He and his fellow COs were an embarrassment, but they could have been allowed to do valued work at home. Instead, their continuing refusal to serve became a major problem for the government, which was trying to recruit enough men to win the war.

The government was heavy-handed, particularly with working class men, but Bert was so stubborn that he would not sew coal sacks because the coal might be used in the war effort.

The fact that Bert was not an easy character to be sympathetic with strengthens this account. The author could have chosen someone with whom everyone could have felt sympathy all of the time. But Bert and his colleagues who were sent to France, held in appalling prison conditions and sentenced to death, needed every ounce of stubbornness. They won the battle for others who would refuse to join the military in later conflicts. Without their fundamental, overwhelming, black and white beliefs, they would have given in. The right to say no would have been lost.

This is a moving account and fills in a part of the history of war in Britain that had hitherto not been covered. Based on the letters and records of the day, the story was a compelling read.

Tony Wilkinson and Lindsay Cook
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A well-researched book detailing the lives of three Yorkshire Brocklesby brothers, one of whom was a conscientious objector, the other two combatants, through whose eyes the story of the conscientious objector movement in World War One is told. This is compared briefly to the Second World War, where although the "Conchies" were overall treated better by the establishment than during the First World War, they nonetheless had a difficult time with those who didn't understand their moral stance and believed they were simply cowards. In the latter I speak with some personal knowledge as my father was a CO during the Second World War and had to move away from home because of the antipathy towards him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We Will Not Fight 21 Jan 2010
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Brave men in a different way. 'Conshies' weren't cowards. They did generally contribute to the war effort and paid a heavy price for their beliefs along the way. A 'must read' in conjunction with Boy Soldiers etc to build up a more complete WW1 picture and its Tommies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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There is a vast amount of written material for those interested in the history of the First World War, but this particular book is a valuable addition to the reading material for anybody interested in the First World War.
The subject matter may be uncomfortable for many, and may arouse feelings ranging from anger to contempt. But, on the other hand, having read the book it is clear that many of the men who were conscientious objectors in the war were brave in their own way. It would have taken great courage to make the stand that many of these men took.
I bought the book after coming across the grave of a man who was in the Non Combatant Corps. I was curious to know more about this Corps, and Will Ellsworth-Jones' book provided me with the answers I needed.
"We Will Not Fight.." is a welcome addition to my collection of books on this period of history.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read.... 31 Mar 2014
By Tony Homer - Published on
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A lucid, well-written book of a much-neglected historical subject. An objective study which does not avoid the issues raised by conscientious objectors and the serious problems they encountered.
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