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We Will Not Fight...: The Untold Story of WW1's Conscientious Objectors Paperback – 25 Nov 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (25 Nov. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845134036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845134037
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'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

'...both illuminating and moving in the face of cataclysmic suffering, while crucially retaining its intimacy' --Glasgow Herald, November 2008

'[a] fine book' --Seven (The Sunday Telegraph), December 2008

About the Author

WILL ELLSWORTH-JONES was chief reporter and then New York correspondent for the Sunday Times as well as holding senior editorial positions at the Telegraph Magazine, The Independent Magazine and Saga Magazine. His books for Aurum are a history of conscientious objectors in the First World War, We Will Not Fight, and Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall. He lives in London.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Terry on 14 Aug. 2012
After a bit of a slow start of what seemed liked a list of names, dates and places this became a truly fascinating read in which the author explored the journey of some of the first known conscientious objectors, some of whom agreed to non-combatant work, some of whom refused to 'help' the war effort in any way, shape or form, all of them men prepared to risk much, some of them their lives, for their beliefs.

Using a vast array of letters, many of them unpublished, diaries, memoirs and interviews, We Will Not Fight also takes a look at the men and women who were with and against the objectors. My favourite section, albeit a very harrowing one, being about the phenomenon that saw (mostly) young women giving white feathers* to men out of uniform believing them to be 'shirkers' or cowards.

Not just a military history, so much more than a story of war, this is a very human story and a fitting tribute to a group of determined men with very strong beliefs.

We Will Not Fight...: The Untold Story of World War Ones Conscientious Objectors
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. John Conrad Mullen on 15 May 2009
It is almost obligatory these days to use a subtitle like "the untold story" when publishing a book about the First World War; but this book really merits the title. It tells the story of the Sixteen thousand or so men who declared themselves Conscientious Objectors. Many were prepared to do non combatant work such as transport or ambulanc work, but a couple of thousand refused to do anything to assist the war effort. These men came from many parts of society, though artisans (watchmakers, shopkeepers) and teachers were more common than other sorts.

Their reasons were refusing were religious or political. They were Quakers, methodists, socialists. Many of them paid a high price for their principles. In the worst cases they were regularly beaten and threatened with execution ("We shot sixteen of your lot yesterday and you'll be next"); hundreds were kept in prison under a no-talking régime for years. Others were obliged to carry out useless work, breaking rocks and so on.

Although their sufferings were clearly lighter than those of the battalions in the trenches, the courage they required was huge. As time went by, they earned the respect of many soldiers, especially once the massive death tolls on the Somme had shaken people up. They would still be discriminated against after the war ("No COs need apply), and during the war they were generally presented in parodies as homosexual effeminate and bourgeois. A few of them may have been each of these, but the most important lesson of the book is that they were right.
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