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We Will Not Fight...: The Untold Story of World War Ones Conscientious Objectors Hardcover – 1 Feb 2008
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'moving and grippingly readable book'
-- Sunday Telegraph, March 2 2008
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This book ought to be required reading for all secondary school children, it will teach them way more than the usual dry history books ever will. Real life from the perspective of people who suffered for wanting to do what they considered to be the right and moral thing. The author is an excellent story teller, I could barely put the book down. With so much war mongering and war worshiping in this country, it is refreshing to read an antithesis to the death and glory preaching of the churches and the government. Buy it, read it, pass it on to someone else - you won't be disappointed, unless you don't like to hear the truth.
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.
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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