5 best resources for tracing conscientious objectors

By Sarah Williams, 24 August 2017 - 3:20pm

Do you have a conscientious objector in your family tree, like Fearne Cotton? Find out with this guide


Dyce Work Camp in Scotland for conscientious objectors, October 1916. Credit: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images

Military Service Tribunals

Only a sample of military service tribunal records were officially kept after the end of the First World War: those for Middlesex, held at The National Archives; Lothian and Peebles, held at the National Records of Scotland and available via ScotlandsPeople; and Cardiganshire, held at The National Library of Wales and currently being transcribed as part of a new crowdsourcing project.

Many more surviving samples (although rarely complete for a whole county) have been unearthed by regional archives as they have been looking at their First World War holdings. Most people who appealed against conscription were not conscientious objectors, but if you are looking for records of a conscientious objector, or wondering why an ancestor did not fight, these records are worth looking for. A record of surviving military service tribunal records was made by The National Archives in 2015.
 

Newspapers

The results of military service tribunals were often recorded in local papers, so even if the tribunal records have not survived, you may be able to discover the results via the British Newspaper Archive or Findmypast.


An image from the military appeals tribunal for Archibald Brown Naysmith, 1916, from the Lothians and Peebles collection at the National Archives of Scotland. Ref: HH30/1/1/6. 

Peace Pledge Union (PPU)

Founded in 1936 as the Sheppard Peace Movement, the PPU is an invaluable resource on all the issues that surround conscientious objection. The organisation is currently compiling a database of all known conscientious objectors during the First World War.
 

Quakers

Discover more about the Quakers in Britain during the First World War and the important role they played in conscientious objection on their website.
 

The Imperial War Museum

Cyril Pearce’s Register of British Conscientious Objectors has been added to the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War database and allows you to search a list of almost 17,000 men.

 

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