The photo is of a poster with the ominous news that conscription was now the law of the land for all men, unmarried and married, between the ages of 18 and 41. Conscientious objectors would be compelled to make their case for exemption before local tribunals, who were often prejudiced against them and deeply unsympathetic.
For example, Harold Bing, an 18 year old CO, had his claim turned down –
‘You’re too young to have a conscience!’ he was told.
This is a picture of Bert Brocklesby, South Yorkshire schoolteacher and Methodist preacher – one of 35 COs who were sent to France in 1916 and sentenced to death – simply for refusing to act against their consciences and take part in warfare.
They were reprieved at the last moment and given 10 years penal servitude instead. On International COs Day 2016, Bert’s granddaughter Jill Gibbon spoke movingly about Bert and the inspiration his story gives to her and all war-resisters.
Having been reading and writing about Bert and his fellow COs for the last four years, it was truly special for me meet his granddaughter. She gave me the picture of him, was displayed on the wall of Conway Hall for The Comrades in Conscience event on 25th May.