Courage of Conscience

November 18th, 2014

The Propeace group, Chesterfield has been awarded £9,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake their project Courage of Conscience which will uncover and celebrate the stories of Derbyshire conscientious objectors and their families.

As a first phase of the project the group would be delighted to hear from local people about their stories of resistance to World War 1. Nationally there were 16,000 conscientious objectors, who refused to fight, for religious, ethical or political reasons. These brave and principled men often suffered great hostility from families and communities and had to make their case before tribunals which usually refused them. Their fate varied from working with ambulance corps, to imprisonment or the death sentence.

Conscientious objectors later became respected for their principled opposition to the war including George Benson who was Labour MP for Chesterfield for most of the period between 1929 and 1964.

The Courage of Conscience project kicks off with two public meetings about local stories of resistance to the war and how everyone can help to find out more to contribute to the archives.

The first will be at Chesterfield Labour Club on Saturday 29 November at 7pm, when Ben Copsey, Project Officer at the Peace Pledge Union, will talk about George Benson and others imprisoned for their stand. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The second meeting will be at 1.00 p.m. on Saturday 17 January 2015 at Chesterfield Library. Cyril Pearce, retired lecturer from Leeds University and authority on First World War conscientious objectors, will speak about his extensive research and how to explore local resources for more information. He is the author of “Comrades in Conscience” and has compiled a database of Conscientious Objectors, which he will explain.

Using the research, River Wolton, a former Derbyshire poet laureate will work with young writers in Derbyshire to create their own responses. If you are between 16 and 30 and this interests you please email the group at: [email protected] History and drama materials based on the real experiences will also be created for use in classrooms in local schools.

The information will be available through a new Courage of Conscience website, the Propeace website.