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75 years ago: Fellowship of COs formed

Pacifists are now looking back 100 years to the start of the First World War, and at the lessons still to be learned by those who renounce war. Our predecessors, who were looking back from only 25 years’ distance, also digested the lessons of that earlier era, but with a greater sense of urgency.

To enable conscientious objectors to conscription to unite for mutual support and encouragement, a Fellowship of Conscientious Objectors was formed in London last week. Membership is confined to young men affected by the Military Training Bill.

This development recalls the formation during the early days of the Great War of the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF), which not only supported conscientious objectors in various ways but also carried on a great deal of propaganda work.

Formation of the new Fellowship was announced by Fenner Brockway at a National Conference held by the No Conscription League in Bermondsey Town Hall on Sunday. The response to a letter from Fenner Brockway in the Labour Leader in 1914 led to the formation of the war-time NCF.

In a statement, the Fellowship declares, ‘We refuse to prepare for the slaughter of our bothers in other lands, and call upon all who share our convictions to join with us in our refusal.’...

Nearly 550 delegates and 35 individuals attended the NCL National Conference. They had come from many parts of the country and included 76 delegates from Labour Party organisations; 91 from the Independent Labour Party; 83 from pacifist organisations (including 75 from the PPU); 95 from Co-operative organisations, and 84 from NCL branches...

John Barclay, of the Peace Pledge Union, told how PPU membership was growing rapidly, and offered the co-operation of PPU groups. Many speakers urged the need for activity within the Labour movement, and Fenner Brockway, in opening the discussion on organisation, said they wanted delegates to go back to their co-operative, labour, and trade union organisations and say that the conference had made clear that if their ideals were to be realised it must be in the day-to-day struggle in which they were engaged.


From the news pages of the 9 June 1939 issue of Peace News. Buried Treasure is compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against All War: Fifty Years of Peace News 1936-1986.