In the week that the multi-award winning film Hacksaw Ridge opens in the UK, leading Lancashire Auction House Silverwoods asks: “Was your Ancestor a Conscientious Objector During the First or Second World Wars?”
Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical drama about the life of pacifist medic Desmond Doss, who was the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the US Medal of Honor.
During The First World War, 16,000 men in the UK were conscripted by the government to become soldiers, but declared themselves Conscientious Objectors and refused to fight. In the Second World War, more than 60,000 men took the same action.
Often, the declaration was made on religious or moral grounds, the simplest being the Christian tenet of Thou Shalt Not Kill. They were then forced to convince a tribunal of their conviction, but very often, the tribunal simply refused to listen and they were then publicly branded cowards. They faced a simple but extremely difficult choice – go to jail, join the Army and fight against their wishes or carry out war service.
Many people don’t realise that the service these men carried out was vital to the war effort, as they often become ambulance drivers or medics.
Many of the men performed acts of extreme bravery and were decorated for their courage. Was one of your ancestors a Conscientious Objector? James Thompson, the Military Specialist at Silverwoods’ Auction House is currently conducting research to uncover the human stories behind the clichés. If you can help with details from your family’s past in the form of photographs, a diary, letters, medals or other memorabilia, please contact James on 07766 498259.