No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of the No-Conscription Fellowship including circulars, membership and National Convention papers.

Reports of the Conscientious Objectors Information Bureau about conscientious objectors.

Papers of the Hyde group of the No-Conscription Fellowship including correspondence, papers and membership lists. Also lists of conscientious objectors and case records and correspondence about individual conscientious objectors (mostly from the Hyde and Manchester area).

Administrative / Biographical History

The No Conscription Fellowship (NCF) was formed to support those who objected to taking up arms in the First World War. These men became known as "Conscientious Objectors" (COs). The grounds of objection varied with some, such as Quakers, objecting on religious grounds, whilst others were opposed on political grounds. The movement began in the autumn of 1914 Fenner Brockway - editor of the ILP newspaper 'Labour Leader' - invited those who were not prepared to render military service to get in contact.

Small groups were established and by the beginning of 1915 the membership had become so large it was necessary to open an office in London at 8 Merton House, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. By July 1915 it was becoming clear that the government was going to introduce conscription. A national NCF convention was held in November 1915 at the Memorial Hall, London. When the Military Service Bill was introduced an enormous campaign was launched against it with over a million leaflets issued and many deputations to the House of Commons. Conscription began on 2nd March 1916 for single men and in June for married men aged between 18 and 41.

Arrests of Conscientious Objectors began in early 1916. The NCF kept records of every CO, the grounds of his objection, his appearance before tribunals, civil courts, courts martial, and even which prison or Home Office settlement they were in. They also maintained contact with COs, arranging visits to camps, barracks and prisons across the country. They also published leaflets and pamphlets and from March 1916 a weekly newspaper called The Tribunal. The Political Department briefed MPs and drafted questions to Ministers.

Altogether, about 16,000 men refused to fight. According to NCF figures 6312 men were arrested for resisting conscription. Over 800 served more than two years in prison. Thousands of other COs refused to bear arms but accepted service in ambulance units, the Friends Relief Committee or "work of national importance".

World War One ended on 11 November 1918. The final convention of the NCF took place at the end of November 1919 at Devonshire House and was attended over 400 delegates from branches all over the country.

Arrangement

No-Conscription Fellowship:

series 1 - membership and National Convention papers,

series 2 - circulars,

series 3 - Conscientious Objectors Information Bureau reports,

series 4 - other papers

No-Conscription Fellowship, Hyde group:

series 1 - correspondence and papers,

series 2 - membership lists,

series 3 - prisoners and case records

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation.

If you wish to visit the library you need to make an appointment. The Working Class Movement Library is open Tuesday-Friday 10.00am-5.00pm and every 3rd Saturday of the month 10.00am-4.00pm.

To book an appointment, telephone: 0161 736 3601 or email: enquiries@wcml.org.uk.

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue is available online on the Working Class Movement Library's Web Site - www.wcml.org.uk

[N.B. to access descriptions of individual files and items, click on the magnifying glass by 'context contains' at the bottom of the catalogue page.]

Archivist's Note

These records were organised and listed by Chris Clayton, 2008. Amended and catalogued by Kate Hart, 2009, as part of the 'The past meets the present', HLF project. Description compiled by Kate Hart, Oct 2009.

Appraisal Information

Disposal: duplicate letters from No-Conscription Fellowship, Hyde Group (10 items), duplicate Conscription and Conscience pamphlet by Clifford Allen (1 item), duplicate final agenda of the No-Conscription Fellowship, 1919 (1 item)