Records of the No Conscription Fellowship (Willesden Branch)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

These case files contain letters sent by conscientious objectors to other branch members and to their friends and families, as well as statements made to military service tribunals. The national series of NCF case files survives amongst the papers of Catherine Marshall, its secretary.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Fellowship was founded by Fenner Brockway after the outbreak of war in 1914 to organise opposition to conscription amongst men of military age. It was an explicitly pacifist organisation and its members committed themselves to 'refuse from conscientious motives to bear arms, because they consider[ed] human life too sacred'.

Membership reached 10,000 at its peak, two thirds of whom were members of the Independent Labour Party; the next largest group were Quakers. The National Committee was also dominated by young ILP activists, including Clifford Allen, Morgan Jones and James Hindle Hudson (who later became a Quaker), and the treasurer was the Quaker Edward Grubb. The introduction of conscription in 1916 transformed its political prospects and the Fellowship became 'the acknowledged voice of the whole conscientious objection movement' (Martin Ceadel).

Its role expanded to include provision of information and welfare services for its members, many of whom were imprisoned during 1916-1918. The Records Department of the NCF, which kept detailed information on the cases of every known conscientious objector, was later renamed the Conscientious Objectors Information Bureau (COIB). The NCF worked closely with the Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, through the Joint Advisory Council. The movement went underground following state harassment and was wound up in November 1919 after the release of the last conscientious objectors.

Some NCF members were involved in the formation of the No More War Movement in 1921 its counterpart during the Second World War was the No Conscription League, but this in contrast had little impact.

Arrangement

U DCO/1-43 Case files relating to individual conscientious objectors, 1916-1917

U DCO/44 General file relating to conscientious objectors, 1916-1919

U DCO/45 List of papers, 1968

U DCO/46 Related correspondence, 1968

Conditions Governing Access

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Pressure group archives subject guide

Custodial History

Donated by Miss Gladys Gellett, through David Rubinstein, University of Hull, 13 March 1968

Related Material

Correspondence and journal of Robin Page Arnot as a conscientious objector [U DAR/2]

Papers of P Smith relating to pacifism and conscientious objection [U DX76]

Correspondence of Frank and Myfanwy Westrope during Frank's imprisonment as a conscientious objector [U DX135]

Other repositories:

Papers of Catherine Marshall, secretary of NCF, Cumbria Record Office: Carlisle Headquarters [GB 0023]

Records of Manchester and Hythe branches of NCF, Working Class Movement Library

Scrap book of Thomas H Ellison, NCF member, Working Class Movement Library

No-Conscription Fellowship Collected Records, 1914-1920 [Ref CDG-B Great Britain] held by the Swarthmore College Peace Collection in Pennsylvania, USA

Bibliography

  • J Bell, 'We did not fight 1914-1918: experiences of war resisters' (Cobden Sanderson, 1935) - includes 'War resistance: memories of the No Conscription Fellowship by the Treasurer, Edward Grubb', pp.143-153
  • Martin Ceadel, Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945: the defining of a faith (Clarendon Press, 1980)
  • C Cook, 'Sources in British political history 1900-1951 vol.I: a guide to the archives of selected organisations and societies' (Macmillan, 1975), pp. 206-207
  • Thomas C Kennedy, 'The hound of conscience: a history of the No Conscription Fellowship 1914-1919' (University of Arkansas Press, 1981)
  • Keith Robbins, 'The abolition of war: the 'Peace Movement' in Britain 1914-1919' (University of Wales Press, 1976)