There is a memorial dedicated to the (Quaker) Friends Ambulance Service and Friends
Relief Service who were conscientious objectors in WW2 at the National
Memorial Arboretum. When conscripted some men did felt their beliefs would not allow them to fight. These conscientious objectors were called cowards for refusing to fight, to kill other human beings. Their personal values, religious principles and beliefs stopped them regardless of the consequences. Many were publicly mocked and sentenced to death or long prison sentences.
This poem was read as on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship highlighting the
reason behind their personal struggle.:
Christ in khaki, out in France thrusting his bayonet into the body of a German workman.
The Son of God with a machine gun, ambushing a column of German infantry, catching themunawares in a lane and mowing them down in their helplessness.
The Man of Sorrows in a cavalry charge, cutting, hacking, thrusting, cheering.
No! No! That picture is an impossible one and we all know it!
Published in the Journal of the Independent Labour Party in September 1914. Written by Dr Alfred Salter who later became a Labour MP:
Whether we would all know this is debatable, but I think the ethical solution of the
government not putting these men In prison and them being willing to serve in the war in a compassionate way, is an inspirational outcome to one of the most complex clashes between personal values and national laws.
Today and every day we honour their stance, example and inspiration for our future ethical dilemmas.