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1939: "We refuse to fight for King & Country!"

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  • 1939: "We refuse to fight for King & Country!"

    The 1933 "King & Country" debate caused quite a stir at the time

    WI in 1939 the attitiude had caught hold in the UK, there still being plenty of 40 year old survivors of the slaughter of 1 million British in WW1, and the number of conscientious objectors & pacifists who categorically refused to be conscripted exceeded 15% of the available pool of manpower for soldiering, even on pain of years in jail. How would the British deal with the problem? Might the threat of execution by hanging or firing squad literally have to be employed to get British men to fight for King and Country against Germany again?

  • #2
    You have to remember, the, '40 year-old survivors of the slaughter,' were the first to join the LDV, later the Home Guard. They had seen what war could do, and didn't want it visited on their homes and families.

    Many on the Left (which actually means something in the UK) did object, as the SU was siding with Hitler - an attitude which only changed after Barbarossa, but the majority in the UK saw WW2 not as a great adventure, but a necessary fight against evil.

    Had things gone differently, then perhaps the objectors may've found more support, but the crushing defeats in France and Norway, the Blitz, the threat of invasion (very real at the time), and U-boats sinking just about everything that moved in the Atlantic, convinced most people that they had no real choice - only by defeating Hitler could such a luxury be restored.

    While Britain was never invaded, the war touched every facet of British life, everyone knew someone who hadn't come back, everyone was on short rations, and everyone had to make do, so the normal attitude to conscientious objection would be, 'Shut up and keep digging.'
    Indyref2 - still, "Yes."


    • #3
      I remember reading a comment in one of the voices of war books. The interview was with the daughter of a pacifist who had served in world war one. On the evening of the last day of the evacuation from Dunkirk. Her father took his cup of tea and went to the bottom of the garden and was staring off across the valley.

      She was worried about him. He had opposed the war with every fibre of his being and now, for all this, it has come. So she goes down and stands next to him and asks him whats on his mind.

      He replied " if we had a Vickers dug in on the compost heap I could stop any Germans advancing up the A1."

      There's pacifists and there's pacifists.
      "Sometimes its better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" T Pratchett


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