I'll be checking in on this thread now and then and hope I can answer any questions you may have.
A ceremony is honouring those who refused to fight in World War One. Their relatives look back at their decisions and reflect on the legacy of conscientious objection today.
"He rarely spoke about what happened to him," says Chris Lawson, 76, of his father, Bernard, a Christian objector from north London.
"He certainly had a tough time getting through the tribunals. The military were determined to get everyone they could."
Bernard Lawson was one of some 16,000 conscientious objectors who refused to fight as conscription laws enlisted two-and-a-half million extra British troops from 1916 onwards.
Those who objected had to appeal in public, usually on moral or religious grounds. It was not an easy process.
"Most tribunals took a very aggressive view, trying to catch men out and ridiculing them," says author Cyril Pearce, creator of a database of conscientious objectors from the era.
It was only after an appeal tribunal that the military finally accepted Bernard Lawson's Christian convictions and granted him "conditional exemption" - as long as he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit in France instead, evacuating injured soldiers by train.
But those whose arguments were rejected by the tribunals faced a difficult choice: did they answer the call-up or wait to be arrested?
Once drafted into the Army, men disobeying orders faced a court martial. Anyone who fled the front could be shot.
'Conchies', as they were known, attracted considerable stigma among peers, says WW1 historian Dr Gerry Oram.
"The Army was carrying out massive offensives that went on for months; hundreds of thousands died. Powerful resentment built up towards conscientious objectors, especially where people had lost sons, husbands."
Conscientious objectors were made to take on medical roles and other "work of national importance" on the roads and land.
"But policy towards them grew harsher as the war went on," says Mr Pearce. They could be placed as far as 100 miles from home with a soldier's wage to ensure "equality of sacrifice".
Bernard Lawson was willing to work in France helping the wounded but some conscientious objectors went further, refusing to be involved in any part of the war machine.
A staunch absolutist, Tom Attlee was imprisoned from January 1917 to April 1919.
Tom Attlee moved his family to Cornwall after the war
He had been on holiday with his brother, Clem, when war broke out in 1914.
"They went off in different directions," says Cath Attlee, Tom's granddaughter.
While Clem enlisted - and later went on to lead the Labour party and become prime minister - Tom felt "very strongly" that his Christian principles meant he couldn't do anything to support the fighting.
Little is known of his treatment, says Ms Attlee, but he never returned to his previous work as an architect or his pre-war London lifestyle - instead moving his family away for a very different life in Cornwall.
Ms Attlee is among a number of relatives attending a service in memory of conscientious objectors, organised by international Catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi.
Cindy Sharkey, 66, is remembering her grandfather, Eleazor Thomas. A socialist member of the Independent Labour Party, Mr Thomas was a conscientious objector railing against what he saw as a capitalist war, waged to preserve the empire.
He was imprisoned at Dartmoor, where he laboured in gas works, Mrs Sharkey, 66 recalls.
"The hardest thing must have been making a choice that meant leaving his wife and children behind with no support as he went to prison," she says.
But it was possibly worse for his family. "There are stories of white feathers (a symbol of cowardice) and of my grandmother running the gauntlet of abuse down the street to Dartmoor, taking the tiny boys with her to visit him."
Doors were slammed and people hurled insults. The vicar refused to help.
'I'm not fighting'
So what's it like having a CO in the family?
"I have nothing but admiration for the stand my grandfather took," says Ernest Rodker, 77.
World War One Centenary
"It would have taken some courage to have said, 'Well I'm not fighting for Britain or against the Germans.'"
His grandfather, John Rodker, was a poet-publisher living in the very poor conditions of east London.
"He wasn't political," says Mr Rodker. He was a member of a group of Jewish intellectuals and artists called the Whitechapel Boys and he rejected the war as a battle for influence.
In 1914, aged 20, John Rodker was arrested and imprisoned.
"They laid a path for others who weren't prepared to fight in war," says his grandson.
And he knows personally what this means.
Mr Rodker was called up in the last wave of post-WW2 conscription in the late 1950s, but became a conscientious objector over nuclear weapons.
"By that time being a CO was something you could do. I didn't get abuse and people listened to my arguments at a tribunal, it was very civilized."
Indeed, numbers of conscientious objectors rose from more than 16,000 in WW1 to 60,000 in WW2. During the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands applied for deferment.
Despite being controversial in WW1, Mr Lawson insists it is "to Britain's credit" that, during a war with a great need for conscripts, conscientious objection was allowed by law.
There are still many countries where this is not possible, he says.
Looking forward to the London service, Ms Attlee is proud to be able to publically honour her grandfather.
"My other grandfather was actually killed in WW1. I always wear a red and a white poppy on Remembrance Sunday."
But without conscription today "it's incredibly hard" to tell how far our attitudes towards conscientious objection have really come, she says.
Mr Lawson reflects: "We're living at a time when we're given a lot of positive imagery about the military - perhaps it's actually getting harder to question it."
A marine exploration team found the wreck, one of more than 250 warships that took part in the largest naval engagement of World War I.
The wreck of the British warship HMS Warrior—the "last shipwreck" from the Battle of Jutland during World War I—has been discovered near Norway. The marine exploration team that found the shipwreck also recently located the wreck of a World War II-era British submarine in the same region.
The HMS Warrior is the last of the Jutland wrecks to be located, out of 14 British and 11 German warships that were sunk on May 31 and June 1, 1916, as the Imperial German High Seas Fleet tried to break out from the Royal Navy blockade of the North Sea.
"It's the only wreck left from the Battle of Jutland that we can categorically say is completely unspoiled," said Innes McCartney, a marine archeologist at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom.
"It’s completely upside down, and it sank down into an area of very soft seabed, right to the level of the upper deck—so everything inside it is completely sealed in,” McCartney told Live Science.
More than 250 warships took part in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval engagement of World War I, and more than 8,500 men were killed, according to British and German wartime records.
McCartney said the HMS Warrior, an armored cruiser, was heavily damaged during the battle by gunfire from the German cruiser SMS Derfflinger, but it had attempted to make its way back to Britain.
When the ship's engines failed, the Warrior was towed throughout the night by a British aircraft carrier, the HMS Engadine. By morning, however, the Warrior had filled with water, and it was abandoned after its surviving crew of around 700 were taken off, McCartney said.
He added that the final resting place of the Warrior was unknown until the wreck was discovered on Aug. 25, using sonar scans and a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) equipped with video cameras.
The Warrior is the second major shipwreck found in the area within a few months by McCartney and Danish marine exploration firm JD-Contractor AS, which operates the survey ship Vina. The survey is sponsored by the Sea War Museum Jutland at Thyboron in Denmark.
In March, the team reported the discovery of the wreck of the HMS Tarpon, a British submarine from World War II that sank with around 59 crewmembers aboard after a battle with an armed German merchant ship in 1940.
"The survey was initially aimed at Jutland, but there were 25 ships sunk in that battle, and we've found 10 times that number," McCartney said. "In the case of Tarpon, it was simply a matter that the direction that we left harbor took us past a potential location for this sub, so I requested we stop and do a survey there. And within about an hour or so we found it."
Last week, a Danish TV channel broadcast live video from the wreck of the Tarpon as divers from the exploration team were visiting the site.
The submarine is now lying on the seafloor at a depth of about 130 feet (40 meters), located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the north coast of Denmark.
McCartney said the sub had been heavily damaged by the depth charges that sank it 76 years ago, and that two of the submarine’s torpedo tubes are empty, which suggests the Tarpon had fired twice at the enemy ship.
Although the wrecks of the Tarpon and the Warrior are legally protected as war graves, McCartney said all war wrecks in the area are threatened by illegal salvage operators, who plunder them for the valuable metals inside.
He said the most valuable items are the bronze condensers that were used in many wartime ships’ engines, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars as bronze scrap when melted down.
"We estimate that in the last 10 years, anything up to 1.5 million pounds worth of bronze has been ripped out of these [Jutland] wrecks," McCartney said. "And the majority of those wrecks are also the graves of the sailors who died in the battle, and so it's just wrong that they should be doing this."
McCartney said that salvaging naval vessels without permission from the owning navy is illegal under international law, but very little has been done to protect the wrecks.
"There are millions of shipwrecks on the bottom of the ocean—it's the world's largest museum. And at the moment it's being trashed just for a want of people standing up to their responsibilities," he said.
He said the authorities in Europe, in particular, should track salvage ships and monitor their whereabouts.
"And when they're stopping over wrecks that they're not allowed to be on, then they need to be [inspected] when they get back into harbor," McCartney said.
Could you hack it in a World War One tank?
Primitive metal monster
Join the tank crew
Greatest tank battles of World War One
Professor William Philpott
In 1916 the British developed a new weapon designed to break the deadlock on the Western Front. It was codenamed the "water-tank". The pioneers who fought inside them were drawn from various parts of the British Army, and few had any idea what to expect. Before going into action, they would have learned the perils of operating inside one of these deadly machines.
Modern tanks are a jumble of exposed brackets, junction boxes, and hard angles that cut and bruise the ingénue crewman as he learns to slink about the inside. However, inside early vehicles like the Mark IV, there were all manner of additional hazards, like exposed scalding pipes and moving machinery. Once committed to battle, the first tank men also discovered that the armour plate ‘spalled’, sending small shards of metal around the tank's inside, as it stopped bullets and fragments on the outside. Chainmail face masks were quickly improvised to protect them.
Early tanks were agonizingly slow in their movements and the soldiers inside must have felt like sitting ducks. But the tanks soon spread panic in German lines and demonstrated their potential to change the face of war. When the British tanks went forward, the terrified German soldiers threw everything they had at them - including machine gun fire, grenades and mortars - to try to destroy the metal beasts. They became one of the most dangerous places to be in World War One.
Primitive metal monster
The first British tanks were primitive machines. The Mark I tank weighed 29 tonnes and had an engine scarcely more powerful than a modern small car. It lumbered over the trenches at less than four miles an hour and was prone to break down or get bogged down in the mud. As the war progressed, the British built better tanks which improved on the Mark I's basic design.
Join the tank crew
Would you have what it takes to be part of a World War One tank crew? Click on the labels below to find out about each crew member's role in battle.
Watch a dramatisation of an intense World War One battle - an underprepared tank crew take on the German army at the Battle of Amiens in August 1918.
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This video contains strong language, and scenes of violence in a battlefield setting.
Greatest tank battles of World War One
Although they did not decisively win the war, tanks made a big difference in several key battles(go to site BBC WWI)
Battle of Flers Courcelette
Battle of Cambrai
Battle of Amiens
Centennial commemoration of World War I will include a fresh look at Missourian 'Black Jack' Pershing
By Chuck Raasch St. Louis Post-Dispatch
WASHINGTON • It was not the war that ended all wars, a fact that resonates in today’s long struggle to defeat terrorism.
World War I, which the United States entered in 1917 and helped win a year later, is easily passed over in the nation’s annals of conflict.
Even though nearly 4.7 million Americans served during the war and 116,516 were killed (more than half in non-combat deaths) and more than 200,000 wounded, it is no longer a memory for most. Monuments to Civil War generals and big memorials to the Vietnam War and World War II grace the capital’s mall and neighborhoods.
World War I? Not so much.
Even so, the centennial of the United State’s entry into that war will be modestly commemorated next year, and with a big Missouri twist.
“World War I has been kind of bookended between the Civil War and World War II,” said Mitchell Yockelson, a military history specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration. “A lot of vets came back and never wanted to talk about it. Everyone and their cousin was trying to publish a book on the Civil War. By the time we were ready to embrace [World War I], World War II came along.”
Yockelson is the author of a book about Missouri native John “Black Jack” Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force that tipped the war for the French and British against Germany.
The book, “Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I,” is about the Battle of Meuse-Argonne, the bloodiest ever for an American army. A million Americans went up against a veteran German Army and suffered 26,000 deaths and more than 110,000 wounded before helping to force surrender.
Commemorations in Europe and across the United States next year will try to rekindle attention to the U.S. entry in the war, which was fought with massed armies in horrific conditions, with men killed by the legions in barbed-wired and machine-gun-swept no-man’s lands. Progress was often measured in yards of ground purchased with tens of thousands of dead and wounded.
On April 6-8, commemorations of the U.S. entry in the war (which began in 1914) will be marked in U.S. embassies in Europe, and at a “Call to Arms” conference at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. A commemoration of U.S. Air Service will be held that same weekend at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.
Commemorations here and across Europe will continue through Nov. 11, 2018, marking the armistice to end the war.
The occasion offers another chance to review the life of Pershing, a native of tiny Laclede, Mo., 220 miles northwest of St. Louis.
‘Fascinating and underappreciated’
Stern and tough on subordinates, Pershing was the man most responsible for the United States’ moving from a peacetime army of 220,000 to the 2 million men who, in a matter of months, were transported to France to fight. They and the massive amount of supplies necessary to feed and arm them were transported through seas infested with German U-boats. Once abroad, the Americans built 900 miles of railroad track to supply their troops.
More than a century later, such feats look impossibly daunting.
The leader of it all, Pershing, is “one of the most fascinating and underappreciated figures” in American history, said Barney McCoy, a professor at the University of Nebraska who is working on a documentary on Pershing.
Pershing’s life spanned the Civil War to the dawn of the nuclear age. He died in 1948 at age 87, having helped maintain a peacetime military between the two world wars and shape the key officers who helped the U.S. and its allies win World War II.
One of Pershing’s earliest memories happened when he was just 3 or 4 years old. Confederate bushwhackers ransacked Laclede late in the Civil War. His father, a well-known area merchant and strong Unionist, was preparing to confront the marauders with a shotgun when Pershing’s mother stopped him, declaring she did not want to be a widow with young children.
“How many U.S. generals have ever actually had their hometowns, even their home, invaded by an enemy force, and [from that] understand the important role that a military must play to provide security to a country?” asked the documentarian McCoy, who is plowing through volumes of Pershing’s letters and other documents at the National Archives, Library of Congress and other resources.
“That must have been a resounding moment for Pershing,” McCoy said.
Later, after the family lost almost all its possessions during the panic of 1873, young Pershing taught in an all-black school.
The nickname “Black Jack” originated as a pejorative, coming from Pershing’s willingness to teach black students, and his service with the 10th Cavalry, the famed all-black “Buffalo Soldiers” of the post-Civil War era.
Much of Pershing’s tough nature and his views toward equality “came from Missouri, and certainly the period of time when he grew up in saying how prejudice can shape a society and warp and even pervert the true intentions of humanity,” McCoy said.
Intimidating but tender
Pershing, like many who served under him in World War I, was a reluctant soldier. He took a test for entry to West Point only after a younger sister noticed an ad in the local paper and said it was a good way for Pershing to get a higher education.
“He had an interesting career. He didn’t want to go into the military, he wanted to be a teacher,” Yockelson said. “But like most men at the time, he couldn’t afford it.”
He served as an attache in Japan. Two years before the war, he suffered great personal loss when his wife, Helen Frances Warren Pershing, a suffragette and daughter of a Wyoming senator, was killed in a fire, along with their three daughters. Only a son survived.
Pershing fought Pancho Villa’s raiders the year before World War I broke out. He then led the U.S. AEF to victory. His handsome and stern countenance, his refusal to put American troops under the command of foreign officers and his quick-to-the-trigger decision to remove commanders if he felt they were not measuring up created enduring images and historical takeaways of that war.
But in McCoy’s research, the documentarian has also found another side of Pershing that speaks to the complex demands of leadership. In letters to his wife and children, and later, in letters to a Romanian-born Parisian woman, Micheline Resco, whom he met during the war and established a relationship with that would last for the rest of his life, Pershing revealed a much different person.
The “ramrod and disciplinarian” public man “could be very intimidating,” McCoy said. But to his family and later, to his lover, “he was very tender.”
“In his own mind he had a vision of what that responsibility [of leadership] carried, and he was tireless in trying to make sure that he would uphold that position,” McCoy said. “Yet on the private side he was looking for a refuge where he could be with somebody that he could trust completely, and be himself, and be tender.
“And I think there is always a question: If a man shows they are tender and compassionate, is that a sign of weakness?” McCoy said. “And particularly, that is the case where they happen to be the prominent military leader in the country and maybe in the world, after World War I. Certainly those dichotomies were at work with Pershing.” Thanks Yahoo
Drama serial tracking the fortunes of a group of characters on the home front as they try to maintain normality while Britain is involved in the First World War.
23 December 1916
All episodes available on BBC iPlayer Radio (329 total), thanks, BBC
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