Courage of Conscience



Courage of Conscience Logo - Alt1

Propeace Chesterfield has been awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund through their First World War: then and now programme. The money will fund an exciting local project called Courage of Conscience which will discover and celebrate the stories of Derbyshire conscientious objectors, other resisters to the war, and their families.

Local and national research is the first phase of the project. So the group would be delighted to hear from local people about their stories of resistance to World War 1. Nationally there were 16,000 conscientious objectors, who refused to fight, for religious, ethical or political reasons. These brave and principled men often suffered great hostility from families and communities, and had to make their case before tribunals which usually refused them. Their fate varied from working with ambulance corps, imprisonment or the death sentence.
Despite the contempt they were shown at the time, a number of the COs later became respected for their principled opposition to the war including George Benson who was Labour MP for Chesterfield for most of the period between 1929 and 1964.

The Courage of Conscience project kicks off with two public meetings about local stories of resistance to the war and how everyone can help to find out more to contribute to the archives. The first will be at Chesterfield Labour Club on Saturday 29 November 2014, at 7pm, when Ben Copsey, Project Officer at the Peace Pledge Union, will talk about George Benson and others imprisoned for their stand, whose stories are held in the records of the Peace Pledge Union. Everyone is welcome to attend. See listings and advert for more information.

And at 1.00 p.m. on Saturday 17 January 2015 at Chesterfield Library Cyril Pearce, retired lecturer from Leeds University and authority on First World War conscientious objectors, will speak about his extensive research and how to explore local resources for more information. He is the author of “Comrades in Conscience” and has compiled a database of Conscientious Objectors, which he will explain.

Using the research, River Wolton, a former Derbyshire poet laureate will work with young writers in Derbyshire to create their own responses. If you are between 16 and 30 and this interests you please email us at

Gertie Whitfield from Whitworks will also be creating history and drama materials based on the real experiences for use in classrooms in local schools. Finally the information will be available through a new Courage of Conscience website, the Propeace website, and the Derbyshire Record Office „ Derbyshire Lives in the First World War‟ website.
Sue Owen from PropeaceChesterfield said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for our Courage of Conscience project. We hope to raise awareness about the brave men and women who went against the national tide of opinion and enormous government and public pressure, and remained true to their principles by opposing the war and refusing to take up arms. We are really keen to hear from anyone who has any information about the conscientious objectors in Derbyshire, or would like to do research or be involved in the project in any way, so please get in touch with us.”
Sue can be contacted by email at

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 36,000 projects with more than £6 billion across the UK. Follow us on twitter @heritagelottery #understandingWW1

2016-18 Courage of Conscience exhibition tourCofC exhibition at Chesterfield Library

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