As mentioned previously in other posts, despite our focus on certain aspects of the wartime era, we ourselves are pacifists (hence “pacific” land girls).
Therefore, in honor of Armistice / Remembrance Day yesterday, we’d like to pay tribute to the conscientious objectors (sometimes nicknamed “conchies”) of World War I and World War II, who often suffered very greatly for their commitment to pacifist ideals and practices.
Of particular note is Benjamin Joseph Salmon, a conscientious objector during the First World War.
As a result of his deep religious and humanitarian convictions, Salmon refused to take up arms, and as a consequence was arrested, imprisoned, sentenced to hard labor, forced into a sanitorium, and tortured.
In his own words:
“When human law conflicts with Divine law, my duty is clear. Conscience, my infallible guide, impels me to tell you that prison, death, or both, are infinitely preferable to joining any branch of the Army.”
That such a person was not permitted the freedom to follow his own conscience is truly disgraceful, in our view.
On a related note, it’s worth pointing out that the Women’s Land Army sometimes served as a place where those with pacifist convictions could make meaningful contributions, without bearing arms. The following is from the reminiscences of Mary Cooper, a WWII land girl:
“I joined the Women’s Land Army in June 1942. Women were shortly to be conscripted and I did not want to join the Forces, mainly because I’d been influenced by the ideas of the Quakers and the beliefs of conscientious objectors. But I was keen to leave home, full of romantic ideas. The WLA seemed the perfect solution. And in many ways it was.”
(Copyright: WW2 People’s War, an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar)
Finally, it was in 1948 that the rights of conscientious objectors were officially recognized by the United Nations, via the following statement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
~ the Green girls ☮