Conscience Matters

Tobias Kelly (Developer), Laura Major (Developer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


The reintroduction of conscription meant that British citizens were expected to contribute directly to the war effort. To gain exemptions from conscription on the grounds of conscience, individuals were required to appear before a tribunal and produce evidence about their honesty and commitment to their principles.

During the Second World War, over 60,000 men and women chose not to fight for religious, political or moral reasons.

Following the stories of conscientious objectors including Scottish author, Fred Urquhart, and poet, Edwin Morgan, the exhibition examines the application process, the reasons people had for opposing conscription, and what happened to them as a result.

If successful in their application, conscientious objectors could be exempted from national service altogether, or more commonly assigned to other non-combatant roles such as bomb disposal, hospital work or agricultural labour. Some of those whose applications were unsuccessful were ultimately imprisoned.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019


  • conscription
  • national service
  • conscientious objection


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