In June 1916, as his brother Philip was on the way to the Somme, Bert Brocklesby was in prison under sentence of death. He had refused to fight in the First World War.
In this thoughtful, compelling and poignant book, Will Ellsworth-Jones tells the remarkable and little-known story of courageous men like Bert Brocklesby, who defied both brutal incomprehension from the military, and the white feathers waved at them in the street, to leave a lasting legacy: the freedom to voice unpopular beliefs and to challenge those who decide to take us to war.
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Introduction): In the middle of June 1916 Philip Brocklesby, a young second lieutenant freshly promoted from the ranks, landed in Boulogne along with a hundred other newly trained officers.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 46): At the end of August 1914 Admiral Charles Penrose-Fitzgerald persuaded thirty young women to hand out white feathers to every young 'slacker' on the seafront at Folkestone, to remind those 'deaf or indifferent to their country's needs' that British soldiers were fighting and dying across the Channel.'
MY THOUGHTS: After a bit of a slow start of what seemed liked a list of names, dates and places this became a truly fascinating read in which the author explored the journey of some of the first known conscientious objectors, some of whom agreed to non-combatant work, some of whom refused to 'help' the war effort in any way, shape or form, all of them men prepared to risk much, some of them their lives, for their beliefs.
Using a vast array of letters, many of them unpublished, diaries, memoirs and interviews, We Will Not Fight also takes a look at the men and women who were with and against the objectors. My favourite section, albeit a very harrowing one, being about the phenomenon that saw (mostly) young women giving white feathers* to men out of uniform believing them to be 'shirkers' or cowards.
Not just a military history, so much more than a story of war, this is a very human story and a fitting tribute to a group of determined men with very strong beliefs.
KEEP IT OR NOT: Ex-library stock, I'll be passing this on to a friend who I know will enjoy it.
*Read more HERE.