Elinor Kelly: ‘The Loneliness of Conscience – Herefordshire Conscientious Objectors in WW1’

(Elinor Kelly is an independent researcher who is drafting a history of a century of conscientious objection from 1916 to 2016)

Having traced 58 Conscientious Objectors in Herefordshire, for many of whom there is only sketchy detail, the issue that stands out is how lonely they frequently were. Partly this is because of the rural nature of Herefordshire with no industrial centres, so the population was scattered across the county on farms and smallholdings. But it is also the result of lack of local support – there are traces of Quaker networks in operation but the No Conscription Fellowship had no branch within the county. Much important data has been lost, even the account of the brutal regime in Hereford Gaol was uncovered by chance, by the grandson of the commandant who so detested the COs. Nonetheless it has been possible to piece together fragments and draw out a profile of Herefordshire COs that is distinctive of the county.