‘Remembrance must mark conscientious objectors’

Rev Norman Drummond: 'Outstanding courage'. Picture: Neil Hanna
Rev Norman Drummond: 'Outstanding courage'. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE former army chaplain in charge of Scotland’s Great War commemorations has acknowledged the “sacrifice” made by conscientious objectors.

Rev Norman Drummond signalled that Scottish Government events marking the 100th anniversary of the war will not overlook the role played by those who refused to go to war because of their beliefs.

Branded traitors at the time, many conscientious objectors were imprisoned and taunted by members of the public, with white feathers – the symbol of cowardice.

Next week will see the beginning of a series of events across the UK to remember all aspects of the Great War, which led to appalling loss of life.

Yesterday Mr Drummond, the former Parachute Regiment chaplain who chairs the Scottish Government’s commemorations panel, said: “Everyone in Scotland, not just those who enlisted in the armed forces, was touched by the First World War. Significant personal sacrifices were made not least by those who suffered as conscientious objectors, many of whom demonstrated outstanding courage in other ways.”

Mr Drummond added that the centenary commemorations will acknowledge how different people viewed the war in different ways. Forthcoming events will mark battles including those at Gallipoli, Loos, Jutland and Arras.

Also remembered will be domestic tragedies such as the Quintinshill rail disaster, which killed over 200 Royal Scots soldiers at Gretna Green, and the loss of HMY Iolaire, which saw at least 205 sailors perish as it sailed back to Stornoway after the war.

The events are intended to be thought-provoking and aim to encourage discussion of all topics related to the war, including those who refused to fight and the difficult subject of the men who were shot for desertion.

Mr Drummond said: “Scotland’s World War One commemorations will give the whole of the country the opportunity to reflect on how ‘the war that was meant to end all wars’ impacted on the country then and since.”

Sixteen-thousand individuals in the UK were recorded as conscientious objectors. Many did so on the grounds that their Christian belief forbade them from killing.

In Scotland, the Dyce Camp near Aberdeen was home to 250 conscientious objectors when it opened following the introduction of conscription in 1916.

The prisoners were forced to break rocks in a granite quarry and suffered the indignity of being branded as “degenerates” by the local press. Well-known conscientious objectors included Red Clydesider John Maclean.