A First World War era photograph from our collections has thrown up an intriguing question… is this a group photograph of conscientious objectors in Breaston?
The photograph comes from collection D4978 ‘Breaston and Long Eaton Historical Notes’. Our catalogue entry for this photograph reads simply: ‘”COs” Group’, c.1910, and when the photograph was put onto the Picture the Past website the “COs” were assumed to be Commissioned Officers.
This interpretation has now been challenged by a couple of Picture the Past’s users (including an expert on conscientious objection), and there’s certainly good evidence to support the suggestion that they are conscientious objectors. If they were commissioned officers, wouldn’t they be in uniform? And why are some of the men holding what looks like newspaper front pages? Might these be copies of ‘The Tribunal’, a paper published by the Non-Conscription Fellowship?
On the other hand, why is there a man in uniform on either side of the group? They look like part of the group, not prison guards. Were they objectors taking a non-combative role? Many conscientious objectors became ambulance drivers, for instance, but these two men aren’t wearing red cross arm bands.
If anyone can solve the mystery, please leave a help us out by leaving a comment below…