In January 1916 it was becoming clear to the British government that they needed more soldiers to fight the war, and on the 27th January men between the ages of 18 to 41 were ‘conscripted’ into the British Army, which means they were made by law to join the army to fight.
Not everybody wanted to do this, and a group of people called ‘Conscientious objectors’ (called ‘CO’s) who didn’t believe in fighting for religious or other reasons, decided to stand up against the government by refusing to fight.
This caused a great deal of public outrage, with many people believing that the COs had done it because they were scared, while really it was because many of them thought that fighting and killing other men was a bad thing.
Some members of the public felt very strongly about this because their own relatives were fighting, getting injured and dying in the war and even handed out white feathers to indicate that the CO was a coward.
This was a very difficult time for both the COs, the members of the public and even the Government who had to deal with what many people thought was a direct challenge to the Conscription laws.
This led to some COs being imprisoned, and others choosing to join the army in a ‘non-combatant’ role such as stretcher bearers, which allowed them to join their fellow British soldiers without having to fire a rifle at anybody.