With the nations stuck in a deadly stalemate, why could no-one bring the war to an end?
There were peacemakers among the politicians but the war dragged on until millions were dead and both sides exhausted and impoverished. Perhaps the losses were too great and the enmity too fierce for any compromise to be acceptable. Perhaps the only possible outcomes were victory, however empty, or bitter defeat.
Before fighting started many religious groups, trades unions and socialists stood against the war, but once war was declared the vast majority of them supported it. Those that still opposed the war, such as the Quakers, faced hostility, but they founded organisations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation that would work for peace throughout the war and later.
A person who did not wish to fight could appeal to a Military Service Tribunal for release. Conscientious objectors whose appeals were rejected faced harsh and cruel measures including repeated arrests, imprisonment and beatings. It is estimated that in Britain about 80 conscientious objectors died as a result of the treatment they suffered.
After the war some jobs were advertised stating that ‘conscientious objectors need not apply’. But the struggles of the ‘conchies’ showed that the state did not rule the souls of its people.