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Exhibition National War Museum

Conscience Matters

8 Mar 2019 - 26 Jan 2020

Free

This exhibition at the National War Museum explores the little-known story of British conscientious objectors of the Second World War through paintings, poems, letters, music and speeches.

The reintroduction of conscription meant that British citizens were expected to contribute directly to the war effort. To gain exemptions from conscription on the grounds of conscience, individuals were required to appear before a tribunal and produce evidence about their honesty and commitment to their principles. 

During the Second World War, over 60,000 men and women chose not to fight for religious, political or moral reasons.

Following the stories of conscientious objectors including Scottish author, Fred Urquhart, and poet, Edwin Morgan, the exhibition examines the application process, the reasons people had for opposing conscription, and what happened to them as a result.

If successful in their application, conscientious objectors could be exempted from national service altogether, or more commonly assigned to other non-combatant roles such as bomb disposal, hospital work or agricultural labour. Some of those whose applications were unsuccessful were ultimately imprisoned. 

Conscience Matters is the result of a major research project into conscientious objectors in Britain led by the University of Edinburgh.

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Getting here

National War Museum
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh
EH1 2NG

 

Map and directions

Access

We want everyone who comes to our museums to enjoy their time with us and make the most of their visit. 

  • An adapted courtesy vehicle is available at the Castle's admissions kiosk to take visitors with mobility difficulties, including wheelchair users, to the Museum and other parts of the Castle.
  • The Museum itself has a level entrance and wheelchairs are available for loan at no charge.
  • There is a public lift between the two floors and seating is available throughout.
  • Adapted toilets are also available.
  • Find out more about access information.

Images © Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.

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