Painstaking research by a Huddersfield historian is being used in a pioneering project on the First World War.
For the first time the most comprehensive record of conscientious objectors who refused to fight in the conflict is being made available on a digital memorial run by the Imperial War Museum.
To mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, a register of more than 16,500 records of men who refused to go to war has been added to the data and can be found at https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org.
The register has been compiled by Cyril Pearce from Golcar over the past 20 years.
His research – known as The Pearce Register – has been sourced from documents, letters, images, tribunal and diaries to create the world’s most comprehensive list of First World War conscientious objectors.
And the work has now gone on to the Imperial War Museum’s tribute - Lives of the First World War, launched in 2014 to mark the centenary of the Great War.
Millions of life stories have been remembered and shared on the memorial with more than 67,000 people contributing.
Now, Lives of the First World War wants people to help complete these records by adding more information, facts and photos of those who opposed active service on moral, religious or political grounds.
Cyril, a former lecturer at Leeds University, has penned a book called Comrades in Conscience which opens a window on Huddersfield at the time and the social tensions which erupted when military difficulties led to conscription.
The book was well received when it was first published in 2001. A later edition was released in 2014 and this was widely thought to be more ‘reader friendly’.
Pearce’s Register features stories such as that of William Harrison from Bradford who was sentenced to hard labour in Wormwood Scrubs. He was not freed until 1919.
Cyril said: “I am delighted to be contributing the register to the IWM’s permanent digital memorial Lives of the First World War. Ahead of the centenary of conscription I hope many more people will contribute to the work I’ve already done and that thousands more will learn about this alternative history of the First World War.”
IWM Director-General Diane Lees said: “We launched Lives of the First World War a year ago and since then we have added millions of records. Now, with the inclusion of The Pearce Register, we can realise our vision to create a memorial to every man and woman who contributed to society during this conflict.
“We are grateful to Cyril for sharing his work with us and we hope many more people will contribute to the unique and fascinating life stories of the conscientious objectors who risked so much on principle, political or religious grounds.”