HAVING read Julian Cole’s excellent column on March 6, ‘Family ties evoke shadows of war’, which included mention of his grandfather William Cole (a stretcher-bearer in the First World War who refused to fight), I was appalled to read that Julian had received spiteful letters referring to his ‘conchie’ grandfather.
A century on, and we haven’t learnt anything?
York Oral History Society is working on 285 interviews, recorded in about 1980 throughout the country, including York, by Dr Alf Peacock, warden of York Educational Settlement.
This summer we will be producing a book, exhibition, workshops and talks, and a commemorative event in July.
Thanks to a Heritage Lottery Grant, we have been able to get the recordings digitised and transcribed and we are collecting photographs to supplement the interviews.
The recordings are mostly with veterans who fought on the front line, but there are also a number with conscientious objectors.
Some of these joined the Quaker Friends’ Ambulance Unit but others had strong beliefs which did not allow them to aid the war in any way.
Two of these, Robert Rose and Percy Rosewarne, a York railwayman, went to prison.
This summer we will be commemorating these men who survived the war but who could not talk about their experiences for many many years, and eventually only to a comparative stranger.
And this includes conscientious objectors.
Van Wilson, Grange Garth, York.