Current Displays

A programme of free displays throughout the four-year centenary will provide opportunities to explore a range of themes, sitters and artists associated with the First World War. Future displays include images of conscientious objectors (June 2016 – February 2017) and VC Recipients (February – October 2017) and a selection of classical composers and musicians that responded to the conflict (2018).

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, by Hugh Cecil (Hugh Cecil Saunders), mid-late 1910s - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell
by Hugh Cecil (Hugh Cecil Saunders)
mid-late 1910s
NPG x46605

Conscientious Objectors of the First World War

21 June 2016 - 5 February 2017
Room 31: case display

This display marks one hundred years since the introduction of conscription by Herbert Asquith's government, in March 1916. As huge losses on the Western Front left the British army in need of more men, the Military Service Act required all unmarried men between eighteen and forty-one to defend their country. Those who refused to fight were called conscientious objectors (COs). Objecting on moral or religious grounds led to non-combatant roles in civilian work of national importance: labouring on farms or in aid posts. Some volunteered to drive field ambulances, but failure to serve in any capacity meant imprisonment.

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