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The Courage of Cowards (Hardback)

The Untold Stories of First World War Conscientious Objectors

Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History WWI > Home Front

By Karyn Burnham
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 134
ISBN: 9781781592953
Published: 30th April 2014
Last Released: 7th April 2014



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To many they were nothing more than cowards, but the 'conchies' of the First World War had the courage to stand by their principles when the nation was against them...

An innovative new history of conscientious objectors during the First World War. Drawing on previously unpublished archive material, Karyn Burnham reconstructs the personal stories of several men who refused to fight, bringing the reader face-to-face with their varied, often brutal, experiences.

Charles Dingle: Defying his father's wishes by objecting to military service, Charles joins the Friends Ambulance Unit and finds himself in the midst of some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

Jack Foister: Jack, a young student, cannot support the war in any way. Imprisoned and shipped secretly out to France, Jack has no idea what lengths the military will go to in order to break him.

James Landers: A Christian and pacifist, James faces a dilemma: if he sticks to his principles, he faces imprisonment but if he joins the Non Combatant Corps he can financially support his family.

Gripping accounts reveal the traumatic and sometimes terrifying events these men went through and help readers to discover what it was really like to be a conscientious objector.

As seen in the Northern Echo, Ilkley Gazette, Ripon Gazette, Wetherby News, Kent & Sussex Courier and Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

Also seen in Essence and Discover Your History magazines.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in social history and WW1. Conscientious objectors are often ignored or forgotten but this book allows their stories to be told, and for people to recognise the courage that they really had. Burnham interweaves the historical facts with the personal stories of conscientious objectors which, accompanied by fictionalised accounts, makes this book an easy and enjoyable read.

Read the full review here

That Herstorian

Karyn Burnham article on a First World War archival discovery, where her book The Courage of Cowards is mentioned

WDYTYA? Magazine, May 2017

As featured in part of author article

WDYTYA? Magazine, September 2016

As featured in.

Your Family History June 2016

As featured in

Kent & Sussex Courier

As seen in the Manchester Evening News.

Manchester Evening News

A welcome telling of the stories of the men who felt compelled not to fight. While the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War focusses minds on the men who served, it should never be forgotten that there were those who endured many years of being pilloried, imprisonment and even death.

The Great War Magazine

Using the techniques of fiction writing, Burnham cleverly and movingly reconstructs the personal stories of several men who refused to fight, bringing the reader face-to-face with the varied, often brutal, consequences of their action. A fascinating untold story of the First World War.

Harrogate Advertiser

The Great War did not just take place on the battlefield and the events on the home front are sometimes overshadowed by the big battles. Not every man was a soldier either and for many military service was a matter of concious – and this new book looks at the untold stories of First World War concious objectors. It covers a wide range of subjects for the terrible treatment some of them received to those who served in the Non Combatant Corps and Friends Ambulance Units. It is a very readable and accessible book with some good first hand accounts from COs and for anyone who is unfamiliar with the subject it is a very good introduction.

WW1 Centenary

A fascinating insight into the hurdles overcome by some truly brave men during the First World War – conscientious objectors

Simon Fowler, author of Tracing Your First World War Ancestors.

Told in an accessible and immediate style without sentimentalising the facts.

The Bookseller
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About Karyn Burnham

Karyn Burnham lives in North Yorkshire and gave up full time work a few years ago to concentrate on writing. Since then, she has written The Courage of Cowards: The Untold Stories of First World War Conscientious Objectors, published in 2014 by Pen and Sword Books and has also written for several national magazines and contributed articles to history websites.

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