Bristol’s Second Radical History Festival

Bristol Radical History Festival – May 6th 2018

Bristol has its second Radical History Festival at M Shed on Sunday May 6th. Thiis year’s festival marks the centenary of the end of World War 1 and the fiftieth anniversary of the momentous events in Paris in May 1968.

You can see the full programme of talks, films, performances & walks on the Bristol Radical History Group’s website here

The World War 1 strand has talks (and a film) as well as another chance to see the ‘On The Run’ puppet show about conscientious objectors.

Talks are:

Lois Bibbings on ‘Shot At Dawn’ – men shot for desertion and the campaign to pardon them. Full details here

Andy Comyn – The Art of Remembrance. Andy is the sculptor who made the Shot At Dawn memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum. Full details here

Ian Wright on conscientious objectors in the Forest of Dean. Full details here

Tony T & Julian Putkowski on the mutiny at Taranto. A showing of Tony’s film about this mutiny among the British West Indian Regiment in 1918 followed by a discussion. Full details here

Cyril Pearce on the ‘Men Who |Went Away’ – men whi went on the run to avoid conscription. Full details here

Full programme for the day here

For more information email

Central Library Talk On Conscientious Objectors

The (free) lunchtime talk at the Central Library on Thursday April 19th is by Lois Bibbings, Professsor of Law, Gender and History at the University of Bristol and member of Remembering the Real World War 1.

Refusing to Kill – Bristol’s WW1 Conscientious Objectors

Over 350 men from the Bristol area refused to fight in World War 1. They claimed the status of conscientious objector for moral, religious or political reasons. Some agreed to take non-military roles. Others spent much of the war in prison, often under harsh conditions. This illustrated talk tells the stories of these men and the people in the city who supported them.

Date: Thursday 19th April

Venue: Bristol Central Library,  College Green, Bristol BS1 5TL

Time: 12.30pm to 1.20pm

You can book for the talk on the Library’s Eventbritepage at

For more information email

World War 1’s Chinese Secret

Men Of The Chinese Labour Corps in France During WW1

140,000 Chinese men were brought to Europe as part of the Chinese Labour Corps of the British Army. They worked in difficult and hazardous conditions behind and in the trenches on the Western Front. After the war they were refused entry to Britain and shipped back to China. Under the Treaty of Versailles, the former German colonies in China were given to Japan.

Read more about the hidden history of the Chinese Labour Corps and the campaign to recognise their part in Britain’s war here

For more information email

Central Library Presents ‘On The Run’

On The Run

In collaboration with Remembering the Real World War 1 Otherstory Puppets have put together a puppet show ‘On The Run’ exploring the experiences of men who were on the run from conscription in World War 1.

Bristol Central Library are presenting a performance of the show on Tuesday 20th March

Doors open at 7.30pm at Bristol Central Library, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TL.

Tickets (£3 each) can be booked at your local library or via the Library’s Eventbrite page here.

Alongside the puppet show, there is a ‘Who Refused To Kill?‘ research workshop on Monday 26th March. Library staff and members of Remembering the Real World War 1 will show you how to access archive sources and online databases to find out about WW1 conscientious objectors

The workshop runs from 2pm to 4pm in the Public Meeting Room, at Bristol Central Library, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TL.

Places on the workshop are free but limited. You can book here or by calling 0117 9037250 or email

For further information email

Alice Wheeldon Play Comes To Bristol

Pacifists & Protesters

A couple of years ago Remembering The Real World War 1 held a meeting ‘Justice For Alice Wheeldon’. Chloe Mason – Alice’s great-grand-daughter – and Sheila Rowbotham told the story of the framing of Alice and her family for conspiracy to murder David Lloyd George in 1917 and the campaign to get her pardoned.

Now the Gloucester Theatre Company are staging a show ‘Pacifists & Protesters‘  This is made up of a new play ‘A Dangerous Woman‘ telling Alice’s story and a devised presentation, inspired by the words of poets, pacifists and other protesters. It comes to the Redgrave Theatre in Bristol on February 13th & 14th.

You can find full details, including how to book tickets on the Gloucester Theatre Company website.

Gloucester Theatre Company’s Facebook page is here.

For more information email

Conscientious Objectors In The Forest Of Dean

Ring Out the Thousand Wars of Old

Bristol Radical History Group has just published ‘Ring Out The Thousand Wars Of Old’, the story of the Forest of Dean’s World War 1 conscientious objectors.

During World War One, 28 men from the Forest of Dean sought recognition as conscientious objectors rather than be called up to fight. This is the story of these men, the options available to them, the way they responded and what they did after the war. Ring Out the Thousand Wars of Old explores the role that religion, class, culture and place had on these individual decisions. It argues that the actions of the conscientious objectors were an expression of a much wider anti-war sentiment, reflecting increasing war weariness as casualties mounted and opposition to conscription grew.

It can be purchased in several outlets locally and online. See Bristol Radical History Group website for details

For more information email

‘Refusing To Kill’ Exhibition Moves To Bristol Central Library

Refusing To Kill – Bristol Central Library

After four months in Bristol Cathedral, the exhibition ‘Refusing To Kill – Bristol’s World War 1 Conscientious Objectors‘ has moved next door to the Central Library. It will be on display there until February 2nd.

Alongside most of the material displayed in the Cathedral, we have added new exhibits. Some of our own, plus books and documents provided by Library staff from their own collections. We have a new photograph of Bristol COs held at Knutsford in 1918, a letter describing a serious attack on COs at Knutsford and a recently discovered letter from Mabel Tothill describing the work she and her colleagues were doing in 1918 to support Bristol COs.

If you haven’t seen the exhibition already, then get down to the Library before February 2nd. If you visited it in the Cathedral, you’ll still see learn more from a visit to the Library.

Library opening hours are on their website here

While the exhibition was in the Cathedral it was visited by thousands of people. Some already knew something about COs; to others it was a complete revelation. Almost all were overwhelmingly positive and appreciative of the display.

For more information email


A CONSCIENTIOUS CONCERT: The Music of Frank Merrick, World War 1 Conscientious Objector

CO Frank Merrick At The Piano

Date: Tuesday 2nd January 2018, Two performances at 13.15 & 15.30
Venue: Bristol Cathedral, College Green, BS1 5TJ
Pianist: Steven Kings   Soprano: Heather Ashford

No booking required
No admission charge but there will be a collection at each performance.

It will be possible to view the Refusing To Kill exhibition before both performances. Additional material about Frank Merrick wil be added to the exhibition for the occasion. The exhibition continues in Bristol Cathedral until January 8th. It will then transfer to the Central Library for several weeks.

For more information email

Visitors to the Refusing To Kill exhibition in Bristol Cathedral will have learnt about Frank Merrick and even heard his voice. With the support and involvement of Frank’s family we are now pleased to present a performance of some of his music.

Frank Merrick was 31 when he was arrested as an absentee from the Army in 1917. His conscientious objection was founded upon moral and political beliefs and was demonstrated by the fact that as a longstanding vegetarian he refused to kill a single living being. An absolutist conscientious objector, he spent his war in prison.

Born in Clifton, Frank was initially home educated. His talent as a pianist was soon noticed and he studied under Leschetizky in Vienna. In 1911 he went to teach at what was then the Royal Manchester College of Music where he became Professor of Music. Before the war he had been politically active in the fight for women to get the vote and had become a vegetarian, demonstrating a keen sense of social justice. In prison he managed to do a little composing (one of his Wormwood Scrubs pieces features in this concert) and he ‘practiced’ piano by pretending to play on a flat surface or pillow placed on his lap.

Eventually freed on 24th April 1919, Frank returned to the College in Manchester, later teaching at the Royal College of Music in London. In the 1960s he came back to Clifton, celebrating the 75th anniversary of his first public recital with a concert at the Victoria Rooms. In recognition of his work the University of Bristol awarded him a Masters in Music. In 1978 he was made CBE. He died in 1981 at the age of 94.

Maintaining his links with Bristol, his family lodged his papers with the University of Bristol. Several recordings of Frank’s performances were released on vinyl during his lifetime – a collection of these will, we hope, be reissued on CD in 2018.

Steven Kings

Steven Kings trained in piano and composition at St John’s College Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music. He has performed around the country as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, with a wide solo repertoire ranging from Scarlatti to Ligeti. He is a regular performer in Bristol, where he lives.

Steven Kings on Frank Merrick: “Frank Merrick’s music is lyrical and inventive, tonal in style but with some unusual chromaticism and harmonic colourings.”

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The Conscientious Would Not Go


The Conchie by Arthur W. Gay. By permission of the Peace Museum, Bradford.

The exhibition “Refusing To Kill – Bristol’s World War 1 Conscientious Objectors”  continues at Bristol Cathedral until January 8th. See here for details.

During its first two months, thousands of people have come to learn about the 350 men from the Bristol area who, for moral. religious and political reasons, refused to fight in World War 1.

On Saturday December 2nd, as part of a series of events linked to the exhibition, Revd. Dr. Clive Barrett will give a talk in the Cathedral titled The Conscientious Would Not Go – Christian Resistance to War, 1914-18

100 years ago thousands of men were arrested in Britain because of their refusal for moral, religious or political reasons to fight in World War 1. Many were imprisoned. Some of them, including members of the Church of England, refused on the basis of their faith. They believed it was wrong for them, as Christians, to fight. Clive Barrett explores some of these stories and looks at how they can inspire us to stand for peace today.

The talk begins at 1.30pm in the Chapter House.

The Revd. Dr. Clive Barrett belongs to the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and chairs the Peace Museum in Bradford, Yorkshire. His book ‘Subversive Peacemakers – War Resistance 1914-18, An Anglican Perspective‘ was published in 2014.

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Resistance to War: German Perspectives 1914-1933

An afternoon of talks looking at events in Germany during and after World War 1.

Date: Saturday November 11th 2017
Venue: Studio 1, M Shed,  Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN
Time: 1:30pm to 4:45pm
Getting there:

On November 11th, Armistice Day, nearly 100 years after the First World war ended, we traditionally mourn the British and allied dead. In fact, the war was a tragedy for all the peoples who took part and we should mourn all those who died.

In Britain, the remembrance ceremonies are accompanied by military parades which glamorise war. By implication, the sacrifices of previous generations are presented as an example to be followed by the present generation in the next war. This is a powerful and abiding idea, deep in the British psyche. In modern Europe with nations at peace with each other since 1945, this seems completely inappropriate and dangerous.

There were people on both sides who opposed the war at the time and said it was a waste of human life and resources. This November 11th, Remembering The Real World War 1 brings you three talks telling the little-known story of some of those Germans who opposed war between 1914 and 1933.

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Karl Liebknecht speaking at an anti-war rally – November 1918

Making a stand: German opposition to World War One

Speaker: Ingrid Sharpe

During and after the First World War, ‘German’ and ‘Germany’ became bywords for militarism and a hundred years later commemoration of the First World War centenary can sometimes give the impression that the war was accepted without opposition in Germany, and that the First World War was fought without any dissenting German voices. This talk will look beyond German militarism at the various forms of anti-war resistance practiced by German citizens, including those conscripted into the German army.

Before the war, there were social, political and religious forces against militarism that were largely suppressed but not destroyed by military censorship. The terrible experience of war also created new opposition among the scientists, politicians and soldiers who participated in it and a small but determined minority within the organised women’s movement formed international links across enemy lines to speak out against the war and to influence the peace processes.

Ingrid Sharpe is Professor of German Cultural and Gender History at the University of Leeds, with a particular research emphasis on the First World War and Weimar Germany.  She leads the Resistance to War strand of the Legacies of War project and her interests include resistance to war by groups and individuals, especially within the organised women’s movement. She leads a project on women’s role in the German Revolution of November 1918 that will lead to a new play to be performed in the UK and Germany in 2018 war resistance, gender, women’s groups, commemoration and the German Revolution 1918.

Mutinying German Servicemen – October 1918

How to stop a war: The German servicemen’s revolt of 1918

Speaker: Roger Ball of Bristol Radical History Group

The German revolution of 1918-20 and its violent suppression is a little known event in the British popular memory. Where it is described the narrative typically commences with the mutiny of sailors from the German High Seas fleet over the first few days of November 1918. However, the numerous actions against the continuation of the war by hundreds of thousands of German soldiers on the western front during the preceding summer, have been exposed in recent years through the work of historian Nick Howard.

Drawing extensively on the research and writings of Howard, this talk exposes the scale and content of this resistance, which developed from refusals, desertion and mutiny to the formation of Soldiers’ Councils, the organisational cells of the revolution that followed. It also charts the extraordinary events in ‘occupied’ Belgium where, in the autumn of 1918, nationalist war transformed into internationalist civil war.

Demonstration In Bavaria 1919

Remembering my father: from the Bavarian workers rising of 1918 to resisting the rise of the Nazis.

Speaker: Merilyn Moos

Merilyn will tell the story of her father, Siegfried Moos, who was involved in key political events in Germany between 1918 and 1933 – from the defeat of the Bavarian revolutuion of 1918/9 by the anti-Communist Freikorps, Siegfried recognised the danger the early Nazi party formed and was deeply involved in the almost forgotten resistance to the Nazis pre-1933. He was active in a number of organisations associated with the German Communist Party, such as the Red Front who opposed the Nazis on the streets, sports organisations, humanist clubs and of course agit-prop theatre. Unlike many of his comrades, Siegfried lived to fight another day, leaving Germany in 1933 to live in the UK.

Merilyn Moos was born in Oxford to Siegfried Moos and Lotte Moos, anti-Nazi activists and communists from Germany, who escaped from Hitler’s regime to England in 1933. Merilyn’s book Beaten but not Defeated (Zero Books, 2014) is a biography about her father and the story of his early life and the trauma of the loss of his family that he was reluctant to share with his children.

For more information on this event email