Published for the first time, this private collection of Wilfrid Littleboy’s First World War letters tells the story of how this middle-class British accountant came to be imprisoned, and what happened to him inside. The letters follow Wilfrid’s decision as an absolutist conscientious objector to voluntarily go to prison in 1917 rather than join the armed forces. He served his prison sentences cheerfully, with an abiding faith in his choice, and an increased awareness of working-class politics. With an introduction and epilogue, Wilfrid’s letters bring to life the realities of conscience, military discipline, and early twentieth-century prisons. The letters are uplifting and engaging, vividly telling the story of hope through faith, books and nature, alongside the daily endurance of prison conditions in wartime Britain. Wilfrid Littleboy went on to hold national Quaker leadership positions in the UK. His experience as a CO helped sustain in British law the right to conscientiously object to war, and influenced Quaker discernment on conscription and conflict during the Second World War and beyond.
Dr Rebecca Wynter is a historian of medicine, and Ben Pink Dandelion is Professor of Quaker Studies, both at the University of Birmingham.