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World War I
Conscription



Conscription
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.52

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    absolutists, conscription, court-martial, court-martialed, enrollment, exempt, manpower, objectors, battlefield, conscientious, execution, society, ninth, wounded, compulsory, refused
     content words:    World War, In England, Western Front, Great Britain, World War I., World War II, In America


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Conscription
By Jane Runyon
  

1     When World War I began in Europe, many men were willing to join the cause. In England, 3,000,000 men volunteered to fight during the first two years of the war. The war did not go well for the British, however. They suffered great losses among the troops fighting on the Western Front. The British government realized that the war was not going to end quickly. They knew that the troops already fighting were going to have to be replaced. The men on the front lines were dying. Some were wounded so badly that they couldn't continue fighting. Some just grew too tired of fighting to fight any more. The war started into its third year and volunteers were not coming in large enough numbers to fill the positions needed. The British government decided to do something drastic.
 
2     Conscription is a word that means compulsory enrollment. In other words, if you were in a certain age group or had a certain status in society, your name was put on a list of people who had to serve in the army. The first list of names the British army drew up contained only single men. If you were a single male living in Great Britain during 1916, you would be expected to serve a certain amount of time in the army. There were a few exceptions to this rule. A severe physical handicap, a serious medical condition, or a severe mental condition could exempt you from service. Very little else was accepted as an excuse for not serving. As an example, in 1917, a widow caring for a large family asked that one of her youngest sons be exempted from duty because she had no one to help her at home. She had seen her first ten sons go off to war. She asked that her eleventh be left alone. She was refused. Another man asked that his ninth son be exempted. He had sent eight other sons to the British army. The British command took pity on this man, but not for long. His son was allowed to stay home for three extra months. By the end of the war, married men in their fifties were conscripted into service. Manpower in Great Britain was getting scarce.
 
3     Not every man in England was anxious to be a part of the army. From the time conscription of soldiers began, about 16,000 men refused to be called into service. This group was given the name of conscientious objectors. They gave many reasons for not wanting to fight. About half of the 16,000 refused to fight anyone. They believed that killing any other person was wrong. These men were called "pacifists." They did serve their country. They carried stretchers on the battlefield. They served as nurses. They cooked. They filled many jobs that did not call for them to fight.

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