Rowntree A-Z

Conscientious objectors, York and

World War I

Before WW1 between half and three-quarters of the pupils at Bootham School were connected with the Society of Friends in some way.  The number of boys attending the school did not reach 100 until 1918. Contrary to what might be assumed as a matter of course, several of the Quaker boys in fact did sign up alongside their non-Quaker friends.

As for old scholars fighting, as opposed to being in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, the following report published in 1915 is of interest (written by the Head, Arthur Rowntree, in a Special Report): “When the FAU was started near Dunkirk about one third of its men at the beginning were old Bootham boys. Though they had often been under shell fire, only one had been killed up to the time of writing. The President of the Old York Scholars Association had headed the work in France amongst the war victims and our old boys have been amongst his able allies. One hundred and thirty old boys have felt it right to join the colours, nearly two thirds of whom are not members of the Society of Friends and five of them have already laid down their lives. Others again have felt their service to consist in increased devotion to duty at home.”

Elsewhere in the report it is stated that the FAU first met at Jordans (Meeting House) in September 1914, under Philip (Noel-) Baker, an outstanding academic and diplomat, and campaigner for disarmament for which he won the Nobel Peace prize.


David Rubinstein, The Quaker Dilemma: The Rowntree Family and the Great War, 2015.

A good source of information about this subject is found in the archives at Bootham School, 

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