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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Not Forgotten: The Men Who Wouldn’t Fight, Channel 4

Did we like it?
Ian Hislop is proving to be an excellent documentary frontman. The series of Not Forgotten and his recent BBC programmes on railways and Scouts have all been excellent, with exactly the right weight of approach to the subjects.

What was good about it?
• While TV has been dominated this week by serving war heroes, this documentary stuck up for the the conscientious objectors who refused to fight in World War One, men who were not cowards but had strong principles and refused to be blinkered by blind faith.
• Hislop's history lesson, telling us that the 16,000 “conchies” could be broken down into two groups – the absolutists, who refused to do play any part in the war, and the alternatists, who worked but did not bear arms on the warfront.
• Hislop told four heart-wrenching stories: Bert Brocklesby insisted God had not put him on earth to destroy his children and was imprisoned; Ronald Skirth, a soldier who sabotage his own side's afforts to blow the enemy to smithereens after being moved by a photograph he found in a dead German's pocket; andJohn and Arthur Hunter who were shunned by their Army colonel father, never spoke to them again.

What was bad about it?
• Listening to the The Conscientious Objectors' Lament, a nasty little number composed to humiliate those who stood their ground.
• Hislop's grey chest hair was on display again.

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