Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Order of the White Feather

This is a replica of a "certificate" from the so called "Ancient and Disloyal Order of the White Feather." Some patriotic women felt that young and able men who had not enlisted to fight were cowards and hoped to shame them into action by handing them a white feather as a symbol of cowardice. In fact, many of those who were not fighting were medically unfit, working in essential occupations, had fought and been discharged with injuries that were not obvious, and so on. Many conscientious objectors did serve as stretcher bearers and medics rather than fight. 

The words handwritten around the edge of this "certificate" read

You dirty cowardly skunk. When heroes return you will know it. The finger of scorn will be pointed at you coward.

Source: Story of Leicester Website


  1. The men fighting at the front did not hold with much of the crap that went on in England. As noted many men wanting to enlist especially in the industrial cities of England were rejected because of Ricketts. Others who had enlisted were discharged because of their expertise was needed in the war industries. Still others wounded or were time expired. British soldiers were being discharged as late as 1915 because their enlistment papers ran out and the law specified they be sent home.

  2. I wonder in which countries such actions could occur today.

  3. Sassoon implicitly criticized this kind of action in his poem "The Glory of Women," neatly stereotyping all women in his own turn.

  4. Quite different from Vietnam Marine Sniper Carlos Hathcock's White Feather.