Matt Brosnan
Wednesday 20 June 2018

Max Plowman (1883-1941) was a British Army officer and writer who served on the Western Front during the First World War. He is perhaps best known for his 1928 memoir of his war experiences A Subaltern on the Somme, published under the pseudonym ‘Mark VII’.

Despite being morally opposed to the fighting, Plowman reluctantly volunteered to join the British Army in late 1914. While serving as an officer with the Yorkshire Regiment on the Somme in 1916, he was concussed by an artillery shell. Deemed to be suffering from shellshock, he was sent to an auxiliary unit of Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, a psychiatric hospital for officers. The war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were also both treated at Craiglockhart.

During his convalescence, Plowman wrote a poetry collection and a pamphlet called The Right to Live. He also sent a statement to his battalion resigning his commission based on his moral and religious conscientious objection to war. Plowman was subsequently court martialled and dismissed from the Army. After then becoming subject to conscription, he successfully registered as a conscientious objector.

‘Reasons for Resigning’ is Max Plowman’s copy of the 3 page document he sent to his battalion in January 1918 to resign his commission. It clearly expresses his religious and moral conscientious objection to war.
© The Plowman Estate.
‘Reasons for Resigning’ is Max Plowman’s copy of the 3 page document he sent to his battalion in January 1918 to resign his commission. It clearly expresses his religious and moral conscientious objection to war.
© The Plowman Estate.
‘Reasons for Resigning’ is Max Plowman’s copy of the 3 page document he sent to his battalion in January 1918 to resign his commission. It clearly expresses his religious and moral conscientious objection to war.
© The Plowman Estate.

In the interwar years, Plowman published his influential memoir and was a prominent pacifist campaigner with the Peace Pledge Union.

Max Plowman’s original ‘Reasons for Resigning’ is on display at IWM London. Visit IWM London and learn about conscientious objectors and other peace movements from the First World War to the present day.

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