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WW1 Conscientious Objectors In Prison Made Toilet Paper Journal 'The Winchester Whisperer'

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Conscientious objectors who were imprisoned for their beliefs during the First World War kept in touch with each other in prison by circulating a journal handwritten on toilet paper.

The story behind the secret newsletter which was passed around at Winchester Prison is told in a new BBC film and radio documentary as part of a season of programmes looking at the impact of the war on life in the UK.

The paper, called The Winchester Whisperer, would be handed around the "conchies" for news and entertainment, with articles, sketches and poetry submitted by inmates to their editor.

conscientious objectors

Another group of conscientious objectors in Dartmoor who were put to work

They would test their ingenuity to write and illustrate the pages, using ink from their regular allocation which had been saved in thimbles sealed within blocks of wax for later use. The end of a needle was used to apply the ink to the sheets which were then bound together with the canvas from mailbags.

Prison warders were unable to locate any copies of the Winchester Whisperer, and the only surviving edition is now housed at the Society of Friends library in London.

Due to its fragility the copy is rarely brought out but researchers from BBC South have been allowed to see the manuscript for the making of World War One At Home, a series of 1,400 stories gathered from around the UK to be broadcast on regional TV and local radio from February 24 to 28.

The story will feature on BBC Radio Solent on 27 February and later that day on BBC South Today.

David Blake, the Friends' head of library and archives, said: "It's an amazing document - the effort that has gone into it, the skill that is there. Clearly these were people who felt very strongly about the issues and they were prepared to be in prison at the time."

The BBC's World War One At Home on will also feature on BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland and there will be further stories online at www.bbc.co.uk/ww1.

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