As the war raged on at the Western Front, back in Aberdeen a plan to create the first work camp for those men who chose not to fight was put in place.
By 1916 the question of how to handle the conscientious objectors – men refusing to fight on the grounds of conscience, religion or other personal reasons – could no longer be ignored.
Prior to 1916, the men had been held in prisons or even executed by the military. Fearful of the potential backlash from the public, the government decided they needed to come up with a solution.
Dr Chris Croly, historian and project officer at Aberdeen University, said: “Dyce was the first work camp for conscientious objectors in the country.
“There were different levels of conscientious objectors.
“Many of the men who refused to fight would still work as stretcher bearers or in some other capacity. However, there were those that were absolutists and refused to take part at all.
“The Government didn’t know how to manage them.
“The military wanted to make an example of these men. They would ship them to the French town of Boulogne – where military law was in force and where they would be sentenced to be shot.
“When this eventually got back to Parliament, the conscientious objectors were returned to the UK, but nobody really knew how to deal with them.”
It was eventually decided that the men would be shipped to Dyce, where a work camp was created.
In August 1916, the first conscientious objectors, or conchies, arrived.
Chris said: “They wanted the work camp to be far from prying eyes, so they picked Aberdeen.
“The men were made to do either low-level clerical work or hard labour – interestingly, the majority chose the hard labour.
“Eight or nine of the men actually built the roads leading to Aberdeen Airport.
“The men slept in huts or tents. Those who could afford it could take lodgings in Dyce as well.
“There was a huge amount of vocal interest in the camps and local complaints about it.
“The camp attracted a lot of negative publicity.”
Although the conditions at the camp were considered acceptable – if very basic – the majority of men would catch a cold upon arrival.
In September 1916, 20-year-old Walter Roberts died from pneumonia, setting off a series of complaints about conditions that would lead to the camp’s closure.
Labour MP – and future Prime Minister – Ramsay MacDonald visited the camp and campaigned in parliament for better conditions to be put in place.
Eventually it was announced on October 19 that the camp was to close.
Chris said: “The camp officially closed in November. It was the first attempt made at dealing with the conscientious objectors.
“Many things conspired against the camp and it was only open for a few months. The government were experimenting – they had never found themselves in this position before.
“It really drives home how different a time it was. These men stood up for what they believed in.
“The courage involved to do that and face such hatred from the public is amazing.
“It’s arguable that these men were simply ahead of their time.”