Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Peace witness

I've just come back from a silent peace vigil in Buxton's main shopping street.

We were there to draw attention to Europe's largest arms fair (Defence and Security International) which is beginning in London today. We were there, too,  in solidarity with all those protesting outside DSEI. Here's another link.

DSEI is promoting the sale of arms that cause death and destruction for thousands of innocent civilians all over the world. 

The British government sends out formal invitations to countries, including those with a known record of human rights abuse, internal repression, and external aggression: they invite countries that the government itself considers to be a human rights concern, namely Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Iraq. 

These were some of our placards:


It was easy to stand silently for an hour holding these signs. I've done it often in Bakewell with other placards - for Remembrance weekend and Hiroshima Day.

But I've been thinking lately about my Quaker grandfather, who was a Conscientious Objector in WW1. He went to a Military Tribunal and was fortunate to be granted absolute exemption, presumably because he was a pacifist on religious grounds.

But his life and that of my grandmother throughout the war must have been so difficult. They lived in West Hartlepool which was bombarded by German warships in December 1914. 130 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or damaged and many of those hit are still scarred by pieces of shrapnel embedded in the walls. More than 1,100 shells rained down on the shipbuilding town.

The attack galvanised the local people, with 22,000 men joining up, a huge proportion of the population, and many more men and women working in the shipyards and munitions factories.

The other result was that Hartlepool, on three occasions, won awards for raising the most money per head of population of any place in the British Empire for the war effort. The equivalent today would be £545million.

I'm thinking it would be hard enough being a CO in WW1, but to be one working in Hartlepool as a bank clerk, a public position, must have required huge stoicism. I have imagined him being ostracised, denied promotion for years and years, and much much worse.

This is his exemption certificate:

Matthew's cert 1

matthew's cert 2 

I honour him.

by William Stafford


marmee said...

Such courage to hold to his principles in those times!

Susan D said...