Conscientious Objectors Memorial

On 15 May the Opposing War Memorial design was unveiled at a launch event following the fourth annual International Conscientious Objectors Day Vigil in Edinburgh.

Following the offer of a site in Princes St Gardens, a World Heritage site that is visited by millions of people civil society groups and peace campaigns, coordinated by the Peace & Justice Centre, invited four artists to engage with stakeholders and submit designs for a memorial to COs and all who oppose wars.

Edinburgh based artist Kate Ive’s design has been selected and a maquette was unveiled at the launch event. The sculpture will be notably different from the numerous war memorials in Princes St Gardens which place an heroic figure on a plinth.

Instead it is an inclusive and intriguing sculpture that encourages exploration and further enquiry. It offers a space for and invites reflection on alternatives to war like peacebuilding and conflict resolution. The process will include opportunities to participate in workshops and create embroidered handkerchiefs some of which will be turned into bronzed “Bracts” or flowers that will decorate the bronze tree and represent COs and individuals and organisations that oppose war.

Visit the Memorial website for more images and info on how you can get involved and support the Memorial.

DONATE to the Opposing War Memorial

We raised £16,000 to run the design competition for the Memorial sculpture.  Now we are seeking a further £125,000 funding for the completion technical drawings, submission to the City, running workshops for community involvement, casting and finally installation of the Memorial itself. We’re looking to raise £45,000 of that total in donations from individuals.

Donations to the fund can be made by Bank or Credit Card, by Bank Transfers or by cheques made out to Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre and designated Opposing War Memorial.

Make a one off donation by bank or credit card: Donate to us through BT MyDonate

 

 

 

Cheques can be posted to Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre, CO Memorial Fund, 5 Upper Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2JN. Account details for Bank Transfer are as follows:

Bank of Scotland Account Name: Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre Reference: CO Memorial
Account: 00207018 / Sort Code: 80-11-30

Background

Following approval of our petition for a memorial to conscientious objectors Parks and Green Space officials of the City of Edinburgh have been directed by Council to work with us to find a suitable location for the memorial.

Our proposal for a site in Edinburgh’s Princes St Gardens will be considered for approval when we submit the design.  Princes St Gardens, a World Heritage site which is visited by millions of people annually, is home to numerous war memorials and adjacent to Edinburgh Castle and the National War Memorial.

Those who died in wars are well represented in public space across Britain but the voices of those who oppose wars are practically invisible. The  presence of a memorial to conscientious objectors in this location will be a respectful counterpoint to the assumption of the necessity of war inherent in these many memorials to those who have lost their lives. It will raise awareness of the fact that Britain was the first country in the world to establish in law a right to conscientious objection, a right which has come to be recognised by all European countries but one and will recall the significant history of resistance to the First World War and all wars in Scotland. And the Memorial will be a highly visible space for reflection, not only on peacebuiding and conflict resolution as alternatives to war, but on the values of dissent and diversity of opinion inherent in conscientious objection and fundamental to democracy.

Conscientious Objection in the UK

Scotland and Edinburgh have many war memorials but we also have a rich history of conscientious objection and resistance to war and militarism which deserves to be recognised publicly.

COs at Wakefield Prison WW2. Photo credit: Imperial War Museum

COs at Wakefield Prison WW2. Photo credit: Imperial War Museum

Nearly 20,000 men refused conscription in the First World War and 60,000 did so in the Second World War. Most paid a price for following the dictates of their consciences. First World War COs were vilified in their communities. 6000 went to prison and were subjected to harsh treatment, poor diet, often stripped naked, put in solitary for months on a diet of bread and water. Many went on hunger strike in protest at conditions and were force fed. 73 died.

Many Conscientious Objectors were subjected to Field Punishment No. 1

Many Conscientious Objectors were subjected to Field Punishment No. 1

235 men from the Edinburgh refused conscription including Arthur Woodburn, who served a long term in Calton Jail and like many other COs later became an MP. He was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1947 until 1950.

Women supported COs and actively opposed the war too. Edinburgh’s Crystal Macmillan took part in a women’s peace conference at the Hague during the war. Our vision is for a memorial that will recognise all who have opposed wars in the past and those who continue to do so.

The Legacy of Conscientious Objection

Photo: Conscientious Objectors at Dyce Quarry near Aberdeen.

Photo: Conscientious Objectors at Dyce Quarry near Aberdeen.

The sacrifices of COs laid the foundation for later peace and human rights work and for recognition of conscientious objection elsewhere. The UN and the European Court of Human Rights and most countries have now recognised conscientious objection as a human right. But over 750 COs are still imprisoned around the world today. A CO memorial will not only pay tribute to those who refused conscription in Scotland and the UK during the First World War, it will honour those who are refusing to participate in wars in our own time.

DONATE to the CO Memorial

The CO Memorial Committee has secured sufficient funds to run a design competition for a sculpture to be completed and installed in Princes Street Gardens by April 2019.  Now we are seeking further funding for the completion of the Memorial itself from a mix of donors and foundations.

We will be launching a fundraising campaign in the near future. Donations to the fund can be made in cash, by Bank Transfers or by cheques made out to Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and designated CO Memorial Fund. Cheques can be posted to Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, CO Memorial Fund, 5 Upper Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2JN. Account details for Bank Transfer are as follows:

Bank of Scotland Account Name: Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre

Reference: CO Memorial
Account: 00207018 / Sort Code: 80-11-30

Donations can also be made in person at the Centre, 5 Upper Bow, EH1 2JN. We are open Wednesday and Friday 1 – 4pm.

CO and First World War Remembrance Events so Far

Trevor Allen: Author of Flowers of the Forest

Trevor Royle: Author of Flowers of the Forest

As part of the ongoing activities surrounding the centenary of the First World War the Peace and Justice Centre and the Quaker Meeting House organised an event at the Scottish Parliament in January to make the Centenary of the Military Service Act.  Speakers included the renowned historian of the First World War and Scotland Trevor Royle, who expressed is support for a CO Memorial and and Dr. Lesley Orr (Edinburgh University).  The event, hosted by Patrick Harvie MSP, was attended by about 50 invited guests including Brigadier David Allfrey, Director of the Royal Edinbubrgh Military Tatoo. An account of that event can be found here.

The Peace and Justice Centre organised an exhibition entitled The World Is My Country to coincide with the centenary of conscription, that celebrates the people and movements that opposed the First World War.

We also created and produced Divergent Voices, a performance of readings that, taken as a whole tells the story of the First World War, with an emphasis on the voices of those who opposed or came to question the war as a result of their experience. Divergent Voices was performed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in November 2014. A review of Divergent Voices can be found here. 

The Conscientious Objectors Memorial Committee consists of the following organisations and individuals:

Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

Iona Community

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Scotland

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Womens International League for Peace and Freedom Scottish Branch

Pax Christi UK

Edinburgh Quakers

Edinburgh Stop the War

Edinburgh Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh

Edinburgh and Forth Methodist Circuit

St Thomas Aquins Secondary School

Individual Members of the Committee

Professor Toby Kelly, Department of Anthropology, University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Billy Kenefick, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Dundee and co-founder of the Great War Dundee project.

Dr. Lesley Orr, Lecturer in History, New College, University of Edinburgh

Nick Gardner, (former Councillor for Leith Walk) personal capacity

Project Partners

Workers Education Association Scotland

School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

School of Art, University of Edinburgh

 

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