On Thursday 15 May, International Conscientious Objectors Day, courageous men who refused to fight in the First World War and other wars will be remembered in a ceremony on the Mound in Edinburgh with recollections from Second World War COs and relatives of First World War COs, reading of the names of 235 Edinburgh area WW1 COs and singing by the Protest in Harmony choir. Local singer songwriter Penny Stone will lead singing. In addition the memory of several men who died in prison or as a result of imprisonment will be honoured.
Rev David Mumford, Rector of Brechin Parish Church and Chair of Fellowship of Reconciliation Scotland, himself a Second World War CO, will speak. Recollections will be given by WW2 CO David Turner an Edinburgh Quaker and by Elisabeth Allen of North Berwick, and relatives of other the First World War.
Lesley Orr of Fellowship of Reconciliation will give the welcome and speak about Conscientious Objection in general, COs in the First World War and women peace campaigners. White Flowers will be laid in tribute to COs of all wars past and present. Members of the public will be invited to share thoughts and poems. Brian Larkin, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre will close the ceremony with remarks on First World War COs and the CO movement around the world today.
Lesley Orr of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: “the vigil will be held at The Mound because it was a gathering point for opposition to the First World War. Descendants of several First World War Conscientious Objectors will be coming to commemorate the lives of their relatives and the brave stand taken by all those who opposed the war. Some of these family members are daughters and grandchildren of men who endured repeated imprisonment and force-feeding for their anti-war convictions, or worked in Friends Ambulance and War Relief activities.”
Brian Larkin, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, who refused to register with the US Selective Service, said “Conscientious Objectors refused to kill. Some accepted conscription but served in the Non Combatant Corps, some did alternative national service, some absolutists were imprisoned, tortured, even sentenced to death. 73 COs died in prison or as a result of imprisonment. Some joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU) and went, unarmed, to collect the dead and tend the dying at the front. They all showed courage and should be honoured as are those who fought
The event is being organised by Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and Fellowship of Reconciliation Scotland.
International Conscientious Objectors Day is marked around the world each year on 15 May. In London each year a ceremony is held at the Commemorative Stone. In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War there will be vigils in towns and cities around the country. This is the first time a CO Day vigil will be held in Edinburgh.
More than 17,000 men refused to kill in the First World War. There were 60,000 COs in the Second World War.
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