Memorial plan causes consternation

Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust chairman Prof Kevin Clements on the Anzac Ave site where the group hopes to build a memorial garden remembering conscientious objectors. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust chairman Prof Kevin Clements on the Anzac Ave site where the group hopes to build a memorial garden remembering conscientious objectors. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Plans to build a memorial garden in Dunedin's Anzac Ave to honour the actions of conscientious objectors have been greeted with initial consternation by the local RSA.

The RSA says it has no issue with the memorial itself, but is concerned by its proposed location on a road named to commemorate World War 1, where rows of elm trees planted in the 1920s pay tribute to Dunedin's fallen soldiers.

Dunedin city councillors yesterday considered a request from the Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust to use a triangle of council land at the corner of Harrow St and Anzac Ave for a ''memorial garden'' honouring those who resisted war, including Dunedin man Archibald Baxter.

Contacted after the meeting, Dunedin RSA president Jenepher Glover said it was the first she had heard of the trust's plans.

The RSA would have to discuss it, but her initial reaction was concern, not about memorialising Mr Baxter, but about the proposed location.

''The RSA respects all sorts of people. He [Mr Baxter] had a role to play, he was there and he was involved. I'm not going to say he doesn't deserve a memorial, just that Anzac Ave might not be the best place.''

RSA executive committee member and former president Fred Daniel said it would probably be a matter of ''great sensitivity'' to some people to have the memorial on Anzac Ave.

The plans being made public in such a way felt confrontational and he felt it would have been better for the RSA to have been consulted before this stage.

But trust chairman Prof Kevin Clements, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, said the trust's intention was ''absolutely'' to discuss its plans with the RSA.

It had considered several sites and felt Anzac Ave would be fitting in terms of its name and significance to the Baxter family.

Archibald Baxter.
Archibald Baxter.
The garden would make the street a place to come and reflect on all the different ways New Zealanders responded to the war and the ''tragedy of the whole thing'', he said.

The design was only a concept at this stage, but included sculptures.

The trust planned to make bids to the World War 1 commemoration committee and the Lottery Grants Board for funds available for World War 1 commemorative projects, it said in its letter to the council.

While councillors indicated general support for the project in discussion, they refrained from making any commitment at this stage.

Instead, they asked that more work be done with the trust to develop the proposal and a draft agreement relating to the memorial garden's costs design and ongoing maintenance etc.

Those would then be considered by the council.

At the suggestion of Cr John Bezett, who expressed concern the trust was coming at the project ''sideways'' by approaching the council first, a specific request the trust consult with the RSA and other interested parties was added.

It was important the RSA was consulted before the council agreed to anything, he said.

''It's got to be a tentative approach at this stage. If it looks too much like a deal has been done, we will find we have people who are quite aggrieved by it.''

After staff raised a few concerns, Cr David Benson-Pope warned of the potential for the council to ''overcook things'' and put up barriers to projects.

''I think [the project] is very exciting. It is simply an approach by a distinguished group of people who want to recognise a famous Dunedin man and make a contribution to the city, and I think one that will be welcomed by most Dunedin people and most New Zealanders.''


Shirkers Memorial

Albert Square: it looks to me that Baxter was obliged to obey orders because he was first a prisoner and then an enlisted soldier with his unit. He was a soldier because he was conscripted and had no valid reason to be excused. He wasn't a Quaker or member of a qualifying religion so he was expected to serve like everyone else. Anyway, his reason for refusing service didn't seem to be religious; he indicates that his reason was political. As a devout socialist his world was divided into victims and persecutors. This class-war mentality led him to see soldiers as victims, and so he fought his delusional class-war.

There is a clear difference between Archibald Baxter and the fallen soldiers that are commemorated by the trees and the name of Anzac Avenue: the brave soldiers fought for their king and country and their fellow soldiers, whereas Archi the socialist was defending his idiosyncratic political views. This he did for his own benefit and not for the good of New Zealand. His modern day political comrades will claim that he suffered for his beliefs. I am sure that his description was exaggerated, but if he did suffer, that doesn't make him any sort of hero.

Suffering is not enough, I think a hero needs to have good intentions for the greater good. Baxter doesn't qualify, and to memorialize him and his cowardly comrades is dishonest because that would promote the idea that their actions were to some degree comparable to the achievements of our brave soldiers.[Abridged]

I blame The Redcaps

Jimmy Jones, you'd be one of the few I would trust in combat, but why are you so exercised about this memorialism? Baxter was not under orders, so was not obliged to obey them. An odd situation, where a civilian is bundled off to the front, pour discourager les autres. Are Quakers cowards?


In supporting the Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust proposal and disregarding the DCC staff concerns, Cr Benson-Pope
warned of putting up barriers to projects. In the case of projects that are foolish and/or morally repugnant, Dunedin's citizens should hope for some very sturdy barriers to such projects. It is unfortunate that in the case of a memorial to the war refusers, David Benson-Pope doesn't understand that it is his job to be that barrier - to judge based on common sense and what is right and wrong.

Someone should try to explain to us why refusing orders and refusing to fight, and consequently being tied to a post, are actions worthy of admiration. I find the idea of a memorial to objectors offensive. The Baxter Trust should not be permitted to desecrate any public areas, especially not near Anzac Avenue.


Mr Benson-Pope needs to curb his comments. He does not represent the majority of Dunedin and never will. His idea that the proposers are distinguished is, in my opinion, wrong - distinguished at what? Go visit the memorials before mentioning the name Baxter.

Time and place matters

JimmyJones: Couldn't have put it better myself.

In addition (peace, war and objector argument aside), the only people with the qualifications to pass judgement on conscientious objectors are those who did fight. They were there and they fought so thankfully our generations since have not experienced war the same way. Therefore our generations don't have the right to place this memorial next to those who died fighting. If the location is appropriate then let the veterans say so - not the council or university. To go against their wishes would be as contemptible as selling or wearing a white poppy on ANZAC day which veterans felt was inappropriate given they could have had their white poppy fundraiser any other time of year.

Peacenik platitudes

Farsighted: Abdul Baha's prediction is wrong, but I agree with you that war should be undertaken only as a last resort. Lives are precious and so wars are very costly. We pay this price to protect things that are precious to us, things like land, culture, freedom etc. For Archibald Baxter and the modern-day peace-nicks to preach that "war is bad - don't fight wars" seems foolish to me.

Wars are solutions to problems. Examples of such problems are the German and Japanese occupation of territory in WW2 and today in northern Iraq we have several thousand people causing death and destruction in the name of God. We have heard the shallow platitudes from Archibald Baxter and the UoO Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, but they don't propose alternatives to war that fixes the problems. What would they tell the Iraq Government to do to stop the be-headings and religious persecution? Would they give the ISIL fighters a stern lecture on Peace Studies? Perhaps their advice would be to surrender, or keep doing nothing. If Archibald Baxter was smarter, he would have understood that it is worth loosing some lives to preserve our way of life and the right to govern our own country.

We should remember with gratitude those that struggled, suffered and died to achieve those ends. Those that hindered the war effort should continue to be either forgotten or criticized and ridiculed. Probably the best thing about war is winning, if there is any new memorial, it should be to our country's great war victories. I would like Prof Clements to respond and justify the existence of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. [Abridged]


Baxter: Courage is not the same thing as misguided obstinacy and I don't accept your assertion that Archibald Baxter was at greater risk than the soldiers in the trenches. I suspect that he had a low threshold for pain and exaggerated the unpleasant effects of being tied to a post. My guess is that most soldiers at the front would gladly have swapped their trench warfare experience for being tied to a post for a few hours per day. Archibald had the luxury of growing old, and with all his limbs intact: not all the others did.

I admire the sense of humor of the Minister of Defence, Sir James Allen, who decided that all those that claimed to be conscientious objectors, but who were not accepted as such, should be sent to the Front along with the soldiers who fought and won the war. The name Archibald Baxter is a blot on the history of Dunedin and should be forgotten.

Society changes

I think the lessons learned from that time are now recognized to be that warlike activities should be undertaken reluctantly and as a last resort.

"Mothers will not give their sons as sacrifices upon the battlefield after twenty years of anxiety and loving devotion in rearing them from infancy, no matter what cause they are called upon to defend. There is no doubt that when women obtain equality of rights, war will entirely cease among mankind." --Abdul Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace.

Fighting the war...

instead of fighting in the war...

demonstrates moral courage and shows who is a 'real' man!



Lack of courage?

Lack of courage? Are you actually serious?

If so, I suspect you don't understand what actually happened.

It takes far more courage to stick to your morals and be strung up for both sides to shoot at than it does to have the relative safety of the hell WWI trenches were.


Any memorial should clearly demonstrate the lack of moral courage of these objectors and their negative contribution to the war effort. Prof Clements should not expect the attitude of the public to be any more sympathetic now, than it was back then. [abridged]

Baxter, A

craypot - No thought for the feelings of Baxter's descendants, notably grandchildren in North Is? Were they asked for consent to memorialise? WWI aside, how about some respect for a pioneer of Brighton, author, and Christian Socialist?


I have no problem with him having a memorial. As long as it's no where near the memorial for the "real men" who gave their lives for king and country. [abridged]



No, I dont think he deserves a memorial anywhere near the Anzac. After all, he copped out. They died. [Abridged]


Conscientious objectors

Why should the RSA have any say about conscientious objectors' memorials? It's not like they've ever stood up for them. Indeed it's usually quite the opposite. 

I am disappointed with the RSA's thinly veiled contempt for conscientious objectors: "I'm not going to say he doesn't deserve a memorial". No, but clearly you're thinking exactly that. 

Of course ANZAC Ave is appropriate. That is exactly what the Avenue is there to memorialise - the suffering and sacrfiice of Kiwis in World War I. The RSA don't have a monopoly on this. 

Irrespective of the RSA's feelings for conscientious objectors, they suffered and made sacrifices as much as soldiers did; arguably more, being shot at by both sides. It is frankly insulting to them that in the 21st Centaury the RSA think there is any reason they should not be memorialised here. 

Good on those who have taken the initiative, and good on the Council for being quietly supportive.

Anzac Avenue

It all made mild reading until the name Benson -Pope was raised. Will some people never learn?

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