Pacifists memorial still debated

Kevin Clements.
Kevin Clements.
There may yet be a peaceful solution to a standoff between a trust building a memorial to pacifists in Dunedin and the local RSA over the memorial's location.

The Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust wants to build a memorial to Mr Baxter, and other pacifists, in Anzac Ave, named to commemorate New Zealand's main military force during World War 1.

However, the Dunedin RSA is opposed to Anzac Ave being used, and the impasse remains following a recent meeting between trust chairman Prof Kevin Clements and RSA president Jenepher Glover.

Archibald Baxter, of Dunedin, was one of 14 New Zealanders sent to the front during WW1 after refusing to register for conscription because he believed war was wrong.

Once there, he refused to participate.

While she was not personally opposed to a memorial to pacifists, and indeed felt there should be one, Ms Glover said she told Prof Clements there was implacable resistance to it happening in Anzac Ave.

''It was a very amicable meeting,'' Prof Clements said, ''but ... I wasn't able to persuade her it would be good to have a pacifist memorial on Anzac Ave.

Jenepher Glover.
Jenepher Glover.
"And she wasn't able to persuade me of the merits of other sites she suggested, like Lovelock Ave, all of which seemed to be out of town and out of sight.''

While the meeting was friendly enough, it raised questions about who had proprietary rights around Anzac Ave, and why the RSA should have any more say than anyone else, he said.

''I don't see the RSA should have this kind of claim over it.''

When contacted, Ms Glover said the RSA understood the decision about siting a memorial on that site would be the decision of the council, which owned the land.

But there would be some who would feel upset if the council moved in the trust's favour.

''I say there would be some who would feel this was excessive interference on their part,'' Prof Clements said.

However, there was some good news.

If the Anzac Ave site did not work out, First Church had suggested a part of its grounds as an alternative, although it was just an idea suggested by the minister, the Rev Anne Thomson, at this stage, and still required church approval.

She is on leave at present.

Prof Clements said it would be a good alternative and a fitting place to memorialise the acts of the pacifists.

He said he expected to hear soon from council staff, who were earlier this year instructed by city councillors considering the trust's request to use the Anzac Ave land, to engage with the trust to develop a proposal and draft agreement about how the memorial, which could be a garden, would be maintained and managed.

debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

Why is this a problem?

My grandfather lost three brothers to the first world war I'm quite happy for the memorial to go ahead, as I am sure my grandfather would have wanted it to. There is no disrepect to all those who served, only those who comanded and made those silly rules.

A stupid war

MikeStk: Well written letter on a subject that for nearly 100 years has been not talked about because it might offend Britain. The British policy of the time that if you did not obey orders and charge the enemy and commit suicide, you would be formally shot by your own countrymen after a court-martial, was appalling and should be seen as "legalised" murder.  

A colossal mistake

If all you remember about WW1 is the bravery, and you focus on that, then you yourself are doing a disservice to those who died. By far the most important thing to learn from, to remember, about WW1 is what a horrendous waste of life it was, a giant cock-up that killed millions, that could have been avoided if a bunch of upper class twits hadn't had to save face.

If we want to get anything good from WW1 we need to make sure it never ever happens again. Glorifying it as something wonderful by only focusing on the valour and not the reality is not smart thinking - WW1 was a colossal horrible mistake that could have been avoided, caused by governments that did not have their citizens' best interests at heart.

I think that drawing attention to the sort of barbarism that had Archibald Baxter tied up in the middle of no man's land as punishment for his religious beliefs can't but help but show the reality of the same British imperialist mindset that thought of the ANZACs as cheap cannon fodder and resulted in the killing or wounding more NZers (by percentage of population) than any other country in WW1.

Contradiction

@Mike: it is only fitting to respect the memories of those who went to war - especially given that those in charge were incompetent (in 20/20 hindsight), and especially because they are no longer here to defend their opinion.
Hence the opinion of the returned soldiers is being represented by the RSA and should be respected. No-one is arguing against the erection of the objectors memorial, just that the RSA has determined that it is inappropriate to locate it with a memorial to fighting men. As suggested in the article a church yard would certainly be more fitting to the objector's memorial rather than a war memorial.

Not still alive

Maybe not, Mike, but plenty of their family and relatives are. I would suspect that any memorial erected in Anzac Ave or on the grounds of the Cenotaph would be defaced within weeks.

If they have any sense, they will erect one elsewhere. 

Just for the record

Just for the record I did not use the term "momentous disaster" - that was the work of the ODT subeditors. The term I used described a cluster of mistakes that was more meant to imply that it was done by a clueless mob of inbred aristocrats playing games with people's lives at a level far above their obvious competence.

No one to disrespect

No one who fought is still alive - there is no one to disrespect. WW1 and Galipoli in particular was a momentous disaster on the part of the the European ruling classes who forced their countries into war for no good reasons.

To me the lesson to be learned from that is not to follow those who claim to know better into war - I think a memorial to those few who stood up to he aristocrats of a bygone age would not be out of place. [Abridged]

Pacifist memorial alternative site

I'm not too sure of the Dunedin history in naming Anzac Ave this way but guess it has a lot to do with the incredible sacrifice of Kiwi soldiers in the First World War. Notwithstanding the sincere views of those conscientious objectors who refused to take up arms in the 1914 -18 conflict it would certainly be rather insensitive to the memory of the fallen to have a pacifist memorial placed along this Avenue. Certainly as the prime motivation for conscientious objection to military service came largely from one interpretation of Christian ideals a plaque in the grounds of First Church would seem to be the best compromise. It is too easy 100 years down the track to condemn the motives of those who heeded the call or for that matter seek to uphold those who refused to fight with a memorial that could easily be construed as being "in your face" by the families of those who served and those who died for their country.

 

Respect

Totally agree sv3nn0 - this structure should be put where it is not disrespectful to those who fought. I think you have put it very well.

 

Ah, the good old RSA

Ah, yes.  The good old RSA, I remember being told that I was a coward because I protested against the Vietnam war.  I was told by RSA members that I should "Join up, go over and kill some gooks.  It would make a man of me!"

Doesn't look like they have changed.

Sino-Japanese War

It's good, ralf-nz, but the Japanese might not endorse a location so close to the Chinese Garden. We could put up a nice Burma Railway for them.

Some history is best forgotten

And this is a prime example of that. I have family members that fought and died for this country. This guy went along then refused to play the game.

And Ralf: It's Lest We Forget. [Abridged]

Queens Gardens

Queens Gardens would be the right place for such a memorial. This allows for the whole picture to be seen at once - soldiers and pacifists alike with their stance on war. Both are part of our history. We shall not forget.

Objectionable

''I don't see the RSA should have this kind of claim over it.'' 

The RSA represents the returned soldiers and ANZAC Ave commemorates the same. Not a difficult connection to make. It follows that the opinion of the RSA should be respected. Those of us who haven't fought a war should respect the opinions of those who did as we can't possibly have the same perspective on the topic of war and conscientious objectors as those who have experienced fighting.

Pacifists

By choice, pacifists separated themselves from our brave soldiers. Why now, even in this PC-mad world, would either side want to share a bed in Anzac Avenue?

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