“Voices Against War” review

“Voices Against War” review

Voices Against War

by Lyn Smith
Mainstream Publishing, 2010 (in association with the Imperial War Museum)

I had been looking forward to this book since Lyn Smith gave a talk at the last Peace History Conference. It was well worth the wait. Taken from the Museum’s archive of recorded interviews, many of them conducted by Lyn herself, it charts all the strands of anti-war campaigning from WWI to the present day, and will be an invaluable resource for campaigners and historians. And, as Lyn says, it will provide a counterbalance to the endless military accounts of war.

There are many levels of conscientious objections to war, from the ‘absolutist’ position of complete pacifism, through those who refused to bear arms but worked under fire with ambulance units, right down to those whose consciences told them that while war itself was wrong, it was sometimes necessary to defend their country. In their own words we hear how the absolutists suffered, from imprisonment, abuse and discrimination; what it was like to serve in the Field Ambulance Units or the Parachute Field Ambulance; how people persevered in their campaigning for peace.

After WW2 and the end of conscription, the need for conscientious objection has lessened, but the work for peace goes on. There is a fascinating section on the women of Greenham Common, including comments from the Base Commanders, and the book ends with the massive public objection to the invasion of Iraq. From the great and famous down to the humble unknowns, all the voices are here and demand to be heard.