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World War I centenary

Quakers:  working to prevent all wars for over 350 years

Objections to war: a Quaker approach

To mark 100 years since conscientious objection to military service was enshrined in British law (coming up in ealry 2016), Quaker Peace & Social Witness now have a group of speakers for Quaker meetings to book.

Each speaker will be able to offer a 1.5-hour learning session on 'Objections to war: a Quaker approach'. Drawing on visual and written archives and present-day reports, the session will comprise:

  • a presentation on the range of opposition to warfare by Quakers and others, past and present, and
  • a reflective activity, for participants to engage with the realities of acting on conscience and conviction.

To request a speaker, please contact Helen Bradford; email or telephone 020 7663 1071.

The white feather diaries

Our online project serialising the diaries of five young people who lived during, and opposed, World War I. The next installment will be from 2 to 27 November 2015.

Sketch of a conscientious objector looking through a barred prison window

The white feather diaries shed light on the hidden stories of those whose bravery saved lives and changed British legislation leading to a wider recognition of the legitimacy of the right to refuse to kill. The project offers insight into overlooked aspects of war: resistance to killing and the relief of suffering.

Read The white feather diaries.

Follow The white feather diaries on Twitter and Facebook to find out more.

Hear Geoffrey Durham, writer, broadcaster and Quaker, announce the characters [new window - MP3 audio] of The white feather diaries as part of the launch event of Quakers in Britain four-year World War I centenary project.

New display of some of the many photographs found in the archive of the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee

The photographs show aspects of relief work carried out in France, Britain and Russia during and after World War I by the Friends War Victims Relief Committee (1914–19), the Friends Emergency Committee (1914–19) and, after their amalgamation in 1919, the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (1919–24).

The Testimony

The Testimony is a fictional newspaper inspired by Quaker activities in World War I, featuring articles by present-day Quakers as well as historical articles from The Friend. We hope this juxtaposition will draw parallels and invite reflection. Annual editions of the newspaper will be produced in 2014, 2015 and 2016 as part of the resource pack 'Witnessing for peace on the centenary of WWI'.

Map of white poppies showing true numbers of deaths resulting from WWI

A map, created by Quakers in Britain as part of a four year project on the World War I centenary, shows a path of white poppies through London reflecting the true numbers of people from every country who died as a direct result of World War I.A field of white poppies in the Mall.

In 2014 the moat of the Tower of London was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies representing Britain's military war dead.  We wondered what other parts of London would be covered with poppies if we included international deaths, civilian and military.  Like the installation at the Tower, we used a rate of 50 poppies per square metre or 500,000 per hectare, each poppy representing one war death.

We pictured the spread of white poppies, the symbol of peace from the Peace Pledge Union worn by many as part of their Remembrance.

You can find on this site education packs about World War I, what Quakers think about Remembrance and video and audio about Quaker conscientious objectors.

The map data includes military and civilian figures for The Allies, ultimately comprised of 25 nations including Britain and France, and the opposing Central Powers, Germany, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.  It is impossible to know the precise numbers. Jay Winter, editor of the Cambridge History of the First World War, believes we have consistently under-estimated the number of deaths, and this is before counting the millions of non-fatal casualties, both physical and psychological.

The poppies spread on the ground between buildings, along roads, bridges and the banks of the Thames, reaching Buckingham Palace via Trafalgar Square and the Cenotaph. Sharp eyed map viewers will also find the modest recognition of conscientious objectors who died during the war.

We thank Craig Murray at the Imperial War Museum and William Hetherington of the Peace Pledge Union.

Join in

Our events calendar includes Quaker events and exhibitions from all around Britain that tell the stories of Quaker involvement in, and resistance to, the War. You or your Quaker meeting can upload events to the map.

A sketch of ambulance workers and a wounded soldier in 1914

A downloadable version of “Witnessing for peace on the centenary of World War I: a resource pack for Quaker Meetings” is now available. It contains resources for your meeting, your children’s meeting and for working with other groups marking the centenary, including a newspaper, peace education resources and postcards. To order a free hard copy, please email the Quaker Centre or telephone 020 7663 1030, giving your name, postal address and name of your Quaker Meeting.

Read about the archival resources in the Friends House Library on the Quaker Strongrooms blog.

Quaker Peace & Social Witness have produced two new resources for peace education: Conscience (primary school-focused) [PDF - new window] and Conviction (secondary school-focused) [PDF - new window].