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Home > Home Articles > Features > Quaker plans for commemorating the two World Wars

Quaker plans for commemorating the two World Warsquakerslogo

Bristol Quakers are planning an ambitious programme of events for 2014 to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. Our aim, as well as commemorating the suffering involved in both wars, is to draw attention to the witness and treatment of conscientious objectors and to highlight the work of the Friends Ambulance Unit and Quaker Relief Work during and after the conflicts. We are now full partners in the Bristol 2014 project which aims to deliver a wide-ranging programme of events in 2014 on the impact of both wars on our city.

Our plans are still evolving but the main elements in our programme are:

A contribution to Bristol’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. We are holding an event titled Voices from the Kindertransport which will combine readings based on accounts of the experiences of these Jewish children who escaped Germany just before hostilities started with music to illustrate how they were taken into British homes, found places in schools and so on. This will be run as a public event at Central Meeting house on:

  • Friday 14 March from 7.30.

  • Saturday 15 March from 2.30.

Talks and exhibitions on non-violent conflict resolution. The first of these will be a talk by renowned peace activist Diana Francis on Conflict Resolution. This will take place at Redland Friends Meeting House on 19 March and will form part of Churches Together in Clifton, Cotham and Redland’s Lent Lecture series. The Quaker Service Exhibition – a series of 12 panels commemorating Quaker Relief work and the Friends Ambulance Unit in both World Wars – will be on display at the meeting house and we hope to also display it at public venues, such as Bristol Central Library.

An annual lecture to mark International Conscientious Objectors day. This will take place on May 15. Plans are at an early stage but we hope that it will attract support from a range of faith groups in and around Bristol.

Promoting peace education in schools. We see these anniversaries as a great opportunity to advance peace education and are keen to support local schools wishing to include peace themes in their curriculum. Specifically, we are hoping to encourage at least one secondary school to put on a production of the play Kindertransport by Diane Samuels. This is a set text for GCSE Drama and AS/A level English Literature. We also aim to promote the use in both primary and secondary schools of the resource pack Choices Then and Now produced by the Bradford Peace Museum.

Linking with other Quaker initiatives connected with the two World Wars. Yearly Meeting Gathering will be taking place, on our doorstep in Bath, 2-9 August and will coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. We are keen that Bristol Quakers’ programme should complement what will be happening in Bath and we also see it as part of our role to promote national initiatives such as The White Feather Diaries an online story that will follow five Quakers as the war unfolds 2014-2016.

A request for help

There are a number of ways that other faith groups in Bristol may be able to help make this programme a success:

Collecting stories of conscientious objectors from either of the World Wars. Quakers were by no means the only ‘conscies’ – after all Friends were in fact a minority within the Friends Ambulance Unit. We are keen to acknowledge this in any event that we organise – so if have any stories to share please do get in touch with us.

Collecting stories of the Kindertransport. There have been a number of books published about the Kindertransport and we shall be using these as source material for the events we are running in March. But we would also like to hear of anyone now living in Bristol who was involved personally, either as one of the children who came to Britain or as someone who helped children to get here.

Making contacts with Bristol schools. We would welcome advice on how to take this forward – and, of course, requests and invitations from any schools who may be interested.

If you can help, or would like further information, please contact:

Eddy Knasel, 7 Tyne Road, Bristol, BS7 8EE, 07860 795237, .