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Conscientious objectors' families mark memorial day

FAMILIES of men who refused to fight in the first world war came together yesterday at memorials to mark Conscientious Objectors Day.

About 65 families were joined by 300 supporters in Tavistock Square, central London, to mark the sacrifice and bravery of those who stood by their principles, often at great personal cost.

Lord John Maxton told how his father John was dismissed as a school teacher and his pet dog stoned to death by an angry mob after he refused to fight.

He was one of an estimated 20,000 Britons who refused to fight in the 1914-18 war, with many serving in medical and other non-violent roles.

“It is a day for families to remember the sacrifices that were made by the grandparents and parents, who showed a different kind of courage and strength,” Catholic peace group Pax Christi general secretary Pat Gaffney told the Star. “We have to tell their stories as well.”

The annual event on the centenary of the conflict was expanded to remember conscientious objectors from all countries and other eras who have suffered for their refusal to kill others.

Christine Schweitzer of War Resisters’ International warned how there are still “strategic and economic motivations driving war” in her home country.

Pacifists also marched to Edinburgh’s historic Mound, the site of anti-war rallies in 1914.

Led by a choir and an honour roll of Scottish conscientious objectors, survivors and relatives of those now departed shared their memories of the war.

Organiser Brian Larkin said: “They all showed courage and should be honoured as are those who fought and died.”

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