This week 8 members of Veterans For Peace have been at a retreat in the village of Alton. It has been a great opportunity to get to know each other better and to share experiences and ideas.

On Wednesday we left the seclusion of our dis-used railway station and headed to the National Memorial Arboretum. The arboretum styles itself as “the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country. It is a living and lasting memorial”. If you are thinking, that sounds like the voice of the Royal British Legion (RBL), you would be right, because the arboretum is a part of the Royal British Legion.

The culture of the RBL brings more than just its language to the arboretum. It has also invited their friends in the arms industry along to fund this “centre of Remembrance”; Boeing, Rolls Royce and BAE Systems. Once inside the entrance any doubt that the RBL is running the show is removed by the sight of the Legion’s holy symbol, the poppy. Poppies on the walls, stuffed into vases on the cafeteria tables and on sale in every way imaginable in the visitor shop.

If you would like to read more about why the RBL is a problem and the role they play in promoting militarism you can check out a report that we published back in November; My Name is Legion: The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance explores how the Royal British Legion’s status as the self-appointed “national custodian of Remembrance” has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand”.

Our intention had been to head up to the The Armed Forces Memorial in which over 15,000 names were carved by computer when the Memorial was created, with space on the empty panels for an additional 15,000. The causes of death are not recorded next to the names carved into the stone. Most of those deaths were sudden and brutal. But probably not obvious to a visitor are the proportion of those deaths that resulted from road traffic accidents, friendly fire, illness, helicopter and plane crashes. Not many of those deaths could be honestly described as sacrificing life for country. However it is the empty panels that are of interest to us. Those empty panels represent the wars of the future. The wars that maybe are children or grand children will kill and die in.

future soldiers

We were not able to climb the small mound up to the Armed Forces Memorial due to ongoing construction work and so we headed off to find the memorial to soldiers executed by British Army firing squad’s during the First World War. To get to the memorial we were directed down a potholed muddy track, into the far reaches of the arboretum.  Shot At Dawn is the name of the memorial, it is modeled on the likeness of 17-year-old Private Herbert Burden, who lied about his age to enlist in the armed forces and was later shot for desertion. It is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes on which are listed the names of every soldier executed in this fashion. Unlike the 15,000+ names on the Armed Forces Memorial these men had prior knowledge of their deaths, which were the result of cold blooded decisions made by their own officers. We stood alongside the statue in silence in an attempt to be in solidarity with those poor souls, shot by “their own side”.

How cruel and pointless that war was.

How cruel and pointless war is.



  1. Donna Canale says:

    Well written and said. It’s absolutely shameful that these young lads were killed and shot by their own side. Shame is an emotion we hide from and so it is clear to me that the very hidden nature of this memorial reveals the British Army’s shame in these killings of their own that they would rather keep hidden.. Thank you for bringing it to light.

  2. To all

    Thank to everyone for taking the time and effort to reply, No 100% squared away.


  3. Mr_Twister says:

    With regards to “Shot at dawn”
    Look up the “Zimbardo Prison Study”
    Phillip Zimbardo also doos a tedtalk on it, also on you tube.

    And then,
    Look up Stanley Millgrams experiments, there is also a recent film “The experimenter”

    You won’t wonder how this can happen after that!

  4. John Boulton says:

    War, soldier worship and even remembrance; all have become undignified industries. What a sad and abysmal state of affairs. Those who profit from, manipulate and encourage their citizens to perpetuate the killing of other human beings for personal interest and gain are the worst of our kind. We should pity them. Peace.

  5. John Boulton says:

    War, soldier worship and even remembrance; all have become undignified industries. What a sad and abysmal state of affairs. Those who profit from, manipulate and encourage their citizens to perpetuate the killing of other human beings for personal interest and rain are the worst of our kind. We should pity them. Peace.

  6. John Boulton says:

    War, soldier worship and even remembrance; all have become undignified industries. What a sad and abysmal state of affairs. Those who profit from, manipulate and encourage their citizens to perpetuate the killing of others for personal interest and gain are the worst of our kind. We should pity them. Peace.

  7. David Marchesi says:

    It is disheartening that this country has slipped so far into the very kind of militarism which people such Wilfred Owen saw as the reason to fight the Germans. In his time, the powerful on all sides had very cleverly encouraged large numbers of their countrymen to think killing people was right , however, wherever, and for what ever sad “reason” . Since WW1, we have seen that “whoever” can be added , as “collateral damage” hides the pure murders. I would advise a look at the current TomDispatch site, where a writer details the drone-killings of “wogs” (“they’re not like us, ya know”) by the US in recent years. Wedding parties appear to have been favourite targets, with perhaps a dozen “nasties” killed among about 1500 men , women and children, in Yemen etc.
    Since the Atlantic Charter, there has been no need for aggressive foreign wars, and this country would not, singly, have undertaken most of its aggressions under Mr Blair, or even Mrs Thatcher, had it not been NATO-ised.
    The baleful legacy of colonial and imperial wars has been glorified, Senator Cruz wants “carpet-bombing” of the A-rabs (not, of course, the nice ones, like our Saudi and Bahraini “friends”) Meanwhile, the worst macho instincts are cultivated among our sorry youth – Prince Harry an icon ???! How many wogs did you kill on your humanitarian intervention , uncle Harry ?? We shall never know, nor he, perhaps; unlike the US chaps in their helicopter in Iraq.

    1. what can i say against logic and truth after the Falklands , numerous tours in N/I and the first gulf war i left the army and began to look and think about the actions of our government i believe there is a vast corporate business gaining vast amounts on the back of the armed forces . If we put the same effort into peace as we do into war what a great place we could live in, but how do we deal with the ISIL and ISIS ect that is the question as they dont talk at all

      1. Gus says:

        Hi Maurice,
        We could start by stop supplying arms to them. We could revisit the Sykes Picot agreement. We could stay out of Middle Eastern affairs, we could be part of negotiations that explored the notion with Muslim nations, of a Caliphate on the Levant and what form that would take, encompassing and including all Muslim traditions. But first and foremost we need to stop bombing people for profit.

        1. Janet Granger says:

          Well said.

  8. Gus says:

    The case of Sergeant W Stones – at 2.30am on Nov 26, 1916 (on the Somme), the British came under heavy mortar fire in thick mist. Stones went out on patrol with a lieutenant and came face to face with the enemy. The lieutenant was shot dead and Stones ran back to raise the alarm. He jammed his rifle across the trench to slow down the pursuing Germans – this cost his life. On return when it was discovered he had no weapon he was arrested with “shamefully casting away his arms”. He was later tried and shot for cowardice.
    The men from Britain, New Zealand, Canada and other parts of the Empire, were almost exclusively from the ranks, only two were officers, but the Australians refused to murder their own men.

  9. Eddie Carroll says:

    In a different life many years ago I remember saying to an officer the that wee Russian guy is probably like me; he wants to get married, bring up his kids the best way he can and go for the odd pint but somebody is telling him to hate me and somebody is telling me to hate him. Would we not be better off just going for a pint together and talking abour the football? And anyway Sir, apart from the language who do I have more in common with him or you?
    See the trouble blind obedience gets you into? I often wonder if there’s a bit of psychology in the recruitment process which is designed to weed out the critical thinkers?


    1. Eddie

      your spot on met a few of the so called enemy and they were the same as me

  10. Chris Wright says:

    There’s a difference between taking a stand and taking up a weapon. There have been almost no wars that haven’t been engineered by the rich and the greedy and those small men who lust for power. they get away with it by creating demons, scaring us with those demons, then calling us to arms to slay the demons. Taking a stand against this old, dirty trick will save far more lives than another battlefield upon which the rich get stinking rich and the poor become stinking corpses!!

    1. you could be right but if the other guy uses arms all the words and reasoning will not stop him

      1. Gus says:

        Hi Maurice,
        Have you ever thought that the other guy who uses arms, is actually us. ie, we sell arms to Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia gives the arms to the Wahhabi’s – Wahhabi’s give arms to Daesh – Daesh fight Western Forces with arms that we indirectly gave them. So the other guy is actually us.

        1. hi Gus

          yes your right thanks

    2. Anne McCullagh-d'Lyske says:

      Well said.

    3. i like the reply thanks


  11. Jannat Granger says:

    Maurice, ‘doing something’ doesn’t have to be more violence.

    1. i agree with you but some times you have to make a stand,

      1. Janet Granger says:

        That stand needs to be a peaceful one – negotiations, etc. Violence never works.

  12. hi all the guys and girls

    I agree with some of your points and now looking from a new angle i can see and understand your views some what. But my question is do you feel we can do without a armed force of some kind, take Bosnia we intervened to little to late in some cases, as someone once quoted evil men succeed because good men do nothing, or is that an old saying


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