As dawn rose on Anzac Day in Wellington, the first rays of sun shone on one of war’s cruellest memories.
A sculpture, seemingly of New Zealand’s most well-known conscientious objector, Archibald Baxter, has appeared at Frank Kitts Park, bound as the man himself was for 28 days for refusing to fight.
While it is unclear who placed the sculpture at Frank Kitts Park – or other similar ones around Wellington – Peace Action Wellington have posted about them on line.
A sculpture of Archibald Baxter a conscientious objector during The Great War has been put up on the Wellington Waterfront. .
According to the group’s website, the sculptures were placed in “field punishment number one position”, described on nzhistory.net.nz as “being tied to a post in the open, with their hands bound tightly behind their backs and their knees and feet bound”.
According to Peace Action Wellington, their hands were bound tightly behind their backs for up to four hours a day in all weather. “The poles were tipped forward, and the ropes cut into the flesh, cutting off blood flow.”
A sculpture in Wellington shows the horror conscientious objectors faced in WWI
Baxter, in his book, We Shall Not Cease, described the ordeal: “My hands were taken from round the pole, tied together and pulled well up it, straining and cramping the muscles and forcing them into an unnatural position … I was strained so tightly against the post that I was unable to move body or limbs a fraction of an inch”.
Peace Action Wellington is using the statue to call to “end the romanticisation of war and the militarisation of Anzac Day” as it claims World War I was a “completely unnecessary conflict”.
“It happened to protect and expand the empires involved, not to defend principles such as freedom or democracy. “The millions who died endured torturous conditions in conflict and were victims of an international power struggle.
“Many who resisted war, for religious or moral reasons, were subjected to torture and imprisonment.”
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council would not rush to remove the sculptures.
“Wellington is a political and creative city and we are not in the business of stifling political expression.
“We’ll make sure the sculptures are secure and we’ll seek discussions with Peace Action”
The Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust is currently planning a permanent sculpture in Dunedin to remember Baxter and other conscientious objectors.
Honorary secretary Alan Jackson said there were some people who would like to see a permanent sculpture in Wellington, similar to the one at Frank Kitts Park.
“What the people in Wellington have done is very powerful … it’s very important to remember what Archibald and the others were subject to.”
It showed people there was another side to war.
The “torture” New Zealand’s conscientious objectors were put through at the hands of their own army was in the same vein as that at the American base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq, he said.
The stance of the Wellington statue was rejected for the Otago sculpture because it was deemed “a bit too brutal” and because Baxter’s family did not want something clearly identifiable as Baxter himself.
This article was published by Stuff.co.nz
this was sometimes called crucifxion, and Robert Blatchford, though pro-war, wrote to the War Ministry to protest at the use of this torture to discipline troops, not that the propaganda machine of the day took up the issue, any more than today the recent case of a squaddie killed by “punishment ” has drawn much attention.
We seem to live in a world where the media are complicit with or even urge on the toffs and their militarist lackeys, the “argument” being always that there are just a few “bad apples”, blah, blah, blah. In fact, of course, brute force is a constant of the militarist mode and any move towards a real citizen army would be howled down.
I want no part of a society that breeds soldiers or slaves,
Or the Machiavellian poppy and its twisted meaning of sacrifice, placed on those graves.
It’s a symbol of the drowsy syrup, a medicine for sweet sleep,
Used to put us in slumber, the real meaning theirs to keep.
No mention of Towton on this rememberance day.
Where in war, 28,000 in English fields, dead lay.
No industrial killing from a distance here.
Hand to hand human brutality, no military gear.
So why only WW1 and 2 to be played on the human mind ?
Well, the ‘monster’ is ‘out there’ not within not one of ‘our kind’.
Some survivors are given medals to show.
It’s good for business, for the propagation of war, seeds we have to sew,
In the minds of those in ignorant slumber,
Then we can give them a uniform, and a number.
Because it is still the same, same, cause for which they fall, power and control.
For an elite class of humans who seem to have no soul.
Their brothers, sisters, parents, children face no threat from war.
Isn’t that what soldiers and slaves are for ?
Read the book “We will not cease” by Archie Baxter, saw the film – “Field Punishment No.1”. Had to see it umpteen times couldn’t handle the brutality, had to keep getting up to go to the kitchen to make tea and return to try again. No wonder my old man held these guys in the greatest respect.
As a medic in Vietnam, the most profound awareness I had when I returned home was the realization that I was the enemy in Vietnam. Every conscientious objector should be seen as a heroic human being. Lying is always the most powerful weapon in war. Since the end of World War II, the United States has bombed 30 countries.
Army Medic Vietnam
Thank you for posting this. The other side of Anzac Day