On Sunday 12th June, as part of the Antiuniversity educational festival, VFP coordinator Ben Griffin joined journalist Charlie Gilmour to give a free guided tour of the statues of central London for a group of 20-30 people.
The aim of the tour was to shed light on the war crimes committed by many of the historical figures who have been immortalised in stone. Together, the people honoured by statues on our route from the Strand to Parliament Square are responsible for the deaths of as many as 30 million people. Is it appropriate for them to remain standing? And what does it say about our society that most people think that it is?
Starting with Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, the walk took in Kitchener’s concentration camps; Churchill’s ‘Bengali Holocaust’; the mass reprisal killings that followed India’s First War of Independence, and more besides. Ben brought the subject up to the present, explaining how the military mind-set can enable such atrocities, and how we can fight against militarism today to prevent them from happening again.
Due to the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, one or two areas of interest were closed to the public, so we will run this event again at some point in the future should there be any demand.
I had a sad shudder when I saw this photo(s). In the past 10 yrs I have shown this very statue to 3 German women, the last only about 6 weeks ago. We stood exactly where you are. In all cases they were “bemused” but chalked it up to eccentric Englishness, or military OCD.
Depressingly I can’t imagine Brit media being so ‘accommodating’ if statues of Generalfeldmarschalls (Luftwaffe) Hugo Sperrle or Albert Kesselring, OCs Luftflotte 3 and 2 respectively, were erected in downtown Berlin. (both fleets were the primary Order of Battle for the ‘Blitz’)
The issue of responsibility for wars is a vital one, and we must not forget the possibly overwhelming guilt of the media bosses, from Daily Mail c.1900 whose owner knew that “war sells newspapers “, to the good ol’ “liberal ” press of Blair’s wars.The BBC’s efforts to play down the Israeli massacres in Gaza and to “under-report” the bombing of Libya; one could go on.
Generals, yes, but politicians (even Abe Lincoln, who led the North into the most destructive war ever for the US, and did not HAVE to ) and , in my view, royals who are titular C-in-C ‘s.
The arch schemer Rhodes may still stand at “his” Oxford college,and is another example of a nasty war-monger, driven entirely by filthy lucre.
However, for practical and tactical reasons,it is best to stick to figures fairly close to our desperate times- there are plenty to be getting on with.
Life denying not life enhancing.
Ben – take in the statues of Dr Alfred Salter, his daughter Joyce and wife Ada in Bermondsey.
Quote – “In 1908 both joined the Independent Labour Party. The ILP with leaders like Keir Hardie, dockers’ leader Ben Tillett, George Bernard Shaw and Edward Aveling, son-in-law of Karl Marx, was courageously opposed to the jingoistic militarism that was gearing up for the slaughter of World War I.
As a doctoral student working on issues of everyday militarism in Sweden I find this initiative absolutely fascinating and, needless to say, important. That said, I’m sad to have missed this one but if you ever decide to run the event again I’d be happy to fly over and take part.
Many towns and cities have their own statues to a local senior officer politician who gloriously led the men into battle. They of course survived to be venerated. The men under their command…well they were expendable and did their duty.