The Annual Gathering opened on Friday 8 November with what has become our traditional opening ceremony – A guided walk hosted by the amazing Mr. James Florey. This year’s walk focused on the theme of the Gathering – The Costs of War. James took us around various locations in the City of London. We started at St. Paul’s Cathedral. James chose this place as, fittingly, it was the place where the idea of VFP UK was born during the Occupy protests of 2011. We visited several stops of note along the route including Guildhall where James had arranged for the new Lord Mayor of London to come out and see the VFP flag! The walk focussed on corporate greed and how this has led to such things as the slave trade (we started it here) and perpetual war for profit as well as the Spa Fields demonstration of December 1816 (De-mobbed Napoleonic war veterans joined a demo & fought their way down from Clekernwell to Bank junction). We visited the monument to the Blitz – an area that was bombed during WWII and left as it was in order to remind us of the human costs of war. James also took us to the site of the Peasants Revolt in 1381 that got into the Tower of London, captured the two most powerful leaders of the land and publicly beheaded them. The Revolt was led & organised by veterans from the 100 Years War. The walk ended at Tower Hill on the spot of the former execution platform. Thanks to James’ hard work, the walking tour was well thought out and led, extremely interesting and very well attended.
In the evening, we hosted a screening of the film Kajaki followed by a Q&A session with a couple of the soldiers who were there (one of whom was portrayed as the key character of the film). The Q&A brought forward an interesting question as to how the soldiers feel about war now. The answer given to us by the veteran panellist was along the lines of “I don’t feel I have a right to an opinion about this. I am/was a soldier and I do what I’m told.” This is the automated response so common amongst serving and retired soldiers, and it highlights the importance of our work to show that veterans and soldiers have a right to have an opinion about what it meant to serve, and to ask questions and demand accountability.
Saturday 9 Nov 2019
On the Saturday, we had our AGM and Public conference. Thanks to Adrienne Beever for the following minutes and Public Conference write-up:
Michael Lyons, Chair
Danny Beever, Events
Adrienne Beever, Membership
Alan Chick, Treasurer
Apologies: Philip Clarke, National Coordinator
Annual General Meeting Minutes
Minutes below accompany PowerPoint Report, which was presented to members in attendance. For a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, please contact Danny Beever at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reading of Statement of Purpose
- Year in Review
- Financial ReportFor a copy of the Financial Report, please contact Alan Chick at email@example.com
- Membership Report
- Current members: 258
- With Proof of Service: 100
- Reminder that members have to reapply to be a member of VFP UK if they haven’t done so already, due to a change in data laws in 2017
- Members are aware that proof of service (PoS) is required to stand for the policy group and/or vote on VFP UK matters, and most members are sending in PoS when they join at this time
- Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to check on your membership status and/or have questions related to proof of service
- Discussion – ways to engage the public and get them involved in VFP UK, other than associate membership, which members feel would take away from our credibility as a “veterans” organization – perhaps a “Friends of Veterans For Peace” group, organise speaking events, donate funds, help us get our message out there – to be further explored by the policy group
- Recognise that we are a small group, of non-conformists who can see past the bullshit, and who can see how things can be better
- Priority Campaign status – Costs of War as background to Neutral Country – complementary, in keeping with statement of purpose and proposal for a positive way forward. If you would like to get involved in the Neutral Country campaign, please email Adrienne Beever at email@example.com
- Handbook Amendments, passed unanimously by members present at the AGM
- Section 7.5 Trustees shall read, “Each trustee has previously served on the Policy Group for at least one term.” [Explanation: This is to widen the pool of candidates available to fill trustee vacancies]
- Section 8.3 Term of Office shall read, “Members shall have a term of office lasting one year, beginning January 1st, ending December 31st, and be able to stand for re-election.” [Explanation: Smooths the handover to the new Policy Group by placing the handover date beyond the Annual Gathering]
- Other Business
- Dan Taylor, Statue Project: Dan Taylor took the floor to tell members about a current project of artist Micheal Rakowitz. Michael is looking for members to donate any army memorabilia they may have for use in his project. For more information, please follow this link: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1?ui=2&ik=b12ea4d8ab&attid=0.1&permmsgid=msg-f:1649433623502486978&th=16e3f72439737dc2&view=att&disp=inline
- Aly Renwick, Interviews for PTSD experiences:
Aly told us about a group researching PTSD and asked if anyone was interested in giving an interview. Unfortunately, the interview dates are now finished.
- Nev Dean, VFP UK South West coordinator, has put together some VFP UK Christmas cards. To get hold of some, please contact Nev at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the VFP South West Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=vfp%20south%20west&epa=SEARCH_BOX
All profits will be donated to VFP UK
- Jim Toler told us about his upcoming book and album that is aimed at helping children understand PTSD.
Jim writes: “We are working on a children’s book that deals with Trauma and PTSD. We hope the book may serve as a conversational tool in addressing trauma and related PTSD issues.
We aim to publish the book in a few months which will be announced on the website https://artlifecycle.com
Also, we have 2 CD’s of music coming out. Some will be used in the story “Annabelle’s Lullaby” … (the book)”
- Dave Gannon, would like to explore interest among members in lobbying MPs, caucusing within political parties to further VFP UK mission and goals. More follows.
- Election of new Policy Group – The following people were affirmed unanimously by members present into the stated positions:
- Chair – Danny Beever
- National Coordinator – Adrienne Beever
- National Events Coordinator – Ian Johnstone
- Membership Coordinator – Michael Lyons
- Treasurer – Alan Chick
- Handover of Ben’s Tasks:
- Trustee – to be addressed
- Registered address – work in progress
- Metro Bank – Treasurer
- PayPal – Treasurer
- Stores – Liz and Walter Heaton
- Shop Keeper – Liz and Walter Heaton
- GoDaddy – regarding items g-k, look into setting up a Communication Role and Technical Role, with Alan Chick, Dave Collins and Julio Torres
- Other Business
- Discuss proposal brought forward by Dave Gannon to explore lobbying public officials/parties in accordance with VFP UK handbook, respecting our political independence.
- Anyone interested in lobbying, please get in touch with Adrienne at (before 1 Jan 2020) email@example.com (after 1 Jan 2020) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Conversation continued during public meeting summation
- It has been decided that next year’s AGM will be available live via an app called “Zoom”. The VFP USA board of directors effectively uses this app for their board meetings. This saves a lot of money on travel costs and ensures that people who can’t make the meeting in person can join in online.
- Awards in recognition of commitment to peace work. Congratulations to:
- Michael Elstub
- Gerry Osborne
- Group Photo
The Costs of War – Public Meeting, Open Discussion
Members and supporters present shared their reflections on the “costs of war” as a building block to support our Priority Campaign, Neutral Country:
- We need to increase awareness of how damaging war is – social/political, human, financial, environmental, and opportunity costs
- Ruling class pits poor against poor and children against children
- NATO ally, Turkey, invades Syria, commits war crimes, our government says nothing
- Address war profiteering, nationalize arms industry, take away profit component
- Feelings among Veterans of having “been had for a mug”
- Moral injury
- Our mental health is being traded away for barrels of oil
- Prioritize renewable energy, end our dependence on oil/end a reason to wage war
- Recruiters target vulnerable populations, with no warning of the possible negative impacts from being in the military/going to war
- Toxic masculinity in the military
- Soldiers paid very little, crap food/housing, while companies are earning billions of the arms industry/war profiteering – they should pay
- First casualty in war – the truth
- People are also facing own hardships, local issues and systemic issues are related and we need to show connections
- What is good for veterans is good for all and vice versa
- Do it yourself politics
- Terrorism act of 2000, began to limit rights of people even before 9/11
- Experiences of veterans when they leave the service and hardships they face, mental health problems, homelessness, alcohol and drug use and abuse – most charities are rip-offs the steal people’s money, and control the narrative of pro-soldier meaning pro-war/patriotism, while not actually helping veterans
- Lack of critical thinking in the public sphere about war and militarism
- Discussion of types of control the government uses, to include partitioning people
- Let like-minded organizations know what we want as VFP UK
- Get our message out there – set the narrative
- Call to nationalize the arms industry
- Add voice where we have our own skills
- Attend environmental conferences and highlight war and militarism’s impacts on the environment
- Lobby members of parliament regarding our goals as an organization, keeping in mind Neutral Country
- Truth in recruiting, counter recruiters with our own experiences
- Ask questions, engage the public in dialogue
The public conference was concluded with a briefing for the walk to the Cenotaph.
Saturday Evening Social
Members and supporters of VFP UK convened (after a walk in the rain) at the Lost Boys pizzeria in Camden. Here, thanks to Lillian and Mike Lyons, we enjoyed some rather nice cupcakes that had edible photos of Ben, Jo and Gemma Griffin on them. This was followed by some extraordinarily interesting karaoke routines and a private performance by our very own number 1 charting Jim Radford!
Remembrance Sunday 10 Nov 2019
The walk to the Cenotaph is VFP UK’s biggest and most important day of the year. This year was no different. We formed up in Whitehall Place with the original message that WWI veterans carried: “Never Again”. This day was very poignant as it marked 100 years of the Never Again banner. After the traditional wait for the BBC to remove their microphones, Danny Beever had the honour of leading 35 members of VFP and a large number of supporters down Whitehall until we were beside the Cenotaph. Jim Radford sang Lemmy Kilmister’s tribute to the young soldiers who fell during the Battle of the Somme “1916”. James Florey then recited the poem “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon. This was followed by the laying of our wreath by Ben Griffin (handmade by VFP supporters Lynzi Hopper and Lisa Smith and by Dale Smith from VFP UK). The last post was played, and we observed a minute’s silence – many of us remembering friends that we have lost through war and also remembering all victims of war. Once the Reveille was played, we headed back up Whitehall to an extremely emotional round of applause.
To see a video of this event by Shaun Dey from Reel News please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQuUW9kt0kw
After the ceremony, we convened at The Marquis pub where VFP UK laid on a buffet for our members and supporters. We also had a raffle for Neutral Country pin number 001 that had been generously donated by VFP UK member Dave Lawrence. The raffle raised £105 which has been put towards our Priority Campaign.
Veterans For Peace UK is an entirely voluntary organisation with no paid workers. I would like to extend my thanks to everybody who makes this organisation happen. From the Trustees, Policy Group and Regional Coordinators, to every single member and all of our brilliant supporters, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Without you all we would not be here. Thanks also to everyone at Friend’s House who allows us to use their conference rooms for free.
To help Veteran’s For Peace UK continue functioning, please consider donating via: https://vfpuk.org///donate/
The Annual Gathering is an event that fires us all up and motivates every single one of us. Let’s keep this motivation up throughout the entire year. Let’s make Peace happen.
Danny Beever; National Events Coordinator
Re Norman Scarth’s comments
Norman is clearly a man of strong opinions and convictions. And from what he writes about his experience as a whistle-blower he has obviously suffered because of his refusal to compromise. Men who stick to their principles deserve respect. But that does not make their opinions correct and some of Norman’s views strike me as irrational, which is why I have not replied to him before now. For instance, his criticism of 1916, the song I sing at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, in which the dying boy-soldier says “It wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t to blame” – which he objects to on the grounds that because the boy had volunteered it clearly was his fault, and goes on to assert that he would only have volunteered because he wanted to bayonet a German! Norman, who was present at the sinking of the German battleship ‘Scharnhorst’, does not apply this reasoning to “the brave German sailors” whose deaths he witnessed that day, who might as reasonably be said to have joined up because they wanted to exterminate Jews.
The truth of course is that the vast majority of British volunteers and conscripts, and possibly most Germans, had no desire to bayonet or gas anyone. They believed that they were simply defending their country/way of life or doing their duty.
Norman also criticised my involvement in fundraising for the Normandy Memorial on the grounds that the 22,000 men it will commemorate need not have died if Churchill et al. had had the good sense to offer a peace deal earlier. Whether or not that is so I am 100% certain that none of the lads I saw die that day would have had any say in the matter.
Some of Norman’s comments make sense and there is a danger that our anti-war message will be diluted, but recognition of courage and sacrifice does not represent a betrayal of principle and Norman needs to recognise that people’s differing experience may lead them into different learning curves and priorities.
1) The attempts by Veterans for Peace to combat the warmongering promotion of admiration – Hero Worship – accorded to members of the armed forces was one of the things which attracted me to VfP.
2) Six weeks ago I wrote to Danny, expressing my concern that the Kajaki film was totally against VfP ethos, & that VfP UK has been infiltrated by those who are introducing ‘Jingoism in disguise’. Danny told me he could see what I was getting at, but subsequent postings indicate it is getting worse.
3) Seeing that the bombastic militarism of old is less effective than it was, they are using a new approach – mawkish complaints of how badly these ‘Heroes’ are treated on their return. Seems I am the only one to have recognised this insidious infiltration?
4) They ‘play to the gallery’: There is, of course, the obligatory criticism of ‘Politicians & Generals’, but they glorify war by glorifying ‘The Ordinary Soldiers’ (whoever they may be) who ‘Gave Their Lives’, & are at complete variance with the ethos of VETERANS FOR PEACE as I understand it to be.
5) In the VFP posting of 12/06/2019, we saw a video by Andy Wiseman ‘How Sleep the Brave?:
In the video we learn that Stuart Roberts had received help from ‘CombatStress. He was wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ jumper as he whimpered & whined about ‘suffering PTSD’. (See ‘Normal Fortitude’, later).
6) Infantry Warrant Officer Harry Roberts was ready enough to join the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Having seen the horror (& futility) of war there, he was still happy to go to Afghanistan to kill Afghans. We learn that after leaving the army, he ‘drank himself to death’.
‘Working in private security guarding oil installations “does not give you the same job satisfaction as the army”.’ ‘Job satisfaction’??? The satisfaction of killing foreigners??? “The Final Straw” was when the army wouldn’t have him back.
In interview with his mother the film showed the glorification of the military at his funeral – escort with fixed bayonets, & shots fired over the coffin, draped with the Union Flag. She must have agreed to this?
7) There is mention of “Afghan Hero Danny Johnston”. There is savagery & brutality in war, but very little ‘Heroism’, & certainly not among those who invaded Iraq & Afghanistan. That accolade should be reserved for lifeboat crews, firefighters & the like – NOT for professional killers!
8) No surprise that the film is ‘supported by’ those two jingoistic organisations The Royal British Legion & Help for Heroes.
9) I have tried to get Jim Radford to consider the words of the songs he sings, but seems I have failed (seems there is a large audience ready to swallow the mawkish sentimentality). The song ‘That’s how it is for a soldier’ (written & sung by ‘Motorhead’ in 2008) purports to be the words of an under-age soldier dying in The Great War. It includes the words “It wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t to blame”.
10) Granted, the very clever war propaganda is very persuasive, but, leaving that aside, it WAS his fault! He WAS to blame, & more so his parents who didn’t stop him!
11) He didn’t join up ‘to die for his country’: Like all those who flocked to the colours in the first half of The Great War, he joined up (& took 2 years off his age to do so!) because he was excited at the thought of sticking a bayonet into another human being – ‘the Hun’, who, he had been told, had been ‘sticking his bayonet into Belgian babies’!
12) Obviously the conscripts are not to blame for wars, but those who volunteer are. And that includes me! A generation later, I was as gullible as the volunteers of the previous conflict. Without us, the higher-up warmongers would be impotent.
13) Then we come to Jim’s own song: “And those of you who were unborn, & live in liberty (???), & remember those who made it so (???), on the shores of Normandy”.
14) ‘D-Day’, & all the deaths on it, & following it (British, Canadian, American, Germans & French), were completely unnecessary, but for Churchill’s vindictive demand for ‘Unconditional Surrender!’
15) If, when ‘D-Day’ was imminent, a reasonable surrender had been on offer, reasonable men would have deposed Hitler, & brought peace without further loss of life). There would have been no need for the new monument for which Jim is donating all the receipts from his songs!
16) Jim sings, ”And those of you who were unborn, who’ve lived in liberty, remember those who made it so …”,
17) WHAT ‘liberty’?
The ‘liberty’ of Orwellian Britain – of which Jim seems to be blissfully unaware? My ‘Hero Status’ didn’t save me when I dared to tell of the diabolical means used by Quisling Ruled Britain to silence whistle-blowers:
A whistle-blower myself, I suffered potentially lethal terror attacks, malicious prosecutions for non-existent ‘crimes’, Kangaroo Court ‘trials’; Then, from the age of 75, many years in many different prisons & lunatic asylums, prison again (for ‘Contempt’) at the age of 85, & AGAIN at 86, until I finally accepted – much belatedly – that Britain is not a safe place for those who tell the truth, & fled the land of my birth for safety in Ireland.
WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE A SONG ABOUT ME JIM?
18) I do not doubt that ‘Shell-shock’, as it used to be known, was genuine & that there are genuine cases now, but I am greatly disturbed at the large scale promotion of PTSD, with many jumping on the bandwagon. ‘Normal Fortitude’ is a legal concept, & most of us are endowed with it. Having survived trauma is something to be grateful for, not whine about.
19) I sign off by telling of something that worries me more than any of the above: It is that some people who have infiltrated VfP are filling the heads of CHILDREN with ‘trauma & PTSD’. In my view, this is close to being child abuse!
Sorry guys, but you got it arse about face
The badge is to remind me how much VfP has done for me.
I think Friends of VFP UK is a great idea!
So do I. As a Quaker we share your stance on peace and often talk about VFP at Meeting where several of us follow your posts and walk alongside you at the cenotaph. An associate membership would be a good way to support you.
I’m really going to go to this next year.