Thursday 21 September 2017
By Genny Bove
Report from a vigil for peace in Wellington, Telford called by 94 year old war veteran George Evans.
For 25 years war veteran George Evans was invited to read the memorial poem at the annual Remembrance Day event organised by the Royal British Legion in the small Shropshire town of Wellington where he has lived all his life. However, in 2014 he inadvertently offended the organisers by reading one of his own poems ‘The Lesson’ in which he remembered the dead on both sides of WWII. The following year, the Legion ‘disinvited’ him after George refused to accept a virtual gag that would have obliged him to stick to a pre-agreed ‘script’ for the ceremony.
Two years on and still firmly committed to peace action at the age of 94, George decided to hold an hour long vigil in Wellington to mark the United Nations International Day of Peace on 21 September, inviting others to do the same. He is planning a further peace vigil in Wellington for Remembrance Sunday.
As I happened to be passing the town on my way back to Wales from London, I broke my journey to join George and a dozen others this lunchtime. We stood – or in George’s case sat – in the beautiful town centre Peace Garden that George was instrumental in creating opposite the Civic Centre, our presence delivering a visual message for peace to residents, politicians and the world on this international peace day.
George explained to me later that it had simply not occurred to him that anyone would find his poem for Remembrance Sunday offensive. He said that Harry Patch’s words: ‘War is organised murder and nothing else’ had inspired the piece and was pleased to hear that Veterans for Peace UK have Harry Patch’s quote printed on the back of their hoodies and t-shirts. George’s poem reads:
I remember my friends and enemies too.
We all did our duty for our countries.
We all obeyed our orders, then we murdered each other.
Isn’t war stupid?
George experienced at first hand the brutal reality of armed conflict. He took part in the Normandy landings and was present at the liberation of Belsen. As one of the few surviving veterans of WWII, he is surely qualified and entitled to express an opinion about the futility of war and to comment on the fact that young lives were wasted on both sides. By attempting to silence him with the bizarre argument that the Remembrance Sunday parade is not the time for peace messages, the Royal British Legion has – to use a military metaphor – shot itself in the foot. George, meanwhile, bears the organisation no ill will and uses every opportunity to speak out for peace. Long may he continue.
To join Veterans For Peace UK please click HERE