'War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’
In a few months the number of people who signed the pledge card grew to over 30,000. The following year membership rose to 100,000
PPU coffin arrested at an anti-Falklands
For a longer history see here
In October 1934, when people were beginning to feel the threat of another war, Canon Dick Sheppard, well known for broadcast sermons, who had been an Army Chaplain in WW1, wrote a letter to the Press: 'The main reason for this letter, primarily addressed to men, is the urgency of the present international situation, and the almost universally acknowledged lunacy of the manner in which nations are pursuing peace...It seems essential to discover whether or not it be true, as we are told, that the majority of thoughtful men in this country are now convinced that war of every kind, or for any cause, is not only a denial of Christianity, but a crime against humanity, which is no longer to be permitted by civilised people...Would those of my sex who, so far, have been silent, but are of this mind, send a postcard to me within the next fortnight, to say if they are willing to be called together in the near future in support of a resolution as uncompromising as...'We renounce war, and never again, directly or indirectly, will we support or sanction another'.
The response was beyond all expectations - 2,500 postcards arrived in the first two days! Following a packed Albert Hall meeting in 1935, Dick Sheppard called together a number of well-known people as sponsors of the new movement, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). In 1937 the No More War Movement, sharing the same aims as the newer and by then more active organisation, merged with the PPU. From its beginning, despite being started by a convinced Christian, the PPU's membership embraced a wide spectrum of belief - agnostics, atheists, anarchists, socialists and members of all religions. With the admission of women in 1936, the PPU brought together people who had struggled against WW1, people who regretted their part in it, and a new generation yearning for a future without war.
In a thousand groups around the country, the PPU campaigned tirelessly against a war it dreaded coming. When, despite all, war came, a decline in membership was compensated by even more activity. The Central Board for Conscientious Objectors, working from the PPU offices, helped COs through tribunals, advised on alternative service and befriended those in prison, who, towards the end of the war, included women. Offsetting this waste of human potential was the establishment of the Pacifist Service Bureau to assist Conscientious Objectors in finding socially useful paid or voluntary work.
Protests against the war in general and against particular aspects of the war, such as the intensive bombing of German cities, grew, as did the regular publishing and distribution of the weekly Peace News. In 1942 a Food Relief Campaign was started to lift the blockade against food being imported to the starving peoples of occupied Europe.
After WW2 campaigning against conscription continued throughout wars in Malaya, Korea and Suez until compulsory military service was ended in 1960.
In the early 1950s the PPU initiated discussions on nonviolent resistance, out of which grew the direct action wing of the nuclear disarmament movement, whilst the PPU never wavered from opposing all wars and all kinds of war: Vietnam in the 1960s, Falklands in the 1980s, and the Gulf in the 1990s have dominated the PPU's work, and throughout these years there has also been a major concern for Northern Ireland. The 21st century has seen the British government embroiled in more war that it can cope with and through them contributing to world instability at a time when it is ever more crucial for countries to co- operate.
Beyond unambiguous opposition to all wars, the PPU works on exposing and changing the institutions in society which make wars inevitable. Challenging militarism, together with promoting alternatives, continues to be the PPU's main task.