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Conscientious Objectors' Commemorative Stone

Conscientious Objectors' Commemorative Stone, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London, UK

This rough-hewn rock of 450 million-year old volcanic slate symbolises steadfast resistance to the maelstrom of war. In 1993, after an approach by Edna Mathieson, niece of a WW1 conscientious objector, suggesting some commemoration of conscientious objectors to offset the myriads of military memorials, the PPU launched an appeal by a letter in the Guardian, headed by Michael Tippett, and co-signed by representatives of the National Peace Council. Hugh Court, who had designed peace gardens, joined the planning group, and brought in the calligaphic sculptor Paul Wehrle. They went to Cumbria, and on entering the first quarry saw a boulder much larger than intended but with a natural facing in which to set a plaque. Confident that the group would be equally enthusiastic, and that enough could be raised to cover the extra cost, they commissioned it.

Donations large and small rolled in, and the PPU's builders rose to the challenge, lifting the stone by crane into Tavistock Square, London, already effectively a peace park.

With the inscription, 'To All Those Who Have Established and Are Maintaining the Right to Refuse to Kill, Men and Women Conscientious Objectors All Over the World and in Every Age. Their Foresight and Courage Give Us Hope', it was unveiled by Tippett on International Conscientious Objectors' Day, 15 May 1994, before a crowd of COs and CO families, but also including one of the builders with his small son.

On each International COs' Day since 1998 the PPU has played a leading part in a ceremony at the Commemorative Stone.

Reprinted by permission from Swimming Against the Tide – the Peace Pledge Union Story 1934-2014, William Hetherington, Peace Pledge Union, 2nd ed. 2015