Peace Stories - Godric Bader
Conscientious objector in World War II
Godric Bader is a member of Wellingborough Local Meeting. He joined the Friends Ambulance Unit during the Second World War and has been an active peace campaigner ever since. In 2009 Northamptonshire Quakers mounted an exhibition titled Quaker Roads to Peace. Godric contributed three placards dating back to the early years of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. These fifty-year-old placards, together with a large archive of peace newsletters, newspaper cuttings and correspondence, were afterwards donated to the national Peace Museum in Bradford. Godric recorded an extended interview about his experiences of pacifism, published here alongside a selection of his photographs of the second CND Aldermaston March in 1959.
RECORDED PEACE STORY (October 2009)
Early influences towards pacifism
Can you tell me how and why you became a peace-maker? What are your earliest memories of the peace movement?
One very early memory that I recall... I was doing my piano practice in the front room of the house where we lived in Essex, I was able to look out of the window and see through the front gate the road outside, and in my imagination I would be able to rush to warn my mother, “It’s come! there’s gas rolling along the road!”. Because I had obviously in my memory, even at that time, some background from the horrors of the First World War. My parents had experienced a concern at the time when gas and other instruments of war were becoming better known and understood. That’s just a memory of the horrendous, horrific nature...of the need for peace to be developed.
Your parents sent you to a Quaker school, didn’t they?
Yes, because there was nothing much locally around where we lived in Stanford-le-Hope, which was actually on a large area of its country outskirts called The Homesteads, something which Lloyd George had started... was it five, or three, acres and a cow? My parents had developed a strong attraction in that direction, having become vegetarians.
So were your parents convinced peace-makers, or pacifists?
Well not originally, I don’t know that my mother was. She was more steady in the background, but they were both attracted somehow, when he came across from Switzerland, to hear talks and lectures on a wide range of subjects – I recall Zoroastrianism. He had this feeling that there was something more basic that he had to search for. I think he ran across, fairly early, Reginald Sorensen who was well-known for his work, particularly latterly in India. And there were a group that were speaking against the First World War around Hampstead, and some were thrown in the ponds at Hampstead Heath by the people there who were thinking: “This is impossible, we can’t have these people who suggest that fighting the war is wrong!”. And he got interested in that group somehow, because I think there was something fresh and alive which he hadn’t quite experienced before... against something which he already felt was not a good thing, or he wouldn’t have left the Swiss Army as he had done while doing his National Service. One Christmas he didn’t go back. The sergeant who was in charge of the particular group he’d been attached to and he... said he would go to England and he wouldn’t come back again. And he didn’t, but of course he had already met my mother!
So really, peace was in your blood?
Yes, it was really. I do remember we had, fairly early on, a film projector. I remember seeing films of horrendous gas attacks, because that was, at that time, sort of equivalent to what we have now with nuclear weapons, and my parents showed pacifist films. That was the final gassing... it was seen by people to be a horrendous thing to do to anybody. How anybody could do this to anybody? That was the final stupidity.
Saffron Walden Quaker School
When you went to Saffron Walden School, did you have much contact with the peace movement there?
I can’t think directly... yes, with Quakers. The peace movement did, I think, get talked about with the History master, a man called Stanley King-Beer, who had been a conscientious objector in the First World War. There was some background there that I suppose I probably picked up. We went to the local Quaker Meeting. The idea then was to take in to Meeting... if it was summer, you’d take a really noisy bee and put it in a match box and let it out at some moment or other, if you had the nerve to do it! And you did it in such a way that the masters or mistresses... one or two were settled around the group, keeping a good eye on you, and they wouldn’t see who did it. I remember those sort of things! No, I can’t remember any particular feeling of pacifism... but I was attracted towards it because of the background I had with my parents, and possibly I got some sort of... more of a deeper religious concern for it. In those days the Bible and other writings of Quakers were a background for deeper thinking... moving towards thinking that we have to do something about war. Because at that time we were worried that it was going to happen again.
So this was the 1930s, wasn’t it?
It was the 1930s, yes.
Were any of your friends at school interested in what would happen if war broke out?
Yes, certainly. Three of them were: Proctor Le Mare, Ken Francis and I think possibly Stephen Walker. I can remember them discussing what they would do if there was a war. I think two of them said (including me) that they would probably not be willing to go into the Army. Stephen Walker, I think, was uncertain. I don’t know where he ended up. But the other two did stick it out. Yes, certainly Proctor Le Mare was out in Yugoslavia at the end of the war with the Friends Ambulance Unit, which I subsequently joined, and Ken Francis worked on the land.
The outbreak of war
In 1939, where were you? Were you still at school?
I remember exactly where I was when war was declared. I was always interested in radio in one form or another, and I’d developed a rather sketchy kind of transmitter which would broadcast about two or three hundred yards, which was pretty good in those days. In fact I was under a plum tree, because it had a good aerial on it, and then I thought “Well, perhaps I ought to keep listening to the news.” So I switched my equipment back to listen to the news and I actually heard the war declared. I can remember that very strongly. Certainly I was very concerned and quite worried as to how things would develop. I was still at school at that time. But I didn’t know that my father had his house – the house where we lived was searched because of the fact that the neighbours had seen me transmitting to my cousin Brian Parkyn. They didn’t know who it was, they thought I was talking to the enemy! When the police, or whoever they were, came to the house they found books in German. Well, this was obviously a spy, so Ernest was marched off to the local police station.
Not kept for long, I hope?
No, I think they soon realised he was no spy. But they couldn’t believe there wasn’t something behind it, somewhere or other!
Can you tell me something about your own experiences in the war years?
Well, clearly the blackout. And we had to move from where we were in the Thames estuary because we had – not actually air-raids on ourselves, because most of the German planes were flying in to the East End of London, or further if they could get there. But around us there were batteries of anti-aircraft guns going off on Laindon and Hornden Hills around us. During the night and during the day there were of course a lot of dog-fights and we had to go inside. I was out, naturally, watching what was going on in the sky. That was a dangerous thing to do! We did actually dig a shelter in the garden which we never used because it wasn’t really suitable. But when we had air-raids we came down out of the bedrooms upstairs and collected under the piano, which was beneath the staircase where you were told you were more likely to survive. But we didn’t actually get any bombs upon our property as such. We had a lot of bits and pieces from the anti-aircraft guns, one shell actually came through the roof at one stage. But we were lucky, there were houses further along the road that were actually blown up by Germans chucking out their bombs because they couldn’t get as far as London. They just threw them out where they felt they would like to get rid of them.
So obviously keeping safe was number one concern, but what about concern over whether - or when - you were likely to be called up to fight?
I was prepared to face that, and I did get support from some of the background at the school. I remember that. I thought that I would be a conscientious objector because it was against the teaching of Christ, it was not Christian to kill your fellow men. There was a strong element of that, certainly. One should find better ways. That was the background. It was principally a fairly narrow-minded Christian approach – I say that now because I think the Christian approach can be very narrow-minded. When I came to the Tribunal in Cambridge later on, the statement I had to make did start off with the fact that I felt it was your Christian duty not to kill your fellow-men.
So you never really had any doubts about reaching that decision?
No I didn’t. Really I felt I had to do it, whatever the cost. In spite of the fact that my coloured brother, that my parents had adopted before I came on the scene, was feeling that he would have to fight because he was in the local school and people there were doing what was normal, you joined the Army. I had to admire the way he cleaned his boots, because he was in the... pre-training corps, and you had to clean your boots at the front, you didn’t clean them at the back because you never looked behind. You wouldn’t look behind because the enemy was in front, you were going forwards all the time. To look behind was to retreat!
It must have been quite difficult to stand up as a conscientious objector in that period?
Yes it was, because of the elements of excitement of going to war and showing you were brave, and that you had the guts to fly a Hurricane or a Spitfire. It would be a fascinating thing to do. And shooting down somebody else, well if you had to do it you would do it. But then if you think about what you’re doing, you would realise that this was probably not going to result in your conscience being satisfied as to what you were doing. Because it was against your belief that you shouldn’t kill.
Where did you turn for support?
Well by then I had joined the university, Queen Mary College, London, that had been evacuated to King’s, Cambridge. I felt I should join the Society of Friends because I felt there was... It’s interesting this, I don’t know if... probably my Saffron Walden background...I felt that this was a more acceptable way, because I wasn’t too keen on the hymn-singing we had to do at school and also at the Methodist church in Stanford-le-Hope. It seemed to me rather pointless and narrow. I sensed there was something more fundamental that I should seek after, that would give me a more universal feeling: that it’s the right way for people across the world not to get into these kinds of ways of looking at each other, and of feeling that there’s an Enemy somewhere to kill and destroy. Also at that point it was partly the influence of my father coming from Switzerland, leaving another country, and feeling there was an Empire, and why wasn’t the Empire creating a more peaceful world and not going to war with the countries where they were involved?
Were most of the Quakers conscientious objectors?
I don’t actually remember from the Meeting in Cambridge, but I certainly remember reading Peace News and other writings. I can’t be specific about that. I sought support in talking to my friend Proctor Le Mare who felt like I did about the war, that we could be conscientious objectors, that we couldn’t go to fight but we could do something to alleviate the suffering. And we had heard of the Friends Ambulance Unit and there was some interest in me, though I did start originally working on the land after my Tribunal in August.
Tribunal and farm work
What happened at the Tribunal?
You had to write out and state what you believed was right for you, and that was questioned by some formidable, important-looking people sitting on the normal bench of the magistrates’ court, in a very important building – Cambridge Town Hall.
Almost like being on trial?
It was a bit like that, certainly. It was like that, and there was obviously a public gallery. A few people were there and the press could be there as well. I was helped a lot I think really by my father, who explained my background, and I think some of them felt, well, we couldn’t expect this chap to do anything different. We could give him conditional exemption if he does something worthwhile.
Doing either land, hospital – that kind of emergency services of some kind or another. Some people did in the war – what was it called? – “normal ambulance duties”, but then you had to be in uniform and I felt I couldn’t really be in uniform. There were other possibilities, not being in uniform, or being in the Ambulance Corps and helping people who had been damaged or killed, or refugees.
So you went to work on the land?
Yes, for a bit. Not for long. I do remember working – gosh, it was near Bristol – in a field which seemed... I remember it went on right to the horizon. I was with Michael Sorensen, who was the son of Reginald Sorensen who became Lord Sorensen and had been a great friend of my father. We were together by chance in a hostel and went hoeing – the farmer had given us the job of clearing a lot of weeds, and the weeds were taller than the plants, whatever they were underneath, we were salvaging a crop. I’ve forgotten the details but I remember working towards the horizon and it seemed endless to get this work done. We really worked extremely hard there, with blistered hands you had to ignore. And then latterly I was involved in going towards hedging and ditching, which was even tougher work, and at that point in time I asked for a change of occupation. I asked to join the Friends Ambulance Unit, because I thought this didn’t seem to be helping an awful lot, on the land. In a way, you weren’t doing anything... It was useful, yes, but you weren’t doing anything where it was satisfying being more in contact, where you could be more of help, more directly with people who were suffering in one form or another.
Friends Ambulance Unit
Was it difficult to get accepted by the FAU?
Well, they had to be convinced that you were a genuine conscientious objector and you had good reasons for taking a stand. And you had to have a pretty tough medical examination. I remember the doctor made you put your hands on the back of a chair and jump up onto the seat of the chair twenty times! To see how you could do that; and then they would listen to your heart. If you could do that you were pretty fit. I think they probably gave COs a more severe one, in the sense of seeing how tough you were. Were you tough enough? Because these COs must be a weak-kneed, cowardly lot!
You had a kind of uniform in the FAU, didn’t you?
No, we didn’t, not an actual uniform. There was some kind of dress and badge which you had in common, but there wasn’t actually an FAU uniform as such. When you went to hospital you had to have an orderly’s clothes, of course. I was an orderly and I remember one particular matron shouting across to me, “Orderly! Where are you going and why?”.
You’ve kept your FAU helmet all these years?
Yes. Well, the helmet we were issued with in the camp. We had a kind of toughening up and drill camp the other side of Birmingham, near the Lickey Hills – where we did our exercises which were largely training you up so as to be able to carry stretchers through very difficult situations, across rivers and up hills, in this case under branches and through forests, and going across fences in such a way that the patient on the stretcher didn’t fall off. Things of that kind. It was a generally roughening and toughening up kind of exercise, and all of us who could drive were tested out.
Were they mostly Quakers in the FAU?
No they weren’t. I don’t think they were. There was a small percentage, but it was only about ten per cent or something like that.
So there were other conscientious objectors?
Yes there were, those Christians who just felt that somehow war was wrong and they had got conditional exemption somehow. But I don’t remember having any grand discussions with them, of any kind.
Did you encounter any hostility or criticism because of your conscientious objection?
People turned away from you if they knew. I can’t think of any – I’ll think of some, some time – I can’t think of any, because you tended to go with those people who were believing in you. I remember being billeted in LCC Hammersmith Hospital for further medical training. I tried to go to Kingsway Hall, where – what was that well-known preacher? – Donald Soper preached. That’s what I did in the spare time we had, but we didn’t really have much spare time. Of course we had to keep up our First Aid. We had to study and we had to pass pretty elementary examinations and tests. You had to have the hospital experience, you had to learn to inject, how to use a syringe, bandage limbs and that kind of thing. In the Oxford Wingfield Morris hospital my first exposure was actually doing the bed pan rounds. We had to wipe the bottoms of these poor characters who were in the spinal beds, just laid out flat and exposed to anything, and they couldn’t do a thing for themselves. You had to do it all for them. That’s when I did actually smoke a little bit, because the chap I did it with, who was a standard orderly character, said, “Come on, you do this, you do that, put this in your mouth, see, and you won’t smell it so badly. Just keep smoking in the sluices!” It was also my job to empty and burn the theatres’ rubbish.
Were the patients war patients?
Some of them were. I remember particularly an RAF character that had fallen out and been bashed up, and he was in dreadful pain all the time. It was very difficult to have anything to do for him. The worst one we had in that particular hospital was a farmer who’d been crushed by a horse trampling across him, that was a terrible damage. He didn’t recover, but I remember shaving his face.
The Scott Bader Commonwealth and the peace movement
Let’s move on beyond the war, to the 1950s. The Scott Bader Commonwealth was set up during that decade, wasn’t it?
Yes, that was particularly important. My father read widely. He’d been influenced by fairly powerful reformist people that he’d read about, and in some cases met in London. Gandhi was obviously one. He had enough insight, in his ability to understand movements in the world generally. In the economic world there was a drive that he felt, and other people felt, led to war eventually because of the way the economic forces piled up and resulted in the need for the protection from a military background to protect the wealth of the capitalist elements which had created and fought for freedom to be able to build themselves up and have important power in the world. And the power had to be supported by military might. And this led – he felt – to the wrong kinds of attitudes that we should adopt to our fellow-men, to put it very simply.
So really, his business was itself part of the peace movement?
Yes, it was quite strongly. It’s in the articles that were drawn up when the company was put into a charitable purpose in 1951. It was put in the charter that the company shouldn’t get involved in war activities and products. Well, activities obviously because the company was making various things which could be used for war purposes, like the ingredients for camouflage paint.
Yes, special polyester resins, particularly latterly for making radomes. That was a difficult one because they could also be used for civil purposes – in the ability of a plastic to let the radar beam come through and be analysed by the equipment inside, as against metal which couldn’t have let the radar in, or would reflect it away. So we had to come to some kind of compromise. As long as the purpose of the product was for civilian application then we were... we would supply it as much as we could, in the sense that we would not be supplying it specifically for war purposes.
Were you working for the company in the 1950s?
Yes, I went to America in 1953. Was that the first time? Yes, I think it probably was, to get background and experience which included being blown up in a polymer explosion, so much so the whole plant was destroyed! As a result of that I was able to go across to the other side of America, to the West Coast, to California and San Francisco for sales and application experience. And I did go to Los Angeles and worked with the salesmen over there that had been selling the company’s product which was coming from another factory. So I have some background in American salesmanship!
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Bayard Rustin
Back in Britain, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament really got under way in the 1950s?
It got under way particularly because of the development of the Bomb. That was – I remember hearing it on the radio, listening to the explanation when it actually dropped on Hiroshima and then again on Nagasaki. That struck me as the ultimate stupidity, in the sense that this would develop in such a wide way, with the military mind that was still in existence, that the next war would be totally devastating.
How did you become part of an active, collective campaign around these issues?
Well I was incensed by people saying that we’ve got to have a bigger and better bomb in order to defend ourselves. I felt this was an ultimate stupidity because you can’t defend yourself from something that’s going to annihilate the world.
Do you remember the first anti-nuclear action that you took part in?
It was the second Aldermaston March. I missed the first. This was largely due – I was so involved in the company that there wasn’t enough time to give to peace work, which I was clearly wanting to do. It was really the result of Bayard Rustin, an American negro Quaker who had been the second string to Martin Luther King and organised the 1963 March later on, on Washington, for freedom. Now I was interested in him, because he understood my situation with my black brother, and he was intrigued with that kind of a background, kind of a situation and how I was developing myself and my attitude to the fact that all men were equal and all men of whatever colour were valuable. I met him originally in the US through a Quaker contact, and then through actually going to Oxford. Yearly Meeting was held in Oxford that year, and I got very friendly with him. He was very educated, very musical – had a wonderful voice and was recorded widely in America for his singing of negro spirituals. And he was interested in English background, and English life.
And in the little village of Wollaston, where we were living at that time, he actually went out and found some antiques. I didn’t know that the village had any antiques at all, but he came back with, amongst other things, an illuminated Northants policeman’s truncheon! While driving with him in Northamptonshire, we found a plague church that had been deconsecrated, the roof had gone, it was being used as a shelter for cows. There were some nice little figureheads at the end of the church windows, not any particular saints I don’t think, but he was absolutely fascinated by these. What he actually did was to borrow a stonemason’s saw and actually saw them off. Then he took them to America, literally holding them in his seat, to be quite sure that he was going to be looking after them well, and I think they’ve gone on to some museum in America. But it was rather exceptional and a pretty dangerous thing to do, if anybody saw you were cutting up a church, even though it had been deconsecrated! But it was right in the wilds, there wasn’t a problem at all.
You had a lot of interests in common with him, apart from the peace movement?
I did, yes. He was a very cultured negro.
National and local CND campaigns
Coming back to the second Aldermaston March – what do you remember about that occasion?
Well I remember by that time my wife had got interested and felt certainly that the bomb was quite unacceptable. And she had met other women who felt similarly. They were a group going to Aldermaston with others, and I took them in the car there. And she was determined to march the whole way – and she did. I remember I slept on the floor – it was a pretty ordinary parquet floor – in one of the schools in Reading. That was the first stop, I think, from Aldermaston. Because this was on the Aldermaston to London, it wasn’t like the original one which was from London to Aldermaston, to make the public aware of Aldermaston. That was why it went that way originally. Then it went back the other way, to London, to say “Look you lot, you’ve got to stop doing this, because this making of bombs is quite a stupid way of going on.”
Did you go to the final rally, when they arrived in London?
Yes, my parents joined me there. There are photographs of them actually being there and my little daughter, at that time, was being held in the arms of my mother with Stanley Seamark, one of the big peace workers in Northampton.
Was this the period of the Committee of One Hundred?
That came later on. There was some concern that was a bit too radical, by one or two people ‒ because they accepted prison many times. But of course, Bertrand Russell didn’t think it was. Nor did Reverend Papworth. But some people thought that the things they did were a little bit too radical in the sense that they would get the public’s back up. The public wouldn’t understand the support for the Aldermaston March, so there had to be another way to prevent the bomb being used at all.
How did you feel about the Committee of One Hundred?
I admired their radical nature, their ability to do what they did, but I wasn’t quite able to go to that degree of exposure I don’t think. The people in London got the exposure, they were able to get the publicity they could do with in order to get the absurdity of having the bomb at all exposed.
You have given a placard from that period to the Peace Museum. Do you remember how you came to have that placard?
Yes, we borrowed some that we came across – I can’t actually remember where – that were in the first March. We also improved upon them, then latterly they were helpful in demonstrating to the press, who understood the CND symbol, about the bomb. The particular middle-sized ones we had in Northamptonshire, intermediate missiles, they were short range, they weren’t long-range missiles, but they were particularly placed, of course, to support America. America was really using us as a platform. They still do! It was absolutely stupid of the country to be so tied to the American bombastic way of life. If we’d got more linked with Europe we’d have had a much better chance of leading the world, I would have thought, in the right direction. Then it led on to Tony Blair and his stupid war in Iraq.
Though you weren’t part of that London scene, there was a particular role for you here in Northamptonshire?
Yes. Northamptonshire was particularly able... according to Northampton not being further up in England, it was particularly seen as a good place to put missiles. There were several disused ex-World War II airfields here by then, that were still under the Ministry of Air probably, and they could be used straight away: Harrington, Polebrook, Luffenham, Alconbury. Harrington was the nearest to Northampton so there were continual demonstrations there. They were occasions that were agreed upon.
Who organised the demonstrations?
We started a local group representing Kettering, Northampton and Wellingborough. A CND group, yes. They were involved with those particular demonstrations. They were so exciting: you could actually see the missiles! They were ready to go off, you could actually see them standing upright. It was unbelievable. The local vicar – because we canvassed the area with leaflets, the villages around these areas – and one local vicar in Guilsborough said, “No, you’re wrong, it’s quite alright to use evil means against an evil country.”
Yes, it was Russia. Not only evil in that they had bombs and they were communists but they denied the purpose of God in the world.
Was the Northamptonshire campaign well-supported?
Yes, when we had a Pat Arrowsmith demo – where you would pitch a tent on government property. We had a supporting march from London, headed by Canon Collins of St Paul’s. Also I would guess we got about fifty people in a bus to Aldermaston usually, for the main March. Apart from correspondence in the press, there wasn’t really any direct hostility. There wasn’t any tremendous “ordinary local” support, the local papers gave fair reports and some good headlines, but there was a feeling that these CND and London people were probably a bit mad. They could see it was something that was important, but “We don’t want to get involved...”
Did a wide range of people come to Aldermaston?
More respectable people, suits and ties also came along. There were quite a few women that were strongly involved. They were very vocal and very forward in their concern, because I think a woman’s got an ability – a natural need – to be concerned for life at a deep level. Her instincts... I think some of them felt instinctively that to have a weapon of this enormous power was destroying something that they were responsible for: the creation of life. I think that’s the way that Pat Arrowsmith felt, and others that were very well-known, like Vera Brittain.
Your wife Doreen was actually arrested wasn’t she?
She was arrested for pitching a tent – which was quite ludicrous really, because the only time I got her into a tent (and I quite liked camping and that kind of thing, earlier in my life), she just got out and she made me get her into the local hotel! In that case it was a sub-aqua group that I was keen on and she had come along really for the interest, but she did not like swimming. No, she should never have been arrested for pitching a tent! The thing was, she stuck through it, and she went to jail. The tent was at the front of the base at Harrington, with the long supporting march from London. They were divided into those who knew they were going to be arrested, going to break the law deliberately - and she decided to join those ‒ and the London march, which was concerned with just demonstrating and not getting arrested. It was quite large, quite a big group of people.
Were they aiming to set up a peace camp?
That was what they intended to do, but they didn’t achieve it on the first occasion. Of course further on, Polebrook had a continuous camp. That was pretty much the one that stuck it through until very recently, but they had a convenient space which was neither government land, nor leased to the Americans.
It’s good to hear that Northamptonshire had an active part in CND.
Yes, there were people from London that came, well-known activists who said, “We want to support you, you know. You’ve been supporting us.”
Peace activism since the 1960s
You’ve never given up, have you? You’ve been active in lots of different ways since the early 1960s.
Well, writing letters... With money I’m able to help support the purpose and HQ office ‒ you know, living simply and not living at the level I would have expected to live as a managing director and chairman of a small company, but nevertheless a company of some distinction in the work that was done in polymer chemistry. I’ve been able to give money for other purposes. I’ve been able to support CND and Peace News consistently, and of course Friends were doing quite a lot in that direction recently. And Pugwash in particular, I’ve been able to support.
What involvement have you had with Pugwash?
Becoming a member, and knowing something about it, and then going to some of their meetings... I was able to meet Professor Rotblat, in particular. He came to one of our Scott Bader Commonwealth lectures that we were having at Wollaston.
How do you feel about the peace movement today?
In a way it’s sort of gone away, it’s rather sad, because I think it’s fractured. A lot of people felt that CND had pretty well done what it had to do, and have moved in other directions. There’s more support for small parts of what the peace movement has been doing, but I think the peace front is less developed, but more aware. I think it’s a strange contradiction. It’s gone into such activities as trying to blockade the recent arms trade fair – whatever you like to call it – which is, I think, particularly wicked because we’re one of the, I think the third largest exporter and manufacturer of armaments. And this is something totally supported by the government purely for greedy financial reasons. I think it’s a particularly wicked activity because clearly, without weapons the kind of trouble that’s going on in Pakistan and other areas... honestly, these people couldn’t do what they are doing without arms and explosives. They say they are not given arms. Arms are made by the West. They are supported and sold there. I mean, it’s such a total nonsense!
I can see from your archive that you’ve supported the peace movement right across the board, many different organisations.
Yes, “Make War No More”.
The Movement to Abolish War?
Yes, that’s a recent one. And the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, War Resisters International, Peace Pledge Union, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Child, and recently the Ministry for Peace.
Are all the anti-war movements working in the same direction?
They are. I think it’s rather sad that they can’t make a broader front and have some of the guts that were shown originally, actually to sit down in Whitehall. There should be that number now that we could block off the offices that are concerned, the one in Whitehall that’s concerned with war, the War Department or whatever it is. But you don’t see that blockaded. I know that seems a bit extreme, and I don’t know that I could do it, but I would still like to be involved in that kind of an activity. Even though we would risk – conceivably would risk – breaking the law and it would result in prison or other problems. But the reason why some people don’t do it is because they know that it can lead to violence. Because it brings other elements in, like we’ve only had recently with the BNP.
The anti-Iraq War movement was immense.
That march... what was it, how many million?
Between one and two million?
Yes – and it was ignored. That disillusioned a lot of people, because they thought that if that number can march, it was going to have an impression. But it was ignored. So people thought, “Well we can’t do anything about it, so why bother to keep up the pressure.”
So you think its failure has been a setback for the peace movement?
Yes, I think it has. Peace has got to develop at a much deeper level. I think it is actually beginning to with certain younger elements. I feel it in younger people. You know, they don’t think in any other way, than “Obviously, don’t go to war.” That’s the way to find your way to create a peaceful world: “I don’t want war in my life.” You wear a white poppy because the red poppy is not doing enough, the red poppy is only remembering. We’ve got to do more than remember. We’ve got to create peace and not create remembrances alone.
Photographs: Aldermaston March, 1959
Godric Bader took this sequence of photographs during the second Aldermaston March in 1959. The March was organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to oppose the spread of nuclear weapons. Hundreds of marchers made their way from Aldermaston, Berkshire, where nuclear warheads were produced, to Trafalgar Square, London. Among them was a strong Northamptonshire contingent, including workers from the Scott Bader Commonwealth and a group of women led by Doreen Bader, Godric’s first wife. Doreen appears in a number of the photographs (below in the centre, wearing a white scarf). The home-made ‘lollipop’ placard “Nuclear Disarmament Northants” was carried for the whole distance, and is now at the Peace Museum, Bradford. An appliquéd fabric banner from Northamptonshire bore the now-familiar CND logo. Godric’s parents, Ernest and Dora Bader, joined the March in London (final photograph, on each side of Doreen Bader).