Testimony against War

Testimony against War

When war was declared and conflict came,
we sat in silence in North Street
seeking truth and pursuing peace.

When call-up papers came we held firm
to testimony against war
first formed in writing to the King.

When the tribunal came we maintained
that peace was our clear convincement.
so our service was to farm, not fight.

When conscription changed and changed again,
we witnessed to our Inward Light –
truth does not change, nor wrong be right.

When Friends had to labour breaking stones,
or serve as stretcher bearers,
we were prepared for punishment.

When thrice tried, our resistance remained,
we were not cowards nor craven,
though some suffered and some were shot.

Now in silence, some meet in North Street
in service to the Inward Light,
convincement of peace does not cease.

Terry Oakley

Two members of the Friends (Quakers) Meeting, who lived in North Street Leighton Buzzard, were Conscientious Objectors. They faced court martial three times but convinced the Board that their faith was genuine and were allowed to work on the land. The Quaker Testimony against war was first formulated in 1669 in a letter to King Charles after the restoration.

This poem appeared in an anthology on the theme of the First World War entitled ‘A Bridge between two worlds’, published by Leighton Buzzard Writers.