Wandsworth Stop the War Coalition to host debate on how to commemorate the start of World War One


The event will be held on March 17 at Battersea Arts Centre.


By Jack Skelton

Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to mark the centenary of the First World War with a celebration similar to the Diamond Jubilee sparked a lively debate over how best to commemorate the war.

Wandsworth Stop the War Coalition is hosting an event on Monday evening (March 17) at Battersea Arts Centre which is set to address the question.

The meeting, entitled ‘No Glory in War – How should we remember the First World War?’ will feature a talk by historian Neil Faulkner followed by a Q&A session.

The event shares its title with No Glory in War, a collective of writers, actors, teachers and campaigners, which included the late Tony Benn, who argue the centenary should not be a celebration of nationalism but a promotion of peace.

The campaign is running a series of events involving debate, film, music, and poetry to put their message across.

Although the Wandsworth Coalition is not directly affiliated with No Glory in War, their Secretary Pat Sheerin says they have taken up the theme of that organisation.

She expects this to be the first of many discussions arranged by the group throughout the centenary.

In particular Ms Sheerin hopes to run an event that focuses on the connection between the history of Battersea and World War One.

John Burns, MP for Battersea and President of the Board of Trade when war broke out, resigned in protest against the government’s decision to go to war.

This nonconformist ideal endures in the Wandsworth Coalition, one of many regional organisations to host events supported by Stop the War this year.

Another key aspect of Monday’s debate will be considering potential similarities between the factors behind the First World War and current conflict situations in Afghanistan, Syria and even Ukraine.

“The question is have we learnt any lessons? It is worth pointing these parallels out,” said Ms Sheerin.

“Our heroes return home now not in joyous mood and they do not get enough support. A lot of them are angry, totally disillusioned with what they saw and why they were there.”

Mr Faulkner’s speech is due to question the dominant narratives about why we went to war and explore how we should remember it.

The historian, author of the pamphlet ‘No Glory – The Real History of the First World War’, will be speaking at several events around the country, also addressing the question of whether the war could have been stopped before it even started.

Another vocal critic of Mr Cameron’s remarks is Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman.

He angered many fellow critics on Thursday when he suggested in a speech to a conference of teachers that war poetry was an inadequate and misguided way to teach the Great War as it ‘luxuriated in the horror’ of the conflict.

In response, Ms Sheerin argued:“A broad education from all kinds of direction is needed to teach such a subject. The war poets are an extremely important part of our understanding of the First World War.”

This is one of the many issues Wandsworth Stop the War Coalition expected to be discussed at Monday’s organic and lively debate.

The event begins at 6.30pm at Battersea Arts Centre and for more information on Stop the War and No Glory in War visit and respectively.

Photo courtesy of William Avery, with thanks.

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