This was a design proposal for a competition to design a memorial for Conscientious Objectors in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.
From the Peace and Justice Site
Scotland and Edinburgh have many war memorials but we also have a rich history of conscientious objection and resistance to war and militarism which deserves to be recognised publicly. COs at Wakefield Prison WW2. Nearly 20,000 men refused conscription in the First World War and 60,000 did so in the Second World War. Most paid a price for following the dictates of their consciences. First World War COs were vilified in their communities. 6000 went to prison and were subjected to harsh treatment, poor diet, often stripped naked, put in solitary for months on a diet of bread and water. Many went on hunger strike in protest at conditions and were force fed. 73 died.
235 men from the Edinburgh refused conscription including Arthur Woodburn, who served a long term in Calton Jail and like many other COs later became an MP. He was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1947 until 1950.
Women supported COs and actively opposed the war too. Edinburgh’s Crystal Macmillan took part in a women’s peace conference at the Hague during the war. Our vision is for a memorial that will recognise all who have opposed wars in the past and those who continue to do so.
The Legacy of Conscientious Objection
The sacrifices of COs laid the foundation for later peace and human rights work and for recognition of conscientious objection elsewhere. The UN and the European Court of Human Rights and most countries have now recognised conscientious objection as a human right. But over 750 COs are still imprisoned around the world today. A CO memorial will not only pay tribute to those who refused conscription in Scotland and the UK during the First World War, it will honour those who are refusing to participate in wars in our own time.
My initial response was to create a ‘walled garden’ of cages manufactured from gun metal and would act as a semi-transparent screen. Within the metal cages there would be four hundred castings of white doves symbolising the Conscientious Objectors who died during the First World War. All the birds would be facing inwards, focusing on a central point. On the fronts of the cages, there would be the opportunity to engrave words into the metal framework to represent the way in which the COs were often vilified during this period. On the entrance to the garden, the exposed ends of the cages would be faced off with metal plates explaining the worldwide movement in various foreign languages and in braille. The enclosed area would provide the setting for a garden which would be covered with pale coloured maintenance-free stone chippings. In the centre would be a focal point, to symbolise the strength and courage of those who opposed wars but could also represent the firing squad walls or posts that many of the COs were subjected to. This might be in the form of a tall standing stone surrounded by moss or a post fabricated from matching gun metal. These may have surface pittings to simulate damage from bullets. An alternative option might be to plant a red Japanese weeping maple to symbolise the bloodshed from war. A slight lip could be used at the entrance of the garden to help contain the stone chippings, this would also have to be adapted for wheelchair access. Smaller rocks would then be placed in each of the corners. Concrete benches would blend with the colour of the stone chippings and provide the public with a seating area to enjoy and contemplate the sculpture.
Edinburgh Peace & Justice