'Never again': Anti-war veterans to carry white-poppy wreath to Cenotaph

Former SAS serviceman Ben Griffin says they will honour all of those killed in war 'including civilians and foreign soldiers'

Samuel Clements,Joe Krishnan
Saturday 01 November 2014 17:00
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Anti-war protesters at the Cenotaph
Anti-war protesters at the Cenotaph

A former soldier who set up an organisation for veterans campaigning against war will lead an alternative Remembrance Service next Sunday.

Ben Griffin founded Veterans For Peace in 2011 after discovering many war veterans supported his disillusion towards war. A former serviceman in the Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service division, he was discharged from the army in 2005 for refusing to continue serving in Iraq. In 2008 he spoke to an anti-war rally about UK involvement in extraordinary rendition the day before he was served with an injunction preventing him from speaking publicly about his time in the SAS.

As part of the service, veterans will walk to the Cenotaph memorial outside Whitehall, London, under the banner ‘Never Again’ carrying a wreath of white poppies to acknowledge civilians killed in modern warfare. They will also wear t-shirts bearing the message ‘War is Organised Murder’, a quote from Harry Patch, the last survivor of the First World War.

Griffin says they will honour all of those killed in war “including civilians and foreign soldiers”, but insists their primary objective is to educate the general population on the “true nature of warfare and to resist war and militarism through nonviolent action”.

Here he answers questions – which were restricted by the injunction he is still under - about his plans.

I served in the Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service on operations in Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. I founded Veterans For Peace UK in 2011 after realising that there were many other veterans who after experiencing war wanted to campaign against it.

Could you describe what type of organisation Veterans For Peace is?

We are an organisation of former servicemen and women who have come to the realisation that war is irrational and immoral and want to campaign against it. We have members from all three services with experiences ranging from D-day to Afghanistan. We work to educate the general population on the true nature of warfare and to resist war and militarism through nonviolent action.

How have Veterans For Peace been received by other organisations?

We have not received any negative communication from other veterans groups. Many veterans who do not consider themselves anti-war respect us and our work. Groups within the Peace Movement have been supportive of us.

What are Veterans For Peace planning for Sunday 9 November?

On Remembrance Sunday 9 November 2014 Veterans For Peace UK will walk to The Cenotaph under the banner ‘Never Again’. The message on the back of our tops will read “War is Organised Murder” which is a quote from Harry Patch, the last survivor of The Western Front who he died in 2009. We will lay a wreath of predominantly white poppies to acknowledge the fact that the majority of those killed in modern warfare are civilians.

Why are Veterans For Peace walking on Sunday 9th November?

We think that the annual campaign run by The Royal British Legion has little to do with remembrance and is waged in order to promote unquestioning support for the military and war. We have been told by the RBL that the official ceremony is only to remember British war dead and that foreign veterans are not welcome. We want to remember all of those killed in war including civilians and foreign soldiers. We also want to send a clear message that we have experienced war and it should not be glorified.

What are Veterans For Peace hoping to achieve through this demonstration?

A lot of people feel uneasy about the militaristic nature of the official ceremony and that politicians that take a central role. We will provide a truly peace-minded ceremony organised entirely by veterans that others are welcome to follow and observe. We want to send a clear message to our government, most of whom have never served in the military or experienced war first hand, that war is not glorious.

Have you received any hostility or pressure from the authorities?

Personally yes, after speaking out about the immoral and illegal nature of operations I carried out in Iraq I was handed a lifetime injunction in the High Court by the MOD that prevents me from telling anyone about my time in special forces.

I have been raided and arrested in my home by the Metropolitan Police for spurious reasons on two occasions during which no charges were made. I have been harassed on the street by members of the Metropolitan Police on many occasions.

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