The hard work of peace

 

I heard a story on the radio this week about an amazing woman, Alice Wheeldon, who put her life on the line in opposition to World War 1. This time 100 years ago, she, two of her daughters and a son-in-law were tried and found guilty of what seem to have been trumped up charges of attempting to kill the British Prime Minister of the time, David Lloyd George. She was against conscription of people into the war effort, and helped to hide men who were avoiding from the draft of that time, and was, it appears likely, framed by someone pretending to be a conscientious objector. She went to jail (she was sentenced to 10 years), but was released not long afterwards, and died soon after in the flu epidemic of 1919. One of her daughters (Hettie) who was tried with her, but acquitted of the crime died the following year, after giving birth to a stillborn baby. Her son Willie was not allowed to return to his work as a teacher after the war as he had been jailed during the war (he was a conscientious objector). He left Britain and went to the Soviet Union, where he was eventually killed in one of Stalin’s ‘purges’. Another daughter Winnie and her husband Alf Mason were also jailed for their part in the ‘plot’. The whole family were crusaders for peace and a better world (as indicated in the plaque above, they had lots of causes), but really paid a price for it.

Winnie and Alf had one son, Peter. He was a scientist, and moved to Australia in the 1960’s. He worked for a time at the ABC, and contributed to The Science Show – winning, ironically enough, a UN Media Peace Prize for one of the series he made there in the 1980’s. He too was an activist for anti-nuclear and anti-war causes, but apparently did not speak in detail about his parents’ experiences in WW1 till just before he died in 1987. His daughters are now working to get their family members’ convictions quashed – 100 years after the original trial. They were interviewed (on The Science Show again), talking about their father and activist forbears, and it was this that I heard and that moved me to write this post…

 

I felt really inspired by the whole family – their idealism, commitment, active contributions to creating change and willingness to go against the tide of popular opinion and work for what they believed in are really something. It’s a pity they couldn’t get a bit more peace for themselves in their lifetimes.

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4 Responses to The hard work of peace

  1. Mandy Laidlaw says:

    What a meaningful anniversary

  2. nickypage says:

    Thank-you Elizabeth for sharing this story. Let’s hope it helps in some small way for those women to get the criminal conviction overturned.

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