Bath Quakers’ remembrance wreath stolen in act of criminal vandalism

We regret to report that the beautiful handmade white poppy wreath laid by Bath Quakers at the Bath War memorial was stolen Monday 15 Nov. The wreath had been firmly fixed with wire and cable ties.

This was a deliberate and criminal act, which we have reported to Avon and Somerset Police.

The Remembrance Day ceremony at the Bath War memorial was a beautiful and moving event, honouring the dead and allowing the living to grieve and remember. Bath Quakers were pleased to take part, and we were made to feel welcome by the organisers and all the key players in the proceedings including civic authorities, the Royal British Legion, presiding officers and priests.

Quakers suffered and died in Britain’s wars, some offering non-violent service such as driving ambulances, some on active military service, and some as conscientious objectors. Bath Quakers are entitled to remember this, and to extend their remebrance to all victims of war civilian as well as military, and of all nationalities. As we wrote on our wreath, since the white poppy was created by the Peace Pledge Union in 1933 over 200m people have died in over 300 wars. Wars continue today.

Our firm belief is that war is not inevitable and that we are all called to work towards better alternatives. This is a serious and long-held conviction. US and British Quakers (AFSC and the British Friends’ Service Committee) were jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1947, to recognise 300 years of Quaker efforts to heal rifts and oppose war: “for their pioneering work in the international peace movement and compassionate effort to relieve human suffering, thereby promoting the fraternity between nations”. That work is as urgent as ever, and we would like to still reflect the spirit of that citation today.

We wrote on our wreath that Bath Quakers welcome conversation about matters of war, peace, remembrance and hope. The 14 Nov event is about Remembrance. The bereaved need comfort, and we feel and would like to be accepted as entirely respectful of grief and acts of remembrance. We do however challenge the orthodoxy of militarisation, and we recognise that challenge is uncomfortable to some.

If the response to our participation in the Remembrance Service provokes a wider conversation about militarisation as well as respecting the dead and the grief of the bereaved then all of this – even including the criminal act of theft – is worth while.

Bath Quakers Graham Page and William Heath (just left of centre) wait respectfully with veterans and others to lay their white poppy wreath.

We attended with prior permission and were made to feel welcome by the British Legion, priests, civic and military authorities. Shown here: Bath Major Cllr June Player(centre) and the Rector of Bath Abbey Revd Canon Guy Bridgewater, (left).

Photos by the official photographer David Hargrave, used with his kind permission.

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