International Conscientious Objectors’ Day

This annual event was marked on 15th May with ceremonies in different parts of the UK, including in the North, vigils in Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. At the Manchester event, the following poem was read by poet Steven Waling. Steven is a Manchester Quaker and also works one day week in the NFPB office. The poem has been informed and inspired partly by First World War CO Tribunal accounts, as well as by more recent events.



This is how it goes:

Colonel comes to your cell
all reason logic: Well
you’ve made your point
no need to be stubborn
there’s a good chap

Or one day they gathers up
a host of us
takes us in trucks to the docks
ship us to France

Put on your uniform

But why should they ask me
to put on a uniform
I ain’t got no quarrel
with the people of Germany


Then when I says no
the Colonel says

What I’m going to do is
bring in the Corp’ral as witness
and give you an order

sometimes we talks about God
they say The Bishop agrees with it
but the Bishop ain’t God

No doubt you’ll refuse
and that’ll be grounds
for court-martial

He says, you could be shot
and they shows us the guns

but I ain’t got no quarrel
with the Vietcong


My pacifism has plenty of testing
and they say we’re deserters
cowards and such

Put on your uniform

but when you’re standing
in that courtyard
with the guns at your chest

ideas are very dangerous
permeate further than bullets

none of us blinks

Solidarity can’t have that
International Cooperation
can’t have that

And I ain’t got no quarrel
with the mothers of Iraq


And the Corp’ral comes in
with a smirk on his face

Sometimes they says
how can you have a conscience
if you ain’t got religion

but ain’t there a light in everyone
never goes out even in Corp’rals

and the Colonel says ‘Shun!
the world is my country
so I just sits down
and there are just grounds

and when you’re back
from the firing squads (sentence
commuted) we’ll not sleep sound
in lousy beds damp sheets
2 days No.1. P. Diet

Still I ain’t got no quarrel
with the folks abroad
never put me in cell

for not wearing uniform

Steven Waling

Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00