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Memorials will honour all civilian casualties of war

By Charlotte Bentley | Clun | News | Published:

A new national charity has been set up by a Quaker group to commemorate and educate people on the impact of war on civilians.

Civilians flee from Idlib towards the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey

The Pity of War was being launched today, on Hiroshima Day, as a memorial to the nameless and voiceless affected by war, both historical and current.

Its objective is to promote increased awareness among the public of the wider impact of war upon civilians, something that has affected and continues to affect countless people worldwide each year.

The charity started as the concern of a Shropshire Quaker, the late Joyce Gee.

Joyce’s home in London narrowly missed being bombed in the Second World War when she was a schoolgirl.

The memories never left her and on a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, in 2013, Joyce was struck by the lack of a specific memorial to civilian non-combatants.

The issue was taken up by Quakers, both locally and nationally, when it was discovered that Peter Walker, an internationally known sculptor, was already working along similar lines and had a concept in mind.

Successful negotiations were conducted with the arboretum for a memorial site, where the memorial will eventually reside.

Jan Arriens, part of Clun Valley Quakers, said the charity will start fundraising for the memorial and the educational programme, in order to reach schools and communities.

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“The charity will focus on how truly devastating war is for the civilian population,” he said.

“Our website will be launched and people will be able to donate online.

“Joyce Gee went to the National Memorial Arboretum for the unveiling of another memorial, in 2013, when she was around 80.

“She was unsettled because she knew something was missing, that there was no memorial to civilians. She thought that civilians always took the brunt of war and she believed there should be a suitable memorial to victims as well.

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“So she took the idea to her local Quaker meeting here in Shropshire and we backed her corner.

“So it was all started here by a local person, Joyce, who was a very determined person.

“It is not just historical, we are also looking at helping and educating current and recent wars, like those people affected in Yemen and Syria. What’s interesting is that over time the proportion of civilian casualties in war has actually risen. Now, 90 per cent of casualties are civilian.”

The memorial will take the form of a bronze bust standing on a high plinth.

Maquettes of the final design have been on display in a number of cathedrals, including Chester, Coventry, Salisbury and Lichfield, where they have been seen by tens of thousands of people already.

Twelve bronze models will be displayed permanently around the UK as well as at the British Embassy in Dubai.

The design of the memorial is a blindfolded head, with neither ears nor mouth to symbolises the innocence of the civilian caught up in the horrors of war.

It will be cast in bronze, two metres high, on a plain square 30cm plinth and white gravel base.

Trustees aim for the charity’s work to go beyond the memorial and act as a catalyst for an ongoing educational programme, working in schools and communities across the country in conjunction with exhibitions and readings.

They hope to raise awareness of not just the physical but also the psychological, social, educational, economic and cultural effects of war upon the civilian population.

Fundraising towards the memorial is underway and anyone interested in supporting the project or finding out more can do so at pityofwar.org

Charlotte Bentley

By Charlotte Bentley
Community Reporter - @CharlotteB_Star

Community Reporter at the Shropshire Star, helping under-represented communities to find a voice in Shropshire and Mid Wales. Contact me at charlotte.bentley@shropshirestar.co.uk.

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