#whitefeather diaries

A sixteen-year-old speaks out against war

Tuesday 5 August

John was not the only teenager to oppose the war. Some were determined not only to speak out against the war but to make contact with others who shared their views.

Harold Bing was a sixteen-year-old pacifist living in Croydon. On 2 August 1914, as Europe descended into war and Britain looked likely to join in, thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London to call for peace.

Harold walked eleven miles to get to the rally – and then walked home again. Here he describes the experience.

When I heard that a big anti-war demonstration was to be held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, 2 August 1914, and that Keir Hardie was to be one of the speakers, I walked up from my home to Trafalgar Square – about eleven miles – took part in that demonstration, listened to Keir Hardie and of course walked home again afterwards, which perhaps showed a certain amount of boyish enthusiasm for the anti-war cause.

It was quite a thrilling meeting with about 10,000 people there and certainly very definitely anti-war. But at the very same time, while we were demonstrating in Trafalgar Square, the cabinet was sitting at Downing Street deciding on the ultimatum which brought the country into the war two days later, on 4 August.

Quoted in Voices Against War, edited by Lyn Smith (Mainstream Publishing, 2010)

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