NO GLORY in War
CAMPAIGNING FOR PEACE IN WORDS AND MUSIC
Friday 25 October 2013 • 7pm
St James’s Church • Piccadilly
London W1J 9LL
With • BILLY BRAGG • ELVIS MCGONAGALL • KIKA MARKHAM • GEORGE HLAWICZKA • ROGER LLOYD PACK • SALLY DAVIES
The Cat who was Shot for Treason
A cat was shot for treason
In World War One.
It had acted as an intermediary
Between Allied and Axis lines:
English and German soldiers
Could send messages
To each other
By tying scraps of paper
To the cat’s collar.
The cat then ran across No Man’s Land,
From one trench to the other.
When the War Office found out,
Allied superior officers
Ordered that the cat, nicknamed Felix,
Should be shot for its being a go-between,
And thus enabling fraternization
Between the warring troops
On the Western Front.
For, after a Christmas truce
When enmity miraculously faded
And one German dug-out sang ‘Heilige Nacht’
As its English opposite number joined in
With ‘Silent Night’;
And when deadly enemies
Shyly scrambled out
Into the open air
Of rum and schnapps, and lebkochen
And Huntley and Palmer’s digestive biscuits;
And when they swapped them with broad smiles,
And when impromptu football matches
Broke out up and down the battle lines…
These popular displays of comradeship;
These congenial armistices;
These undeclared cease-fires
Were outlawed by the government
Who declared that all such happenings
Were high treason,
And subject to the same condign punishment
As cowardice, namely the firing squad.
Felix the cat, however,
(Called Nestor by the Germans)
Was a law unto itself.
It would wait patiently
Whilst cheery little scrawls
In English and in German
Were being attached to its collar
By trembling fingers, raw with cold:
“Fröhliche Weihnachten, Tommy.”
“Happy Christmas, Fritz.”
Back and forth the cat skipped across the snow,
Across the hard, unforgiving soil
Of No Man’s Land; first appearing at Mons
And later at Passchendaele.
Then Felix – just like the animals
In the Middle Ages who, notoriously,
Were tried for being suspected
Of being in league with the devil –
Was judged by the top military brass
To constitute a threat
Through its enabling treasonous acts,
Through its being an accessory
To the undermining of the serial hate-crime
That was World War One;
A war crime that left fifteen million dead
Including a peace cat,
Who’s barely ever mentioned
But whose bloodstained paw-prints
Are a lone, feline testament
To war’s absurdity.
Open Letter: How should we remember the first world war?
2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Far from being a “war to end all wars” or a “victory for democracy”, this was a military disaster and a human catastrophe.
We are disturbed, therefore, to hear that David Cameron plans to spend £55,000,000 on “truly national commemorations” to mark this anniversary. Mr. Cameron has quite inappropriately compared these to the “Diamond Jubilee celebrations” and stated that their aim will be to stress our “national spirit”.
That they will be run at least in part by former generals and ex-defence secretaries reveals just how misconceived these plans are.
Instead we believe it is important to remember that this was a war that was driven by big powers’ competition for influence around the globe, and caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16 million people dead and 20 million wounded.
In 2014, we and others across the world will be organising cultural, political and educational activities to mark the courage of many involved in the war but also to remember the almost unimaginable devastation caused.
In a time of international tension we call on writers, actors, musicians, teachers and campaigners to join with us to ensure that this anniversary is used to promote peace and international co-operation.
Jude Law • Simon Callow • Carol Ann Duffy • Billy Bragg • Janie Dee • Elvis McGonagall • Antony Gormley • AL Kennedy • Brian Eno • Patrick Stewart • Lindsey German • Ken Loach • Dominic Cooke • Robert Montgomery • Vivienne Westwood • Caryl Churchill • Heathcote Williams • Terry Jones • Robert Wyatt • Tony Benn • Michael Morpurgo • Roger Lloyd Pack • Shirley Collins • Tim Pigott Smith • Samuel West • Timothy West • Vanessa Redgrave • Ralph Steadman • Dame Harriet Walter • Kika Markham • Susan Wooldridge• Mike Dibb • Colin Towns • Tony Haynes • Nic France • Barry Miles • Leon Rosselson • Leo Aylen • Jan Woolf • Ken Livingstone • Jeremy Corbyn MP • Duncan Heining • Chris Nineham • Danny Thompson • Neil Yates • Peter Kennard • Evan Parker • Chris Searle • Steve Berry • Lionel Shriver • Mike Westbrook • Kate Westbrook • John Surman • Pete Brown • Neil Faulkner • Janie Dee • Alan Rickman • Liane Aukin • Alistair Beaton • Kate Hudson • Andy de la Tour • Sophie Hardach • Jonathan Edwards MP • Coope Boyes & Simpson • Walter Wolfgang