A Labour of Love Continues to be Cherished

gallipoli soldiers.jpeg

On Thursday evening, my sister Cate and I caught the train to North Williamstown to attend the launch of The Sons of Williamstown – ‘A Labour of Love’ – the completion of a project funded under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program.

Sons of Williamstown - VIP Invitation.jpg

We received the invitation after establishing a connection last October, with the two historians researching the projectLindy Wallace and Loraine Callow. Lindy had read my blog post on discovering a relative who was an ANZAC . He came from Williamstown and  she emailed me about their project and we shared information. I had no idea there was an Honour Board with photographs of the 265 men who died in WW1 and a photograph of the elusive George.

Honour Board

George Alexander McInnes is one of the ‘Sons of Williamstown‘, Lindy and Loraine were tracing to make the men who died more than a photograph imprisoned in glass. Their labour of love ‘to conserve, research, document and share the many stories behind the faces on the Williamstown Town Hall Honour Board.’


Thursday evening, a culmination of months of diligence, perseverance, exhausting days, sleepless nights and tears for  the researchers.  I also met Emma Ciolli who worked on the website and she admitted the project had been emotionally draining because most of the men were so young and the grief and loss felt by families and friends still palpable.

Five of the stories are short films on Youtube, but the others each have a page and it is hoped more information will be gathered over time with the exposure of the Internet.

the hardworking team happy
Loraine and Lindy flanked by the website team Riana and Emma.

Lindy’s email last year reveals her wonderful commitment and dedication to discovering more about the 265 men:

We’ve been able to confirm and identify all but 6-7 of them so far.  Because of the number of people involved, we early on decided mainly to stick to documenting service details and then expand on five stories, making them into little videos.  Oh but Mairi we’ve come across some truly beautiful and moving stories and would like to share as many personal stories as possible.  Only two weeks ago someone brought in their relatives diaries for us to read and copy.  Very moving to read his inner thoughts.  He was a poet and wrote a lot of his thoughts in verse (sound familiar?).

Our aim, like you with George, is to make the men more than just a number on their service dossiers and a name on an honour board.  All the while though we’ve been conscious that the stories of the men belong to their families; they’re not our stories and we don’t want to appropriate them.

Poor George McInnes – enteric fever was  terrible and was suffered by a huge number of men at Gallipoli because of the appalling sanitary conditions.  I recently read correspondence from a man describing the conditions to his family – they must have been horrified.

The above images from from The Spirit of Anzac Exhibition affected me deeply because I know there were not enough nurses or resources to cope with the injured or sick of Gallipoli. In Alexandria, where George died, hotels and other buildings were commandeered for the wounded – even the roof of the hospital.

There were two wards with 100 patients each and a ‘small’ ward with anything between 50-250 patients! The workload overwhelming with too few nurses working until they were numbed to not think too deeply of what was happening around them.

Nurses write of the stench of death and putrid wounds. Uniforms covered in blood and excrement, kits and bodies stank, soldiers unbathed, uniforms in shreds, no antiseptics, wounds remaining undressed, only cold water, kero tins converted to foot baths, fly blown wounds and amputations, men so ill beyond nursing… ‘one loses all sight of honour and glory’- these women dealt with the saddest part of the war and yet had to keep a professional detachment.

The manufactured and sanitised newspaper reports have to be read with caution – the primary sources Lindy and Loraine uncovered will be invaluable for future generations of researchers – if harrowing reading for descendants. I weep for fear George died alone and unattended.

No wonder Lindy and Loraine took so many of the stories to heart.

However, with the website up and running and the photographs and Honour Board lovingly restored I’m sure Lindy and Loraine will be looking to devote their amazing expertise and time to another historical project – after a well-earned rest!

research and planning board
A project in the planning

Australia’s fascination with Anzacs and World War One does not seem to diminish – in fact it is growing each year. I know there are many in the community uncomfortable with the money spent on celebrating last year’s centenary but I’m glad I played a small part in the success of this project. George Alexander McInnes was 19 years old and like so many others his future was stolen. Evidence that they lived, worked, and left a family who grieved reminds us the cost of war is always too high.

statistics of war dead
A display in Spirit of Anzac Exhibition – another project funded last year.

Postcards from Gallipoli by Mairi Neil

He survived the assault on Gallipoli
to die an unheroic death
from ‘enteric fever’ in Alexandria.
Weak, miserable, hungry and alone,
the tent hospital overcrowded,
too few nurses overwhelmed.
Our family’s Aussie digger
buried in foreign fields.
His working class parents too poor
to visit his grave
and the body count too high
to return him home.
A nineteen year old larrikin
eldest son farewelled,
a rabbit skin vest, Holy Bible,
and pipe welcomed home.
His war brief,
like his life.
Postcards ‘from the trenches’
sent love to family and friends
missing home, and wishing for peace.
Passed down through generations,
the neatly pencilled sentences
hint at the man he could have been.
A great uncle I never knew.
Each ANZAC Day I think of
George Alexander McInnes
and the thousands like him,
acknowledge the debt owed
to previous generations
for sacrifice, trauma, and loss.
But in the remembering there is
no forgetting the madness
and futility that is war.


When I came to Australia in 1962, I attended Croydon State School, which sat opposite the Croydon War Memorial in Kent Avenue. The ceremonies and wreaths of flowers at the Cenotaph vivid in memory, but my knowledge about Anzac Day scant. And when I discovered George was an Anzac I wondered why his name was not on the memorial, having no idea of the family’s previous history.



It was the era when we observed a minute silence at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month for Remembrance Day regardless of whether you were shopping, working or at school. I can recall being in Myer one day and the announcement to pause came over the tannoy. The elevators and escalators were stopped, the bustle silenced and heads bowed as many people did indeed ‘remember them’.

A minute in the more than half a million minutes in  the year is not too much of a sacrifice is it?

It was only when I went to high school and studied Australian History for my HSC that I began to think deeply about Anzac Day’s meaning and the effects of the war on the Australian psyche.

Since then, visits to The Shrine and the Australian War Memorial and events like The Spirit of Anzac Exhibition have expanded my knowledge.

My final year at school in 1970 also coincided with the Vietnam Moratorium. For several years we had the Vietnam War beamed into our lounge rooms each evening via the television, the tragic scenes profoundly affecting teenage me. I had three brothers, who were potential canon fodder to be conscripted and my parents often talked about their experiences during the Second World War.

Government political machinations aside, the fact conscription was introduced and it was reliant on whether your birthdate was pulled out of a barrel a bit like Tattslotto numbers added to the anger and opposition to Australia’s involvement.

In English, we studied The One Day of the Year a play written by Alan Seymour in 1959. It was banned for fear of offending the RSL and not performed professionally until 1961, and seemed to hit raw nerves again.

This essay by Associate Professor Anne Pender  is worth reading in full:

Anzacs and us
Consider the play today as we find ourselves in a period of intense commemoration of the Great War. We live in a period when thousands of young Australians flock to Gallipoli every year to participate in commemoration ceremonies and to see for themselves the place where many soldiers fought and died in 1915. The resurgence of patriotic fervor and heightened interest in the disastrous campaigns of the Dardanelles reinforces the significance of the play, and offers potential for new interpretations of its themes.

Australia is currently spending $325 million on commemorating the centenary of the First World War, 200 per cent more than the United Kingdom is putting towards its commemorative events, and a great deal more than what we spend on the mental health of returned service personnel (Brown pp. 20, 5; ABC interview). With this in mind, the meaning of the play takes on a new significance more than 50 years after it was first staged.

The central question about why we romanticise war, and why Anzac Day is so precious to Australians is salient. Historians have expressed concern about what they call ‘the relentless militarisation of our history’, arguing that ‘the commemoration of war and understandings of our national history have been confused and conflated’ (Lake and Reynolds p. vii)…

Any play should be considered in relation to its historical period. The context for the original performance, especially its banning, is vital to understanding the play. Equally important is to understand how the context for performance has changed and developed over time…

 Historian Mark McKenna puts the question strongly, asking why after the mass slaughter of the wars of the 20th century we ‘cling to a nineteenth century concept of nationhood: the belief that a nation can only be born through the spilling of the sacrificial blood of its young?’ (p. 34). Why are we fixated on constructing what was an horrific military disaster at Gallipoli as a marker of nationhood? How should we remember the soldiers who fought for Australia, and how do you think a play such as The One Day of the Year in performance should invite an audience to remember them? These are important questions and relate to an even bigger question: what does theatre offer democracy?


Tim Watts MP, the Member for Gellibrand spoke at the launch on Thursday, not only talking about his grandfather who returned from World War One a much changed man, but the effect his grandfather’s behaviour had on his wife and daughter, Tim’s mother.

In hindsight, Tim recognises that his grandfather would have had PTSD – undiagnosed and untreated. He grew up with the family referring to his grandmother as ‘a hard woman’.

Tim now considers what kind of life his grandmother had living with her damaged husband and his traumatic memories.

They say she was a hard woman,’ said Tim, ‘but is it any wonder?’

When I congratulated Tim on his insight and sincerity, he admitted having a speech prepared by his assistants in his pocket, but chose instead to speak from the heart and share his personal story.

Thank you,‘ I said, ‘heartfelt speeches are much better.’

The other speakers added personal stories too – it was that kind of evening. My sister Cate said she’ll remember the relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the room and the warm welcome from Lindy and Loraine whom we’d only met once.

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Snatches of the Mayor of Hobsons Bay Councillor Peter Hemphill’s excellent speech can be found in his informative press release here.

The honour board is a truly special memorial – it is one of the few honour boards in Australia that has photographs as well as the names of those who died in the Great War.

The brave men who enlisted from Williamstown came from all walks of life: they were butchers, bakers, lawyers, architects – there was even a piano maker.

The honour board was put together by former Williamstown City Council Mayor Bill Henderson. Between 1917 and 1924, Cr Henderson went around to visit the families of the men who died during the war, seeking photographs of the fallen soldiers.

These were mounted on a blackwood honour board with doors opening out.

The work of Councillor Bill Henderson to track down most of these photographs was quite extraordinary. While it was truly a ‘labour of love’ for Cr Henderson, it also exposed him to the extraordinary grief being felt in his community by family who had lost fathers, sons or brothers…

Some of the gold paint lettering naming each photograph had stuck to the glass covering the honour board and the deterioration meant some soldiers’ names could soon be lost forever.

Expert conservator Jude Shahinger did an amazing job restoring the lettering and the beautiful woodwork in the honour board.

Local historians Lindy Wallace and Lorraine Callow researched each of the men to find out their service records and the stories behind some of the men. They sought information from the Australian War Memorial, Australian Infantry Force records and newspaper plus that from today’s families of the soldiers.

Confusing the research was that some surnames were misspelt and one had a surname that did not match the one the honour board.

This work has been extraordinary and quite an emotional experience for both researchers.

…professional photographer Rob Lawler photographed the images of the soldiers during the restoration process.  Most of the photographs collected by Cr Henderson are not held by the Australian War Memorial, so this project will benefit the national collection.

not stone monnuments

The President of the Williamstown RSL also spoke to lead the very moving and well-known recitation: The Ode before we listened to the Bugle Call.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

He shared personal reminiscences too and mentioned a conversation when his son finished university.

How old are you, son?’

‘Twenty-two and a half.’

‘Do you know what I was doing at your age?’


‘I had just come home from Vietnam.’


If his son has watched the recent series on SBS I can imagine his reaction would add a few ‘expletives deleted’ because the grief and loss from the Vietnam War is still occurring as Vietnam veterans struggle with ongoing physical and mental health issues and the emotional pain of feeling the lack of reverence and gratitude so often given to World War One and Two veterans.

The Sons of Williamstown website and videos, the documentaries, memoir, novels, poetry and song testimony to the power of individual stories. They add to the larger narrative to give others a better understanding of war and I hope communities across Australia will continue to value them.

aftermath quote

On Monday, there will be many dawn ceremonies commemorating the landing at Gallipoli, but for most people it will be a time to remember the fallen of various wars – including the ones Australian troops are currently fighting.

In the words of ex-prime minister,  Paul Keating:
Out of the Great War came a lesson of ordinary people that were not ordinary. They did extraordinary things.

His sentiment can be applied to all conflicts and peace keeping assignments. The most enduring symbol of remembrance for most people is the poppy and projects like the ANZAC quilt blocks my sister was involved in and the 5000poppies catch the public’s imagination in a world where the images and news of conflict is incessant and instant.

Being able to take part in or make a physical symbol to show care, compassion and empathy is important for many people. For me, being creative is to make a statement for peace, to find alternative ways of affirming values and beliefs other than death and destruction.

Tim Richardson MP, the member for Mordialloc sits amidst some of the poppies that volunteers knitted, sewed or felted. Some of the over 250,000 poppies, were displayed at Federation Square as a tribute to all those who served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

The poppy project is ongoing as is my family research.

Lest we forget!

Trauma at the Shrine

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss

This week there has been much in the news about war – it is the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific when the Japanese surrendered shortly after the dropping of the atomic bombs and in Australia, a government backbencher exhorted the government to start bombing Syria deeming the escalation of the ‘war on terror’ necessary.

I’ve been writing a series of stories about my family that may turn into a novel and in the research process I’ve attended lectures at the Shrine in Melbourne because one of the “characters” is  an uncle who fought at Gallipoli and later died in Alexandria of enteric fever.

Through reading factual accounts, novels and poetry you learn of the deep and abiding sorrow that comes from war. Why are some people so keen to fight? So desperate to invade or bomb another country? Whether it’s the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli or the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the mourning and grieving never ends and as writers we must try and be honest about that and perhaps make our contribution to world peace. We must try and put a human face on statistics.

This quilt block from an exhibition I attended in April needs no words.

receiving the telegram

And this one a sentiment that touched my heart as I write about our family’s loss in the “war to end all wars”.

a beautiful sentiment many shared_1024

Three days after Hiroshima, an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. It was  August 9, 1945,  74,000 people died. Most of the dead were civilians and much of the city obliterated. On a summer morning three days before, the epochal use of the first atomic bomb  on Hiroshima stunned the world. Tokyo and Yokohama and other cities had been extensively fire-bombed, but no one could have imagined the devastation of the A-bombs (I hope no human being will ever again wreak such widespread and long-lasting pain and suffering on fellow human beings).

This poignant expression of grief from a survivor, interviewed in 1995, 50 years after the bombings:

Like so many, Shima has always wondered why she lived and her daughter did not. Not a single photograph of Akiko survived, but Shima still carries her image everywhere, just below the surface, like the tiny shards of glass embedded in her scalp.” 

Watching television and reading the various reports this week reminded me how the loss and devastation of World War One also ran deep. And like all wars, the conflicting emotions and opinions about its necessity, its causes and consequences are still being debated today. Death in war always more senseless than the usual death by old age, disease or accident.

I often think of the effect of Uncle George’s death on his family – how do you recover from farewelling a 19 year old and welcoming home his rabbit skin vest, Bible and pipe? Never seeing his dead body, never visiting his gravesite – having to accept, along with thousands of others, your son, brother, husband, father is no more. 25000 dead in ww1 have no known grave!

“We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that a part of us shall remain inconsolable and never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it is completely filled, it will nevertheless remain something changed forever…”

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

Some time ago, I attended a lecture by Jen Hawksley from the School of History and Politics at the University of Wollongong where she presented Bereft, a selection from her PhD exploring Trauma, Memory and Madness. A three minute summary of her thesis is here and well worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E9hPito5Vc

There were ideas and facts Jen discussed that gave me the proverbial food for thought:

There was a callous use of language by doctors and others when describing the grief experienced by those who lost someone, especially the descriptions of mothers grieving their sons. Many of these women ended up in asylums and were treated abomniably. Many were  not just coping with the death of loved ones, but those missing, and also those who survived, but grieved for the way life was before.

We are not born all at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later; and the birth and growth of the spirit, in those who are attentive to their own inner life, are slow and exceedingly painful. Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth.”

Mary Antin

Parental bereavement is different to other grief. A language of mourning did/does not exist. We have no word in English for a parent who has lost a child, but we have widow and widower. Uncertainty and with the grief of losing a son, mothers retreated to their own world – many visiting spiritualists.

I have to be grateful my Granny was not committed or admitted to a mental institution. My father’s oldest brother was drowned off the coast of Texas in 1927. As a merchant seaman he was a victim of the economic war of the Great Depression and just like the young men of WW1, he left for an adventure overseas never to return. My Grandmother spent the remainder of her days seeking some word or sign that her John was okay. She went to many meetings of spiritualists who grew in number after WW1.

The rituals of funerals are missing for those whose bodies are never found, or for those buried in foreign soil without loved ones being there. Family can’t see the grave, don’t get the support of the community – all of this traditional support mechanism lost.  “The individuality of death buried under millions of corpses.” (J Winter)

Vietnam was the first war where the Australian Government brought bodies home. However, it makes a difference how popular or unpopular a war is – whether the public consider a soldier’s death a glorious sacrifice or not.  In the first and second world wars parents cloaked themselves with the comfort their sons were one of 40 million combatants and fought in a “just war”. The Vietnam War was controversial from day one and Vietnam Veterans suffered tragic ignominy on their return as Australian poet Bruce Dawe‘s iconic poem indicates:

All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,
they’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing them
they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys,
they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags,
they’re tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolness
they’re giving them names, they’re rolling them out of
the deep-freeze lockers – on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut
the noble jets are whining like hounds,
they are bringing them
– curly-heads, kinky hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms
– they’re high, now high and higher, over the land, the steaming
their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific
with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east,
home, home, home – and the coasts swing upward, the old ridiculous curvatures
of earth, the knuckled hill, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness…
in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers
– taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming
surrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the splendour)
then fading at length as they move
on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset
raise muzzles in mute salute,
and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs
telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree
and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry
– they’re bring them home, now, too late, too early.

With a poet’s eye Dawe shows how worthless a soldier’s life is when war strips your identity, makes you insignificant even if  bodies are shipped home, not to a hero’s welcome or a society that respects their contribution, but ‘where dogs in the frozen sunset raise muzzles in mute salute,’

Jen Hawksley mentioned there are iconic photographs encapsulating WW1 that like propaganda influence our feelings:

  • the silhouette of a soldier leaning on his rifle by a cross
  • a row of graves
  • devastated countryside and a line of weary defeated soldiers
  • a group of women quayside waiting for soldiers to disembark

If these photographs are deconstructed, as we do with the volume of poetry from the war from Wilfred Owen, Sassoon,  McCrae, Hodgson and others a tear-filled ‘Why?’ rents the air.


Increasingly, we realise war is not even about soldiers – the greatest casualties are always civilians – just like the atomic blasts all those decades ago.

Returned men and women, damaged beyond recognition suffering the extremities of loss and bereavement. They do not get over it, or move on, or get closure. Survivors with grievous wounds
often chose suicide, others clung to another existence, a shadow of their previous life. There were soldiers who had accidents or illness and died without getting near a battlefield.

How to make sense of all of this?

  • the soldier full of grog and adrenalin coming back off leave and run over by a tram the night before heading for Gallipoli…
  • Clifford later died after 43 years in an asylum in Sydney. Aged 70 he was hit by a taxi on a day out. Irony was that his severe depression, which led to him being committed was because he had been hit by the tram and lost a limb.
  • Aussies bemused to be in Egypt referred to the place as Shit Sand Sin and Syphilis – many died from disease, accidents, crime… families at home refused to accept or were ashamed to announce these deaths as ‘heroic’.
  • Many families abandoned their soldiers if these damaged sons did not live up to expectations.


The sculpture, The Parents by Käthe Kollowitz in  Roggevelde German war cemetery shows the father being stoic and the mother prostrate at the gap in their lives when ‘boys’ died. As a mother and an artist Käthe captures the anguish endured by mothers on both sides of a conflict. This expression of broken-hearted and traumatised parents easily recognised.

The  extremities of bereavement could have been changed by knowledge during WW1 – parents wanted to know how and where and when their sons died. Photographs of the battle for Lone Pine show utter decimation – so many missing and official silence led to rumour and misinformation. Early dog tags were of compressed cardboard so decomposed with the bodies – so many bodies  lost and no official attempt at recovery for 4 years. Families never received personal effects and there were many suicides at home in Australia after the news of the large numbers killed and how they died.

And what of the non-military casualties? The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. Rarely are the deaths of those not in uniform recorded in official history.

War is beyond the ordinary person’s control – unless of course we can organise a peace movement:

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars), minimise inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, including ban guns, and often linked to the goal of achieving world peace.

Ordinary people standing together saying loud and clear that the loss in war is never over. The trauma continues for generations. The mourning too.

Bereavement exacerbated by ongoing pain, shame, stigma, confusion lasting decades. How many were ‘put away’ into asylums unable to come to terms with their grief. Unspoken family secrets. Violent alcoholism, domestic abuse from physically and emotionally damaged men and women trying to cope with the tragedy of their lives because of war.

In every process of remembering there is also forgetting. Anniversaries are celebrated, people’s contributions and sacrifices acknowledged, but we must never forget how ugly war is, the devastation left, the people’s lives destroyed.

There is a huge disparity between public remembrance ( the monuments, solemn artefacts) often misused for militarism and nationalism compared to the ambivalent stories of sacrifice and experience of survivors. The poems and stories that people write about their experience so very important for true understanding. We must share our stories and listen to others as they share theirs.

“The following poem brings us face to face with what is easily forgotten. However large or small the conflict, whatever weapons are being used, war means murder, and more often than not a painful and possibly slow death. The dead may be counted, but that’s just a number. What’s important is that each one is an individual, each one’s ‘body is susceptible to pain’, each one shudders, writhes, bleeds, and cries out. Each one could be oneself. The mind or soul may wander, but the body, the individual physical being of each one of us, inescapably ‘is, is, is’. It’s the same for all of us, tortured and torturer, killer and victim. We should not inflict on anyone the pain we would not want inflicted on us.”

Tortures by Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain;
it has to eat and breathe the air, and sleep;
it has thin skin, and the blood is just beneath it;
an adequate supply of teeth and fingernails;
its bones can be broken; its joints can be stretched.
In tortures, all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are just as they were, only the earth has grown smaller,
and what happens sounds as if it’s happening in the next room.

Nothing has changed.
It’s just that there are more people,
and beside the old offences new ones have sprung –
real, make-believe, short-lived, and non-existent.
But the howl with which the body answers to them,
was, is and ever will be a cry of innocence
according to the age-old scale and pitch.

Nothing has changed.
Except perhaps the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of hands to shield the head remains the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs fail, it falls, its knees jack-knife,
it bruises, swells, dribbles and bleeds.

Nothing has changed.
Except for the course of rivers,
the lines of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid those landscapes roams the soul,
disappears, returns, draws nearer, moves away,
a stranger to itself, elusive,
now sure, now uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has nowhere to go.

Perhaps one day we will build an effective peace movement and there will be strong and immediate public disapproval when politicians take us into war, or as we heard this week a politician recommending we escalate our involvement in someone else’s war. We could instead follow the women who were involved in the peace talks in Northern Ireland:

Male negotiators sometimes worry that having women participate in the discussion may change the tone of the meeting. They’re right. During the Northern Ireland peace talks, the men would get bogged down by abstract issues and past offences. The women would come and talk about their loved ones, their bereavement, their children and their hopes for the future. These deeply personal comments helped keep the talks focused. The women’s experiences reminded the men that it was people who really mattered.’