Action Card December 2018
Material provided by Christians Aware
The End of World War One
Hearts at Peace?
On November 11th, 2018 the end of World War One was marked by church bells ringing and beacons being lit all over Britain.
World War One broke out on 28th July, 1914. It ended on November 11, 1918. Between 9 and 10 million
soldiers died and 21 million were injured. 7 million civilians died. Most British people supported the idea of
a war at this time, thinking that Britain should support France and Belgium against German aggression.
What is surprising perhaps is how much Christians really struggled to decide whether or not the First World
War was just and whether they should fight or be pacifist, inspired by Jesus' teaching to turn the other
Canon Alan Wilkinson’s book, ‘The Church of England and the First World War, shows clearly that many
Christians saw the war as righteous whilst others resisted this view and struggled with whether to be pacifist
or not. It offers discussion of pacifism and militarism.
Frederick Lewis Donaldson was a clergyman who became a pacifist. He was brave enough to condemn the
war when it was at its most popular, when Germany was retreating in early September 1914. He said that
not only did he condemn the killing, but also the hatred of another people which was stirred up. He was one
of a small minority.
Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy was an Anglican priest who volunteered on the Western Front in World War
One. He offered spiritual support and cigarettes to the soldiers, and became known as ‘Woodbine Willie.’
He came to realise the cruelty and futility of war and when peace came he campaigned for the poor. The
Battle of the Somme was a turning point for Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. He went to the front with the
soldiers and spent his time giving comfort to the dying, burying the dead and writing to their families. He
said that he tried to ‘keep the hope of heaven alive.’ Later, when the war was over, he wrote about ‘the
cruelty, folly and waste of war.’ How many people were at peace when World War One ended? The
terrible suffering did not lead to a change in the human condition, so that a second world war followed, and
other wars followed and follow that, even today.
Did the beacons of light shine strongly enough on November 11th to show a new way, along paths of
peace and hope for all, and in the footsteps of the Christ child?
Identify a situation of conflict and examine its causes.
Pray for peace-making and offer suitable support for the people.
Possible places to explore: Yemen, Burma, Gaza, South Sudan and many others.
1’The Church of England and the First World War’ Alan Wilkinson 1978 and reprinted in 2014. Lutterworth Press
2 ‘Vicar of the Unemployed’ , Barbara Butler 2005 University of Leicester Available from Christians Aware
3 ‘Woodbine Willie’ Bob Holman 2013 Lion Books