Across the 1920s there were meetings about the League of Nations Union (LNU), attended by many former and serving members of the military. At Whitsuntide 1920 the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors (NFDDSS) unanimously passed a resolution at their meeting at the Albert Hall, pledging to support the work of the LNU, and in 1926 LNU speaker, Frederick Whelen addressed a large meeting of the British Legion in Norfolk. The LNU newspaper, ‘Headway’ also reported in March 1928 that the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment decided to put LNU literature in the battalion reading room. These examples show support for the League among both former and serving servicemen.
Having ex-soldiers speak for the League of Nations must have been crucial to the LNU’s campaign because, as the ‘Headway’ report about the NFDDS meeting put it, these men ‘know what war really is.’ The LNU used this as an influential propaganda tool, publishing articles by soldiers in ‘Headway’ and as separate pamphlets. One of these pamphlets is by former officer in the Machine Gun Corps, Mr J. F. Wickham Murray, MA. These are some of his words written in his appeal:
‘I was a machine gunner, and I was keen on my job. I grew to love the delicate mechanism which could spit out deaths at the rate of four per second. My job was to kill, and I did what I could….
Even now I can imagine hundreds who would have read what I have written, give a conventional shudder of sympathy, say “God bless the League! May it prosper in its good work!” and go off and leave it at that. I believe a strong and virile League of Nations can prevent war. But it cannot be strong and virile unless men and women in every country give it their personal support at least by the act of becoming a member of a society to uphold it….
I have told you the plain cold truth about the stinking bestiality called war. The power to avoid its horrors is in your hands. You had better decide quickly whether you are going to use it.’
Headway, June-July 1920, July 1926 & Mar 1928. Archive ref: JX1975.A1, LSE Library.
J. F. Wickham Murray, 1928. A Machine Gunner Looks at the League. London: League of Nations Union. Archive ref: CHAT D/82, LSE Library.