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Vera Brittain

A journey from war service to pacifism
Vera Brittain in VAD uniform during World War I

Vera Brittain wearing her VAD uniform during World War I

In 1915, cutting short her English Literature studies at Oxford, Vera Brittain trained as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse in Buxton and London, later working in military hospitals in Malta and northern France. Her fiancé, two close friends and her brother were all killed during the war. In the 1920s she became a regular  League of Nations Union (LNU) speaker, reflecting in 1924 on a speaking tour in Berlin that:‘The logic of history lay, I now realised, upon the side of internationalism… Could the new generation be taught to perceive that logic before the hatreds and passions generated by [the Great War] lead a tired and tormented world into yet another?…. Perhaps we, the War generation would be able to do all we had once hoped for the rebuilding of civilisation, I understand now that the results of the War would last longer than ourselves… The best that we who were left could do was to refuse to forget, and to teach our successors what we remembered, in the hope that they… would have more power to change the state of the world.’ (1)

Vera Brittain’s enthusiasm for the League of Nations later waned, and in 1937 she became a pacifist and a regular contributor to the pacifist magazine ‘Peace News,’ eventually becoming a member of the editorial board. She concluded, ‘Clearly the road to goodwill on earth no longer lay in [the League], if it ever had.’ (2)

References/Further Reading:

(1) V. Brittain, 1978. Testimony of Youth. London: Fontana in association with Virago, p.642 & p.645.
(2) V. Brittain, 1981. Testimony of Experience. London: Virago, p.171.

Wikipedia. Vera Brittain.