Peace for all time
Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-aerial bombing monument stands behind iron railings, sheltered by a row of chestnut trees next to a green sward that is part of Epping Forest. Designed by Eric Benfield and unveiled in 1935 and 1936, it is now listed in the Imperial War Museum’s National Inventory of War Memorials under the London Borough of Redbridge. It is now Grade 2 listed, and the property of Dr Richard Pankhurst. On its plinth the weathered inscriptions read, on one side: ‘This monument is raised as a protest against war in the air.’ And on another: ‘To those who in 1932 refused to ban the use of bombing planes'. This is a reference to the failed World Disarmament Conference held in Geneva in 1932.
As war clouds gathered over Europe, however, Miss Pankhurst wrote in her weekly newspaper, New Times and Ethiopia News, that she agreed with Winston Churchill’s warnings to the House of Commons about the need to combat the fascist threat to the extent of waging war against Nazi Germany. Addis Ababa, Haile Selassie’s capital, was liberated by a British army led by General Orde Windgate from the Italian invaders in 1941, who had used mustard gas bombs against the Ethiopian people.
However, this ironic ‘point of light’, as the poet W.H. Auden would have called it, was also intended to stand for all time as a protest about the consequences borne by civilian populations when modern industrialised warfare is resorted to. Its perennial significance is expressed in Churchill’s own preference for ‘jaw, jaw’ rather than ‘war, war’.
SYLVIA AYLING is a peace campaigner who over the past twenty years has taken measures to see Sylvia Pankhurst appropriately remembered in Woodford, Essex, which had been Sylvia Pankhurst's home and the hub of her campaigning activity from 1924 until 1956 when she emigrated to Ethiopia. As well as arranging various other tributes to Sylvia Pankhurst over the years, Sylvia Ayling, together with former MP Linda Perham, was influential in naming an area adjoining Charteris Road and Woodford Broadway 'Pankhurst Green', and in having a memorial plaque erected on a building which stands on the site of West Dene.