Conscientious objector Archie Baxter remembered in guerrilla sculpture video

CAMERON BURNELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Wellingtonians were asked whether they knew who Archibald Baxter was, and what they made of the sculpture.

As dawn rose on Anzac Day in Wellington, the first rays of sun shone on one of war's cruellest memories.

A sculpture, seemingly of New Zealand's most well-known conscientious objector, Archibald Baxter, has appeared at Frank Kitts Park, bound as the man himself was for 28 days for refusing to fight.

While it is unclear who placed the sculpture at Frank Kitts Park - or other similar ones around Wellington - Peace Action Wellington have posted about them on line.

One of three guerilla sculptures that appeared in Wellington on Anzac Day.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

One of three guerilla sculptures that appeared in Wellington on Anzac Day.

According to the group's website, the sculptures were placed in "field punishment number one position", described on nzhistory.net.nz as "being tied to a post in the open, with their hands bound tightly behind their backs and their knees and feet bound".

According to Peace Action Wellington, their hands were bound tightly behind their backs for up to four hours a day in all weather.

"The poles were tipped forward, and the ropes cut into the flesh, cutting off blood flow."

A sculpture in Wellington shows the horror conscientious objectors faced in WWI
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

A sculpture in Wellington shows the horror conscientious objectors faced in WWI

Baxter, in his book, We Shall Not Cease, described the ordeal: "My hands were taken from round the pole, tied together and pulled well up it, straining and cramping the muscles and forcing them into an unnatural position ... I was strained so tightly against the post that I was unable to move body or limbs a fraction of an inch".

Peace Action Wellington is using the statue to call to "end the romanticisation of war and the militarisation of Anzac Day" as it claims World War I was a "completely unnecessary conflict".

"It happened to protect and expand the empires involved, not to defend principles such as freedom or democracy.

"The millions who died endured torturous conditions in conflict and were victims of an international power struggle.

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"Many who resisted war, for religious or moral reasons, were subjected to torture and imprisonment."

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council would not rush to remove the sculptures.

"Wellington is a political and creative city and we are not in the business of stifling political expression.

"We'll make sure the sculptures are secure and we'll seek discussions with Peace Action Wellington about their future."

The Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust is currently planning a permanent sculpture in Dunedin to remember Baxter and other conscientious objectors.

Honorary secretary Alan Jackson said there were some people who would like to see a permanent sculpture in Wellington, similar to the one at Frank Kitts Park.

"What the people in Wellington have done is very powerful ... it's very important to remember what Archibald and the others were subject to."

It showed people there was another side to war.

The "torture" New Zealand's conscientious objectors were put through at the hands of their own army was in the same vein as that at the American base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq, he said.

The stance of the Wellington statue was rejected for the Otago sculpture because it was deemed "a bit too brutal" and because Baxter's family did not want something clearly identifiable as Baxter himself.

 - Stuff

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