Notes and resources created by Jim Pearson: 

  • WW1
  • The Rise of Pacifism
  • WW2
  • Vietnam
  • The War on Terror

George Armstrong's Peace Squadron


David Bell
29 December 2015, 9:15 PM

Jim/David: Can you recall anything about the initial peace squadron events?

  Wendy: I was only 4 years old in 1962......

  Rhyl: I was in Wellington at the time and do remember protests in the city. Too busy with a young family to be involved.

  Margaret S: I remember when france shifted its nuclear testing and I remember the protest boat. I remember feeling shocked and threatened byt the closeness of what I thought was a dangerous activity. And then I remember the fall out for NZ people  the army people who suffered from it

  Liz: Although I was 20/21 in early 1960's I was not politically aware.

  Margaret S: In fact it was only recently that the full extent of the fall out from the testing was acknowledged.


Jim/David: What did you know about George Armstrong and what do you make of his comment

 "The Peace Squadron was another piece of “public liturgy” (The Ark)”, and Auckland Harbour “was the perfect ampitheatre for a seaborne drama,” and thereby taking “the street protest down Queen Street, out into the water and into the Harbour.”


 A lone protestor stands on the nose of a US nuclear submarine entering the port of Auckland

  Stuart Manins: I knew about Dr Armstrong, the anti-nuclear protest, the Labour party position, but nothing of Baltimore canoes nor a link with the 'God is dead' theology.

  Wendy: I can see his point, but it is not the traditional use of liturgy.

  Margaret S: Action is words made alive.

  Wendy: Would go down like a lead balloon here in our parish; I can see where he is coming from, but our church members are very traditional farming sorts

  Stuart Manins: Very little- nothing as dramatic as these pictures.

  Wendy: I can remember the neither confirm or deny’’ stuff.

 Margaret S: My memory fades out around 1977 - I was involved elsewhere at that point. Though yes I can remember the neither confirm nor deny statements

  Wendy: I can remember seeing a lot of foreign naval ships in Wellington harbour once, but not sure of the year - it would have been when i was at varsity I think, in the late 70s.

 Valerie: I remember the "neither confirm nor deny" policy but the rest is all a bit of a mystery - and I was studying sociology and political science at Waikato at the time!

  Rhyl: I do remember this incident. At the same time in Wellington I recall signing a petition. Not sure who was circulating it. It was about that time we were becoming aware of what it would mean if NZ became "nuclear free"


Jim/David: Do New Zealanders ‘come of age’ during the period 1975-85?

 Liz: I don't remember that photo - where was it published?

  David Bell: we don't know if it was published  in the papers. Jim has gone out to his car to see if we can track it down. Maybe newspapers did a bit of self-censorship?

 (Editorial note - it was published in the Auckland Star - see image in Discussion Notes)

 Valerie: There was also stuff going on about abortion and feminism at about the same time.

  Margaret S: I think it was a time when NZ dared to separate out from the rest of the western powers.  And yes, I agree with you David that it was when we started to have opinions that are at times uniquely NZ

  Rhyl: I do believe that. It was the realization that even an individual could speak out and if they were passionate enough about their cause they would be listened to.

  Margaret S: That unique opinion went from nuclear free to anti apartheid.

  Valerie: We were cut adrift from Britain when the UK joined the EU - then was the oil crisis at about the same time, and in the meantime we started thinking for ourselves, because we no longer had mother England to tell us what to think ...

 Margaret S: Agreed Valerie. After all if the Brits weren't going to buy our food why would we necessarily want to follow their foreign policy

 Valerie: There are lots of points along the way at which one could say, "at this point NZ became a nation" but really it is a long, convoluted process of growth - like becoming an adult, then a senior !


Jim/David: What about the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior? It was only six months after we agreed to a non-nuclear future. At this point we surely needed the Peace Squadron protests and something else?

 Wendy: Yikes David/Jim, lead balloon again!

  Valerie: Horrified that this could happen in NZ. How dare they ...

  Margaret S: It was shocking that a nation we thought of as friendly should do that and interfere in our internal politics.

  Wendy: We must have really upset the French.

  Liz: Very clearly remembered - I still feel aggrieved with French arrogance.

 Valerie: Yes.

 Rhyl: Horror that it had happened in our backyard. I had seen the protests in Tahiti - a permanent camp set up in the centre of town and this really brought home what it was all about.

 David Bell: Wow! can you tell us more about that?

  Rhyl: There were locals and people from around the world uniting against testing at Mururoa

1 comment

From NZ Herald - George Armstrong on religion today

Read Rev Dr George Armstrong's views on the agenda for religion in our day and age at the New Zealand Herald

Ormond Burton Decorated Soldier - Peace Activist

Ormond Burton:  Twentieth Century  Prophet

A Personal Recollection - Ann Baker -with permission

In the third and fourth form my English teacher was Miss Hall, the headmistress of Wellington Technical College. I don’t remember much of what she taught but I do remember she wore the same dress every day under her dusty black gown.

Came the fifth form and all was about to change. Wellington Tech was a co-ed school but we did not have mixed classes. Boys and girls had separate wings of the school.

Great was our delight, when at the beginning of the year we discovered two things. One, we were to share English classes with boys, and two, we were to be taught by a teacher who had an air of mystery about him. The previous year this man had been one of the caretaking staff; now he was a member of the teaching staff; rumours had it that he had been in prison!

 We turned up for our first lesson with great anticipation to be greeted by a rather shambling figure with bushy grey hair and a shabby black gown. He stood on a small stage at the front of the classroom where he was confronted by fifty giggling and noisy fifth formers. It was excitement enough to be sharing the class with BOYS but to be confronted by this figure, who we promptly nicknamed ‘pre-historic’, was more than we could cope with.

Over the following months, however, I came to appreciate the worth of this man who taught me the value of courage, honesty and tolerance.

The teacher was Ormond Burton. He had been a Methodist minister but had been expelled from the ministry. He had been a staunch pacifist before and during the early days of WWII. He spoke at Christian pacifist rallies and was frequently before the court because of this. He had been imprisoned for the duration of the war and on discharge had to find a new life for himself. I don’t know how he came to join the caretaking staff but I do know that he eventually became head of the English Department.

He never managed to fully control this unruly class but somehow was able to instil into us the love of words, written and spoken. We regularly did creative writing, which was put on a board for all to see. He encouraged class debates and accepted our rather ignorant views.

That year compulsory military training was being discussed throughout the country. If we didn’t feel like doing our set work someone would suggest that we have a debate. “And what subject would you like to debate?” “Let’s discuss compulsory military training, sir,” and he always let us, with his customary courtesy and tolerance.

Eventually we learned he had received a decoration for valour during WWI. This humbled us a bit but we continued to goad him. Only twice was I aware we disconcerted him. He once stamped his foot at us. For what I don’t know but in doing so he fell off his low stage, which diminished the effect rather.

I had the privilege to remain in contact with this gentleman after I left school and believe he had the most profound impact on my life.

He was eventually reinstated into the Methodist ministry but continued to be true to his principles even if they upset people. In the early 1960s I lived in Hawera. Ormie Burton was invited to come and speak. He came with his usual message of peace and non-violence. A young couple, friends my own age, got very upset at his message and became quite vindictive to him at question time. I couldn’t understand them and got rather upset because he was still my hero.

A man of peace, yes but he managed to stir up controversy wherever he went. I never saw him react angrily. He was a gentle man of great acceptance.

An author, a caretaker, a prisoner, a hero, a teacher, a minister, a man of courage. I will always be grateful to my fifth form English teacher.

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