by Veterans for Peace UK

09 August 2011


On Saturday 6th of August I visited Michael Lyons in Colchester Military Prison. He is currently serving a seven month sentence for refusing to carry out weapons training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. Michael had already applied for conscientious objector status. With me were Martin Newell from London Catholic Worker, Stephan Gillies a local activist and Jill, Michael’s mum.

The visit lasted two hours and Michael was found to be in good spirits. He is being held with soldiers being discharged from the Army so that he can’t “infect the others that are staying in the Army”.

His main concern is the well-being of his wife Lillian, who is based in Plymouth. Michael is not being paid by the Navy whilst he is serving his sentence so his wife is struggling to meet the bills whilst working in a low paid job. She is also finding it difficult to make the long journey from Plymouth to Colchester to see Michael.

Michael is keen to become involved with the Peace Movement in the future. He has shown other servicemen with objections to the war in Afghanistan that they have a choice. Six months in Afghanistan taking part in the further destruction of that country or six months in prison with a clear conscience. As a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I know which option I would take.

Michael is spending a lot of his time in prison in the library. When not in the library there is a lot of pointless ironing and cleaning to be carried out prior to inspections. This is just the sort of training that will be useful in civvie street to Michael and the others being discharged after their sentences!


Whilst visiting Michael a vigil was held outside the main gate to celebrate his action and to encourage further resistance from inside the military. 27 people from London, Colchester and the surrounding area were present.

A shrine was erected by members of London Catholic Worker.

Giorgio Rivera from the organisation Payday spoke about the need for solidarity and inclusiveness in the peace movement in order to support refuseniks internationally.

Gwyn from the organisation at ease spoke about the details of Michael’s case and the work that she does in supporting soldiers who have a crises of conscience.

Ciaron O’Reilly of  London catholic worker  told of his own experiences of being in prison as a result of his peace activism. He also told us how valuable solidarity from the outside was in keeping him going whilst in prison.

Michael’s mother Jill thanked everyone for supporting her son and told us how proud she was of him.

Naomi Colvin from UK friends of Bradley manning updated us on the persecution of Bradley Manning, currently held in a US military prison for allegedly leaking collateral murder to wikileaks.

The local Stop the War convener told us about an upcoming march in London and about meetings they were holding.

Martin and myself gave a report about our visit and encouraged others to write to Michael and visit him.

The visit and the vigil outside went very well. On the way back to London I phoned Michael’s wife Lillian to let her know how Michael was doing. We are planning to go back at the start of September, more details to follow.


Michael Lyon’s is presently being held in Colchester Military Prison. It is a 700 mile round trip for his wife Lilian to visit him.  If you would like to make a donation to alleviate travel expenses make a cheque out to “London Catholic Worker”, write “Lyons” on the back of the cheque and send it to “Michael Lyons Support” c/o Giuseppe Conlon House, Harringey, London N4 1BG

Ben Griffin, Veterans for Peace UK.