George Lindsay Crozier 1914-1992

Photographer, Presbyterian pacifist

Lindsay Crozier — he never used his first name, George — was a professional photographer and a committed pacifist.

He once said that, to him, “it was incomprehensible that Christ would have taken up arms against anybody” 1

A Scotsman who came to New Zealand with his parents and three siblings in 1919, Crozier was brought up in a deeply devout Baptist environment. All four of the children became committed pacifists.

Crozier served with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in China after the Second World War, and worked as a missionary in Kong Chuen, South China. Later he worked for the New Zealand Presbyterian Church, focusing on visual education, publicity programmes and social services.

Early life

Crozier was born in 1914 in Galashiels, a small town southeast of Edinburgh. His family emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Invercargill in 1919. Leaving school during the Depression, Crozier worked first in a rabbit processing factory, and then for two years in a photographic studio in Gore.

When World War II started he was in his first year of training at Dunedin Teachers’ College, but he was forced to leave when he openly stated his pacifist views. Pacifists were not allowed to hold public service positions.

Crozier successfully appealed his call-up for military service. Under the wartime regulations which governed employment options, he was ordered to work in a bacon factory in Green Island, Dunedin.

Bombers into bedpans — Friends Ambulance Unit in China

Crozier was one of seven New Zealanders selected to serve with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in China at the end of the war. The FAU was an international relief unit made up of conscientious objectors from around the world. The unit ran small mobile medical teams and transported medical supplies and fuel to isolated mission hospitals in “Free China”.

Crozier arrived in China in May 1945 and was assigned to the medical section in Kutsing as a medical mechanic. He decorated his workshop with a sign, 'Bombers into Bedpans', and made, among other things, artificial limbs out of wrecked aeroplane parts.

Crozier was also involved in the work of the convoys. He endeavoured to keep decaying trucks on the road by recycling spare parts. He installed charcoal gas units in each truck because petrol was so short, for example, and slotted newer tyres over worn ones as the vehicles careered over non-existent roads and through flooded rivers.

At the same time, he began teaching English to his Chinese employees. He joined their church which was attached to the hospital.

Work with prisoners-of-war

Towards the end of 1945, Crozier was transferred to a hospital in Hankow. The FAU staff found over 700 Japanese prisoners-of-war living in the compound. Crozier worked hard to improve their living conditions, and became very close to a group of Christian Japanese nurses, acting as their champion. Small discussion groups were established and worship shared. Crozier recalled with delight the nurses’ singing of “Silent Night” at the Christmas service that year.2

At the same time, he became involved in evangelism among the Japanese. Some of these POWs, who were repatriated in May 1946, became lifelong friends, a testament to Crozier’s strongly held belief that the best way to ensure peace was to form individual friendships between different nationalities. Crozier worked with other groups in Hankow too. Across the river in Wuhan were some Korean prisoners-of-war, ‘living in appalling conditions and dying like flies’.3

The Chinese wouldn’t help and the Japanese were not allowed to, but Crozier used to load his rucksack with supplies and cross the river at midnight, before making his way to the hospital to offer aid. He also came to the rescue of a group of Catholic nuns, removing an unexploded bomb from the bottom of their well, and spending four weekends at the convent repairing equipment, while, as he said, ‘being spoiled thoroughly’.4

Photography skills called upon

The remaining months of Crozier’s three years in China were spent in Honan and then in Shanghai, where his skills as a photographer were called upon. For fund raising and publicity purposes, many of the Christian agencies working in China needed audiovisual material about their activities. So, from June 1947, Crozier travelled thousands of kilometres throughout China, making films, including a documentary film on Chinese industrial cooperatives. It was an experience which was to shape the rest of his life’s work for the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand.

Marriage and missionary work

Crozier returned to New Zealand in 1948 but was immediately appointed to a position as compound manager with the New Zealand Presbyterian Mission at Kong Chuen in South China. While attending the Presbyterian Church General Assembly in Wellington, he met Mary Jacobs, a deaconess from Greymouth. The couple were married in January 1949, and left three months later to spend two years as missionaries in China.

From China to Christchurch

The withdrawal of missions from China after the Communist takeover brought the Croziers to Hong Kong in 1950, in time for the birth of their twin daughters. They returned to New Zealand in 1951. Later a son was added to the family. For the next 18 years, Crozier headed the publicity division of the Presbyterian Church, travelling widely, in order to make films and other visual material for use by the church. He ended his working life as a field officer for Presbyterian Social Services in the northern South Island, retiring in 1979.

'A positive way of life'

Crozier lived in Christchurch. He died in February 1992, having never wavered from his Christian pacifist beliefs, which remained a driving force throughout his life. As he noted himself, his years in China, followed by his work with the Presbyterian Church, gave him wonderful opportunities to show, in a small way, ‘that pacifism is a positive way of life’. 5

Further information

Sources:

Footnotes

  1. 1 Cameron, C. Go anywhere do anything: New Zealanders in the Friends Ambulance Unit in China, 1945-1951 (Wellington, 1996) p 34
  2. 2 Feature on Lindzay Crozier — From NZine.co.nz — accessed February 5, 2010
  3. 3 ibid
  4. 4 ibid
  5. 5 ibid
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