During the first half of the twentieth century, the Young Men's Christian Association of Canton (Guangzhou) assisted in establishing and administering numerous educational, missionary, and relief projects in Guangdong Province, China. For over twenty five years beginning in September, 1915, Edward Lockwood committed his life to the Y.M.C.A. in China, meeting his wife, Muriel (b. 1899) in the service, but experiencing prolonged periods of privation and separation in the course of his duties.
A native New Englander and apparently a graduate of Yale, Lockwood was stationed in Guangzhou when the Japanese invaded China in 1937. Although a mild pacifist who could not accept armed intervention, Lockwood was deeply affected by the indiscriminate Japanese bombing, and insisted that America must take an active role in preventing the aggression, favoring boycott or embargo as the most effective means. Writing to his reticent friend, Joe Kidd, a headmaster of Saint Luke's School in Wilton, Conn., he argued:
"If you could stand, as I have stood, and seen the bodies of men, women and children taken out of ruins made by Japanese bombs falling in the home of civilians, poor people, who have a very indirect connection with the defense China is making today, I am sure you would not show so much uncertainty in your letter. I have seen the coffins of children, rough boxes, being carried out of the ruins on the 24th of Noverment and hundreds of people huddled together, their few possessions gone in the destruction of more than 70 houses by two huge bombs. If you can stand by and think nothing of this or only think about doing something, then you are less of a man than I feel sure you are. This is not only a fight between Japan and China, it is a struggle that has meaning for the entire world" (1937 December 7).
After a furlough in 1939, Lockwood was transferred to Shaoguan (Kukong), a rough mining town 200 miles north of Guangzhou, where he remained for over four years. With the intensification of the war, Lockwood's frustration with the feeble American response mounted, compounded by the American willingness to slide into an alliance with Britain. While it would be incorrect to see Lockwood as an active supporter of fascism, he appears not to have been troubled by the politics of the German regime, and claimed largely to agree with Charles Lindberg's view of the war in Europe -- that it was a contest instigated by the British to salvage their Empire and by the Allied injustice toward the Germans at Versailles. "The cause of liberty in Great Britain's struggle with Germany," he argued, "is so mixed up with the cause of the Empire that it is impossible to tell where one begins and the other leaves off" (1940 July 11).
Between 1940 and 1944, Lockwood assisted Chinese efforts to keep their universities open in exile, coordinated the distribution of funds for the support of students, oversaw a vocational school in Shaoguan, and took on occasional civil defense responsibilities. Whatever remained of his pacifism was increasingly tested by the flood of refugees and by the destruction of war. Having seen the devastation of the city by almost daily air raids, he wrote "I could not be a pacifist in the face of such conditions," adding "If I could blow up the entire Japanese military leadership by one movement of the finger I would move that finger and thank God for the chance. I would not care, either, how much they would suffer. They deserve to suffer for what they have done" (1940 September 9). He remained enough of a pacifist, though, to support his son, Richard's (b. ca. 1920) more ardent pacifism, despite the probability that it would mean an end to Richard's education at Yale or possibly a stint in prison. Even after Roosevelt reinstituted the draft and the inevitable became tangible, Lockwood yearned for a massive outpouring of resistance among the young, longing to drive those responsible out of power. Yet slowly, he was drawn into accepting the necessity of American intervention.
In March, 1944, under the threat of a Japanese advance, civilians were ordered to evacuate Shaoguan. Though Muriel and daughters Dorothy (b. ca.1928) and Anne (b. ca.1933), who had seldom resided with Lockwood, left China for India, Lockwood chose to remain. While he survived the Japanese offensive of the summer, his whereabouts thereafter are unknown.