The experiences of two Welsh conscientious objectors in WWII / Profiadau Dau Wrthwynebwr Cydwybodol Cymreig yn yr Ail Ryfel Byd


In 1940, a twenty-five year old Welshman was imprisoned at a tribunal in Aberystwyth to three months of hard labor for his stance as a conscientious objector. His name was Merfyn Turner. Although the majority of conscientious objectors in World War II agreed to do any non-combatant work, Merfyn Turner ‘refused to accept any orders from the court, on grounds of conscience.’ According to his friend Tilsli, he argued his own case in a ‘determined and intransigent’ manner, quoting the words of Luther “Here I stand: I can do no other.” His close friend, Dyfnallt Morgan, also appeared before a tribunal in Aberystwyth in 1940, and decided to join one of the Peace Pledge Union Service Units in Wales. In this article, I will be mentioning the contrasting experiences of two friends as conscientious objectors, one in Swansea prison and the other as far overseas as rural China

Merfyn Turner: In his book A Pretty Sort of Prision, Merfyn Turner describes seeing a Merfyn Turnerprisoner for the first time on the way to school when he was ten years old. Unfortunately, this man had been marched in handcuffs through the main street of the town to the magistrates’ court. Turner went through the same degrading experience in Aberystwyth: ‘That my offence was only a matter of refusing to join the Forces…did nothing to lessen the pain of public parade.’ After arriving at the prison on a cold, wintry night, he was further degraded by being ordered to undress, stand naked on the slate floor and wash himself. After wearing his prison uniform, he was marched to stand with other new inmates and to await an examination from the doctor. He was in a state of deep emotional shock for the first two weeks. He was smoking heavily before arriving, but lost his bad taste for tobacco completely. The bad taste returned as he became accustomed to the prison rules and conditions; some harsh ones, which he often broke by smoking more than the ration permitted by the prison authorities. He learned quickly that breaking such red tape was the only way to get his fellow inmates to accept him anyway

Prison experiences: T

Turner listed the harmful and destructive effects of prison in light of his personal experience; physical discomfort by having to sleep in a cold cell, with hardly anything to cover him in bed; constant cravings for food; above all, psychological damage not only by mrefyn turner & morgan pic 2subjugating the prisoner but also by controlling his external life So he was forced to rely entirely on the authorities to supply his needs. Such conditions and the strict control forced prisoners to revert to their childhood, in his opinion. Officially, the prisoners were not allowed to even talk to each other or to seek help from officials. He had to learn all of the daily routines of prison by watching his fellow inmates and following their example. He gives a powerful description of the thoroughly cold and comfortless environment of the prison: “There is something fiendish and sadistic about its internal design, with its contradictory sensations of impenetrability and constant exposure. Everything is strong, yet affords no cover….”

Why was he a pacifist:

merfy pic 3

“This book was born in prison. It deals with men in prison but its concern is what happens to them when they come out”

His background as the son of a Wesleyan minister was largely responsible for Merfyn Turner’s pacifism, and his faith in the capacity of humans for good if the right social conditions are created for them to blossom. Not a naive or dreamy faith in ‘human nature’, but a practical, humane faith that there is possibly an alternative way of organising society, that was not dependent on militarisation and imprisonment. He saw that prison is part of the same authoritarian social mechanism as the army and public schools, and that it is impossible to build a more peaceful and civilised society while such Victorian institutions still stand.

He was a man of empathy and unusual compassion, who learned through his own personal experience that poverty and social inequality were largely responsible for the crimes of most prisoners. He spent the rest of his life from 1940 until his death in 1991 undertaking innovative and experimental social work, mainly with former prisoners. Unconditional love was the basis of his work, as was his pacifism, which embraced each individual as part of the same creation and the same life whatever their failings or wrongdoing. In 1955, he founded the first refuge in Britain for men who had recently left prison. The pioneering example of Norman House was followed in tens of similar houses across Britain.

Dyfnallt Morgan

Turner and Dyfnallt Morgan came to know each other as students in Aberystwyth in 1935. In his memoirs of the period, Dyfnallt emphasises that it was not an easy decision for young men to refuse the call to war when it came in 1939. He describes the heated atmosphere in Aberystwyth the following summer and the opposition that young pacifists pic4faced from College staff and townspeople ‘I saw a middle-aged respectable member of the College Staff (who by the way was also an assistant preacher)’ he said, ‘hitting a pacifist student across the face outside the college for trying to sell copies of Peace News’. His heroes – like many other young Welshmen of this period – were ‘people like Gandhi and Schweitzer’ (Schweitzer gave a lecture at Aberystwyth in 1935), and he became aware of the tenets of George M. Ll. Davies through the work of the great pacifists with the Quakers in the area where he was brought up in Dowlais. Another major influence on young Welsh pacifists of this period was T. E. Nicholas, who was wrongfully imprisoned, along with his son Islwyn, in 1940 due to a dislike of the Chief Constable in Aberystwyth towards him and his revolutionary beliefs. Two members of the town’s police came all the way to the reforestation camp near the village of Halfway in Carmarthenshire – where Dyfnallt started working on the orders of the tribunal that summer – to try to get information from him about Niclas y Glais, but the constables returned to the station empty handed

Hard Labour:

Gwynfor Evans organised branches of the Christian Pacifist Forestry and Land Units in Wales, and young conscientious objectors like Dyfnallt became accustomed to hard, exhausting physical work whilst labouring in them. He used to get up at 5.30am in order to arrive at Crychan forest by 7:00am in the summer (8:15am) in the winter, and he would work unitl 5.30pm with a break of only 45 minutes: ‘I soon threw myself eagerly into all aspects of the work’ said Dyfnallt, ‘planting trees, weeding, digging ditches, clearing glades, and making bonfires of large piles of twigs.’ After working for more than a year in the forest, he moved to work with other conscientious volunteers as an orderly in a surgical ward in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU):

pic 5In 1944, he decided to join the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU), as one of its training camps was nearby. The history of the Unit was chronicled by another member who was a Welsh speaker, Arfor Tegla Davies (the son of E. Tegla Davies). In his interesting book, he notes that over a thousand pacifists worked for the Unit during the Second World War on three continents. Dyfnallt started on his work for the unit in a refugee camp in the south of Italy and later in Austria. The war in Europe had just finished and the camp was full to the brim with refugees from many nations. Dyfnallt’s role in the camp in Klagenfurt was receiving and distributing goods of all kinds. With his special talent as a linguist and his natural charm, he developed a good relationship with the Russians who were responsible for transporting goods across the border from Hungary. Another sign of his noble and kind character was his decision not to return to Wales at the end of the war, because he didn’t’ want to compete for jobs with veterans.

He travelled to China with the Ambulance Unit in 1946, where the civil war between the Communist forces of Mao Tse Tung and the Chiang Kai-shek nationalists had recently began. He worked in the province of Honan, near the Yellow River – the border between the two enemies – as around five million people had returned t

here after fleeing from the Japanese forces. Most of his work involved helping to transport goods and equipment along the railways and assist returnees to re-settle in Honan. In the pic 6summer of 1946, he had direct experience of the guerrilla war in China when a train to Honan on which he was carrying goods, was forced to end its journey after a group of Communists destroyed sections of the railway. He was confronted by the dire poverty in China during this time as cholera and other infections swept through the rural areas. But he experienced the kindness and generosity of the common people there also, before having to return to Britain in 1948 after having malaria and tuberculosis itself.

So this is the end of the story of two young Welshmen in the Second World War who made the difficult and courageous decision to refuse to join the fighting. Their contrasting stories demonstrate the diversity and rich experiences of conscientious objectors during the conflict, and the lasting impact that those experiences had on their lives. Merfyn Turner pledged to work with prisoners and former prisoners of war from the end of the war onwards, and Dyfnallt Morgan made various and important contributions to the Welsh culture as a poet, literary critic and a pacifist of conviction until the end of his life. It is appropriate to conclude with the powerful closing lines of his poem ‘Y Milwr Gwyn’ about a memorial to the Great War in Llanddewi Brefi – a village very close to his heart – that he wrote in 1939 on the eve of another horrific war:

   A mynnaf gredu y daw oes

O ffeinach greddf, tynerach hin,

caiff plant y ddaear hedd Y Groes

tu yma i’r ffin.

Ceir gweled heddwch dros y byd,

y barrau heyrn i lawr,

y milwr gwyn yn llon ei bryd –

ei wyneb tua’r wawr.

(‘And I believe an age will come

Of a kinder disposition and gentler temperament,

The children of this Earth will experience the peace of the Cross

This side of the grave.

We will see peace rule over the world

The iron bars torn down

Happy the blessed soldiers then

Turned to face the dawn.’)

Llion Wigley

Profiadau Dau Wrthwynebwr Cydwybodol Cymreig yn yr Ail Ryfel Byd

Ym 1940 carcharwyd Cymro pump ar hugain oed mewn tribiwnlys yn Aberystwyth i dri mis o lafur caled am ei safiad fel gwrthwynebwr cydwybodol. Ei enw oedd Merfyn Turner. Er i fwyafrif o wrthwynebwyr cydwybodol yn yr Ail Ryfel Byd gytuno i wneud rhyw waith anymladdol, ‘gwrthododd Merfyn Turner, ar dir cydwybod, dderbyn unrhyw orchymyn o du’r llysoedd’. Yn ôl ei gyfaill Tilsli, dadleuodd ei achos ei hun yn ‘benderfynol a di-droi’n ôl’, gan ddyfynnu geiriau Luther “Yma y safaf: ni allaf wneud yn amgen”. Aeth ei gyfaill mynwesol, Dyfnallt Morgan, o flaen tribiwnlys yn Aberystwyth yn ystod 1940 hefyd, a phenderfynodd ymuno ag un o Unedau Gwasanaeth y Peace Pledge Union yng Nghymru. Byddaf yn sôn am brofiadau cyferbyniol y ddau ffrind fel gwrthwynebwyr cydwybodol yn yr erthygl hon, un yng ngharchar Abertawe a’r llall mor bell dros y moroedd â Tsieina wledig.

Merfyn Turner:

Merfyn TurnerDisgrifia Merfyn Turner, yn ei gyfrol A Pretty Sort of Prision, weld carcharor am y tro cyntaf ar y ffordd i’r ysgol pan oedd yn ddeg mlwydd oed. Roedd y gŵr anffodus hwn wedi cael ei orymdeithio mewn gefynnau trwy stryd fawr y dref i lys yr ynadon. Aeth Turner trwy’r un profiad diraddiol yn Aberystwyth: ‘That my offence was only a matter of refusing to join the Forces…did nothing to lessen the pain of public parade.’ Wedi iddo gyrraedd y carchar ar noson aeafol, oer, fe’i diraddiwyd ymhellach trwy ei orchymyn i ddadwisgo, sefyll yn noeth ar y llawr llechen ac ymolchi. Ar ôl gwisgo’i iwnifform carchar fe’i gorymdeithiwyd i sefyll gyda’r carcharorion newydd eraill ac i ddisgwyl arolygiad y meddyg. Bu mewn cyflwr o sioc emosiynol ddwfn am y pythefnos cyntaf. Roedd yn smygu’n drwm cyn cyrraedd, ond collodd ei flas am dybaco yn llwyr. Daeth y blas yn ôl wrth iddo gyfarwyddo â rheolau ag amodau’r carchar; rhai llym a dorrodd yn aml trwy ysmygu mwy na’r dogn a bennwyd gan awdurdodau’r carchar. Dysgodd yn gyflym mai torri’r fath fân reolau oedd yr unig ffordd i gael ei gyd-garcharorion i’w dderbyn beth bynnag.

Pam yr oedd yn heddychwr:

Rhestrodd Turner effeithiau niweidiol a dinistriol y carchar yn sgîl ei brofiad personol: anesmwythder corfforol trwy orfod cysgu mewn cell oer, heb fawr i’w orchuddio yn y gwely caled; awch cyson am fwyd; yn bennaf oll, difrod seicolegol trwy nid yn unig ddarostwng y mrefyn turner & morgan pic 2carcharor ond hefyd rheoli ei fywyd allanol. Fe’i gorfodwyd felly i ddibynnu’n gyfan gwbl ar yr awdurdodau i gyflenwi ei anghenion. Roedd y fath amodau a rheolaeth lem yn gorfodi carcharorion i ddychwelyd i’w plentyndod, yn ei dyb ef. Yn swyddogol, nid oedd hawl gyda’r carcharorion i hyd yn oed siarad â’i gilydd nac i ofyn am gymorth o’r swyddogion. Bu’n rhaid iddo ddysgu pob un o arferion dyddiol y carchar trwy wylio ei gyd-garcharorion a dilyn eu hesiampl. Rhydd ddisgrifiad grymus o amgylchfyd hollol ddigysur ac oeraidd y carchar: “There is something fiendish and sadistic about its internal design, with its contradictory sensations of impenetrability and constant exposure. Everything is strong, yet affords no cover….”

Profiadau carchar:

Ei gefndir fel mab i weinidog Wesle oedd yn gyfrifol am heddychiaeth Merfyn Turner i raddau helaeth, a’i ffydd ym mhosibiliadau dynoliaeth am ddaioni os yw’r amodau cymdeithasol iawn yn cael eu creu er mwyn iddynt flodeuo. Nid ffydd naïf neu freuddwydiol mewn ‘natur ddynol’, ond ffydd ymarferol, ddyngarol bod ffordd amgen o drefnu cymdeithas yn bosib, nad oedd yn ddibynnol ar filitareiddio a charcharu. Gwelodd bod y carchar yn rhan o’r un peirianwaith cymdeithasol awdurdodaidd â’r fyddin ac ysgolion bonedd, a’i fod yn amhosib adeiladu cymdeithas fwy heddychlon a gwâr tra bod y fath sefydliadau Fictorianaidd yn dal i sefyll.

Gŵr o empathi a thrugaredd anarferol ydoedd a ddysgodd trwy ei brofiad personol mai tlodi ac anghyfartaledd cymdeithasol oedd yn fwyaf cyfrifol am droseddau’r mwyafrif o garcharorion. Treuliodd gweddill ei fywyd o 1940 hyd ei farwolaeth ym 1991 yn gwneud gwaith cymdeithasol blaengar ac arbrofol, yn bennaf gyda chyn-garcharorion. Cariad diamod oedd sail ei waith, fel ei heddychiaeth, a dderbyniai pob unigolyn fel rhan o’r un greadigaeth a’r un bywyd beth bynnag fo’i ffaeleddau neu droseddau. Sefydlodd y lloches gyntaf ym Mhrydain ar gyfer dynion oedd newydd adael y carchar ym 1955. Dilynwyd esiampl arloesol Norman House mewn degau o dai tebyg ar draws Prydain.

Dyfnallt Morgan

Daeth Turner a Dyfnallt Morgan i adnabod ei gilydd fel myfyrwyr yn Aberystwyth ym 1935. Yn ei atgofion o’r cyfnod, tanlinella Dyfnallt nad oedd yn benderfyniad hawdd i ddynion ifanc wrthod yr alwad i ryfel pan ddaeth ym 1939. Disgrifia’r awyrgylch tanbaid yn Aberystwyth yr haf canlynol a’r gwrthwynebiad a brofodd heddychwyr ifanc o du staff y pic4Coleg a phobl y dref. ‘Gwelais aelod parchus canol oed o Staff y Coleg (pregethwr cynorthwyol, gyda llaw)’ meddai, ‘yn taro stiwdent o heddychwr yn ei wyneb y tu allan i’r coleg am ei fod yn ceisio gwerthu copïau o Peace News’. Ei arwyr – fel llawer o Gymry ifanc eraill y cyfnod hwn – oedd ‘pobl fel Gandhi a Schweitzer’ (bu Schweitzer yn Aberystwyth i roi darlith ym 1935), a daeth i wybod am ddaliadau George M. Ll. Davies trwy waith yr heddychwr mawr gyda’r Crynwyr yn ardal ei fagwraeth yn Nowlais. Dylanwad mawr arall ar heddychwyr ifanc Cymraeg y cyfnod oedd T. E. Nicholas, a garcharwyd ar gam, ynghyd â’i fab Islwyn, ym 1940 o ganlyniad i atgasedd y Prif Gwnstabl yn Aberystwyth tuag ato a’i gredoau chwyldroadol. Daeth dau aelod o heddlu’r dref yr holl ffordd i’r gwersyll coedwigo ger pentref yr Halfway yn Sir Gaerfyrddin – lle dechreuodd Dyfnallt weithio ar orchymyn y tribiwnlys yr haf hwnnw – i geisio cael gwybodaeth ganddo am Niclas y Glais, ond dychwelodd y cwnstabliaid i’r orsaf yn waglaw.

Llafur Caled:

Trefnodd Gwynfor Evans ganghennau o’r Christian Pacifist Forestry and Land Units yng Nghymru, a daeth gwrthwynebwyr cydwybodol ifanc fel Dyfnallt yn gyfarwydd â gwaith corfforol caled a blinedig trwy lafurio ynddynt. Arferai godi am 5.30 y bore er mwyn cyrraedd coedwig Crychan erbyn 7.00 yn yr haf (8.15 yn y gaeaf) a gweithio tan 5.30 y prynhawn, gyda seibiant o 45 munud yn unig. ‘Buan yr ymdaflais gydag awch i bob agwedd ar y gwaith’ meddai, ‘plannu coed, chwynnu, cloddio ffosydd, clirio llennyrch a llosgi coelcerthi mawr o frigau’. Ar ôl dros flwyddyn yn y goedwig, symudodd i weithio gyda gwirfoddolwyr cydwybodol eraill fel orderly mewn ward lawfeddygol yn Ysbyty Queen Elizabeth, Birmingham.

Uned Ambiwlans y Crynwyr (FAU):

Ym 1944 penderfynodd ymuno ag Uned Ambiwlans y Crynwyr (FAU), yr oedd un o’i pic 5gwersylloedd hyfforddi gerllaw. Croniclwyd hanes yr Uned gan Gymro Cymraeg arall a fu’n aelod, sef Arfor Tegla Davies (mab E. Tegla Davies). Yn ei gyfrol ddifyr noda i dros fil o heddychwyr weithio i’r Uned yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd mewn tri chyfandir. Cychwynnodd Dyfnallt ei waith dros yr Uned mewn gwersyll i ffoaduriaid yn ne’r Eidal ac wedi hynny yn Awstria. Roedd y rhyfel yn Ewrop newydd orffen ac roedd y gwersyll yn llawn i’w ymylon o ffoaduriaid o sawl cenedl. Derbyn a dosbarthu nwyddau angenrheidiol o bob math oedd rôl Dyfnallt yn y gwersyll yn Klagenfurt. Gyda’i ddawn arbennig fel ieithydd a’i hawddgarwch naturiol, datblygodd berthynas dda gyda’r Rwsiaid a oedd yn gyfrifol am gludo nwyddau o Hwngari ar draws y ffin. Arwydd arall o’i gymeriad urddasol a charedig oedd ei benderfyniad i beidio dychwelyd i Gymru ar ddiwedd y rhyfel oherwydd nad oedd yn dymuno cystadlu am swyddi gyda chyn-filwyr.

Aeth ymlaen i Tsieina gyda’r Uned Amsbiwlans ym 1946, lle’r oedd y rhyfel cartref rhwng lluoedd Comiwnyddol Mao Tse Tung a chenedlaetholwyr Chiang Kai-shek wedi ffrwydro’n ddiweddar. Gweithiodd yn nhalaith Honan, yn agos i’r Afon Felen – sef y ffin rhwng y ddau pic 6elyn – gan fod o gwmpas pum miliwn o bobl wedi dychwelyd yno ar ôl dianc rhag lluoedd Japan. Helpu i gludo nwyddau ac offer ar hyd y rheilffyrdd a chynorthwyo’r dychweledigion i ail-ymgartrefu yn Honan oedd ei brif waith. Yn haf 1946 cafodd brofiad uniongyrchol o’r rhyfel guerilla yn Tsieina pan orfodwyd i drên roedd yn cludo nwyddau i Honan arno orffen ei siwrne wedi i boced o Gomiwnyddion ddifetha rhannau o’r rheilffordd. Daeth wyneb yn wyneb â thlodi enbyd Tseina yn y cyfnod hwn wrth i golera a heintiau eraill ysgubo drwy’r ardaloedd gwledig. Ond profodd garedigrwydd a haelioni’r werin yno hefyd, cyn gorfod dychwelyd i Brydain yn 1948 wedi iddo gael malaria a’r diciâus ei hun.

Dyma ddiwedd felly hanes dau Gymro ifanc yn yr Ail Ryfel Byd a wnaeth y penderfyniad anodd a dewr i wrthod ymuno â’r ymladd. Dengys eu straeon cyferbyniol amrywiaeth a chyfoeth profiadau gwrthwynebwyr cydwybodol yn ystod y gwrthdaro a’r effaith barhaol ar eu bywydau a gafodd y profiadau hynny. Ymrwymodd Merfyn Turner i weithio gyda charcharorion a chyn-garcharorion o ddiwedd y rhyfel ymlaen, a gwnaeth Dyfnallt Morgan gyfraniadau amrywiol a phwysig i’r diwylliant Cymraeg fel bardd, beirniad llenyddol a heddychwr o argyhoeddiad tan ddiwedd ei oes. Mae’n briodol cloi gyda diweddglo ei gerdd rymus ‘Y Milwr Gwyn’ am gofeb y Rhyfel Mawr yn Llanddewi Brefi – pentref oedd yn agos iawn i’w galon – a ysgrifennodd ym 1939 ar drothwy rhyfel erchyll arall:

A mynnaf gredu y daw oes

O ffeinach greddf, tynerach hin,

caiff plant y ddaear hedd Y Groes

tu yma i’r ffin.

Ceir gweled heddwch dros y byd,

y barrau heyrn i lawr,

y milwr gwyn yn llon ei bryd –

ei wyneb tua’r wawr.

Llion Wigley


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