Belief and Action: Wales’ Heritage of Opposing Conflict, from WW1 to today

By Craig Owen

In Wales’ National Garden of Peace, between Cardiff’s Temple of Peace and the leafy grounds of Bute Park, stands an imposing stone unveiled in 2005 by peace campaigning group Cynefin y Werin, and dedicated to Wales’ Conscientious Objectors of all wars. Inscribed upon it is a challenge to all generations:

“If the right to life is the first of all human rights

Being the one on which all other rights depend

The right to refuse to kill must be the second.” 


Conscientious Objectors Stone, Welsh National Garden of Peace. Craig Owen / WCIA

15 May every year has been recognised since 1985 as International Conscientious Objectors Day – remembering generations of individuals who have opposed conflict by refusing to bear arms.

Conscientious Objection is one of many ways in which generations of peace builders have put their ‘beliefs into action’ by opposing conflict. From the 930+ Welsh objectors imprisoned in WW1 for refusing to kill, to the anti-Nuclear campaigners of the 1960s-now, and ‘Stop the War’ protestors of recent years, Wales has a strong ‘peace heritage’ of speaking out against war.

–> Gain an overview from WCIA’s Opposing Conflict / Belief and Action pages.

–> To find out more about Wales’ WW1 Objectors, read our WCIA Voices May 2019 review of Dr Aled Eirug’s seminal book on ‘The Opposition to the Great War in Wales‘, published by University of Wales Press 2019.

Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors

You can discover hidden histories of over 930 WW1 COs from communities Wales-wide, using the Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors on WCIA’s Wales Peace Map.

WCIA are indebted to Prof Cyril Pearce of Leeds University for making his “life’s work” available to future researchers through our Belief & Action project.

Hidden Histories of Objectors

From 2014-18, Wales for Peace supported many volunteers, community groups and schools to explore ‘hidden histories’ of peace builders from WW1 to today. The following selection is a fitting tribute for this WW100 COs Memorial Day:

View also some of the short films / digital stories created by young people working with  Wales for Peace community projects over 2014-18, below.

‘Belief and Action’ Exhibition Tour

In 2016, WCIA worked with the Quakers in Wales and a steering group of Welsh experts to develop the ‘Belief and Action’ exhibition, which from 2016-19 has travelled to 15 communities Wales-wide and been visited by many thousands of people. Funded by Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers and launched with an excellent community partnership event between WCIA and the United Reform Church in Pontypridd, the tour aimed to explore the stories and motivations of WW1 Conscientious Objectors, but with a key focus on reflecting on issues of Conscience ‘Then and Now’ during the WW100 centenary period.

–> View WCIA’s 2018 ‘Belief and Action’ Report

Maeydderwen Belief & Action Exhibition

Young Peacemakers launch ‘Belief & Action’ at Ysgol Maesydderwen, May 2018

Last year, for 2018 Conscientious Objectors Day, Wales for Peace worked with Ysgol Maesydderwen in Swansea Valley to stage a Belief and Action exhibition, and also to launch WCIA’s Learning Pack ‘Standing up for your Beliefs’, downloadable from Hwb.


Learning Resources

WCIA, the National Library of Wales and Quakers / Friends in Wales have all produced substantial Curriculum Resources on Objection to War , including critical thinking materials and schools projects, available from the Welsh Government’s ‘Hwb’ Education Resources site for schools and teachers.

Find Out More / Take Action

Short Films by Young Peacemakers

Over 2014-18, Wales for Peace was privileged to work with schools and community groups to explore hidden histories of peace with creative responses – including  digital stories and short films

Short Film ‘Without the Scales’ by Merthyr Tydfil students of Coleg y Cymoedd / Uni of Glamorgan, with Cyfarthfa Castle Trust (displayed for Wales for Peace exhibition, Oct 2018), used records to re-enact the Conscientious Objectors Tribunals of WW1.

Short Film ‘Niclas y Glais’ by Ysgol Gyfun Llangynwyd, Bridgend (displayed for Pontypridd Belief and Action exhibition, Oct 2017) looked at the life of Thomas Even Niclas.

Digital Story ‘Conscientious Objectors’ by Crickhowell High School, Monmouthshire (displayed for Women War & Peace exhibition at the Senedd, August 2017) considered the feelings and experiences that led some WW1 soldiers to become objectors to war.


Environmental concerns at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting

By Ana Alexandrescu

There is no secret that the environment is increasingly gaining center stage in matters of global security.   The Global Risk Report shows that of the top five risks to the world, four of which  are environmental issues. This sounds alarming, but it is not hard to believe given the events we witnessed over the course of last year or the predictions that environmental agencies make for the future.

Global Risks Report

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting took place earlier this year in Davos and environmental concerns were not absent. The agenda spanned from the protection of elephants and clean energy transition to the reinventing of waste as a resource and geospatial technology’s impact on our planet. Here are some of the most important things to be taken away from the event:

  • The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Global Risks Report, enforcing the idea that climate change is the biggest threat to civilization and calling to action;
  • the feeling that previous leaders have failed and that the next three years are a time for decision makers to redeem themselves were a young climate campaigner’s message;
  • French president Emmanuel Macron declared that coal-fired power stations in France will be shut down in the next few years and climate change will be one of his pillars for economic reform.
  • Other participants from different groups announced the actions they would take to combat climate change, including insurance companies divesting from coal projects.

On a similar but more local note in regard to divesting, if you live in Cardiff or the surroundings you might be aware there is a campaign aimed at making Cardiff University divest from fossil fuel companies as currently some of its endowment fund is invested in these. Many students and student led societies have been vocal in supporting this campaign and this March will see the University’s final decision on the matter. It is hoped to see a shift towards renewable energy sources and an accelerated fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Going back to Davos and environmental friendly memorable moments, the American delegation argued that Donald Trump is an “only man in this parade” against action on climate change and that 40% of the US economy, represented by 15 member states of the US Climate Alliance, continues to be committed to the Paris Agreement. In regards to  the oceans, The Friends of Ocean Action partnership was launched, a global action reuniting experts and leaders working towards the protection of oceans in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

Overall, there is a universal feeling that we are at a critical point in addressing and solving environmental challenges and time is quite pressing. This year more than ever sees hope lying with the leaders and their decisions and further steps.



Storytelling for Wales for Peace: Ann Pettitt

By Vivian Mayo

Welsh men and women from all backgrounds have gone on to achieve great things. Many of these people became famous by their activities in the First and Second World War; whereas others made a name for themselves in sport, music and architecture, which can be seen in so many buildings around the country. The names of these individuals have been immortalised through engravings in walls and buildings, their stories can be retrieved on the internet or heard in school, colleges and universities.

There is one fascinating story in the history of Wales which hit some headlines in the early 1980s. The Greenham Common camp and the champion of this campaign was a woman called Ann Pettitt. The interesting thing about this story, is how it started and who was behind idea and how that sharing made a difference. A young woman by then, she inspired other young women in her surroundings and turned her ideas to be a massive protest which spread nationally.

The saga of this campaign began with the news in 1979 which suggested that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) decided to base cruise missiles at Greenham and missiles were to arrive in Britain from the United States. Ann was inspired by a march which had taken place in Copenhagen and decided to embark on a 120 mile walk from Cardiff to Berkshire airbase with a group of women. Her sharing just sparked and became the exodus of that protest.

Ann Pettitt

The scale of Greenham campaign attracted support and groups merged from around the country and letters were written to prisons where women were imprisoned for trespass or other surrealist crimes such as breaching the peace. Letters linked with women’s peace groups and sister camps set up in the wake of Greenham, in Britain and internationally, including the missile ‘defence’ base in in some part of Britain. It is suggested that the letter writing was a symbolic too, from the open letters to base commanders and local townspeople to the handwritten newsletters and the personal networking that started from Greenham.

Ann Pettitt can be remembered as an inspirational leader, who influenced friends and women around her, as well as energising and creating a sense of direction and purpose. The idea attracted a group of forty women and from there, this women campaign group was organised successfully. Their voices were raised against the arrival of a cruise with missiles in 1981 and that action will never be forgotten in the history of Wales and Britain. The impressive thing of this story is the strength of the protest became and the resilience from this group of women. The march was long and lots of things happened on the way: they were harassed by police, received some abusive threats from members of the public and were called by all sort of names. However the group remained unwavered, determined to finish their course. And the most inspiring thing about this, is the leadership quality and the vision of Ann, a young woman. Truly real tells us that a vision can be persuaded from anywhere around our social spaces. But how sad it is that in so many cases see a vision just sit on it.

I am convinced that if Ann didn’t have the courage to share that idea, this historic event could have never be done or taken place. By then Ann Pettitt was 19 years old and a mother to a young baby, but that didn’t stop her from taking an action against something that she didn’t like. She found the idea of nuclear arms coming to the country very disturbing and together with other women thought of made their concern known to the society. And that led women of all ages to this historical campaign. Ann now runs a tile business from her home in West Wales and doesn’t oppose nuclear power outright but suggest that she’d do it all again if something make her angry enough.  Unfortunately there is no image of Ann on her own in that event.


A Hopeful Sign: IAEA Endorses Iran’s Nuclear Action Plan

A general view of the E3/EU+3 Iran Talks, 20 November 2013. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

A general view of the E3/EU+3 Iran Talks, 20 November 2013. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The United Nations (UN) atomic watchdog has endorsed the plan to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. This is a major step forward in the ongoing mission to bring Iran in line with the UN aim of a non-nuclear age. Iran has always argued that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, which it is free to pursue. However, some other countries (especially Israel) have contended that it is driven by military ambitions. This has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years. This is in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, has urged the rest of the world to stop treating his country as a pariah state. He continued to assert that ‘Nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy and Iran has no motivation to move in that direction’, he assured the world he (and Iran) is committed to a ‘constructive engagement’ with the international community. However, the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later dismissed these claims asserting they prove to show nothing more than a ‘change in words and unchanging deeds.’ Yet, when Israel itself has a nuclear programme that is described as an ‘open secret’, it is no wonder that Israel has always felt a clandestine programme was under-way in Iran. Indeed Israel’s nuclear programme is one that the Western Powers have systematically avoided to mention. This could have much to do with the fact that many nations secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or turned a blind eye to its theft. These include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation, the US, France, Germany, Britain. Of course Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. However, this should not cloud our view of the seriousness that Iran itself may assign to the fact that Israel is a nuclear armed nation.

Regardless, the plan envisages the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertaking monitoring and verification of a series of ‘voluntary measures’ to be taken by Iran over a period of six months. it is hoped by the IAEA that the work undertaken by the Agency will provide an important contribution to resolving this important issue and will lead to further positive developments. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ‘warmly welcomes the interim agreement that has been reached in Geneva regarding the nuclear programme of Iran’. He again confirmed the UN’s ‘unswerving commitment’ to the aim of total nuclear disarmament. Having said all that, Iran has postponed talks due to be held in January until 8th February, but regardless of this brief setback the USA has hailed Iran’s suspension of high-level uranium enrichment as an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ after a long stand-off that threatened to ignite yet another conflict in the Middle East. This must be seen as marking a substantial breakthrough in the ongoing struggle against nuclear proliferation and the threat to global peace and security it represents.

Finally, it is worth noting the impact that sanctions has had on the situation, they are a very complex and often divisive issue. There are reasonable arguments that they only impact on the innocent citizens and not those in power. However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation (AEOI), said in a televised report ‘the iceberg of sanctions against Iran is melting’. This partial lifting of sanctions will ease restrictions on trade in petrochemicals and precious metals as well as other areas of trade. This, in many ways shows the importance that a successful and committed policy of sanctions can have on states’ actions and policies. They are not always the most effective form of international relations.  However, the statement from Ali Akbar Salechi shows that these sanctions and their lifting is a substantial issue for Iran, its leaders and population and as such must be seen as playing their part.

Finally, it is with some hope that this blog post is written, in a time when there is much to be concerned about in the region, with the situation in Syria being nothing less than horrific. With the situations in Ukraine and Egypt, South Sudan and Lebanon all suffering from a threat to their peace and hard-fought for democracy it is worth noting when there is a glimmer of positivity in the realm of international peace.

Further Reading

  • 2014. UN atomic watchdog endorses plan to ensure peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. United Nations News, [online] 24 January. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 January 2014].
  • TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (NPT). United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2013. WELCOMING HISTORIC AGREEMENT ON IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME, SECRETARY-GENERAL. United Nations Department of Public Information, [online] 23 November. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. The Guardian Online, [online] 15 January. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. Iran and IAEA postpone nuclear talks until February. The Guardian Online, [online] 14 January. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. US hails ‘unprecedented opportunity’ as Iran halts enriching high-level uranium. The Guardian Online, [online] 20 January. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 January 2014].

The Meaning of the International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Secretary-General Visits Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site

August 29, 2013 marked the third anniversary of the ‘International Day against Nuclear Tests’.  The initiative began when the Republic of Kazakhstan proposed a resolution which would mark the closing of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site which had closed on August 29, 1991, forty two years after the first Soviet Nuclear test.[1] The resolution (resolution 64/35) was passed unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on December 2, 2009.

Three years after this resolution we are facing a different world. The West is awaiting a UN report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Tensions between the West and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea have increased, after a nuclear weapons test in February of this year. But this issue has since faded from public consciousness. At such an important time it is apt that we have this day to remind us of what we’ve accomplished and what has yet to be accomplished.

The Semipalatinsk test site was one of the main locations for Soviet nuclear weapon tests. The IAEA estimates that “During the period 1949-89 the former Soviet Union conducted total about 460 nuclear weapons tests within the test site. They included explosions that were conducted on the surface or in the atmosphere…Starting in 1961, more than 300 test explosions were conducted underground.”[2] The closure of such a significant site was an important step forwards for Nuclear Disarmament and reducing tensions between the East and West.

In 1996 countries began signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which took the step of stopping nuclear weapons tests further. Sadly, however, the CTBT still has not entered into force and is waiting on countries, particularly North Korea and the United States, to sign and ratify it. Instead the world is left in an uneasy limbo, where nuclear testing is viewed as wrong, but states outside of the CTBT are not obligated to follow it, and therefore repercussions are problematic issues. Perhaps the most salient example of this would be the reaction, or rather lack of reaction to North Korea’s nuclear tests earlier this year. Next month there will be a Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT (or Article XIV conference) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.[3] Perhaps this will make some progress towards a world where nuclear weapons are not tested.

Nuclear testing served three important goals. Firstly, it demonstrated that the bomb design worked. Secondly, it demonstrated the military power of a country’s nuclear force. Thirdly, it was a useful political tool; used at the right time a test, or lack of a test, would convey a message to the other side during the tensions of the Cold War. The lack of testing has helped reduce tensions and perhaps signified that nuclear weapons are not the great weapon that they were once seen to be. As the world focuses on the Syrian crisis and the usage of chemical weapons, a reminder of the progression we’ve made with nuclear weaponry seems suitable.

This day, against nuclear testing, reminds us of how far we’ve come, but how far we have yet to go.

Elizabeth Dunkerley

[1] United Nations, International Day Against Nuclear Tests. Available from: [accessed 29 August 2013]

[2] IAEA, The Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakhstan. Available from: [accessed 29 August 2013]

Can the Genie be put back in the bottle? Nuclear disarmament, an eternal struggle

Nuclear disarmament is a live issue at the present time with the recent anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such man-made devastation in a single moment is only possible via these most powerful and terrible weapons. It is for this reason that the campaign for nuclear disarmament is and must always be an integral part of the United Nations mission. As Ban Ki-moon recently stated “We must eliminate all nuclear weapons in order to eliminate the grave risk they pose to our world”. This risk is not only from their use. It is also from the threat of their use and the fear, uncertainty and instability this invokes in the international community. However, the science that created this threat can never be undiscovered, the engineering and technical expertise may be vital for our future, and the industrial capacity to build a nuclear weapon is likely only to be lost as the result of mass nuclear war (or some other global catastrophe). What then can be done? The only part of the puzzle left open to our influence and able to prevent a repeat of what was seen in Japan 68 years ago is ourselves. We must peruse the goal that American Presidents have desired since their first use, the total elimination of nuclear weapons. This is easier said than done.


America has an extensive arsenal of nuclear weapons that it could choose to decommission, vastly decreasing overall global numbers. Together with Russia they hold 95% of all nuclear weapons. However, Obama talks only of decreasing their numbers, retaining 1’000 and only if Russia would reciprocate. Britain for its part is seemingly determined to retain its place as a nuclear power with David Cameron referring to it as an “insurance policy”. And here lies the problem. Nuclear weapons are still seen as serving the national interest. Those who have them keep them and those who do not, try to obtain them precisely because they are seen to serve a purpose. They are believed to insure a countries security and insure one will not suffer the fate of those annihilated Japanese cities. However, as Ban Ki-moon asserts, “we must educate the world on the benefits of disarmament” and dispel the myth that “security is achieved through the pursuit of military dominance and threats of mutual annihilation”.


Obama rejects “the nuclear weaponisation that North Korea and Iran may be seeking”. However, it is inevitable that countries so often threatened by the foremost nuclear power (and the only country to have deployed them) are themselves going to seek their own nuclear deterrent. It is unclear how we can argue against this logic. As the major nuclear powers, America and Russia must create the political climate and international conditions that would eliminate the perceived threat and consequently perceived need for such weapons by any country, including their own. International cooperation is the only way to peace and security.


The many treaties concerning nuclear weapons must be given their proper place in international law. They must be observed by all those currently possessing nuclear weapons. The “New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” (START) is a welcomed step. It engages the two states that control the vast majority of weapons, America and Russia. This is a major victory for the disarmament movement as it successfully gained the support of the US political system. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) however, long after its ratification is no closer to one of its goals, the disarmament of the five permanent Security Council members. Indeed, many more states have since become the bearers of the nuclear menace with more likely to follow. This is in direct conflict with the aim of the “Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty” (CTBT) which is meant to prevent new countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.  This treaty should be a vital part of international law and as such give a firm code to abide by and enforce. However, it is still awaiting ratification by some key countries including America, China, Israel, India and Pakistan, preventing it coming into force. While 159 states have already ratified this treaty (including Russia) the lack of America is a real blow. It undermines the international efforts of the United Nations and relevant international bodies to prevent the proliferation of these weapons. It also undermines the US position towards Iran and North Korea, opening the US to the charge of hypocrisy.


Ultimately the answer lies in political will and the continued pressure being applied by the United Nations and the many NGO’s dedicated to this issue. The global citizenry must also pressurize and call for their respective governments to carry through their commitments regarding this most pressing issue. The Secretary-General’s “five point proposal on nuclear disarmament” is just such a call, asking for the CTBT to be brought into law. If headed, this is a step we would all welcome. Even so, creating a climate of trust, peace and stability, in which possessing nuclear weapons is no longer seen as in the national interest will ultimately be needed to finally deal with the scourge of nuclear weapons. Although, it may be a threat that now found will never be lost, just forever controlled. However, we must always strive for a world devoid of the desire for such destructive power.


Michael Stagg



68 Years Later….

A-Bomb Terror

August 6, 2013 marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Instead of the abolition of atomic weapons what followed was the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. This post provides an introduction to vast number of issues surrounding nuclear disarmament which will then be expanded on in further posts.

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15am (local time) the world was introduced to the effects of the atomic bomb marking the beginning of what would become the Nuclear Revolution. Several days later on August 9, 1945 the US dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. The use of these two bombs, combined with several other factors brought World War II to a rapid close. Subsequently nuclear weapons have been a persistent fear in global relations. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was code named ‘Little Boy’ and had a yield of 16 kT.[1] Since then countries have developed more complex nuclear bombs, with a higher yield. The largest nuclear bomb ever tested was developed by the Soviet Union; code named ‘Big Ivan’ (or Tsar Bomba) and had a yield of 50 mT.[2] This is 3,125 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The level of destruction that a nuclear bomb causes has changed warfare. Combined with missile technology we have witnessed a compression of space and time, meaning that in the event of a nuclear launch the other side will have minutes, instead of hours to respond to what will ultimately be a more catastrophic event. Not only does this leave leaders with less time to formulate a response but it also leaves less time for verification of an attack – something that could lead to a disastrous misunderstanding.

US President Ronald Reagan said in a speech just before the Geneva Summit in 1985 that “nations do not distrust each other because they’re armed; they arm themselves because they distrust each other.”[3] Whilst this is true nuclear weapons only exacerbate these problems. Mutual nuclear disarmament will serve two broad purposes. Firstly, it will reduce the security dilemma that has been created by the existence of nuclear weapons. Secondly, mutual nuclear disarmament will be achieved by countries working together to achieve a common goal. This cooperation (if done correctly) will produce better relations and reduce distrust which will create a better security environment for all.

Nuclear disarmament has faded as an issue in the years since the end of the Cold War. This trend needs to be reversed, and quickly. 68 years have gone by since the first use of an atomic weapon and since then the potential for use has increased, with more states possessing more powerful weapons. Deterrence will only work for so long and in certain circumstances. In their book Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation Sarah Diehl and James Moltz aptly stated “given the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used in conflict since 1945…beliefs about their role…remain largely matters of faith.”[4] Such uncertainty will only continue with the existence of nuclear weapons. This is compounded by the fact that nuclear weapons do not have a clear cut role in the current age of warfare defined by the ‘Global War on Terror’. Nuclear weapons did not deter terrorists on September 11, 2001 and have not deterred them since. If this is the future of conflict then it is clear that nuclear weapons do not work as deterrence, and since deterrence is the main argument for their continued existence, nuclear disarmament should occur.

Complete nuclear disarmament is a complex issue but that does not mean that we should give up on it.

Elizabeth Dunkerley

[1] The Nuclear Weapons Archive The First Nuclear Weapons. Available from: [accessed 27 July 2013].

[2] The Nuclear Weapons Archive Big Ivan. Available from: [accessed 27 July 2013].

[3] Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Address to the Nation on the Upcoming Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Geneva [accessed 5th August 2013]

[4] Diehl, S. Moltz, J. Nuclear Weapons And Nonproliferation (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008) p. 38