Temple Tales #2: ‘A Man and his Monument’: the real David Davies?

thumbnail_Lord Davies.jpg

Picture: bronze bust of David Davies in the marble hall at the Temple of Peace

Maggie Smales, volunteer with Wales for Peace, explores different perspectives on Temple of Peace founder David Davies. 

I am currently helping to sort out the archives belonging to the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA).  In a box with materials about the Temple of Peace and Health, I found the transcript of a BBC radio programme which provides an unusually intimate portrait of Lord Davies: the Liberal statesman, philanthropist and the force behind the Temple.

The BBC’s Home Service in Wales commemorated the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff in 1963 with an hour-long radio documentary on the life and work of David Davies, “A man and his monument”.  John Griffiths– who compiled and narrated the programme- used a mixture of interviews and recordings with people who had known Davies well, from his associate Sir Wynn Wheldon  to his chauffeur. The documentary built a picture of the man and the two causes to which he devoted his life: social health and international peace.

David Davies was born into a wealthy family and given the same name as his grandfather, David Davies of Llandinam. The Welsh industrialist and Liberal politician  had first founded the Ocean Coal Company in the Rhondda, before building Barry Docks and the connecting railways to export his coal.  Like his grandfather, David Davies was a Calvinistic Methodist by upbringing, a teetotaller and firm about his Sunday observance.

Davies inherited his grandfather’s industrial wealth and landed estate when he was just eighteen and had the confidence which great wealth brings.  He was essentially a very wealthy country gentleman, devoted to field sports. His neighbours remembered him as “a big man in a pink coat”… “hunting his own hounds in all weathers in all hours” and “driving open cars at terrific speed – he had 2 Talbot Darracqs…”.  According to Sir Wynn Wheldon “he was almost unsurpassed in his ability to go on hour by hour…for more than a day…if it would be a fox, he’d find it and would follow that fox until it was 36 hours had expired and he’d have nothing to eat in the meantime.”

Davies’ private secretary recalled that he was never “really interested in business at all… and left as much work as he possibly could to other people”.  His real passion was his various philanthropic causes. Here, as his one of his employees noted “He worked himself hard and he expected everyone else to do the same”; “…he was an inconsiderate employer in that he didn’t spare himself and he certainly didn’t spare other people”.  “He had no concept of family life – he worked at home and his time over the weekend would be divided between his study, where he would be closeted with secretaries… and the great outdoors.”

In 1906, at the age of 26, Davies became MP for Montgomeryshire.  Apparently, it was touch and go which party he would join, his grandfather having broken with the Gladstonian Liberals over Home Rule for Ireland. But in the end, as Sir Wynn Wheldon put it “the Liberals got hold of him first and they found him for a good many purposes a very valuable Liberal.”  In his early days in Parliament Lloyd George apparently dismissed Davies as “the Golden Calf”, just a rich son of a rich father, but he soon began to demonstrate the shallowness of this judgement.

Davies was prominent in the 1910 public meeting in Shrewsbury to decide how Wales could best commemorate the recently deceased monarch. He was a driving force behind the decision to set up the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA) for the eradication of tuberculosis, a particular scourge in Wales at the time.  He himself gave £150,000 towards the eventual £300,000 raised and his sisters Margaret and Gwendoline also made substantial donations.  He continued to be heavily involved with this health campaign after the war.  In 1920 he endowed a Chair for the study of tuberculosis in the Medical School at Cardiff University.  Following the 1921 Public Health (Tuberculosis) Act, which compelled all local authorities to make some provision for TB, he, “moved heaven and earth”, according to his private secretary, to ensure that the WNMA would cooperate with the national scheme and become, in effect, a joint board for the whole of Wales.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Davies was given the command of the 14th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  He is recorded as having driven his men and officers to the limits of their endurance when they were training in Llandudno to make them war ready – perhaps he had an inkling of what was waiting for them in France.  Once in the field he also, “made good certain deficiencies of supply out of his own pocket, providing his men with fishing waders (to wear in the trenches) …and his unit with field telephones”. It is recorded that he did not get on well with the Higher Command and was perhaps “too original for them”.

Towards the end of 1916, Davies-who was still a serving MP- was brought back from the front to become Lloyd George’s Parliamentary Private Secretary.  He lasted for less than a year in the post as he was far too opinionated for Lloyd George.

Davies’ experience in the trenches made him a passionate advocate for peace-making.  In 1917, before the end of the First World War, he founded the League of Free Nations Association with HG Wells and Gilbert Murray.  In 1918 this merged with another group, the League of Nations Society, to form the League of Nations Union, with former Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey as President.  Davies was later to endow the organisation in Wales with enough money to meet the cost of its administrative staff.  In 1919, he also funded the world’s first Chair of International Relations at Aberystwyth University College.

Davies had many other interests.  He realised the importance of better housing, especially in the fight against TB, and encouraged T Alwyn Lloyd to develop model housing estates in places such as Machynlleth and Wrexham, and after the First World War, Rhiwbina.  He was interested in agriculture, bailing out the debts of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show on more than one occasion, and loaning out prize bulls and stallions to local farmers in his county to improve the quality of livestock locally.  He gave away parcels of his own land to form playing fields in Machynlleth and Caersws and encouraged neighbours in mid-Wales to do the same; he helped fund village institutes including the pavilion in Newtown and also sent one of his staff to help set up the first Miners’ Welfare Scheme in the Rhondda.

But the League of Nations Union was his abiding passion.  Davies was never a pacifist – his vision of the League of Nations included the concept of an International Court of Equity to intervene in disputes and an International Police Force to carry out its decisions.  Here he parted company with much of the interwar peace movement, including the Peace Pledge Union, and what he saw as “negative disarmament”.  After resigning as an MP in 1929, he spent much of the 1930s campaigning for an armed League of Nations, including founding an organisation called New Commonwealth in 1932 to promote the idea of an International Police Force and writing several books and political tracts.

In the late 1920s a plan was emerging to build a headquarters for the WNMA in Cathays Park in Cardiff on a site donated by the City Corporation.  Davies saw this as another opportunity to promote the cause of peace by including in the proposal offices for the League of Nations Union in Wales and a Temple of Peace “which will be an example for the whole world”.  This inevitably involved considerable extra expense, especially as Davies envisaged a grand Hall of Peace built with material from all parts of the world.  The WNMA agreed to contribute just £12k (the capitalised value of its £500 annual rent) towards the eventual £85k cost, and David Davies provided much of the remaining funds whilst furnishings in the Temple were the gift of Misses Margaret and Gwendoline Davies.   Davies’ factotum Captain Glen Jones noted that while Davies had a proper familial affection for the two “he always brought in his sisters… he always wanted to screw out of them any contributions” for whatever project was occupying him at the time.

The foundation stone for the Temple of Peace was laid by Viscount Halifax in 1937.  Ironically, Halifax went on to be Foreign Secretary and one of the architects of the policy of appeasement towards Hitler which David Davies himself resolutely opposed.  By the time the Temple was formally opened in November 1938, Hitler had already marched into the Sudetenland, and despite PM Chamberlain’s hope of “peace in our time”, war was in the offing.

Sir Wynn Wheldon believed that Davies’ premature death from lung cancer in June 1944 was caused at least in part by his feelings of impotence in the face of the second great war of his lifetime.  “He had to pay the price physically – he didn’t live to be an old man”.   Davies had become embittered in the 1930s when he could see that war was imminent and governments and politicians refused to heed his warnings. As Wheldon explained, “if you have one thing burning in you all the time, people tend to avoid you.  He didn’t always find the welcome that the splendour of his own ideas and the amount of work, money and time he had given to it, really deserved. He became in a sense tedious”.

Posthumously, of course, Davies’ ideas influenced the writing of the United Nations Charter, especially with regards to sanctions and the transition of national armies to an international police.  In his own words: “We shall never get prosperity and security until we get peace: we shall never get peace until we get justice and we shall get none of those things until we establish the rule of law by means of a really effective International Authority equipped with an equity tribunal and an international police force.”

Sources:

“A man and his monument” was broadcast on 21 November 1963 by the BBC Home Service in Wales.

 

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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.

 

Dysgu Trawsgrifio: Darlith yn Rhyl ynglŷn a ffoaduriaid o Wlad Belg

Gan: Mared Erin Roberts

Y ail ddarn gwnes i drawsgrifio, oedd darlith Saesneg gan ddau siaradwr mewn neuadd yn Rhyl. Roedd cynnwys y ddarlith yn ddiddorol, ac fel y darn blaenorol, roeddwn gydag ychydig o wybodaeth am y pwnc. Mae’n yn ymddangos fel rhywbeth llawer fwy ffurfiol na’r darn blaenorol, ac yn gyffredinol roeddwn yn medru ei ddilyn yn well gan ei fod ychydig mwy naratif. Pwrpas y ddarlith oedd, i siarad am broject a oedd gwneud gyda’r canran uchel o ffoaduriaid o Wlad Belg, a oedd wedi dod i Rhyl i ddianc dinistr ei gwlad yn ystod y ail ryfel byd.

Roedd rhan enfawr o’r ddarlith yn cyflwyno lluniau i gyd-fynd gyda hynny a oedd yn cael ei ddweud gan y darlithwyr. Roedd y darlithwyr ar adegau yn rhoi disgrifiad o’r lluniau, ond yn anaml iawn mae’n nhw yn gwneud hyn mewn unrhyw fanylder, felly i unrhyw un sydd ond yn gwrando neu ddarllen y darn – yn enwau, gall teimlo ychydig ar goll. Wrth ysgrifennu am y lluniau yma, roeddwn yn teimlo fel bod trawsgrifio beth oedd yn cael ei ddweud braidd yn ddibwynt mewn gwirionedd. Nid oeddwn i na unrhyw berson a bysa’n digwydd darllen y trawsgrifiad, yn cael darlun clir o beth oedd yn cael ei ddweud. Ar ôl gorffen y trawsgrifiad, ceisiais wella hyn. Chofiais fod y gwaith a yrrwyd i mi ar Dropbox (sef y safle roedd Fiona yn defnyddio i yrru’r gwaith) yn cynnwys amrywiaeth o luniau. Pan welais y lluniau yma i ddechrau, nid oeddwn yn siŵr os oedd angen i mi wneud unrhyw beth gyda nhw, ond am nad oedd Fiona wedi pwyntio nhw allan gwnes i ddewis i’w anwybyddu. Gyda’r trawsgrifiad yma, roeddwn yn teimlo efalle fy mod yn gwybod beth oedd ei phwrpas. Felly penderfynais chwilota trwy ‘r holl luniau oedd ar y Dropbox, gan feddwl yn siawns fod rhai o’r lluniau yn berthnasol i’r ddarlith yma. Roeddwn yn gobeithio ffeindio rhai o’r lluniau roedd y darlithwyr yn ei ddisgrifio. Roedd rhan helaeth o’r lluniau a oedd yn cael ei ddisgrifio yn lluniau o deuluoedd Belgaidd o’r 1940’au. Felly, roedd gennyf syniad go lew o beth roeddwn yn chwilio am, ac unwaith baswn i yn ei ffeindio, buaswn yn gosod y llun wrth ochr y disgrifiad, fel bod y gwaith yn gwneud fwy o synnwyr. Gwariais tuag awr yn chwilio am unrhyw luniau a oedd yn berthnasol i’r darn yma. Llwyddais i ddarganfod lluniau a sawl fideo o’r digwyddiad. Er hynny, mae nhw i gyd yn lluniau o’r darlithwyr yn hytrach na’r ffoaduriaid. Roeddwn yn eithaf siomedig am hynny, oherwydd hyn oedd yr unig adeg ble roeddwn yn teimlo bysa’r lluniau wedi bod yn ddefnyddiol i fy nhasg. Tebyg i’r darn blaenorol, roedd rhaid stopio tua bob 5 eiliad er mwyn ysgrifennu beth oedd yn cael ei ddweud.

Dechreuais sylweddoli fod hyn yn rhywbeth cyffredinol roedd rhaid gwneud wrth drawsgrifio, ac nid oedd yn berthnasol i’r darn blaenorol yn unig. Roedd y darlithydd cyntaf yn Felgaidd ei hun a gydag acen eithaf cryf, felly roedd yna amseroedd ble roeddwn fethu deall beth oedd yn cael ei ddweud. Bodd bynnag, nid oeddwn yn ffeindio hyn yn broblem enfawr, gan fy mod yn medru deall rhan helaeth o hynny a oedd yn cael ei ddweud. Yn gyffredinol roedd yn fwy dealladwy na’r darn blaenorol. Bodd bynnag, gwnaeth o dal gymryd hirach i’w drawsgrifio na’r darn blaenorol, gan fod y recordiad cyfan yn barau tuag awr. Roeddwn yn gweld hynny braidd yn frawychus i ddechrau. Roeddwn yn gwybod yn syth fy mod ddim am gwblhau’r darn mewn un diwrnod, gan fy mod gyda llawer o aseiniadau eraill i wneud ar wythnos yna. Yn gyfan gwbl, wnes i lwyddo i’w gwblhau mewn tua thri diwrnod, a gymerodd o tua 12 awr i’w wneud.

 

Those Marvellous Women: Welsh Women’s Petition For Peace

By Gwenllian Jones

Following the death of thousands of men in the First World War, families and communities were in despair and in need of new hope. This came in the form of a social revolution for peace.

War destroyed the fundamental role women had adopted in Welsh society. The traditional roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were invaluable to Welsh communities; however without sons, husbands, brothers and fathers, women lost the significance of the relationships they had with one another. Women in the interwar period adopted the role of peace pilgrims in Wales, as Welsh women sought to deflect the possibility of another great war to protect future generations from the destruction that war created.

Welsh women’s contribution to peace has been examined by pioneers of women’s writing in Wales by the likes of Katrina Gass and Sydna Williams. Examining the contribution women made to peace campaigns in Wales will not only offer new discussions on women in Wales but also challenge conventional ideas that women were not politically or socially active. The position and role of women in Wales has often been overlooked, neglected or downplayed.  A key contribution, often an overlooked campaign, that represented how women in Wales did indeed offer much of their support for the overall fight for peace was the American peace petition and memorial. This petition and memorial was an attempt to appeal to the women of America to plead the American government to join the League of Nations.

The petition was first discussed at the Welsh school of social service in Llandrindod Wells in August 1922. A national conference in Aberystwyth in May, 1923, proposed that the women of Wales had more to offer in their roles as peace pilgrims in Wales and were given the opportunity to take charge of collecting names, forming a committee, creating the memorial, to take the petition and memorial to America and present to Government officials and the American president Calvin Coolidge.

Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths

Courtesy of Bangor Archives

The Welsh council of the League of Nations was founded in 1922, with financial support from the MP David Davis and led by the Reverend Gwilym Davis. Many men from Wales, derived from non-conformist areas, did not desire to fight in the Great War and because of this certain areas in Wales became known as pacifist regions. These men such as the poet Gwenallt desired to create a Welsh council that fought for peace rather than war, in which case the Welsh council of League of Nations gained mass support within Wales. Within three years of its formation, the League of Nations ‘boasted’ a membership of 31,299 with 571 branches in Wales and Monmouthshire. Following the proposal’s made to the women of Wales, the League of Nations fully supported the women’s claim to create a petition and memorial that would appeal to an international nation and collaborate the campaigns of men and women’s organisations and guilds.
To successfully complete the process, a women’s executive committee was created with twenty members including Mrs Hughes Griffiths as president, Mrs Huw Pritchard as organiser of North Wales and Miss E.Poole as organiser in South Wales. A form was created in both Welsh and English and given to each house and farm in Wales. In total the petition was signed by 390,296 women in Wales and Monmouthshire, representing 60% of the female population in Wales.
A script was created for the memorial and was written by Cicely West. The script highlighted the key reasons why women in Wales desired peace through emphasising the connection already made with America through Henry Richard and Elihu Burritt. Another key emphasis and also significant to highlight were how the women portrayed themselves as women who were not motivated politically. The key reasons why the women of Wales campaigned for peace were their concern for the future of civilisation to live in a warless world, to create humanitarian measures for trafficked women and children and to monitor the trade of opium and any other drugs. The repetition of the women emphasising the already connection between America and Wales and emphasis on a warless world highlights how determined these women were to portray themselves as peace pilgrims protecting the next generation from another Great War.

“Our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”

On the 19th February 1924, a delegation consisting of Mrs Hughes Griffiths, Miss Elined Prys and Miss Mary Ellis left for America on the White Starliner Cedric from Liverpool with the memorial and petition. The women arrived in New York and were greeted by the welcoming committee of the United Association of American Women with Mrs James Lees Laidlaw as chairman. In total the welcoming committee were four hundred to five hundred women from America and represented the voices of twenty thousand American women in total. In New York, Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths gave a speech on the origin, nature and purpose of the memorial and petition. The following day the women were taken to Washington for a second presentation of the memorial and petition in order to meet president Calvin Coolidge, other government officials, the Committee of the World Court, the National League of Women Voters and the National Council for the Prevention of War. The Annual Report of the League of Nations in Wales stated in 1924 that the women, addressed their audience in saying “our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”
Many national and local newspapers reported on the campaign, ranging from areas such as Belfast and Aberdeen. The Belfast newspaper reported that the script was “regarded as the finest pieces of manuscript written in modern times”, additionally “the first time in history that the women of one country have presented a memorial to the women of another country”. The reports indicate how significant this form of campaigning from women in Wales meant to the league of Nations and to women’s organisations across Wales and Britain.

A game of cat & mouse: military challenges to the Home Office Scheme

In this final section of Maggie Smales‘ substantial research into Cardiff’s conscientious objectors, the author reveals the legal battles faced by Cardiff COs.

In March 1917, Philip Snowdon again raised the case of a Cardiff CO in the House of Commons.  Sydney Goodman from 62 Whitchurch Road was a Congregationalist deacon and lay reader who had been offered exemption from military service in May 1916 on condition that he accepted work of national importance.  However, at the end of December 1916 after some months working as a farm labourer, Sydney was suddenly arrested as an absentee, kept in cells for a few days and then handed over to the Training Reserve Battalion at Kinmel Park near Rhyl.  Here he was court-martialled on 19 February 1917 and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with hard labour.

Hansard notes on 20 March 1917:

Mr SNOWDEN asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will order the immediate release of Sydney Goodman, at present detained at the guard room No 7 Camp, Kinmel Park who, while working on a farm at Bridgend, Glamorgan, and holding a certificate of exemption so long as he remained at that work, was illegally arrested on 30 December, and, after irregular proceedings at the Police Court, was handed over to the military authority, and having subsequently refused to obey military orders, has been court-martialled and sentenced to two years’ hard labour; and will he say what action he proposes to take with respect to the conduct of the military representative in committing this illegal act of arrest?

Sydney Goodman was far from being the only CO who was consigned to “work of national importance” and then had the decision over-ruled by the military authorities.  A long-running case was that of Henry Thomas, a Cardiff University student of Mount Street, Merthyr, who refused call up. His case went to-and-fro between Merthyr and the King’s Bench (the High Court) several times in the autumn of 1917 and the spring of 1918.

The Merthyr Stipendiary magistrate, Mr R. A. Griffiths, summed up the case in September 1917:

Defendant was tried at Merthyr 23 May 1916 as an absentee, when he was fined 40s and handed over to the military authorities. Whether one sympathises with his conscientious scruples or not it must be admitted that from first to last defendant has shown the courage of his convictions. There can be no doubt that his abhorrence to slaughter is deep and abiding. I am satisfied that no amount of discipline or hard treatment would ever make a soldier of him. Shortly after joining the colours he was court-martialled for his opinions and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

(Whilst serving his sentence Henry Thomas was called before the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubbs)

Defendant appeared before the Central Tribunal and was found to be a Conscientious Objector; was transferred to Class W, Army Reserve, and was placed under the Home Office Scheme […] In pursuance of this arrangement he worked at Warwick, Lyme Regis and Dartmoor. On the 25th May last (ie 1917) a sub-agent at Dartmoor came to him and, without giving any reason, told him to go home. He returned to Merthyr Tydfil, where he has remained ever since.

On the 29 May a notice was sent to him recalling him to the colours. Having regard to this notice he was arrested by the Merthyr Police at the instance of the military, and brought before this court on a charge of being an absentee. There was no evidence before me – nor was it ever alleged – that the defendant had failed to comply with the conditions laid down by the Home Office Committee.

On the facts which I have just recapitulated, […] I came to the conclusion (on 19 June 1917) that the defendant – to quote the words of the letter of 24th August (1916) – had ceased to be subject to military discipline and the Army Act.” I, therefore, decided that he was not an absentee. […]

The Pioneer of 11 May 1918 takes up the story:

Henry Thomas, as some of our readers will readily recall, is a Merthyr CO who accepted work under the Home Office Scheme. He worked in various centres, including Lyme Regis, where, it is alleged by the Home Office Committee and denied by Thomas, he and some fellow C0’s jeered at some wounded soldiers. He was transferred to the Dartmoor Centre I from where he was sent home by the sub-agent, who in reply to Thomas’ question as to the reason for being sent home, notified defendant that he could give no reason.

Thomas was subsequently arrested as an absentee and brought before the Merthyr Stipendiary (Mr R. A. Griffiths) who refused to convict on the ground that the terms of the circular letter issued by the Committee to Thomas whilst serving his sentence in Cardiff was a contract removing Thomas from the army, conditional upon the Central Tribunal finding, as they did in fact find, that Thomas is a genuine conscientious objector, and his undertaking work of national importance under the scheme.

The prosecution appealed against this finding and the case was sent back by the Law Lords for rehearing. The rehearing resulted in a similar decision in Merthyr, and again an appeal was made to the High Court, where it came up for hearing on Thursday, April 25th, and was again remitted for rehearing.

Tantalisingly, the Pearce Register does not tell us how this story ended.

 

 

The ill-treatment of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors

We know very little about most of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors (COs) in the First World War.  There are just 66 names are to be found in the Pearce Register, the most comprehensive list of men who refused to go to war on religious, ethical, political or social grounds, often with only the sketchiest details of their backgrounds, motivation, tribunal, prison or other records.

In this fourth installment, Maggie Smales takes a look at those who faced ill-treatment for their behaviour and beliefs.

Ill-treatment by the authorities was the common lot of conscientious objectors. Several of the Cardiff men on the Pearce Register were the subject of questions in the House of Commons.  On 10 August 1916, Hansard records that:

Mr SNOWDEN [Labour MP for Blackburn] asked the Secretary of State for War if he will have steps taken to put a stop to the torturing of conscientious objectors by the military at Buttrell Camp, Barry, where two resisters, named Dan Edwards and John Woolcock, are being handcuffed and dragged about a field, kicked, and picks tied about their shoulders, and are being given repeated sentences of detention by the commanding officer, who refuses their demand to be tried by court-martial, the instructions given to the soldiers who assault these men being that they must be tamed here and not allowed to go to a civil prison?

Dan Edwards was from Cardiff and John Woolcock a coal merchant from Cwmavon.

On 19 June 1917 the Labour MP for Whitehaven questioned the circumstances surrounding the death of John Llewelyn Evans of Strathnairn Street in Roath.  A Baptist and a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship, John had been called up in June 1916.

 

T RICHARDSON asked […] whether John Llewellyn Evans, of Cardiff, a conscientious objector, was sentenced to 112 days’ hard labour on the 24th June 1916; whether, in spite of known ill-health, he was passed by the prison doctor as fit for navvying; whether, owing to subsequent exposure and hard conditions, he contracted consumption and died on Whit-Sunday last; whether he is aware that prior to his arrest Mr Evans had never suffered a day’s illness, and was in perfectly sound health; and will he cause inquiries to be made as to who is responsible for this man’s death?

 

The SECRETARY Of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT .[…]  Evans was sentenced, as stated, and, in September 1916, having been certified fit for hard labour by the medical officer of Cardiff Prison, he was sent by the Committee on Employment of Conscientious Objectors to work on a road near Newhaven. In March 1917, he was reported to be suffering from chronic bronchial catarrh and general debility, and was accordingly transferred to Wakefield Work Centre, where he was under the charge of an experienced medical officer. In April he was reported to be consumptive, and as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made he was sent to his home in the care of his mother. The War Office were then asked to consider the question of his discharge from the Army, but before the necessary medical examination could be made by the military authorities his death on Whit-Sunday was notified by his father.

It appears clear that his death was due to consumption, and I do not think there is any ground for further inquiry.

A family affair: Cardiff’s conscientious objectors

We know very little about most of Cardiff’s conscientious objectors (COs) in the First World War.  There are just 66 names are to be found in the Pearce Register, the most comprehensive list of men who refused to go to war on religious, ethical, political or social grounds, often with only the sketchiest details of their backgrounds, motivation, tribunal, prison or other records.

In her third blog, Maggie Smales takes a look at those for whom being a conscientious objector was a family affair.

The oldest Cardiff man on the Pearce Register was actually too old in 1916, at 64, to be called up for active service.  William Trimnell was a herbalist, originally from Bristol, who had lived in Wales since the 1870s and operated from premises in Roath.  Trimnell regularly advertised all kinds of medical potions in the English and Welsh press e.g. Y Celt on 7 November 1884.

Dymuna W. TRIMNELL ddwyn i sylw y cyhoedd yn gyffredinol y ffaith fod ganddo yr ystoc helaethaf o Lysiau Seisnig a Thramor, Gwreiddiau, Rhisgl, Blodau, Hadau, Dail, &c., yn Neheudir Cymru.

(W. TRIMNELL wishes to bring to the attention of the general public the fact that he has the largest stock of English and foreign vegetables, roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves, etc., in Southern Wales.)

However, it was for a rather different matter that William Trimnell was brought before Ton Pentre police court on 29 June 1916.  He was charged with distributing in Gilfach Goch near Tonyrefail “pernicious literature… likely to prejudice recruiting, training and discipline of His Majesty’s forces”.  Citizens of the World, the offending pamphlet, contained proposals for armaments reduction and promoted a world-wide organisation against war.

According to the Rhondda Leader of 17 June 1916, the case was dismissed by the Stipendiary magistrate who declared the pamphlet to be:

“…a thing of shreds and patches true, and a crude attempt to apply its principles internationally.   We had gone to war to prevent war in the future, and he did not see anything in the pamphlet likely to influence young men not to recruit.”

Within his own family, Mr Trimnell undoubtedly did influence young men not to recruit.  Two of his younger sons, both of whom worked with him in the family business, Henry John (born in 1878) and Abraham Joseph (born in 1888), were conscientious objectors.

Henry Trimnell and Abraham Trimnell  may have been considered to need more training, or not fit enough, as they were first posted to 60 Training Reserve Battalion of the Welch Regiment at Kinmel Park, Abergele near Rhyl towards the end of 1916.  Here, having refused to serve they were both sentenced on 23 November 1916 to 2 years with hard labour,  commuted to 1 year 253 days, in Wormwood Scrubbs. They were both brought before the Central Tribunal on 27 December 1916, and having been found to be “Conscientious Objectors Class A”, both were referred to the Brace Committee for posting to suitable work of national importance.

They may have been absolutists, or perhaps their civilian placements were over-ruled, but both were recalled to the army, to different regiments.  Abraham, the younger man, was assigned to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  The regiment had been sent to Ireland at the end of November 1917, and on 23 July 1918 a court martial in Limerick sentenced Abraham to a further two years of imprisonment with hard labour.  Henry was assigned to the Reserve Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and was court-martialled at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool on 27 June 1918 and was also sentenced to two years with hard labour.

The Pearce Register tells us nothing about the specific motivation for the Trimnell family’s pacifist stance.  However, it is likely that there were strong socialist ideals in the family.  The local press reveals that the oldest Trimnell daughter, Henrietta, or Hetty (born in 1876), who was something of a bluestocking, was an active member of the Cardiff Labour Church.

The Evening Express in 20 August 1894 reported that:

At the Cardiff Labour Church on Sunday evening an able and interesting paper was read by Miss Trimnell on “The Work on the Labour Church and the New Movement.” Miss Trimnell is a student at the Cardiff University College, and those who know her prophesy a brilliant career for this gifted young lady.

Labour churches provided a stepping stone towards socialism for those who found that the established churches failed to condemn the worst excesses of capitalism.

The Trimnell family were not the only Cardiff family with more than one member on the Pearce Register.  Another example were the Dodge cousins, Frank (born in 1889) and William James (born in 1892).  Their fathers Samuel and James Richard Dodge were brothers from Crewkerne in Somerset, and had settled in Cardiff and founded a business as hay and corn merchants.  Both boys worked for the family firm.  Frank Dodge , a married man, was brought before a Military Service Tribunal in Cardiff, who must have found him to be a genuine conscientious objector as he was assigned to work of national importance, which he apparently undertook from 31 July 1916 until 25 April 1917, first farm work, then as a porter on the Great West Railway in Hereford and finally market gardening.  William James Dodge, also married, was brought before the same Tribunal and assigned to farm and market garden work between 31 July 1916 and 2 October 1917. We don’t know what happened to them then, but since the distribution of corn and grain was the kind of activity considered to be “in the national interest” presumably they returned to their original trades.