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.” 

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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.

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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.

 

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Conscientious Objectors Day, 15 May: ‘Opposition to the Great War in Wales’ Review

Head of Wales for Peace, Craig Owen, reviewed Dr Aled Eirug’s seminal work ‘The Opposition to the Great War in Wales’ – published by University of Wales Press – for the Spring 2019 Agenda, the journal of the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA).  This book is the culmination of Aled’s Doctoral Thesis with Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

To mark International Conscientious Objectors Day on May 15th 2019 – 100 years after the end of WW1, the ‘war that was to end war’ – Craig shares for WCIA Voices his ‘longer read’  review on this perspective-changing history of Wales’ Anti-War Movements – and considers the relevance to today.

As we mark the centenary of the post-WW1 Paris Peace Process whilst simultaneously bracing for Brexit – seeking to sever the ties of interdependence with our European neighbours – the publication of a history tome that presents a different perspective’ to Wales’ received ‘great war story’ might not seem immediately relevant. But perhaps the timing could not be more poignant – or the opportunity to learn from our forebears – as we reconsider Wales’ role in the world once more within a divided British society.

Previous histories of WW1 have tended to either airbrush out anti-war perspectives from the ‘narrative’ of the Great War as pockets of unrelated, individual activity; or conversely, lionised the heroism of Conscientious Objectors who took a stand against an imperial, populist state. Aled Eirug’s landmark work, ‘The Opposition to the Great War in Wales 1914-18’ paints a far more 3-dimensional picture. The most detailed study yet of the anti-war movement in any part of Britain through WW1, this look ‘behind the blinkers’ is a critical contribution to UK-wide social history, and profoundly relevant to Welsh identity, experience and political ideologies today.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen … these conflicts of our time have been met with vocal anti-war movements that are not only a defining part of Welsh and UK civil society, but also national conscience. 100 years ago, to disagree with the government and populist tide could lead to social outcast and a prison sentence. Those who did so planted ‘anti-war’ seeds that today we take for granted – yet their story is rarely part of the WW1 narrative. Even now, after 4 years of nationwide events marking WW100, one could be forgiven for thinking that Wales was as one with the whole UK in enthusiastically supporting ‘the war that was to end war’ – united under the shrewd leadership of David Lloyd George, the UK’s only “Welsh” Prime Minister. But as for conflicts of today, such a view is simplistic in the extreme.

 

The onset of WW1 divided the nation. Beneath the populist call to arms and government propaganda, religious and political opposition to the war, of many differing shades, was witnessed Wales-wide. Aled maps this opposition systematically, not as pockets of resistance, but as patterns of beliefs – people motivated by a purpose, or rather a diversity of purposes – and importantly, looks at how this opposition became more organised as the war wore on.

Many Welsh non-conformists, and groups such as the Christadelphians and Quakers, reeled at the readiness with which the commandment ‘Thou Shalt not Kill’ was jettisoned to preach military recruitment from the pulpit (though many ministers refused, proselytising against the war). Interfaith organisations such as Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, were founded to counter the hatred of war. Socialist figures such as Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald led an anti-war stance for the Independent Labour Party in Wales that, whilst initially unpopular – and indeed heavily persecuted by authorities such as tribunals – over the course of WW1 progressively attracted increasing support and respect, offering a new political home to ranks of Welsh Liberals disillusioned by the postures they felt their party had taken. Some who felt Wales had become subservient to British imperialism of WW1, would go on to develop Welsh Nationalist ideology that led to the formation of Plaid Cymru in 1925.

Central to Eirug’s exploration is the impact of the Military Service Act, compulsory conscription, in March 1916 which brought WW1 opposition into sharp focus. Those who objected on grounds of conscience faced Tribunals that were rarely sympathetic (particularly to political objectors). ‘Non-Combatants’ and ‘Alternativists’ were deployed to military or non-military work supporting the war effort, but ‘Absolutists’ – who were opposed to the war on moral grounds – were often court marshalled, and imprisoned or sentenced to hard labour. Some Welsh COs died from poor treatment and / or labour conditions.

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WW1 Conscientious Objectors at Dyce Labour Camp, Scotland, 1916 – Wikimedia Commons

Whilst Eirug has been able to trace about 900 registered Conscientious Objectors from Wales – roughly proportionate to the rest of the UK –his research also highlights that these numbers would have been far higher but not for the creation of a Welsh company for theological students in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) – nicknamed ‘Gods Own’. Alongside Ambulance Units and other non-combatant roles, many of these objectors trod the difficult line of supporting those at the front, whilst opposing the war – a sentiment increasingly shared by many serving troops, and families at home, beyond 1917.

The No Conscription Fellowship (NCF) and National Council for Civil Liberties gave voice and organising infrastructure to Objectors, with local branches Wales-wide. But the Independent Labour Party, Fellowship of Reconciliation, women’s movements and Trade Unions all played galvanising anti-war roles in wider Welsh society, and it is perhaps here that this book most challenges the ‘received versions’ of history. Where others have cited, as evidence of pro-war strength of feeling, the ‘Battle of Cory Hall’– a Nov 1916 Anti-War meeting of 900 in Cardiff that was disrupted by a mob of ‘patriots’ – Eirug looks at what happened next. A rally of over 2,500 ‘peace builders’ reconvened at the Rink in Merthyr, “steeled by the Cardiff mob” to oppose developments of conscription. In depth studies of Merthyr Tydfil and Briton Ferry offer an insight into the depth and breadth of local Anti-War organisation. And a whole section of the work looks at the influence of the South Wales Miners Federations: the 1915 Miner’s Strike (over pay and conditions), and the 1917 ‘Comb-Out Ballot’ (a vote on conscription of miners) were both a significant litmus test of pro and anti-war sentiment, with a ‘longing for peace’ spurred – perhaps ironically today – by the hopes of the Russian Revolution.

The end of war on 11.11 1918, and the Peace Process that followed, saw a shift in societal views perhaps only matched after the end of WW2. Religious congregations were deserted by those whose faith in authority had been shattered by war. Formerly reviled Conscientious Objectors were elected as Members of Parliament to lead peace building efforts – figures such as Morgan Jones (1921, Caerphilly) and George M Ll Davies (1923, University of Wales). Anti-war groups channelled their energies into over 900 local branches of the new Welsh League of Nations Union, forerunner of today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs and Temple of Peace.  Nearly 400,000 signed the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America, calling for leadership in the League of Nations for ‘law not war’. When it failed, at the outbreak of WW2 the provisions for military service exemption were more enlightened. And when finally WW2 ended, many of those Welsh figures who had stood so prominently for peace through WW1, the 20s and 30s, were to play a lead role in the founding of the United Nations.

Why is any of this relevant today? For me, what comes across so powerfully from Aled Eirug’s work is how, in a time of populism, polarisation and catastrophe, the peacebuilding efforts of Welsh people and communities inspired a new generation of internationalists– outward looking, but rooted in equity and communitarianism – and can do so again. This book is an essential ‘long read’ for anyone seeking to understand the Welsh national psyche, and where our national spirit just might take us.

Craig Owen is Head of Wales for Peace and Global Action, at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA).

MOVED TO ACTION?

–> Find out more about Wales’ peace heritage of Conscientious Objection by exploring WCIA’s ‘Belief and Action’ hidden histories pages.

–> Search and uncover Hidden Histories of WW1 Conscientious Objectors from Wales and the borders, using WCIA’s Peace Map – Pearce Register of WW1 Objectors, with the kind permission of Dr Cyril Pearce of Leeds University.

–> Download and use Learning Resources on Conscientious Objection from Hwb, for use in schools and colleges.

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#Temple80 – A month celebrating Wales’ Peacemakers and movements

Through November 2018, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs organised an ambitious programme of events to mark the 80th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace on Nov 23rd 1938, as well as #WW100 – the centenary of the Armistice of 11th Nov 1918, and beginning of the post-WW1 “Peace Process” that shaped global relations over the century since.

WCIA delivered over 43 events with a wide range of partners, each exploring an area of Wales’ ‘Peace Heritage’, and the work of Temple organisations past, present and future – as well as showcasing through the Wales for Peace Exhibition the work of volunteers and communities who have contributed to the Wales for Peace programme between 2014-18. This blog aims to draw together links and resources from all these activities, as they become available.

Voices of 1938 – Clippings Projection 

Voices of Temple80 – Film

Temple80 November Programme of Events (scroll down for recordings / outputs)

View full programme of events – English; Welsh; Eventbrite

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Listen to ‘Assemble’, composed for Temple80 / WW100 by Iffy Iwobi and Jon Berry

Temple80 Anniversary Evening

Centrepiece of Temple80 was the Gala evening on 23rd November, attended by about 230 people and including:

Self-Guided Tours of the Temple of Peace, and Temple80 / Wales for Peace exhibition.

‘A New Mecca’ Performance in partnership with Dr. Emma West, Uni of Birmingham and British Academy; Being Human Festival; Gentle Radical Arts Collective; and 50 volunteers and participants from diverse community groups. View ‘A New Mecca for today’ Being Human Festival blog by Dr Emma West.

– Communal Rededication of the Hall of Nations (back to its original 1938 title, as discovered from the archives)

– Food, Drink and Fireworks

– Launch of ‘Voices of Temple80’ Documentary Film by Tracy Pallant / Amy Peckham / Valley & Vale Community Arts

– WCIA VIPs Reception and alumni reunion, with Cutting of a ‘Rainbow Cake’

Peace Garden 30th Anniversary

On Saturday 24th, this was followed by a #PeaceGarden30 Rededication and Family Fun Day, in which WCIA brought together UNA Exchange international volunteers and alumni and Garden of Peace Founder Robert Davies, with children from Roath Park Primary School

Together they unveiled 2 new colourful mosaics (created by international volunteers) on a new archway entrance in the Peace Garden; buried a Time Capsule in the Garden, to be opened in 50 years time; and unveiled a plaque on one of WCIA’s meeting rooms in honour of Robert Davies, and all international youth volunteers inspired by him from 1973 to today.

#Temple80 ‘Wales for Peace’ Exhibition

The Exhibition accompanying Temple80 sought to draw together the story of the Temple, with Wales’ peace heritage of the last 100 years – including hidden histories gathered by community groups and volunteers 2014-18 – along with responses from young people, schools and artists.

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Artists in Residence showcased a range of responses for visitors to delve deeper into the Temple’s stories:

  •    Jon Berry, Temple80 Artist in Residence composed a series of musical installations responding to the Temple spaces & heritage; and also collaborated with musician Iffy Iwobi to produce and perform ‘Assemble’, a 8 minute musical tribute for the BME Remembrance Service.
  •    Ness Owen, collection of 5 poems responding  to heritage materials in exhibition;
  •    Will Salter, ‘Guiding Hand’ alternative tour of the Temple encouraging deeper spatial appreciation;
  •    Hazel Elstone, crafted multicoloured wreath of red, white, black and purple Remembrance poppies
  •    Lee Karen Stow, with her ‘Women War & Peace’ photography display;
  •    Tracy Pallant & Amy Peckham, with their community films including Temple80 Rap by BME artist Jon Chase.

Recordings / Outputs from Temple80 Events

Event Photo(s) Video(s) Audio(s)
Exhibition – throughout November Flickr Album;

Building the Exhibition

Self-Guided Tour with Craig Owen  
Exhibition Launch and ‘Temple of Memories’ Round Table Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – ‘Temple of Memories’  
BAME Remembrance Service, 2nd Nov Flickr Album   ASSEMBLE – by Iffy Iwobi & Jon Berry
International Development, 5th Nov      
Schools Conference, 6TH Nov Flickr Album    
War, Peace & the Environment, 6th Nov Article    
Temple Tours   Exhibition Walkthrough  
Turning the Pages – every day through Nov Soldiers Stories FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Turning of the Pages Thoughts from the Crypt
Story of the Book of Remembrance, 9th Nov Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Story of the Book 1 and 2 Story of the Book of Remembrance
Armistice Day Services, 11th Nov Flickr Album    
Campaigning for Change, 13th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – CAMPAIGNING FOR CHANGE Campaigning for Change
Refugees & Sanctuary, 16th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – REFUGEES & SANCTUARY  
Peace Education, 20th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – PEACE EDUCATION  
Legacy of WW100, 21st Nov Flickr Album   Legacy of WW100 Audio
Women War & Peace, 22nd Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE – LEE STOW WOMEN WAR & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – WELSH WOMEN & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – 1980S ANTI NUCLEAR CAMPAIGNERS

Women War & Peace x 6
Peace Garden Rededication & Family Fun Day, 24th Nov Flickr Album Peace Garden Rededication + Robert Davies  

Media Coverage

A New Mecca for Today? Being Human Festival Blog by Dr. Emma West, British Academy

‘We Will Remember Them’ – BBC Documentary by Huw Edwards (Temple of Peace features in about 5 minutes of content, with Dr Emma West and Dr Alison Fell)

How Wales’ most Tragic Mother spread Peace and Hope – Western Mail / Wales Online

Cardiff’s Temple of Peace opens its doors to celebrate 80th birthday – University of Birmingham article

War Mothers as Peace Builders – University of Birmingham

Remembrance Weekend at Temple of Peace – The Cardiffian

Temple of Peace turns 80 – The Cardiffian

Social Media Archives

Twitter Feed & Media: https://twitter.com/walesforpeace?lang=en

Youtube Videos Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0G2l7QV_yPDU4RHB8hEEPg?view_as=subscriber

Soundcloud Event Recordings: https://soundcloud.com/walesforpeace

Flickr Photo Albums: https://www.flickr.com/photos/129767871@N03/albums

People’s Collection Wales archive collections: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/user/8498/author/8498/content_type/collection/sort/date

Facebook Community Page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/walesforpeace/posts

 

 

Welsh Youth Parliament

By: Niamh Mannion

Young people are often framed as disengaged from the political landscape. Today’s youth are painted as disillusioned from the political debates that will shape their future. However, 2018 looks set to challenge this stereotype with the founding of the Welsh Youth Parliament.

From 1999 to the present day

In 1999, following the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales, dedicated youth engagement services were founded. Since the millennium, youth engagement services have worked with thousands of Welsh children and young people. Youth services engaged young people in a range of topics. These ranged from political debates de-mystifying the inner workings of The Welsh Assembly.

In 2014, the National Assembly for Wales signed a youth engagement charter. The charter ensures that the voices of young people in Wales are listened to and positive change is made to causes they care about. Since the charter was signed, there were increased calls to found a Welsh Youth Parliament. In fact, Wales was the only European Nation without a youth parliament.

In October 2016 Assembly Members agreed to a Welsh Youth Parliament. 5000 young people in Wales were consulted concerning the future aim, membership and overall direction of the parliament.

What happens next?

2018 marks the start of The Welsh Youth Parliament. It’s a super exciting time to be a young person in Wales!

60 young people (aged 11-18) from all over Wales will be elected to sit in the youth parliament. Members of The Welsh Youth Parliament will identify, debate and bring awareness to issues that impact young people. And you could be one of them! You can apply to stand for the Welsh Youth Parliament from the 3rd September 2018 until the 30th September 2018. Find information on how to stand in youth parliament here: https://www.youthparliament.wales/stand/

You can also make your voice heard by voting! If your aged 11 to 18 and live or are educated in Wales, you can vote to elect members of your youth parliament. Voter registration is open from 28th May 2018 until 16th November 2018.  Find more information on registering to vote here: https://www.mi-nomination.com/wypregister/form/landingpageenglish

Elections for the Welsh Youth Parliament will be held from the 5th November 2018 until the 25th November 2018. The exciting election results will be announced at some point over December 2018!

Empowering Young People

The founding of The Welsh Youth Parliament is a fantastic moment for young people in Wales. Not only will Welsh Youth Parliament empower the voices of young people, it will empower democracy as a whole in Wales.

Welsh Youth Parliament will ensure that the voices of young people from around Wales and from a multitude of backgrounds will be heard. This new chapter also gives Wales an incredible opportunity to listen to the young people of today, who will shape the future of Wales.

The new youth parliament will be symbolic of improving the lives of young people, in turn improving their collective futures and Wales as a whole. Here at WCIA we applaud all future participants of The Welsh Youth Parliament and the positive change it will bring to the lives of young people in Wales.

Community Action: The Legacy of Grenfell a year on

By Niamh Mannion

The of 14th June 2018, marked the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire, in which 72 people lost their lives. The abject horror that encapsulates the tragedy is unquantifiable. But through the tragedy, community spirit prevailed. The local community of North Kensington immediately sprang into action. Sports halls and community centres were opened for donations. Mosques and Churches opened their doors to provide solace and comfort to survivors and the bereaved. It was the community of North Kensington which provided refuge from the horror which had just engulfed their neighbourhood. Donations of the most basic essentials were given freely and openly to survivors in their hour of need.

However, it was not only the initial aftermath which generated the outpouring of charity. In the weeks and months following the fire, traumatised survivors and members of the local community needed vital support. Children and Adults alike were in dire need of mental support. A leading psychiatrist went as far to say the mental health response to Grenfell was the biggest of its kind in Europe. Charities encouraged survivors and members of the local community to seek mental health support. Children were encouraged to explore their trauma through art therapy. Legal assistance was also offered to aid survivors in their fight forward for justice.

In the same month as Grenfell, June 2017, Portugal experienced deadly wildfires. On the 17th June 2017, four wildfires erupted within minutes of each other. 66 people lost their lives. As with Grenfell, it was community action which provided practical aid to wildfire survivors. Moreover, community action also facilitated a campaign demanding improved fire regulation measures.

As we look back on the year post Grenfell, it is the tireless and passionate community action of North Kensington which has proven genuinely inspiring. The mountains of charitable donations, volunteer workers and silent vigils became the iconic images of the disaster. Community cohesion has in part alleviated the suffering of the impacted community and ensured the fight for justice continues. It is important to recognise the power of community action. All individuals have the potential to make a positive difference in their local community, in Wales and internationally.

Making a stand: William Trevor Jones of Pontyberem (1901-75)

By Jeffrey Mansfield

Trevor family photo

Trevor with his wife and daughter, Rhinedd

“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.”

– Memorial stone to Conscientious Objectors

Temple of Peace, Cardiff

If you were asked to name the people and places associated with the search for peace during the 1930s, you probably wouldn’t mention William Trevor Jones of Pontyberem.

Yet some of the most important players in the peace movement were all guests at the Pontyberem home of William Trevor Jones – coal-miner, Christian, Labour Party activist and conscientious objector (CO) in the Second World War.

George Lansbury, Clement Attlee, Scott Nearing, and Canadian journalist Douglas Carr, all visited Trevor, as he was known.

With kind help from Rhinedd Rees, Trevor’s daughter, and her husband Alban we are able to reveal the hidden history of Trevor’s life and his experiences as a C/O. It is a cameo of industrial south Wales at the time.

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Trevor then (left), daughter Rhinedd now, with husband Alban (right)

Early life

A coal-miner at age 14, he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1918 after hearing an election speech by local Labour candidate, Dr. Williams. Asked to set up a branch of the ILP, he recruited four other colliers, and was elected Secretary.

He resumed his education by taking adult education classes and almost gained a scholarship to Oxford, failing by only one mark. During 1926 he supported the General Strike and acted as Secretary to the Children’s Distress Committee. When his ILP branch decided to join the (new) Labour Party in 1928, he was elected to Pontyberem Parish Council, on which he served until 1969.

In 1930 he attended Coleg Harlech to continue his education but had to leave after one year and return to Pontyberem after his father was killed in the colliery. He later said that his time at Coleg Harlech had been a great influence on him and made him more capable of service to society.

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Trevor at Coleg Harlech, highlighted in the bottom row

Between 1934 and 1935, Trevor’s Labour group were active in promoting the Peace Ballot in their region, and he began serving as Trades and Labour Council Secretary.

Though he came from an Anglican family he did not approve of what he felt was a militarist stance by the Church, and on marriage he became a Welsh Independent.

War breaks out

At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939 Trevor was employed as an Insurance Inspector with the Co-op Insurance Group.

The National Service (Armed Forces) Act was passed into law, requiring all males aged between 18 and 41 to register for military service. Registration was by age group and took a long time, so it wasn’t until June 1941 that 40-year-olds were registering. Trevor’s 40th birthday was on 17th May 1941 – his time to register was imminent.

However, as a committed Christian, he decided to apply to register as a Conscientious Objector (CO) on religious grounds.

The application

His application was received at the Ministry of Labour and National Service in Cardiff on 13th June 1941, just one day before the deadline. The original papers pertaining to his application, kindly provided by Rhinedd, give a fascinating insight into the process.

He begins with a statement of his Christian values:

“As a professed Christian and a humanitarian, I profoundly and conscientiously believe that War, in all its aspects, is in direct contradiction to the Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ.”

He states his conviction that only by following Jesus can Man be liberated:

“The salvation of mankind does not lie in the way of force.”

Finally, he claims his moral right to the dictates of his own conscience and stands:

“On the firm conviction that to me each man is a potential Christ.”

The hearing

His application was heard by the Local Tribunal in Carmarthen on 18th July 1941. We have no record of what was said, but it is known that these hearings could be hostile and often tried to persuade, guide or command the applicants into some form of service.

Interviewed in 1972, Trevor said he was expected to leave his job with the insurance company and go back to the mine. Mining was a ‘reserved occupation’ and miners of his age were exempt from conscription, but he refused to do so because he didn’t believe it was right for him to take another collier’s job, which would have subsequently meant that collier having to join the army instead.

The application was granted and he was registered unconditionally in the Register of Conscientious Objectors, effective 23 July 1941. He said in 1972 that he felt he had ‘got off lightly’ in front of Judge Frank Davies at Caerfyrddin.

Aftermath

Like other COs he encountered rejection. Rhinedd recounts that some people spat on him, and threw stones on the roof when he was addressing meetings. But despite undercurrents of hostility, he had support in his chapel, where there were other COs, and he was elected Deacon. He continued working with the Insurance, which he could not have done had he been shunned. He was even asked to provide references, evidence that he was recognised as a man of conscience.

But the whole experience took its toll: after the war he became less confident and suffered a nervous breakdown, giving up his job as Inspector to become an ordinary Agent.

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Trevor in his later years

Final thoughts

The coalfields, the Independent Labour Party, and the religious faith which nurtured Trevor have now either disappeared or are less visible in society. But the courage which he and other COs showed is everlasting and serves as an example to us all.

“Mae Alban, Catrin, Anwen a finnau yn ymfalchio yn fawr ar ei safiad a’i ddewrder ar gyfnod anodd iawn. Roedd yn berson egwyddorol ac roedd yn barod i wrthwynebu anghyfiawnder a chasineb yn erbyn cyd-ddyn.Bu’n driw i’w ddaliadau trwy gydol ei oes.”

-Rhinedd Rees, Hydref 2017

“Alban, Catrin, Anwen and I are very proud of the stand he made and his bravery during a very difficult period. He was a very principled person and was ready to oppose injustice and hatred against his fellow man. He was true to his beliefs throughout his life.”

-Rhinedd Rees, October 2017

Thank you to  Rhinedd for your involvement with this piece and the family photographs.

How the Valleys Inspired a World of Free Healthcare

Embed from Getty Images

‘Aneurin Bevan visiting a patient in hospital’

Lasting peace is not just about preventing war but also about creating a fair and just world. WCIA volunteer Sophie Champion tells us how one community worked together to improve access to healthcare for all…

We all know the National Health Service very well, and most of us have received free healthcare under the service. But how many of us know where the idea came from, or the community that was the test-run for the idea? It was in fact a mining town in Wales that spurred Aneurin Bevan on to form a health service that the whole of the United Kingdom could use.

The NHS takes its roots from the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, which was formed following a merging of a number of societies in Tredegar, a mining town in the South Wales valleys. Many of these societies offered services such as funeralcare and medical benefits, and brought the community together through a sense of collective responsibility.

The success of the society led to Aneurin Bevan’s case for a National Health Service, which would go on to help the lives of millions of people living in the United Kingdom.

Beginnings

Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund

The end of the 19th century in Tredegar saw a system of organised labour which provided basic health care through a network of societies, trade unions, and insurance companies.

In 1890, a variety of local societies merged together, forming the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund. Some of the services included medical and funeral expenses offered to its 3,000 members. This allowed the society to continue to grow, eventually into a hospital in 1904, which was known as Cottage Hospital, in Tredegar town.

The land was donated by Lord Tredegar and the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company and various other philanthropists, while the running costs were financed by the workers themselves, through half-penny a week contributions, which increased to a penny a week by 1909.

Tredegar Medical Aid Society

The success of the society continued to grow, and the hospital began offering healthcare to non-members, such as the wives and children of members, the elderly, and workers in other trades in the town such as railwaymen, teachers, shopkeepers and more. Miners and steelworkers paid a weekly fee of 2d in each £ of their wages while ‘town subscribers’ paid 18s a year. The society’s offices were based at 10 The Circle in Tredegar town, a building that still stands today.

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‘The original sign of the Tredegar Medical Society. Photo by Sophie Champion’

Notable People

Aneurin Bevan

· Whilst Bevan did not found the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, he joined the Cottage Hospital Management Committee around 1928 and became chairman in 1929–30.

· Bevan holds great importance in the Tredegar Medical Aid Society and the history of the National Health Service in general, as he brought the ideas he saw practiced within the Tredegar Medical Aid Society to the British Government, confident that a healthcare system on a national scale was possible.

When the National Health System was launched, Bevan declared:

‘All I am doing is extending to the entire population the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to Tredegar-ise you’.

Walter Conway

· Conway was born into poverty and orphaned at a young age.

· He began working in a workhouse and became friends with Aneurin Bevan, both of whom later joined the Query Club in 1920.

· He was appointed secretary of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in 1915.

· Conway was more than just a friend to Bevan, he was a mentor and teacher to him and assisted Bevan in ridding himself of a disabling stammer.

· This allowed Bevan the confidence to go on to deliver inspiring, passionate speeches, that would persuade members of the British government to implement a free health care system.

Conway’s memory lives on in both Tredegar and on a wider scale. A street in Cefn Golau is named after him: Walter Conway Avenue, and the character Owen in the novel The Citadel, written by a former doctor at the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, A.J. Cronin, is named after him.

Lord Tredegar

· Lord Tredegar was a keen philanthropist in the area, and donated land that would be used to build the Cottage Hospital, ran by the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.

Without the generosity of individuals such as Lord Tredegar, or the commitment of members such as Walter Conway, who demonstrated community values, the Tredegar Medical Aid Society might never have been as successful, or efficient, as it was.

The community as a whole

· Although individuals such as Bevan and Conway are commonly associated with the success of the society, it is also important to note the contributions made by members of the community.

· The local people would meet at the society’s offices at 10 The Circle, developing ideas and strategies to improve the society.

The involvement of the local people in the society’s development and running helps demonstrate the community values that the Tredegar Medical Aid Society demonstrated, and the important role the community were given in the management of their society.

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‘The original safe which stored the membership payments paid by those who used the Tredegar Medical Aid Society’. Photo by Sophie Champion.

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‘The money would be used to maintain the society, such as for paying doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, and buying equipment’. Photo by Sophie Champion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notable buildings

The Tredegar Medical Aid Society was based at two buildings: the Cottage Hospital and 10 The Circle:

· The Cottage Hospital was situated in the heart of Tredegar town, and the land to build it was donated by local businessman Lord Tredegar. The hospital provided healthcare to the town’s population, and employed a number of healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses.

· 10 The Circle was home to the society’s executive offices, wherein the secretary, Walter Conway, would work, and much of the decisions about how the society was

ran were taken here. Members of the executive would gather in the meeting rooms, discussing the running of the society, and local people would attend meetings, sharing opinions and advice on how to run the service efficiently.

How Did the War influence the Formation of the NHS?

During the aftermath of the Second World War British people sought a better future, for both them and their children, and aimed to achieve this by working collectively. There was also an aim of securing better lives for the working class, and a free health care service that discriminated against no one was instrumental in achieving this.

The Benefits of Working Together

The Dalai Lama once stated that, “when we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities,” and this quote can be held true to the success of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.

Before its creation, residents of Tredegar were forced to fund their own health care, to look after only themselves. Whenever an individual was unable to pay for their healthcare, they would find themselves on their own, perhaps they did not have enough money, or enough friends, to pay for their medical costs.

This could leave the individual marginalised, disadvantaged, and alone. Their physical health could worsen, and this could impact their mental health too.

Moreover, those able to cover their healthcare costs might adopt a mindset where they could separate themselves from their community, caring only for themselves. This sense of individualism could diminish the whole idea of ‘community’ and the values that come with it.

But an organisation like the Tredegar Medical Aid Society instilled the town of Tredegar with community values and the responsibility for people to look out for one another.

With a system that requires members to pay in each week and year to cover the whole of their medical costs and support the upkeep of the society, this encouraged the people of Tredegar to unite and work together to support each other’s health and wellbeing.

This unity was then introduced on a wider scale, as in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s quote, wherein the present day millions of British citizens pay into a health system that the whole population can use for free.

In his books, including In Place of Fear, Bevan made a number of allusions to the peace and harmony a universal healthcare service would bring to communities and society as a whole.

“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide. Society will be peaceful and happier if we support each other.”

Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, Chapter 5

References

● Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear

● Information and access to items pictured provided by Geoff Thomas, from Time Banking Wales, based at 10 The Circle, Tredegar ● Wales Online: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health/going-tredegar-ise-you-bevan-told-2187499

● Tredegar.co.uk: https://www.tredegar.co.uk/history/#Tredegar Cottage Hospital

● Do One Thing.org: http://www.doonething.org/quotes/community-quotes.htm