An interview with an activist: Hanif Bhamjee

Michael Beya recounts his meeting with Hanif Bhamjee, founder of the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Upon my arrival at the Temple of Peace where the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) is based, I began researching the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Wales.

In the early 1960s people globally were becoming much more aware of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (often shortened to ‘AAM’). By this time apartheid was reaching its peak.

AAM campaigners were grabbing opportunities to abolish apartheid using all means possible, including the involvement of schools, churches, political groups, local communities and sports organisations.

I was interested in what I understood was the Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) involvement in the campaign of boycotting all activities related to South Africa and urging South Africa to be banned from international sporting events.

This is how I became aware of a man who was a prominent AAM activist living here in Cardiff – Hanif Bhamjee. I met with Mr Bhamjee and asked him about his role and activities within the movement and also about the WRU’s contribution to the AAM.

What Mr Bhamjee told me contradicted my understanding of what happened.

thumbnail_Michael and Hanef

During our interview he told me about protests he was involved in when rugby teams from South Africa played in Wales.  He said they picketed games, and in some cases smoke-bombed pitches.  He told me that the teams began including 3 or 4 black players, to give what he says was the impression of being multi-racial.  But he said the movement knew that generally these players were going back to South Africa to play in black teams, not the national team.

Mr Bhamjee told me about discussions that took place between the WRU and the AAM, how in 1982 the WRU had decided it would no longer tour South Africa as an international team, but that rugby connections would continue between the two countries for a few years to come.

I spent an hour with Mr Bhamjee, and he didn’t just talk about rugby.  I was impressed by his own experiences in Wales as an anti-apartheid campaigner; experiences that had nothing to do with rugby.

He told me that his early history in South Africa was important.  He had been involved in the movement for a long time, and had met Nelson Mandela and others in the movement when he was 10 years old.

Mr Bhamjee had then moved to Birmingham, UK, and became involved in the AAM there.  He moved to Wales and was surprised that the movement only really existed in Cardiff; there were small groups in Swansea and Newport, but no Welsh organisation.  He said it was painstaking work.

“There was a lot of racism”, and that this was all over the UK.  “There were signs in the windows” he said, saying, “no Blacks…no Irish. Room to let.  But if a black man or an Asian guy went for it, it was suddenly gone.”  He said that he and his colleagues had tested this theory with some white friends.

He told me how the AAM in Wales grew, developing groups in Merthyr, Wrexham and Denbigh.  By about 1989 they had 22 branches in 22 cities and towns.

With this momentum, the movement demonstrated not only about rugby, but started boycotting products, like South African fruit and vegetables.  “You’d be amazed at the kind of stuff that was coming in here” he said, “from tools – like spades – and knives and forks.”

During the interview with Mr Bhamjee it emerged that a rebellious spirit grew in him; he viewed the AAM as something that left him out of the circle; he felt forgotten, which left him very disappointed.

He felt that his efforts, time and dedication that he had offered were left unrewarded. He couldn’t afford to go back to South Africa to find a job in the country of his origin, which he had fought for, for more than half a century.

I was also interested to know how Mr Bhamjee viewed the movement now, as active or passive.  He told me that it was over, and that the movement was almost discontinued.

I asked him about how he felt when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison with his fist in the air, if their expectations were too high?  He told me that when Mandela and others were released from Robben Island they were saying the right things, but that as time went Bhamjee began to have reservations about progress being made.

“When he came out in 1990, him and the leadership – all of whom were released from Robben Island – were all saying the right things, but as time progressed – 1991, 92…96 – you could see a dramatic shift in their views, and people don’t like to hear this…And then he retired early and nobody could understand why.  Some people said it was due to illness, but as soon as he retired the situation got even worse.”

Mr Bhamjee went on to refer to another senior member of the Party and his unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the direction he took.

I went on to ask him – as a key anti-Apartheid campaigner – if he had ever thought of going back to South Africa.  Here’s what he told me:

“I applied for jobs. I applied for jobs in the legal field, the diplomatic field because I was a lawyer…I didn’t get any interviews.  Then there was – years later – they were forming a legal aid board in South Africa so I applied for a job there.  And the woman in charge said you’ll get it because you’ve worked with legal aid firms…she phoned me up a few days before the interview and said sorry, higher authorities have decided we couldn’t shortlist you.…I wanted to go back.”

I asked him: did you feel forgotten, after all you’ve done for the AAM, all the links you had with the ANC (African National Congress, a political party)?  Now you go back home looking for a job, you couldn’t find one.  Were you disappointed?

Mr Bhamjee said “Yes, I was. I was extremely disappointed.  And I still am.”

It was an interesting meeting and interview with Mr Bhamjee. I am happy I met with him, learning about his experiences and thoughts about the AAM, past and present.

These are Mr Bhamjee’s opinions and his perspective on events as he witnessed them.

As I reflected on my time spent with Mr Bhamjee – and how I had my preconceived ideas corrected – I understood that there was much more discussion, research and debate to be held. Perhaps someone reading this will be among those who contribute. Any readers who have ideas or information not discussed here are welcome to contribute to further debate on the AAM.

For more information on the work of Hanif Bhamjee and Action for Southern Africa Cymru (the successor to the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement) click here

For more on the history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in UK, including Wales click here

The violence paradox

It is a fact that the world is less and less violent. So why do we have the feeling that the world is more and more violent, when it is more and more secure?

By Mailys

I. The decline of violence

A. The decline of homicides

The common method to measure violence is to look at the homicide rate- war, murder etc. If you look at the homicide rate over a very, very long period of time, there is a clear trend: a steady decline. This is the observation reached by the economist Max Roser who, in studying the evidence of homicides on the skeletons of 26 archaeological sites, calculated the following rates:

violence paradox

Let’s take the United States and Europe from 1900 to 1960 — during the period of the two World Wars, which together accounted for several tens of millions of deaths. Will this be higher or lower on the graph?

violence paradox graph

Despite their weapons of mass destruction and their world wars, when compared to prehistoric societies, Americans and Europeans of the 20th century seem almost like pacifists…

In tribal societies, where the state was almost non-existent, revenge and self-defence was enacted through  violence.  Gradually, as societies evolved, states built their authority by assuming what is called the monopoly of legitimate violence. It meant that only the state has the right to resort to physical violence .

In his book The Civilization of Morals (“La civilisation des moeurs” in French), sociologist Norbert Elias shows how this control of violence has been gradually internalised by
humans. This is what he called the pacification of manners. In the Middle Ages a knight could kill without remorse or even sometimes without being punished. Little by little, however, this violence has become less socially and legally acceptable. And it is a phenomenon that translates in the figures, as shown by Steven Pinker in his bestseller The Better Angels of our Nature:Better of our nature

If we zoom into the 20th century, the rate of homicides linked to wars is also rapidly declining. Since the end of the Second World War, there has been an unprecedented period of peace, when no great power has entered the war with another great power.

‘In 2016, one is 500 times less likely to die from a homicide than during prehistoric times.’

B. The decline of other violence

 

Delinquency (excluding homicides) is quite difficult to measure. This is because complaints or convictions are not very reliable indicators. For two reasons:

– Today, people complain more easily for facts that they would previously haven’t even talk about.
– The policy of governments changes according to the time (increase or decrease of the
forces of the order, tightening or softening judicial processes, etc.), which impacts the
number of complaints recorded.

Then to measure this evolution more reliably, we must turn to another tool: victimization surveys. The idea is to interview each year a representative sample of the population on the violence they have suffered in the past year.

The United States (National Crime Victimization Survey) and the United Kingdom (England and Wales Crime Survey) were the first to use these surveys. What we are seeing is that after an increase in violence in the 1970s and 1980s, violence has drastically fallen since the 1990s…

The fact that delinquency is going down has been studied extensively in the United States but not every scientist will totally agrees. There are a lot of factors that come into account such as:
– Increase in Police and Prison Population
– Ageing of the population
– Securing our property
– Development of contraception and legalization of abortion (thesis advanced in the bestseller Freakonomics; the legalization of abortion in the 1970s avoided the birth of unwanted children, who would have been raised in more family difficulties context and therefore potentially more likely to become criminals).

II. Why do we feel that the world is more and more dangerous?

A. Reduced tolerance to violence

When Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the precursors of sociology, visited the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, there was something he did not quite understand. Indeed, at the time, Americans lived in a much more egalitarian and democratic society than Europe.

And yet: they are all very worried about the future. Why?
Here is his analysis:

“In a society, the lower the inequalities, the more intolerable the
remaining inequalities become”

What is the link with violence? Because a lot of sociologists (like Laurent Mucchielli for
instance) say that it is the same with violence. In a global context of pacification and where violence declines, this decline of violence is accompanied by a decrease in tolerance towards violence …

In other words, paradoxically, the more violence is diminished, the more sensitive one is to residual forms of violence… and the less one feels safe. Today, we are much less victims of physical violence but we are much more exposed to violence than in the past (through the news, TV,…). The systematic emphasis of sensitives and violent subjects distorts our perception of the world.

For example, look at these images and ask yourself what do you think is most likely to kill you this year?

stats

B. Terrorism

On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked at home on their territory for the first time in their history.
Where terrorism is scary, it is also that it changes the nature of violence. Before, the violence was perpetrated according to what an individual possessed or did. Terrorism, on the other hand, targets identities: it aims at what one is … and as it is random, one has the impression that it could all touch us.

And yet —
In the UK, over the last 10 years there’s been 1.4 deaths due to terrorism – which, means
you’re more likely to be killed by dog, hot water (100 deaths per year) or using your
phone while driving (2,920 deaths per year).

Indeed, speaking outside Downing Street, Theresa May condemned the London’s attack-
when a group of three terrorists used a van and knives to kill seven and leave dozens more injured – stating that “enough is enough”. But despite this latest attack, relatively few people have been killed by terrorist attacks in the UK in recent years.

terrorism.png

In fact, there can be even more dangerous than terrorism: our reaction to the terrorist attacks.

 

“Terrorism makes relatively few casualties, does not damage the
enemy’s infrastructure, and yet it has maximum impact.” Noah Harari, La Stratégie de la mouche (The Fly Strategy) 

Because in fact, terrorism is like a fly attacking an elephant in a porcelain store. Its means are a little derisory but, if it does well, it can provoke a catastrophic reaction …
In fact, its impact depends less on the damage inflicted objectively than on the way in which people are reacting to it.

C. But why do the media talk so much about violence?

A journalist will never talk about trains arriving on time. They
want a story to tell.

And with our smartphones, we are increasingly exposed to medias, fake news and bad news. According to Mediametrie’s Media in Life study, with the appearance of smartphones, we are 30% more exposed to the media than 10 years ago, with more than 44 contact points per day.

D.Why this feeling of insecurity is dangerous

Because it is a risk of making the world really more violent. Indeed, by believing that our world is more and more violent, one could end up making it really more violent. I don’t known if you have realized, but after the last elections, these are the main leaders of the UN Security Council.hard line

Having difficult conversations about/with migrants

by Mailys Andre

blog

At a Refugee Conference held last month, attention was drawn to having conversations with migrants or those who think differently to ourselves.  Below are the recommendations provided by HOPE not hate Cymru.

When having a difficult conversation with a migrant or asylum seeker, try to use the ‘listening wheel’:

  1. Open questions : How? What? Where? Who? Why?
  2. Summarising : A summary helps to show the individual that you have listened and understood their circumstances and their feelings.
  3. Reflecting : Repeating back a word or phrase encourage the individual to carry on and expand
  4. Clarifying : Sometimes an individual may gloss over an important point. By exploring these areas further we can help them clarify these points for themselves.
  5. Short Words of Encouragement: The person may need help to go on their story — use words like ‘yes’ or ‘go on’.
  6. Reacting : We need to show that we have understood the situation by reacting to it — “That sounds like it is very difficult”.

Don’t forget :

  1. Story/narrative is powerful (inspire people)
  2. Try to change the dynamic of your conversation (listen, question…)

What if you are facing the opposition?

Ask agitating questions such as :

  1. Has this happened to you before?
  2. What make you believe that?
  3. What makes you angry? (This involves a conscious question with conscious pause)

Try “Empathetic listening”:

  1. This should be your instinct.
  2. Be genuine.
  3. Engage with the person behind the opinion.

You can find out more about HOPE not hate and its current research here.

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.

Yn Cofio Guernika- Remembering Guernika

Mi fydd yn 80 mlynedd ers ymysodiad bomio ar Guernika, pentref yn Gwlad y Basg mis yma.  Dyma erthygl am yr erchyllter a’r cefnogaeth gath Gwlad y Basg gan Gymru yn ystod Rhyfel Cartref Sbaen.

Chwech o luniau gan blant 1937 a’u pensiliau lliw ydyn nhw. Mae glesni yn yr awyr yn un o’r lluniau. Stryd o dai lliwgar mewn un arall. Mewn nifer, mae llun cert llwythog a cheffyl, a chriw o bobl yn gwagio tŷ. Ond yng nghanol y naturioldeb hwnnw, mae lluniau o awyrennau, bomiau, bwledi a chyrff. Doedd y tai na’r siopau – na’r strydoedd hyd yn oed – ddim yn bod ond yng nghof y chwe phlentyn pan aethant ati i dynnu’r lluniau. Ffoaduriaid o Gernika oedd y plant.

Mae’r chwe llun yn rhan o gasgliad Amgueddfa ac Oriel Gwynedd yn eu canolfan newydd, Storiel ym Mangor. Cawsant eu cyflwyno i’r archif yn 1973 gan newyddiadurwr o Farian-glas, Môn – John Williams Hughes – a gafodd ei gynhyrfu gan ymosodiadau’r Ffasgwyr yn Sbaen ar lywodraeth ddemocrataidd y wlad gan achosi Rhyfel Cartref yno. Roedd yn ysgrifennydd Pwyllgor Cymorth i Sbaen Gogledd Cymru a grëodd apêl lwyddiannus gan godi £500 yn gyflym. Defnyddiwyd y gronfa i baratoi ambiwlans, ei chuddliwio â phaent glas, brown a gwyrdd, ei stocio ag offer a thîm meddygol, gosod draig goch ar ei bonet a John ei hun wrth y llyw a’i gyrru i Fadrid. Bu’r newyddiadurwr yno am rai wythnosau yn gwirfoddoli gyda’r Groes Goch yn y brifddinas ac yna yn Valencia.

Cyfrannodd erthyglau i’r wasg yng Nghymru tra oedd yno ac ar ôl dychwelyd. Tra oedd yn Sbaen, cyfarfu â rhai o ffoaduriaid gwlad y Basg. Gwyliodd blant o Gernika yn gwneud lluniau â phensiliau lliw gan ddarlunio’u strydoedd a’r awyrennau yn eu bomio. Roedd y lluniau hyn yn cael eu dosbarthu i hyrwyddo ymwybyddiaeth o’r gyflafan a phan ddychwelodd John WilliamsHughes i Gymru, daeth â chwech o’r lluniau hyn gydag o.

Mae manylion bychain yn y lluniau sy’n frawychus o agos at gofnodion hanesyddol o’r bomio a ddioddefodd Gernika, 26 Ebrill 1937. Roedd hi’n ddiwrnod gwanwynol, clir – doedd y bomwyr ddim yn hedfan os oedd hi’n gymylog neu niwlog bryd hynny. Bomiwyd adeiladau, ond hefyd erlidiai’r awyrennau bobl oedd yn ffoi gan eu saethu gyda’u gynnau peiriant. Wedi’r bomiau trymaf, gollyngwyd bomiau tân nad oedd ond yn gwneud twll bychan mewn to teils ond byddai’r fflamau’n llyncu trawstiau’r adeilad wrth iddynt ffrwydro. Mae mwy nag un to teils yn lluniau’r plant gyda thyllau crwn, melyn ynddynt.

Lladdwyd 1654 ac anafwyd 889 o bobl a phlant yn yr ymosodiad hwnnw ar ddiwrnod marchnad yn Gernika a llosgwyd 90% o adeiladau’r dref. Hwn oedd y dinistr dinesig gwaethaf yn Ewrop ar y pryd, gydag awyrennau Hitler a Mussolini yn cefnogi cyrch Franco yng ngwlad y Basg, gan ymarfer ar gyfer cyrchoedd tebyg ar eu hagenda eu hunain. Er bod ffatrïoedd arfau yn y ddinas, y bobl a’r plant oedd y targedau a rhyfela drwy greu torcalon oedd y nod.

Roedd ymerodraethau’r gorllewin wedi defnyddio’r dacteg hon mewn gwledydd eraill ers pymtheng mlynedd a mwy – ond roedd y rheiny’n ddiogel bell o gyrraedd y wasg a’r cyhoedd. Bomiwyd dinasoedd yn Iran, India, Rwsia, Palestina, yr Aifft, Sudan gan gynnwys gollwng nwy gwenwynig ar y Cwrdiaid, gan awyrennau Prydain 1919-1930. Ceisiodd yr Almaen wahardd bomio o’r awyr yng nghynhadledd Cynghrair y Cenhedloedd yn 1932 (roedd hyn cyn i Hitler ddod i rym) ond roedd Prydain ac America yn gwrthwynebu.

Cododd lleisiau yn erbyn hyn yng Nghymru yn ogystal. Yn 1935, cynhaliwyd ‘Balot Heddwch’ yng ngwledydd Prydain, sef refferendwm yn rhoi cyfle i’r cyhoedd leisio barn ar nifer o faterion yn ymwneud â rhyfela ac arfogi. Bu canfasio dygn yng Nghymru ac aeth 64% o’r etholwyr i fwrw pleidlais – dwywaith y nifer mewn rhannau eraill o’r wladwriaeth. Ar bwynt ‘a ddylid caniatau bomio trefi a dinasoedd o’r awyr’, roedd 90% o etholwyr Cymru yn gwrthwynebu’r math newydd hwn o ryfela.

Dyma gyfnod meddiannu mwy a mwy o dir i’r lluoedd arfog a’r bygythiad i ddod ag Ysgol Fomio i Benyberth, Llŷn. Er bod gwrthwynebiad cenedlaetholgar i’r bygythiad hwnnw, sef amddiffyn daear Cymru rhag cael ei defnyddio gan Swyddfa Ryfel Llundain, roedd protestio yn erbyn yr egwyddor o fomio dinesig. Wrth annerch cyfarfod o gangen sir Gaernarfon o Blaid Genedlaethol Cymru yng Nghaernarfon yn 1936, dywedodd Saunders Lewis: ‘Pennaf nod y bomio fydd dinistrio dinasoedd, eu llosgi a’u gwenwyno, troi gwareiddiad y canrifoedd yn ulw, gollwng i lawr, allan o ddiogelwch yr awyr, yr angau creulonaf ar wragedd a phlant a gwŷr di-arf a diamddiffyn, a sicrhau, os dianc rhai a’u bywydau ganddynt, na bydd nac annedd na bwyd i’w porthi nac aelwyd i’w cadw yn fyw.’

Mae’r anerchiad ‘Brwydr yr Ysgol Fomio’ a gyhoeddwyd ar gyfer cyfarfod croesawu’r Tri o garchar yn pwysleisio mai ymosod yn hytrach nac amddiffyn oedd diben yr Ysgol Fomio. Dyfynnwyd geiriau Baldwin pan oedd yn Brif Weinidog mai dysgu lladd mewn gwaed oer oedd diben yr addysg ynddi. Dysgu sut i ‘ddinistrio dinasoedd, eu llosgi a’u gwenwyno, troi gwareiddiad y canrifoedd yn ulw, gollwng i lawr, allan o ddiogelwch yr awyr yr angau creulonaf ar wragedd a phlant a gwŷr di-arf a di-amddiffyn, a sicrhau, os dianc rhai â’u bywydau ganddynt, na bydd nac annedd na bwyd i’w porthi nac aelwyd i’w cadw’n fyw.’

Tra oedd Tri Penyberth yng ngharchar Wormwood Scrubs am losgi RAF Penrhos y bomiwyd Gernika. Wythnos ar ôl y bomio didrugaredd, cyhoeddwyd llythyr gan Cyril P. Cule, Cymro arall oedd wedi treulio amser yn Sbaen ac wedi bod yn llygad-dyst i ddigwyddiadau cynnar y Rhyfel Cartref. Mae’r pennawd ‘Porth Neigwl a Gernica’ yn clymu’r Ysgol Fomio yn Llŷn wrth y gyflafan yng ngwlad y Basg. Yng ngeiriau’r llythyrwr, mae’n cysylltu ‘fandaliaeth llywodraeth Mr Baldwin yn chwalu un o gysegrleoedd ein cenedl i adeiladu ysgol fomio’ gyda gwaith ‘cyfeillion annwyl Mr Baldwin (Franco, Hitler, Mussolini) yn bomio’r ddinas gysegredig honno gan ladd cannoedd o bobl a saethu’r ffoedigion yn y caeau oddi amgylch . . . ’

Y bobl hynny sy’n cael eu darlunio yn lluniau’r plant a gedwir yn Storiel – yn ystod storm y bomiau a’r fflamau, maent yn ceisio arbed hynny sy’n bosib o’u tai a’u llwytho ar y certi cyn ffoi am y porthladdoedd. Certi pren, olwynion trol a cheffylau ar y strydoedd a’r peiriannau hollalluog diweddaraf yn yr awyr uwch eu pennau.

Eleni, mae’n 80 mlynedd ers dinistr Gernika. Daeth llond bws mini o wlad y Basg i Lŷn ychydig wedi’r Calan eleni. Cawsant eu cyffwrdd ein bod yn cofio hynny a’n bod yn cysylltu Penyberth a’r gyflafan hyd yn oed. Maent wedi arfer cael eu hanwybyddu neu eu herlid. Pan ddaeth 4,000 o blant gwlad y Basg i wledydd Prydain ym Mai 1937, bu rhai yn frwd yn eu croesawu ac yn cynnal cartrefi iddynt, ond aeth eraill ati i sefydlu ‘Basque Children’s Repatriation Committee’ gan honni ei bod hi’n ddiogel iddynt ddychwelyd i’w gwlad eu hunain bellach am fod y sefyllfa yn ‘normal’ yno unwaith eto. Ystyr hynny oedd bod Franco wedi meddiannu’r holl wlad a bod rhai o rieni’r plant mewn carchar ac eraill mewn beddau.

Er mai Tri Penyberth a dderbyniodd gyfrifoldeb am weithred y Tân yn Llŷn, datgelwyd rhyw hanner can mlynedd yn ddiweddarach bod pump arall wedi bod yn eu cynorthwyo ond y cynllun oedd bod tri gŵr amlwg ym mywyd Cymru yn cael eu carcharu a bod y lleill yn parhau gyda’r ymgyrch yn y cyfamser. Wedi imi symud i fyw i Lŷn, clywais fod nawfed aelod o’r tîm. Merch fferm yn Rhydyclafdy oedd hi, wedi bod yn fyfyrwraig yn y brifysgol ym Mangor. Roedd wedi astudio Cymraeg gyda R. Williams Parry yn un o’i darlithwyr, ac erbyn 1936 roedd yn athrawes ifanc ei hun. Ei henw oedd Lydia Roberts, Penrhynydyn. Gan ei bod o Rydyclafdy, dim ond hi fyddai’n gwybod am y llwybr cyfleus drwy’r eithin, ar hyd y gefnen ac i lawr i Benyberth. Hi ddangosodd y llwybr hwnnw i Saunders Lewis pan ymwelodd â’r ardal ddwywaith yn ystod haf 1936 wrth gynllunio’r ymosodiad ar yr Ysgol Fomio. Hi, hefyd, oedd fy athrawes Gymraeg gyntaf – Lydia Hughes oedd ei henw erbyn hynny, yn byw yn Nolgarrog ac yn ein dysgu am y cynganeddion, hen benillion, R. Williams Parry ac enwau lleoedd yn ardal Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy, Llanrwst. Pan glywais am ei chyfraniad i hanes y Tân yn Llŷn, daeth awydd mawr i sgwennu ei stori. Nofel am Lyn a gwlad y Basg ydi Mae’r Lleuad yn Goch a bydd yn cael ei chyhoeddi ar Ddydd Gernika eleni.

Elfen arall yn y nofel yw’r cysylltiad morwrol rhwng Cymru a gwlad y Basg. Cyn 1936, roedd llawer o’r llongau oedd yn masnachu rhwng Prydain a Sbaen yn eiddo i gwmnïau o dde Cymru gan mai glo Cymreig a mwyn haearn o ardal Bilbo, prifddinas y Basgiaid oedd y prif allforion/mewnforion. Llongau ‘tramp’, tua 4,500 tunnell oedd y rhan fwyaf o’r rhain. Ar ddechrau’r Rhyfel Cartref, roedd Franco a’i gynghreiriaid yn ymosod ac yn suddo llongau fel y mynnai o gwmpas arfordir Sbaen er mwyn ceisio ennill rheolaeth ar y môr. Penderfynodd llywodraethau Llundain, Ffrainc a Washington ‘beidio ag ymyrryd’ a thrwy hynny ganiatau i’r ymosodiadau a’r colledion barhau.

Yng ngwanwyn 1937, creodd Franco flocâd ar borthladdoedd gwlad y Basg gyda’r bwriad o dorri ysbryd ei wrthwynebwyr drwy eu llwgu. Ceisiodd rhai o’r ‘llongau tramp’ barhau i fasnachu â’u hen borthladdoedd gan lwytho cargo o fwyd ac anelu am wlad y Basg. Caent eu rhybuddio a’u rhwystro rhag mynd yn agos at ‘arfordir Franco’ gan longau rhyfel Prydain a’u cyfeirio at borthladdoedd cyfagos yn Ffrainc. Yno’r oedd y wasg ryngwladol yn chwilio am stori a daeth rhai o’r capteiniaid yn gymeriadau lled-chwedlonol. Cymry oeddent, fel David John Jones, capten y Marie Llewellyn a roddodd y gorau i’w ymddeoliad yn Abertawe er mwyn cario llwyth o datws i Bilbo Ebrill 15/16, 1937. Gan fod cymaint o’r Cymry’n cario’r cyfenw ‘Jones’, cawsant eu glasenwi yn ôl eu cargo a daeth ‘Captain Potato Jones’, ‘Captain Ham and Eggs Jones’ a ‘Captain Corn Cob Jones’ yn enwau rhyngwladol. Torrwyd blocâd Bilbo yn y diwedd gan y Capten W. H. Roberts o Benarth ac fe’i anrhydeddwyd gyda derbyniad swyddogol gan weinidogion Llywodraeth gwlad y Basg. Mae’r Basgiaid yn dal i gyfeirio’n ddiolchgar at gampau’r ‘Welsh navy’ hyd heddiw.

O ddiddordeb personol i mi oedd bod pedwar llongwr o Lŷn yn cael eu henwi fel aelodau o griw un o’r llongau oedd yn herio blocâd Franco. Cofrestwyd yr African Mariner yn y Barri a bu’n cario ŷd o’r Môr Du i Barcelona.

Drwy gynnwys yr hanes yn y papur bro Llanw Llŷn, cafwyd cysylltiad â nifer o deuluoedd y pedwar morwr a chafwyd eu storiau mewn mwy o fanylder: ‘ Cafodd yr African Mariner ei difrodi yn harbwr Barcelona ar 24 Medi, 1938 pan ollyngwyd bom o un o awyrennau’r Ffasgwyr yn agos ati. Ni chafodd neb ei anafu ar y llong, ond lladdwyd pump ac anafwyd 21 ar y cei yn ystod yr un ymosodiad. Ar 3 Hydref, trawyd y llong yn uniongyrchol gan fom – aeth drwy ddau ddec a ffrwydro yng nghanol y cargo gwenith. Bu’r grawn yn fodd o liniaru effaith y ffrwydriad ac unwaith eto, nid anafwyd neb. Cafodd ddifrod pellach ar 5 Rhagfyr ond ar 22 Ionawr, 1939 cafodd ei bomio’n ddrwg a lladdwyd pedwar morwr o wlad Groeg oedd arni. Roedd cyflwr y llong cynddrwg nes iddi suddo yn yr harbwr drannoeth… Cael a chael oedd hi i’r pedwar o ardal Pwllheli – Tom Williams, Humphrey Roberts, Gwynfor Jones a Robin Williams – i ddianc mewn pryd. Syrthiodd Barcelona i ddwylo lluoedd Franco ar 26 Ionawr ond erbyn hynny roedd y morwyr wedi llwyddo i groesi’r Pyreneau, yna mynd am Marseilles a chael trên yn ôl adref.’

Yn Mae’r Lleuad yn Goch, mae hanes llosgi’r Ysgol Fomio a dinistrio Gernika yn dod ynghyd. Er mai dychmygol yw’r stori, mae’r digwyddiadau’n rhai hanesyddol. Bydd yn cael ei lansio yn Storiel, Bangor a bydd cyfle i weld y lluniau a wnaed gan ffoaduriaid o wlad y Basg bryd hynny hefyd. Weithiau mae angen y cof a’r dychymyg er mwyn dod yn nes at hanes.

 

Ffynonellau

Cule, Cyril P., ‘Porth Neigwl a Guernica’, Llythyrau at y Golygydd, Y Cymro, 8 Mai 1937

Cule, Cyril P., Cymro ar Grwydr, Llandysul, 1941

Coelcerth Rhyddid – Croeso i’r Tri, pamffledyn Plaid Cymru 1937

Heaton, P. M.; Welsh Blackade Runners in the Spanish Civil War, The Starling Press, Casnewydd, 1985

Williams, Dafydd Glyn; Looking Back, Pwllheli (cyhoeddiad preifat), 2013

 

 

Cardiff’s Conscientious Objectors: Religion and Politics

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 the second instalment, Maggie Smales looks at the ‘Cardiff’s Conscientious Objectors: Religion and Politics’.

Religion:

Details for most of Cardiff’s COs are sparse, but where the Pearce Register reveals motivation, it is clear that religion, and membership of certain denominations in particular, was the most common.

We can deduce that at least seven of the men were Quakers. The Religious Society of Friends declared its commitment to peace in 1660 and since then has opposed all wars.  Quakers resisted the introduction of conscription in 1916 and many chose to register as conscientious objectors. However most of these Quaker men in Cardiff did choose to join some kind of non-combatant service, feeling this was the quickest way to end the war.

For example, the architect Laurence Angus joined the Friends War Relief Victims Service (FWRVS) as a volunteer at the start of the war and went with them to France in November 1914.  Nonetheless when conscription was introduced, he was brought before the Military Service Tribunal for Dinas Powys and Llandaff in April 1916 but was granted Exemption from Combatant Service conditional on remaining with the FWRVS.  He went on to serve with the FWRVS until the end of the war. Norman Edmunds is reported as hut building in France with the FWRVS from August 1915.

The Christadelphians were another religious group who were committed to pacifism from the time of their foundation in the first half of the nineteenth century.  They avoided activities that are regarded as “of the world” including military service.  Five Christadelphians are identified on the Pearce Register.  Like William Jones, they all accepted work of national importance.  William was actually allowed to stay where he was as manager of the Maypole Dairy (a national chain at the time) in Canton. This was felt to be punishment enough in view of his poor health and the fact that densely populated Canton was not a particularly salubrious area.

There were four men in Cardiff identified as members of the (Plymouth) Brethren, another denomination which refused to carry arms.  Thomas Charles Mason, a furniture packer from 33 Llanfair Road in Canton, was typical.  He joined the Non-Combatant Corps in Cardiff in June 1917 and was finally demobilised in January 1920.

One man whose case was mentioned in the press was Arthur Spurgeon Gage (born 1893), son of a carriage builder, who in the 1911 census was living with his parents in 211 Mackintosh Place in Roath.  Arthur was the Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Wales, which made him more prominent than many COs, and a local minister, Llewellyn Williams, wrote to Y Cymro on 1 August 1917 to protest:

AT OLYGYDD Y CYMRO.

Annwyl Syr, A fedrwch chwi fforddio ychydig o’ch gofod prin i air ar y paragraff a ganlyn, a ymddangosodd ym mhapurau Caerdydd heddyw-Gorff. 23.

(To the editor of Y Cymro

Dear Sir, Can you afford some of your limited space to air the following paragraph, which appeared in today’s (23 July)  Cardiff papers .)

Arthur S. Gage (24), Welsh Secretary of the Students’ Christian Movement, was charged at Cardiff today with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. Defendant claimed that the law of conscience was above the law of the land, and that was absolutely contrary to the life and teaching of Christ. Defendant was fined £5, and ordered to be handed over to the military.”

The Reverend Williams went on to write about the value and important of the Student Christian Movement and to regret:

Ond y mae’n amlwg fod y gwaith, er ei bwysiced, yn ddibwys ddigon yng ngolwg ein hawdurodau milwrol, ac i bob golwg, y maent o’r farn v bydd egwyl o orffwys yn awyrgylch iachusol Wormwood Scrubbs neu Dartmoor neu Garchar Caernarfon yn llawer mwy o wasanaeth i’r wladwriaeth ar ran Mr Gage na chynorthwyo i Gristioneiddio Colegau Cymru, a gwasanaethu’r Gymdeithas sy’n dipyn o swcwr i’r bechgyn a’r genethod di brofi a sy’n heidio o gysgod a gofal cartrefi i wynebu bywyd coleg a’i beryglon diri.

(But it is clear that the work, important though it is, is trivial in the eyes of our military authorities, and apparently they think that a break in the wholesome atmosphere of Wormwood Scrubbs or Dartmoor or Caernarfon prison will allow Mr Gage to serve the state better than assisting Christianity in the University Colleges and serving a movement which brings succour to inexperienced boys and girls who come from the shelter and care of home to face the countless dangers of college life ‘.)

Arthur had been posted to the Non-Combatant Corps of the Welch Regiment in Oswestry, but refused to go.  He was court-martialled on 4 August 1917 and sentenced to 112 days imprisonment with hard labour in Wormwood Scrubbs.  The following month, the Central Tribunal found him to be a Conscientious Objector class A and at the beginning of November 1917, under the Home Office Scheme, he was sent to Knutsford Work Centre in Cheshire.  Pearce notes that he went on to do postwar work with the Friends War Relief Victims Service.

Politics

A second group of COs were political activists of the left who saw the First World War as an imperialist war and as an example of the ruling classes making a war that the workers had to fight. Nine men on the Pearce Register are identified as being members of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), sometimes in combination with membership of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and/or the Trades Union Movement.

An example was James Ewart Edwards, born in 1883. The son of a schoolteacher, in the 1911 census he was still living with his family in the schoolhouse in Eglwysilan.  He became a schoolteacher himself and was an NCF member and a trade unionist.  Pearce notes that the Military Service Tribunal in Cardiff awarded him exemption from combatant service only. He was called up and given a medical, but was found to be unfit for military service, transferred to Army Reserve Class W, and allowed to return to his teaching post. He was one of four Cardiff LEA teacher Conscientious Objectors asked to resign by the City Council.