Author: Craig Owen

Wales Uniting Nations: Building a Better World after World War 2

On 8 May 2020, Wales and the world mark #VE75, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day – the end of World War Two in Europe. Over 15,000 Welsh men and women lost their lives in WW2, out of an estimated 75 million globally; and the horrors of the Holocaust and of Hiroshima have defined generations to this day. But out of the ashes of WW2 emerged the United Nations, and many of the institutions of global cooperation that, in the 75 years since, have prevented another world war to date – despite nuclear proliferation, the Cold War and many conflicts that could have escalated even further without the machinery of human cooperation. Beyond the Bunting and Lindy Hop dances, Remembrance on VE Day should give pause to appreciate perhaps the greatest gift of the WW2 generation: the United Nations.

However, a little known aspect – one of Wales’ ‘hidden histories’ – is just how involved Welsh men and women became in shaping the ‘new world order’ after World War Two. Whilst WCIA hope to uncover more over 2020-23 as we mark UN75 – the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, here we share just a few of their stories.

Building on the League of Nations

During the interwar years between WW1 and WW2, Wales’ peace building movement had become woven into the fabric of Welsh society; over 800 communities had local branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union, with many thousands of campaigners Wales-wide actively advocating for internationalism through annual Daffodil Days, the 1935 ‘Peace Ballot’, and culminating in the opening in 1938 of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health by founder Lord David Davies alongside WW1-bereaved mothers. The Temple had been intended as a headquarters ‘befitting to international cooperation’ – and yet, within months of its opening, the world’s deadliest war had consumed a generation and swept aside all international order. Had the efforts of Wales’ post-WW1 peacemakers all been in vain?

David Davies at the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace, Nov 1938.

Lord David Davies, founder of the Temple of Peace, League of Nations Union and of the world’s first Department of International Politics (at Aberystwyth University) tragically did not live to see the post-WW2 peace he had spent his whole life working for; he passed in June 1944, months before his son and heir Michael Davies was also killed in action leading the liberation of Eindhoven, Holland. Lord Davies had spent his last years writing propitiously on possibilities for a post-war international order, a ‘United Nations’ machinery with an ‘international police force’, an ‘equity tribunal’ (international court, furthering human rights) and supporters’ associations mobilising the peoples of every land.

However, the widespread internationalism garnered Wales-wide over 20 years by the Welsh League of Nations Union, had fostered a whole ‘new generation of Welsh internationalists’ who would shape the post-WW2 landscape of peace building and global cooperation. A perhaps disproportionate cohort were among the founders and leaders of many of the international agencies that came into being following WW2, as people sought to build a better world – and to learn the lessons of the failed post-WW1 peace process that had created the conditions for World War 2 in the first place.

“Those who want peace, it is said, prepare for war. Those who are already at war, prepare for peace. So, before the second world war was even halfway through, debate began about the new organisation which was to be established at its end.”

Evan Luard, History of the United Nations

The First United Nations

Jan 1 1942: Signing in Washington of the Atlantic Charter, the ‘Declaration of United Nations’ (Wikipedia Commons)

Proposals for a United Nations had been floated from 1941 among the WW2 Allied Powers – UK, USA, Soviet Union and China – with the name itself promoted by President Roosevelt of the US on 1 Jan 1942.

The task of pulling together a Secretariat for a fledgling United Nations was delegated to Gladwyn Jebb of the Foreign Office – who became the UN’s First Secretary General – supported by Welsh Economist David Owen, Assistant to the Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps).

David Owen, founder of UN Secretariat and UN Development Programme

“I was Jebb’s deputy,” Sir David recounted. “He turned to me and announced: I’ll handle the high diplomacy; you take on the rest. Find an office and a secretary and get this thing started.” ‘This thing’ was a world organization formed by 51 war time allies without a staff or money – and only a promise that it could make London its temporary home.

David rushed back to London to borrow a typewriter from the Foreign Office and a secretary from the War Office. “Together in a taxi we leaded for Church House in Westminster, and knocked on the door. The old custodian peered at us across barricade of sandbags and demanded to know who we were.

“‘We are the United Nations,’ I remember answering. And that was the beginning.”

David financed the early days of United Nations operations with a £30 loan from his London bank account. “We lived on that £30 for almost two weeks in 1945.”

New York Times Obituary of David Owen, June 1970

David Owen went on to found the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

1st UN General Assembly Welcome Programme from Temple of Peace Archives

The First UN General Assembly (UNGA)

The first United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was held in the Methodist Central Hall, London from 10 January 1946, bringing together representatives of 51 nations.

A ‘British Welcome’ staged at the Royal Albert Hall had a distinctly Welsh flavour. The programme was fronted by the Choir of Wales’ Temple of Peace, performing 6 songs in total – including ‘Nos Galon’ and ‘Men of Harlech’.

1945 Leaflet for the Temple of Peace Choir
Megan Lloyd George, Wales 1st female Member of Parliament

The keynote address was delivered by Lady Megan Lloyd George, daughter of the WW1 Prime Minister and Wales’ first female Member of Parliament, for Anglesey (and later Carmarthen).

The event closed with 51 nations singing “These Things Shall Be” by composer John Hughes.

The first UNGA lasted 5 weeks in total, and at its conclusion on February 14 1946 had established the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, UN Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and elected Trygve Lie, Foreign Secretary of Norway, as the UN’s first elected Secretary General.

Creating a ‘World Education Organisation’: the origins of UNESCO

Gwilym Davies, League of Nations / UNA Wales’ 1st President, and one of the founders of UNESCO

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Jacob Jones, Chairman of WEAC, 1929 – now the opening lines of the UNESCO Constitution, and quoted by (and often attributed to) UK Prime Minister Sir Clement Attlee at the founding of UNESCO in 1946.

Gwilym Davies, Honorary Director of the Welsh League of Nations Union from 1922 (and UNA Wales’ 1st President, from 1945) had long advocated Welsh efforts in the field of world education. 32 leading Welsh educationalists, alongside teachers Wales-wide, had set up the ‘Wales Education Advisory Committee’ (WEAC) from 1922 to develop ‘the world’s first global citizenship curriculum’ – supported by the Davies sisters of Gregynog Hall, and leading thinkers of the day such as Gilbert Murray, who headed the UK League of Nations movement.

From 1930, the Central Welsh Board (CWB – now the WJEC) became the first Education Authority in the world to integrate the principles of the League of Nations into teaching in schools – a move which projected Wales to international recognition, and led to ‘the Welsh model’ being held up and adopted by educationalists worldwide eager to instil a culture of engaged and informed internationalism among their societies. WLNU established a Women’s Advisory Committee, chaired by Annie Hughes Griffiths – who had led the 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America – to involve Welsh women in promoting peace education Wales and world-wide.

Annie Hughes Griffiths

In January 1941, Prof Murray chaired a conference at Oxford to which he invited Gwilym Davies to present a paper, drawing on the interwar experiences of the WEAC, advocating the idea of establishing a post-war international organisation for education. This paper was to have a profound impact on shaping the thinking of the British – and Allied – governments, and in 1943 the London International Assembly and newly established CEWC (Council for Education in World Citizenship) delegated two tasks to Wales:

  1. To conduct a survey / study of global intellectual cooperation between the wars
  2. To draft a model constitution for an international organisation for education

Gwilym Davies’ proposals informed discussions across the Atlantic among the movements that led directly to the creation of UNESCO – the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The first UNESCO conference was held in Paris in November-December 1946. Attending proceedings, Gwilym Davies reported back to Wales:

Ben Bowen Thomas, Chair of UNESCO

“(UNESCO)… was unlike any other conference I have attended, with writers, thinkers, educationalists and scientists present from 24 countries. They are the true creators of public opinion.”

Gwilym Davies

Gwilym Davies was nominated to the Board of UNESCO; his Vice-President within the newly established CEWC Cymru (Council for Education in World Citizenship, founded Jan 1944) was Ben Bowen Thomas from Treorchy in the Rhondda. Later Sir Ben, he became active with UNESCO from 1946-1962, and Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board in Paris from 1958.

‘We, the Peoples’: the United Nations Association

Between the wars, the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) had been one of Wales’ biggest membership organisations, with over 30,000 peace campaigners active in 1,000 communities. Although membership had fallen – and activities suspended with the onset of WW2 – a network of groups and advocates remained. WLNU Annual Reports produced between 1939 and 1946 offer an insight into work undertaken in the background of war. 

The WLNU reconvened following WW2 for their final Annual Conference at the Temple of Peace on October 27 1945. They proposed to ‘ring out the old, ring in the new’ in immediately becoming the United Nations Association (Wales), or UNA Welsh National Council.

UN Charter Commemorative Stamp – Wikimedia Commons

UNA Wales’ first Executive Committee met in Shrewsbury on Feb 1 1946, and produced their first Annual Report covering the whole 1943-1946 transition period. The first UNA Wales Conference and AGM was held at the Guildhall, Wrexham on May 31 1948. In August 1946, Gwilym Davies assisted in organisation of the first World Federation of United Nations Associations in Luxembourg, establishing 5 commissions and a UN grassroots movement: “We, the Peoples…” – echoing the opening words of the United Nations Charter.

UNA Wales produced their first post-war ‘Bulletin’ (above) in 1949 – emerging from 4 years of continued rationing and paper shortages – which casts light on the challenges of re-establishing a campaigning network, and of the activities of local branches.

Sept 1945 Cover of UNA’s ‘Headway’ magazine

UNA Wales became Wales’ leading network of community groups campaigning on internationalism, human rights, security and global development through the 1950s and 1960s; and continued as a national body until the decision was taken in 2014, alongside CEWC Cymru, to pool resources and merge into WCIA – the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. UNA Cardiff and UNA Menai branches continue to organise local activities in 2020, and many branches have a rich history of local activism.  

International Youth Volunteering and post-WW2 Reconstruction

Robert Davies and friends digging a soakaway in Austria, 1960.

The demands of post-WW2 reconstruction both in Britain and across Europe, and the desire to mobilise young people in healing the wounds of war by fostering understanding through relationships with other communities and cultures, led UNA UK and UNA Wales to link with the ‘World Forum of Youth’ out of which gradually emerged the UNA International Youth Service (IYS) movement.

By the mid-1950s, substantial parts of Europe’s population remained displaced, refugees often within their own countries. Through IYS, youth volunteers from Wales and all over the UK participated in work camps supporting the construction of housing and community facilities, from Austria to Greece. One of those volunteers in the 1950-60s was Robert Davies from Port Talbot, who lived through the Cardiff Blitz during WW2 while his parents worked in the steelworks.

Robert’s experience of participating in an international workcamp in Austria inspired him to become a lifelong champion of youth volunteering between Wales and the world. He sett up VCS (the Cardiff Volunteer Service bureau) in 1965, and then UNA Exchange in 1973 – which continues to operate today from the Temple of Peace, as an integral part of the WCIA’s work, aiming to inspire a new generation of internationalists with the challenges of global cooperation today.

UNA Exchange International Volunteers enjoying a 2015 youth workcamp at the Temple of Peace, renovating Wales’ National Garden of Peace.


Remembering for Peace: The Story of Wales’ WW2 Book of Remembrance

WCIA’s home, the Temple of Peace and Health, was founded as Wales’ memorial to the fallen of the Great War – 35,000 souls commemorated in the WW1 Book of Remembrance , held in the Crypt of the Temple (and searchable online). But few people know that there is also a WW2 Book of Remembrance – held for safe keeping within the archive collections of the National Museum of Wales. Ahead of VE Day 75, Craig Owen uncovers the story of Wales’ WW2 Book of Remembrance.

On Friday 8th May 2020, Wales, the UK and much of the world will pause to reflect on one of the greatest tragedies of the past century, as we mark the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War 2 in Europe on 8th May 1945 – ‘Victory in Europe’ Day, or VE Day 75. Over 15,000 Welsh men and women lost their lives in WW2, out of an estimated 75 million globally; and the horrors of the Holocaust and of Hiroshima, as a terrifying ‘nuclear age’ dawned, would define generations to this day.

The Temple of Peace in WW2

Poignantly, Wales’ Temple of Peace – the nation’s memorial to the fallen of WW1 – had opened in November 1938, just months before the onset of hostilities. Intended by founder David Davies to mobilise a generation against the ‘scourge of war’ through campaigns of the Welsh League of Nations Union, with the outbreak of war the building became mothballed – yet a place of pilgrimage; a beacon of hope for a better world that might emerge on the other side. Whilst war raged, peacebuilders in Wales and further afield weighed up ideas for an international order that might provide the architecture to Unite Nations. Their post-war creation would be the United Nations.

Those who had lost loved ones in WW1 – including wives, children, ‘mothers of peace’ – flocked to the Temple to visit Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance, the rollcall of the fallen held in the Crypt beneath the building. Visitors books, held in the Temple Archives to this day, record train loads of pilgrims from communities Wales-wide participating in services that ended with a ‘pledge for Peace’.

The Temple also hosted special events such as a 1943 Thanksgiving Service for American Services personnel stationed in Wales.

Rediscovering the WW2 Book

Cover of the WW2 Book

Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance, and the ‘Peace Heritage’ work of the Temple of Peace with community groups Wales-wide, have been central to WW100 Centenary activities over 2014-19, uncovering the story of the Book, and some of the stories behind the names within. Conversely however, the WW2 Book of Remembrance has become a relatively ‘hidden history’; it has not been been publicly accessible for some years, and no ‘digital footprint’ or public information has been available online to date.

Documents in the Temple of Peace Archives contain tantalising references to the WW2 Book – in particular, architects drawings and reports from c 1990 proposals to redesign the Temple’s ‘Hall of Nations’ to accommodate the WW1 and WW2 Books side by side. Visitors to WCIA’s regular Temple Tours and Open Doors days, participating in the traditional 11am ‘turning of the page’, often asked WCIA’s staff and volunteers about the WW2 Book of Remembrance. However, the WW2 book itself can presently only be viewed by appointment – though there have been suggestions over the years that the Books could be digitised, reunited and / or displayed together.

With the 75th Anniversary of VE Day and other WW2 anniversaries approaching, it seemed fitting to explore the story of the WW2 Book of Remembrance, in the hope that, like the WW1 Book, it will inspire others to uncover the ‘stories behind the names’ – or possibly stimulate interest in making the Book accessible online. In January 2019 – shortly before the COVID lockdown curtailed further work – WCIA Peace Heritage Coordinator Craig Owen visited the National Museum of Wales Collections, to view the WW2 Book of Remembrance and find out more about its story.

Creation of the WW2 Book of Remembrance

Inscription within the WW2 Book

The proposal for a WW2 Book of Remembrance, modelled upon the WW1 Book housed in Wales’ Temple of Peace, emerged in the 1950s. Perhaps surprisingly, it took until 20 years later – 1965 – for the WW2 Book to finally reach completion and accession; not to the Temple of Peace (created to house the WW1 Book), but to the National Museum of Wales.

World War 2 had claimed yet another generation of Welsh men and women, among them Lord David Davies (1880-1944), founder of Wales’ Temple of Peace, who had tragically died of Cancer months before the end of the war. His son and heir Michael was killed in action during the liberation of Eindhoven, Holland; and thus the Temple lost two of its greatest champions. Following the cessation of hostilities, the Welsh League of Nations Union morphed into the United Nations Association and efforts quickly focused upon mobilising Welsh public support for the newly created United Nations, and the challenges of reconstruction – building a new world.

The fallen of WW2 became added to community War Memorials Wales-wide; but the desire to produce a dedicated national memorial and rollcall of Wales’ fallen remained. A Welsh National Book of Remembrance Committee was founded and met between 1957 and 1967 – their correspondence and accounts (1958-1979) are held at Glamorgan Archives. The committee was wound up in 1979, following transfer of the residual accounts in 1977 to a Welsh National Book of Remembrance Fund (for need, hardship or distress of WW2 survivors / descendants), which was wound up in 2005.

The book was inscribed by C Cullen, and bound by W T Morrell. Although it followed a similar style and look to the WW1 Book – and followed a similar regimental order – the information held within it is markedly different – for example, it does not record the towns / villages from which the fallen came.

There seems to have been an ongoing debate over the location for the WW2 Book; the express condition of the committee was that it should be viewable “in a public place.” It would seem that, during the mid-1960s, there was some doubt over the suitability of the Temple of Peace: letters and newspaper articles from the time suggest a perceived decline in the condition of the building, and public access to the spaces. Clearly, the Temple at this point in time fell out of favour with the WW2 committee.

On 12 March 1965, the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff was formally chosen by the Committee as the resting place for the rollcall of the fallen of WW2. NMW formally accepted this ‘national responsibility’ on 14 May 1965.

Unveiling and Public Display of the Book

A public competition to design a display for the WW2 Book of Remembrance was won by Swansea Architect Ceri Jones in 1965. In June 1966 a formal unveiling ceremony was headed by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who pronounced:

“I present to you for safekeeping within the National Museum of Wales, the Welsh National Book of Remembrance for the Second World War.”

To which the Marquess of Anglesey , on behalf of the Trustees of the NMW, responded:

“I do willingly and proudly receive it for safekeeping in the National Museum of Wales.”      

An account of the unveiling ceremony is featured in the National Museum of Wales Annual Report for 1967-68.

The WW2 Book – with its memorial display designed by Ceri Jones – was publicly displayed at NMW from 1966 to 1998; after which there were ‘one off’ showings in 2001 and 2004. As museums entered the ‘digital age’ of the new millennium, online articles featured it as the ‘Book of Month’ in 2001,2 and 3.

Bringing the Books Back Together?

Architects Drawings for the Temple of Peace WW2 and WW1 Book Displays in the Hall of Nations.

Have the WW1 and WW2 Books of Remembrance ever been brought together? At present, we do not know.

The Temple Archives hold some fascinating records from discussions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it appears discussions on displaying the WW1 and WW2 Books side by side became sufficiently advanced to have commissioned the original Architects of the Temple of Peace – Percy Thomas Partnership – to design a new home for the books:

The designs and reports would have seen both Books moved from their current locations – the Crypt of the Temple, and the Archives of the National Museum – into bespoke marble and bronze display cabinets in the ‘Hall of Nations’, the heart of Wales’ Temple of Peace. It would seem logical that these proposals may have emerged following the 50th Anniversary of the Temple of Peace, which generated considerable public profile and by which point the Welsh Centre for International Affairs had become well established.

These plans did not ultimately go ahead, for reasons lost to time. And so it would seem that, as yet, the ambition to unite Wales’ Books of Remembrance from two World Wars has yet to be realised. Although moves to progress discussions around display and digital access have been thwarted in 2020 by the COVID lockdown, it is hoped that in years to come the WCIA and National Museum of Wales might work together to once again enable Wales’ rollcall of the fallen from WW2 to be accessed for future generations – to Remember for Peace, the fallen of WW2.

1995 Design for WW1 and WW2 display cabinets in the Hall of Nations, Temple of Peace. WCIA Archives.


The 1935 Peace Ballot in Wales

By Rob Laker, History Masters Researcher, Swansea University (student placement with WCIA’s ‘Peace Heritage’ programme).

Download Printable PDF Booklet

The 1935 Peace Ballot was a UK wide poll of Britain’s electorate designed to measure the public’s opinions regarding the key debates in international relations at the time. Despite lacking government sponsorship, the Ballot received extraordinary attention across the United Kingdom – nowhere was engagement higher, however, than in Wales, which quickly came to be recognised as a leading light in the cause of internationalism.

1,025,040 people in Wales voted in the Peace Ballot of 1935… 62.3% of eligible registered voters”

Between the wars, a new form of outward-looking patriotism had become an important part of Welsh national identity, as ordinary people worked actively to create a Wales which existed at the centre of the international community. Local branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union were active in every corner of Wales, running cultural events such as ‘Daffodil Days’ – the since forgotten annual custom of selling daffodils in aid of the League – and coordinating networks of local activists. This pride in their nation’s role in the quest for international harmony manifested itself in Welsh responses to the Peace Ballot, producing an overwhelming endorsement for the cause of internationalism.

The UK Ballot

By the end of 1933 it seemed that the international order was unravelling: the World Disarmament Conference had failed to produce results, Germany had withdrawn from the League of Nations, and the organisation had proved itself unable to resolve the Manchuria Crisis.

Internationalists in Britain, however, were anxious that the government remain committed to the League, and so the League of Nations Union set about organising the Peace Ballot in order to demonstrate the British people’s unwavering commitment to internationalism. Between the end of 1934 and the middle of 1935, half a million volunteers canvassed door to door, collecting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses on five key questions:

1)    Should Great Britain remain a member of the League of Nations?

2)    Are you in favour of all-round reduction of armaments by international agreement?

3)    Are you in favour of an all-round abolition of national military and naval aircraft by international agreement?

4)    Should the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?

5)     Do you consider that, if a nation insists on attacking another, the other nations should combine to compel it to stop –

       a) by economic and non-military measures?

       b) if necessary, military measures?

Credit – Northern Friends’ Peace Board, c/o Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) 

Despite being independently conducted, the Ballot – which received 11.6 million responses nationwide – has been described as Britain’s first referendum, and was highly effective in stimulating engagement with the key issues dominating international politics. The poll did not disappoint its organisers, for the result was an emphatic endorsement of internationalist policies from the British public.

  • An astonishing ninety-seven percent of voters felt that Britain should remain in the League
  • while ninety-four percent believed that it should outlaw the arms trade
Read more

WLNU Postbox in the Temple of Peace today.

The Welsh Case

In Wales, the organisation of the Ballot fell solely on the shoulders of the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), a challenge which it took up with great enthusiasm. Vast reserves of internationalist sentiment, which permeated every corner of Welsh society, were an important part of interwar society. To believe in Wales was, in this period of salient hope, to actively pursue the cause of peace, thereby locating the Welsh as a ‘force for good’ at the crux of global anxieties.

Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Rob Laker for his feature article on Daffodil Days of the WLNU . Zoom, or click on pins, to find individual communities. Further info on local activism can be gleaned from Welsh League of Nations Union reports (digitised by WCIA on People’s Collection Wales).

Lord David Davies of Llandinam  (painted by Sam Morse Brown:  National Museum of Wales collections)  

As a result, Lord David Davies (who co-founded the Welsh League of Nations Union with Rev Gwilym Davies) was determined that Wales should produce a spectacular result in the Ballot which he viewed as the very ‘essence of democracy’.

Drawing upon a committed network of volunteers across Wales, supplemented by an army of canvassers (paid at the personal expense of Lord Davies), WLNU representatives went door to door in nearly every Welsh town and village collecting responses.

The responses proved to be an affirmation of Wales’ internationalist credentials, as over one million adults voted in the Ballot – which at the time, represented 62.3 percent of the Welsh electorate (24 percent higher than the average across Britain as a whole).

As of 6th June 1935, the top twelve constituencies in Great Britain with the highest percentage turnout were all in Wales, in some of which over eighty percent of the total electorate responded to the ballot (RH).

In a few cases, turnout was particularly spectacular. In Llanerfyl (Montgomeryshire), for instance, all 304 of its adult inhabitants responded to the poll, likely a testament to the zeal of local activists.

Turnout was in fact much higher in villages than in large towns across the board, and despite hosting the headquarters of the Welsh League of Nations Union, Cardiff produced some of the lowest turnouts of the poll.

We can interpret this as evidence that the success of the Ballot in Wales rested not just in the League’s popularity, but in the strength of Welsh community activism. It is highly likely that organisers in villages such as Llanerfyl (Montgomery) and Nantlle (Gwynedd) were able to achieve a 100 percent response rate because they operated in a tight-knit community, allowing them to rally support face-to-face, one neighbour at a time, in a way which proved more difficult in larger cities.

It is worth noting, however, that despite the strategy of going door-to-door in their local communities, activists were still able to obtain phenomenal results from many larger towns. In Port Talbot, for example, 82.8 percent of the town’s 27,000 adults voted.

Viewed in this light, the results of the Ballot are a testament to the strength and scale of the local networks upon which the Welsh League of Nations relied upon for support.

The way in which Welsh people voted also reflects the strength of their commitment to internationalism. In fact, just 1.7 percent of voters in Wales wanted to leave the League – around half the national average – while Welsh voters were consistently more often in favour of disarmament.

Wales had proved itself a ‘special case’. As historians such as Helen McCarthy have noted, the League of Nations Union was the largest ‘League themed’ society of any in Europe and easily enjoyed the most popular support. It is not unreasonable then, in light of the disparity between Wales and the rest of Britain in Ballot responses, to conclude that…

“in 1935 the Welsh ‘were the most ardently internationalist nation in Europe’.”

Digitised Wales Peace Ballot Records

This collection draws together leaflets, voting forms, campaigner bulletins, articles and analysis by the Welsh League of Nations Union for the 1935 Peace Ballot - a national canvass of public opinion on Peace in the context of the then-escalating European Arms Race. Although the Peace Ballot was an initiative by the UK League of Nations Union, Wales set out explicitly to 'lead the way' and 'top the polls,' to demonstrate the strength of feeling in favour of peace, 16 years after the end of WW1.

The bulletins gave a detailed breakdown of progress on the Ballot, returns from each county of Wales (with comparisons to England), and analysis / encouragement from key figures in Wales' Peace movements. The bulletins carried motivational 'Opinion Pieces' from leaders of Wales Peace movements, such as Gwilym Davies and David Davies; and in depth analysis of the returns received from constituencies all over Wales

Later bulletins and introduction of 'YMLAEN / ONWARD' newsletter, explore implications of the results for Wales' peace building movements, and impact upon domestic and international political affairs - in particular, the meeting of the 1936 League of Nations in Geneva, which was regarded as a failure on the part of national governments. A poster graphic illustrates the UK-wide results, and Wales' leading place within the polls - with 5 of the top 10 constituency returns being Anglesey, Aberdare, Swansea East, Rhondda West and Merthyr Tydfil.
1935 Peace Ballot – Briefing for Households 1935 Peace Ballot – Canvassers’ Briefing ‘Peace Calls for Plain Answers to Simple Questions’ – 1935 Media Article Bulletin 2, Jan 22 1935 Bulletin 3, Feb 6 1935
Bulletin 4, Mar 9 1935 Bulletin 5, Apr 9 1935 Bulletin 6, June 7 1935 Bulletin 7, Oct 1935: ONWARD YMLAEN / ONWARD Bulletin, May 1936

Outcomes for Britain

The will of the people was unequivocal – Wales and Britain wanted to remain in international circles – what this meant, however, remained open to interpretation.

The organisers of the Ballot presented the result to the prime minister and his cabinet, but it quickly became clear that, due to the binary nature of responses, that the format of the Ballot was a poor vehicle for dictating policy.

‘Remain may have meant remain’, and ‘disarm may have meant disarm’… but the Ballot gave no sense of the scale or manner of which these aims should be pursued.

This left little room for nuance, and instead general opinion was measured without details of its practical implementation. The failure of Ballot organisers to frame the poll’s questions within the myriad complexities of Britain’s international position, made integration of the Ballot’s result into policy making both confusing and impractical – and so the consequences of the Ballot in Britain’s foreign policy are hard to identify.

The Ballot may have failed to significantly influence policy, but the strength of the poll lay in its ability to measure popular opinion. It demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of the population supported Britain’s active involvement in the League of Nations, even if there was no uniform vision of what that involvement should look like.

Across Britain, League of Nations Union branches enjoyed a surge in membership and enthusiasm for the League which, despite the Abyssinia Crisis and the aggression of Hitler, was maintained right up until the outbreak of the Second World War.

UK wide returns against the 5 questions posed by the Peace Ballot.


Outcomes for Wales

WLNU Organiser Rev Gwilym Davies

The Welsh League of Nations Union had a very clear idea of what the result should mean for Wales. For Gwilym Davies (Organiser of the WLNU) the result of the Ballot was ‘the vindication of the democratic right of a free people’ and a demonstration of the ‘notable achievements’ of Wales in the cause for world peace.

In a bulletin on the subject of ‘facing the future’, Davies called for the ‘Welsh million’ to be converted into one hundred thousand new members across Wales. While this roughly eight-fold increase failed to materialise itself,

the WLoNU organisation more than doubled in size, reaching 27,545 paid members by 1937 – the highest at any point in the interwar period.

For Wales, Gwilym Davies published a Constituency by Constituency Analysis of the 1935 Peace Ballot voting returns – which can be viewed on People’s Collection Wales at:

Clearly then, far from being a fleeting spike of interest, the Peace Ballot was the source of revitalisation of Wales’ identity as an international nation.

Furthermore, the setbacks suffered by the League of Nations in the mid and late 1930s – instead of leading to disenchantment – only made people in Wales more determined that the principles they had committed to in the Peace Ballot should be upheld. This wave of enthusiasm for peace through internationalism was carried right through to the outbreak of war in 1939 and beyond, later providing the support structures and the much of the personnel for the creation of the United Nations.

One such example is Gwilym Davies himself, Director and co-founder of the WLNU, who not only became president of the Welsh National Council of the United Nations Association, but is considered to be a key architect in the creation of world education & scientific body UNESCO.

Temple of Peace: Headquarters befitting a ‘Booming’ Movement

One of the most striking and longstanding results of the Peace Ballot in Wales is the Temple of Peace and Health, which was opened in Cardiff in 1938.

Envisioned by Lord Davies as ‘a memorial to those gallant men from all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war’, construction of the building was started in 1937 at a time when the organisation was rapidly expanding.

'A New Mecca'

Account from the Opening Ceremony, ‘A New Mecca’, from the Temple of Peace Archives

It was felt that, in light of the precarious international situation, it was more important than ever for Welsh internationalism to have a headquarters which suitably reflected its growing influence. Thus rose the Temple – a bastion of peace, intended to make good the sacrifice of those who fell in the ‘war that was to end war’.

Today the Temple of Peace still stands – an enduring legacy of the Ballot’s success. The organisations it now houses continue to work in the spirit of the Ballot’s organisers, inheriting the desire that Wales should be at the centre of the international community.

The WCIA – Welsh Centre for International Affairs, founded in 1973, is the modern iteration (the ‘grand daughter’, via UNA Wales) of the Welsh League of Nations Union. WCIA continue the work and vision of WLNU, and the million Welsh people who voted in the 1935 Peace Ballot, to build a better, more peaceful world.

WCIA, like their predecessors, believe that Wales is a nation which can create real and lasting change in the wider world. It is for this proud tradition – driven by the dedication and commitment of local people across Wales – that the galvanising effects of the Peace Ballot should be remembered today.

Blog article and research by WCIA Research Intern Rob Laker, on placement with Wales for Peace from Swansea University History Dept over Summer 2019 with ongoing research through 2020. Drawing on materials from the National Library of Wales and Temple of Peace Archives; and Annual Reports of the Welsh League of Nations Union 1922-45 on People’s Collection Wales, digitised by WCIA (with support of Swansea doctoral student Stuart Booker) for open access research. Final edit by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace.

Rob Laker, WCIA Archives Intern


Global Perspectives on COVID Pandemic: Solidarity, Community and Cooperation

Published on 25th March, in a fast changing international situation.

As the COVID Pandemic of 2020 has reached ‘lockdown’ for the UK and many other nations, the need for our communities – and community of nations – to work together has never been greater. Wales and the World are inextricably linked through global health: pandemics know no borders – and information is international. In an age of social media we are intertwined, and interdependent; we are Humankind.
Kindness, compassion and clarity will help us to face this world crisis, and support the most vulnerable, through cooperation and humanity – from the local to the global. Over coming weeks, WCIA will be sharing (via WCIA’s website, Twitter and Facebook feeds) ‘stories of solidarity’, links to reliable information / updates, and examples of inspiring civil society, individuals and community leadership from around the world.

View WCIA’s ‘Global Perspectives’ Blogs


Wales amidst a Global Health Crisis

Wales and Welsh communities must do all we can within a crisis of global proportions – and requiring global solutions. Summarised below are quick links to key sources of information and updates from around the world; ways that people can take action in local to global solidarity; learning from our heritage; and stories of solidarity from individuals around the world.

Quick References and Information Sources

UK & Welsh Government, NHS and Voluntary Sector

Global Health Bodies & Cooperation

Reference Resources and Useful Articles

temple of peaceWCIA and the Temple of Peace & Health

As with all venues and workplaces, the Temple of Peace is closed throughout the shutdown period and WCIA staff have been working from home since Monday 16th March (though as with many in this challenging time, our capacity is limited).

  • Venue bookings, and all WCIA events, have been postponed until the COVID situation becomes safer.
  • WCIA are sharing Stories of Solidarity (see below) from around the world; and useful resources (such as home learning and means to take action) via WCIA’s Twitter and Facebook social media feeds.
  • WCIA are supporting international volunteers on placements through UNA Exchange to self-isolate if in UK, and to find passages to their home countries where possible / appropriate.
  • Hub Cymru Africa and the Wales Africa Health Links Network are offering guidance to local linking organisations and charities supporting or whose work is affected by COVID.

Internationalism in Action: Taking a Global Stand

How are internationally-minded individuals in Wales able to contribute to understanding and combating the COVID crisis in any way… on top of looking after themselves and their loved ones in a lockdown? WCIA will be gathering and sharing actions and ideas of people Wales and world-wide via our social media channels, and here:

Community Action

Gemma from Hong Kong shares her experiences of COVID in WCIA’s Global Perspectives blog.

Global Learning

Global Action

Global Partnerships

Global Perspectives: Stories of Solidarity

Campaigner Glenda Fryer with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose leadership has been praised worldwide, shared her feelings as Kiwis entered a month long lock-down.

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases. We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.

Personal ‘Stories of Solidarity’ from across the world, mapped.

Learning from the Past: Heritage of Cooperation

Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire – Canadian War Graves from 1918-19 Spanish Flu Epidemic (Geograph)

Not since the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918-1920, has the world experienced something of the scale the world is facing today in COVID19. Affecting as many lives globally as World War 1 itself, “Spanish flu” (so called, ironically, as Spain was the only WW1 nation that allowed uncensored reporting on it to save lives), ended up infecting 500 million – of whom 17-100 million died, making it the world’s worst epidemic since the ‘Black Death’ Plague of 1331-1353. In Wales, between 8,700 and 11,400 people are thought to have died.

Alongside Tuberculosis, the combined impact of World War One and Spanish Flu inspired the creation of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health – home to WCIA today, and opened in 1938 as a beacon for the nation’s efforts to end the scourge of tuberculosis, and secure sustainable peace through global cooperation – initally through the work of the WNMA (Wales National Memorial Association for Eradication of Tuberculosis) and WLNU (Welsh League of Nations Union).

After World War 2, these movements evolved to support creation of the NHS (National Health Service) and the United Nations – two of humanity’s greatest achievements in facilitating cooperation for the common good. In the words of the Temple’s founder, David Davies:

“A ‘Temple of Peace’ is not of bricks and mortar: It is the spirit of man. It is the compact between every man, woman and child, to build a better world.”  

Has a generation taken our grandparents’ inheritance for granted? Over recent decades, support for and resourcing of these ‘institutions of humankind’ has fallen, health services and social care have suffered strident Austerity cuts, and many nations – the UK and US in particular – have turned inwards and away from the very bodies that enable international cooperation in times of crisis.

The COVID Pandemic will seriously test – and potentially reverse – many of these policy approaches. Working in global cooperation and solidarity with others, we will owe it to a generation who lose their lives, to come through this crisis to build a better world.


Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford addresses the nation on 23 March.  


Tribute to Lifelong Peacemaker Ifanwy Williams

It is with great sadness that the WCIA team learnt of the passing of lifelong peacemaker Ifanwy Williams, 98, from Porthmadog in Gwynedd on 20th March.

Ifanwy Williams, Porthmadog – Portrait by Lee Karen Stow

Ifanwy may be familiar to Welsh internationalists beyond Snowdonia as the ‘face’ of the “Women War & Peace” Exhibition by WCIA, with documentary photographer Lee Karen Stow, which toured Wales over 2017-20 – and remains on permanent display in Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff.

Ifanwy shared her perspective as a lifelong peace campaigner in a moving interview with Lee, reproduced for International Women’s Day 2018 in her blog post ‘Remember Me: the Changing Face of Memorialisation’, in which she shared Ifanwy’s story: 

“At age 96, Ifanwy Williams (pictured here) has been a member of the peace movement in Wales for seven decades.

Born in Liverpool, Ifanwy was evacuated during the Second World War to Denbigh in Wales. She studied social work and on her gap year went to live in Dinmael, a village occupied by many radicals and non-conformists.

Influenced by those around her, and particularly her older brother Glyn, a conscientious objector and pacifist, she also became a conscientious objector.

For ten years Ifanwy has chaired the Glaslyn and Dwyryd Branch of Cymdeithas y Cymod (Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales). It was Ifanwy who coined the phrase Adar Angau (death birds/death drones) when the Fellowship began a campaign to raise awareness of plans to test and develop unmanned drone aircraft at the Llanbedr airfield in Snowdonia.

“I aim to be a Christian. I am a pacifist. I don’t believe in killing. There are other ways of meeting difficult situations.’’

Ifanwy was instrumental in setting up Heddwch Nain Mamgu, a community-led group inspired by the 1923-4 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America (which was signed by 390,296 women in households Wales-wide, in through a remarkable door-to-door campaign by the Welsh League of Nations Union) – who aim to mobilise a new generation of women peacemakers in the leadup to the centenary of this incredible movement.

Despite the current lockdown, friends and networks in the Porthmadog and wider Peace community through Cymdeithas y Cymod are organising virtual and online tributes to Ifanwy. WCIA will aim to add links to these tributes as they become available.

Peacemaker Ifanwy Williams, 1922-2020: Short film tribute put together by Llinos Griffin from Gwefus.

Further information from N Wales Daily Post Funeral Notices, March 23rd 2020:

“Died peacefully at Ysbyty Gwynedd aged 98 years after a short illness, of Porthmadog. Loving mother and a true and faithful friend to numerous people and her many relatives. An enthusiastic campaigner all through her life for Peace, Wales and the Welsh language and against Inequality of any kind. A committed Christian. An inspiration to many. A huge loss at her departure. Funeral arrangements yet to be confirmed but numbers must be limited. A Memorial Service will be held later in the year and a collection arranged at that time. Further enquiries through the funeral directors Pritchard a Griffiths Cyf., Dublin Street, Tremadog – 01766 512091”


Glenda, New Zealand: Stories of Solidarity during COVID19

Global perspectives: Stories of solidarity during COVID-19

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases. We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-1, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.

Click here to view our Global Perspectives map sharing solidarity stories from all over the world 


Glenda Fryer, Councillor and Lecturer, on the ‘moment New Zealand chooses our Path’

Shared on Saturday 21 March 2020 from Auckland, New Zealand

As I write this our Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has just spoken ‘to the nation’ (see below) at midday Saturday to say we are at alert ‘level 2’ of four levels.  All of the 53 ‘positive’ cases, apart from two cases, are  overseas travel related.  In  2 new cases today “community contagion can’t be ruled out”.

Shops, restaurants and bars are still all open, although there has been some ‘panic buying’ in supermarkets.  Garden Centres are getting a rush on winter vegetable plants… which refreshingly means more home gardening by families.

Only two schools are closed due to specific ‘possible’ cases, although the University of Auckland has just closed classes and put learning online, and the Mayor yesterday announced closing all Art Galleries and performance theatres, libraries, swimming pools and recreation centres.  I’ll have to do my ‘get fit’ classes myself at home!

There are certainly less people on the road driving, with more people working from home. Rush hour isn’t a rush anymore.

“I feel we in New Zealand are savouring our ‘flattening of the curve’ or the ‘calm before the storm’.”

With the quick border controls the Government brought in, and the substantial financial packages for small-medium businesses and workers and contractors who find they are laid off.  Beneficiaries received comfort too with more money in their pocket…$65 dollars a week until the end of September ($40 of this are a ‘winter energy payment’).

NZ starts making the move to self-isolation

There are no NZ deaths so far and from what I gather, only a few of these 53 are in hospital; most are self-isolating at home.

The main challenges will be when community contagion is detected, more clamp down occurs. And people lose their jobs and stop paying bills.  While the Government assistance will help for a while, medium term uncertainty will abound.  Also some kiwis have family stuck in far flung cities who were unable to get a flight before flights stopped.  Air New Zealand has been loaned $900 million dollars so they can keep flying (the Governments owns 52% of the airline), and I understand there are plans being worked through to bring them home where they want to return.  But the Government has just today warned kiwis not to take domestic holidays….so even internal flights will be at a minimum.

Most suburban and rural communities have their own Facebook site, that are well curated, and which until now have mainly been for lost/found animals, and free furniture and goods.  I am part of four and they’ve all have wonderful souls offering to visit them and chat (at a distance) and get groceries.

Yesterday a Fox Glacier pilot took an overseas couple for a flight and they revealed they’d only been in NZ for two days.  They hadn’t self-isolated as they had promised, so he alerted Police. When they landed the Police were waiting for them. 

Unlike Europe, New Zealand is just over its very dry summer….and winter is coming… but we feel lucky to have a very competent Prime Minister and Government to steer us through the coming 12-18 months ahead.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the nation at midday Saturday 21st March, to confirm the nation’s move to ‘Level 2’ COVID Response. She has also held special Coronovirus Press Conferences for Children.

Her husband thanked New Zealanders via Twitter for their expressions of support in looking after their baby daughter Neve.   


Glenda Fryer is an ex Auckland City Councillor, Union Organiser and Lecturer in Auckland University of Technology, and local campaigner in the PM’s constituency.



Imogen, London (Journalist & Humanitarian Worker): Stories of Solidarity during COVID-19

Global perspectives: Stories of solidarity during COVID-19

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases.We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.

Click here to view our Global Perspectives map sharing solidarity stories from all over the world 


Imogen Wall, Journalist & Humanitarian Worker, on Personal Perspectives

Imogen is a Journalist who has worked in humanitarian crises worldwide from Aceh to Haiti, and a regular contributor to The New Humanitarian, Guardian Development and Fifty Shades of Aid.

Shared on Saturday 21 March 2020 from London, UK (initially posted via Facebook)


Okay. So I’ve (largely) kept my peace so far on this whole pandemic thing, even though I’m working on it, because I’m not an epidemiologist/virologist/immunologist – and I’ve seen enough over the years (this is my sixth epidemic response) to know just how seriously dorky all of that is. When it comes to all that, UK Chief Med Officer Chris Whitty is Da Man and I got nothing. But now a lot of people are talking about going into self isolation, lockdown etc – and that IS something I know a bit about.

Like most aid workers, I’ve been stuck because of hurricanes, home bound due to political crises and once got stranded in a hotel suite in Haiti with a BBC Radio 4 team for four days with only one pair of knickers. I’m also a mental health first aider, and qualified therapist. So let’s just say I have a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way, which mostly boil down to how to take care of yourself and others.

And now I’m at home alone with a glass of wine and nothing better to do, so here goes:

DON’T PANIC – easier said than done but it doesn’t help. Deep breath everyone. We’re in this for the long haul so start with that assumption.

REACTIONS: everyone reacts differently to emergencies. Some people information-seek like mad, some get angry, some pick fights (in real life or on social media), some panic, some make a LOT of jokes, some deny the problem, some become terribly terribly active and efficient and want to help, some withdraw and fall off the radar. These are, fundamentally, all coping mechanisms for the same thing, which is at its root a deep sense of fear and loss of control. They’re all valid. Bottom line: we’ll need to be kind to each other, and that includes if someone is being aggressive or argumentative or overbearing. Experience suggest that we’ll all have a bit of a meltdown, and probably a cry, at some point. It’s just the way it goes.

Right now, we’re at that moment – the top of the roller coaster when we all look down. It’s horrible. But it doesn’t last.

RIGHT NOW IS ONE OF THE WORST BITS: the worst bit of crises is that moment when everyone collectively realises the severity of what we are facing and goes, oh shit. The moment at the top of the roller coaster when we all look down. It’s horrible. But it doesn’t last. In a little while everything will normalise and find a new rhythm. It’ll be a different life, and a (much) harder one for some, but it’ll have structure and routine. I’ve been in camps of disaster survivors a week after an earthquake – and there are always, already, communities reforming, hairdressers opening up, coffee shops. Humans are incredibly adaptable. Also, you are about to find out just how many amazing people you have around you. This is one of the best bits.

THERE WILL BE GOOD BITS. I always struggle to explain why I loved working in crises, but it basically boils down to the fact that when the chips are down, people are just incredible at looking after each other. You’ll never see community cohesion, support offered to strangers and kindness like that which emerges in crisis situations. Unimportant things melt away, at least for a while, and stark choices ask of us all: who ARE you? Love your friends and family and take care of them – they are what will get you through this, and you them. You’ll see people do amazing things, things you’ll never forget. And you’ll do amazing things too.

“When the chips are down, people are just incredible at looking after each other. You’ll never see community cohesion, support offered to strangers and kindness like that which emerges in crisis situations.”

EXERCISE: yoga is great when you’re stuck indoors and so are online classes, but if you’ve got an outdoor area or a bit of space indoors you really can’t beat skipping for getting your heart rate up in seconds (and making you feel better). If you don’t have a rope, washing line (esp the pastic kind) is an excellent substitute. Even a few minutes and you’ll feel loads better (if quite out of breath). Or put on some music and dance dance dance (you won’t even have to pretend no one can see you). That will lift your soul as well as your heart rate.

BOOZE: Hurray for a crisis in which wine stockpiling is an option. If you can only manage one bottle of spirits, go for vodka. I know, I know – I’m a gin girl myself, but it does tend to need tonic / ice / lemon which can be harder to source than liquor. Vodka can be sloshed into anything, drunk neat and at a, pinch warm. Plus in extremis, it’s a decent disinfectant (let’s hope you don’t need to go there). Having said that, if you insist on gin, Morrisons is doing a litre of bombay sapphire for £18 which is a stone cold steal. And stock up on tonic too.

STOCKPILING: Include some treats among the basic – trust me, you have NO IDEA how obsessed it is possible to become about nice eats. There have been times in my life when cheese was seriously the most exciting thing in the entire world. A diet of baked beans/pasta will keep you going, but it will get VERY dull and won’t help your mental health. Also, loo paper really doesn’t taste great. Easter eggs are half price, people! Chocolate, sweets, your comfort food of choice should all in there if that’s your bag, but my top tip is things that keep like cured meats, waxed cheese, tasty things in tins and smoked salmon. If you can afford it, do a bit of stockpiling at delis – they also need your business more than the big supermarkets. Delish, better than plain sugar and if it *really* gets bad, in a ‘middle class’ barter economy… the ultimate trump card (wait till you see what your mates will do for a packet of prosciutto when scarcity really bites).

“You have NO IDEA how obsessed you can become about nice eats. There have been times in my life when cheese was seriously the most exciting thing in the entire world.”

TRANSPORT: If you haven’t got a bike, think about getting one. If you have, get it serviced (did mine today). Definitely going to be the most reliable, safest and healthiest way of getting around in cities at least and when you do go out, and might be only even remotely safe way of socialising for a while. Plus panniers make shopping v convenient. If you have a car, brim it – fuel shortages aren’t on the cards right now but better safe than sorry.

ACTIVITIES: Cook. Garden. Knit, Draw. Do things with your hands (stop sniggering at the back) that don’t involve a screen. It’s basically meditation and and will relieve stress better than anything involving a screen.

MAKE USEFUL FRIENDS – with people like your local corner shop owner. Even if they are forced to close, they will have the connections to get you stuff. In Indonesia we agreed to turn a blind eye to a local trader plugging into our electrical supply, as long as he stocked my housemate’s favorite ciggies. They’re the ones who’ll keep you in prosciutto…

MEDICINES: If you get Covid you’re almost certainly going to have to home treat. Other people will be better placed to advise on this than me… – TAKE ADVICE FROM ACTUAL MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS – but you’ll need stuff like painkillers, things like lemsip and detergent to keep your bedding and clothes as disease free as possible. The advice is loads of fluids so things to make water taste nice (my choice is Ribena).

HELP: Ask for it if you need it – there are no prizes for suffering in silence. The Mutual Aid people are amazing. But there are also, sadly, going to be scammers taking advantage of this situation (already reported in Haringey). Ask for ID and an organiser contact, don’t give them money without a receipt and definitely not your bank card. And don’t put up with any nonsense: if anyone harasses you, report them.

LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA, and realise your own susceptibility to rumours. The mill goes mad at times like this. From hot water treatments to believing that the military are about to take over, the myths fly around and we’ll ALL fall for at least some of them at some point. It’s not stupidity, it’s human nature: scared people are really bad at evaluating data and especially risk. Clever people if anything are even more susceptible because they believe they are too smart to fall for misleading info. They are wrong. And don’t gloat if you catch them out – it’ll be you next.

LIMIT NEWS EXPOSURE: In addition to feeding the rumour mill, spending too much time watching the news will just create stress. Likewise, spend too much time online and sure as COVID is COVID you’ll find infinite rabbit holes and do very bad things to your mental health. Staying up all night reading is not going to make you an instant epidemiologist, just sleep deprived which makes everything worse. Ration it, trust reliable sources (like the NHS COVID Updates) and make like the BBC: double source everything you hear, ESPECIALLY if you really want to believe it is true. Turn it off, go outside and feel the spring sunshine.

EXPECT MORE CHANGE: we don’t know very much about this bug yet, and the scientists are learning more every day. The advice will alter on that basis. It’s not because our evil government is trying to kill us, it’s because they’re finding out new things all the time about how it affects different groups and what works. This happens in every epidemic: it’s weird to us but it’s normal-outbreakness (and completely fascinating if you’re a nerd, which all outbreak professionals are at heart).

SMALL GESTURES mean a HUGE amount. Flowers left on someone’s doorstep. A card saying I’m thinking of you. A phone call, a direct message. The last slice of aforementioned prosciutto. They take on a real disproportionate impact. I will never forget one particular person arriving in a particularly tight spot with a can of cold diet coke for me. Even tho we’re no longer friends that remains. Do the little things, they HUGELY count.

A light moment in Haiti.

HUMOUR is also uber important. So important that sometimes I see aid worker job descriptions that actually ask for this as a qualification (don’t ask me how they test that at interview): never forget the healing power of a good giggle. Especially good with children. Make yourself and the people around you laugh and you’ll all feel better (there’s actual science around this). Everything from watching comedy shows to sharing memes (the meme game on COVID-19 is impressively on point). If you lose your sense of humour, take that as a warning sign that you’re not doing OK.

UNDERLYING PROBLEMS don’t go away. One of the things about crises is that they seem like the only show in town. But people’s day to day problems don’t stop, they only get compounded. If you’re in an unhappy relationship, mentally ill, dealing with addiction or infertility, coping with a family death, or your identity has been stolen or you’re in a custody battle then these things don’t stop – they just get compounded, but everyone else tends to forget. So if this is one of your mates, keep taking care of them on that level too.

ONE DAY IT WILL BE OVER. The day will come when we meet up for drinks, and gather for dinners, and laugh and raise glasses and chat and hug and relax together again. Taste the sweetness of friendship and casual conversation and trivia and a life without this care. Every day we go through this is a day closer to that day. Maybe we’ll even be better people in a better world – one in which we can get a jab for COVID-19 and forget about it, and maybe even one in which the antivaxxers have finally shut the hell up. But if we’re not, this will have ended.

And the rest of our lives – blessed as they are, in this country (the UK) and continent where we do not face these kind of restrictions and far, FAR worse, every day of our lives, as so many do, and because we live in the age of modern medicine – will be epidemic free. We’ll back to the humdrum existence of ‘first world problems’, of complaining about nothing – but maybe perhaps with new knowledge of our neighbourhoods and new friends, because that’s who the strangers on our streets turned out to be in a pinch. I’m raising a glass tonight, to that today. One day soon, I know we’ll raise one together.

And in the meantime, keeping spare knickers in my handbag. Just in case.



#IWD2020: New Resources celebrating 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition for International Women’s Day

Welsh Women's Peace Petition of 1924 being presented in Washington

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Welsh Women's Peace Petition of 1924 being presented in Washington

The 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, coordinated by the Welsh League of Nations Union, was signed by 390,296 women in a call after WW1 for America to join and lead the League of Nations. Presented by Annie Hughes Griffiths (holding Memorial) to US President Calvin Coolidge, alongside the National League of Women’s Voters representing 20 million American women.

For International Women’s Day, March 8 #IWD2020 – under the global theme #EachforEqual – WCIA is remembering the achievements of some of Wales’ most remarkable peacemakers… a whole generation of Welsh women who, after WW1, took action for global peace and equality through the 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America. Signed by 390,296 women Wales-wide in an extraordinary door to door campaign, ‘a petition 7 miles long’ (according to the press of the time) remains in a great oak chest at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to this day. On Monday 9 March, the Welsh part of the Peace Petition will be publicly displayed at the Senedd for the final WW100 ‘Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers’ event.

In particular, WCIA are celebrating the contribution of inspiring Welsh Internationalist Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths – known to history until recently as ‘Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths’ – who led a delegation of Welsh women to America in Feb-March 1924 to present the Petition to President of the United States Calvin Coolidge. Annie wrote a diary of their 2 month ‘Peace Tour’ of the US, which was recently rediscovered in the archives of the National Library of Wales.

Annie’s Diary offers an unprecedented and rich first hand account of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, in the pen and the ‘voice’ of the 1920s women who made history, and has been made available through WCIA and the National Library of Wales both as a digitised resource and as a transcript by volunteers (for further research and development), along with press cuttings from the time gathered by the Welsh League of Nations Union.

Women's Peace Petition Resources Page

Download / Print Booklet 'Inspired by Annie'

Moroccan leather binding of the Memorial on display in the Temple of Peace Archives

Over the course of 2014-19, the story of the Petition has been gradually uncovered by volunteers, researchers and community groups; and for #IWD2020, WCIA have drawn together a dedicated webpage , with research and resource updates from the last 12 months including:

WCIA ‘Book Club’ Volunteers, Summer 2019

A short film has been produced by Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham of Valley & Vale Community Arts, capturing the experience of WCIA’s ‘Book Club’ volunteers in transcribing and unveiling Annie’s Diary from her 1924 trip to America. This opened the doors to many new insights and areas of research – including Doctoral Research on the Welsh League of Nations Union by Swansea University, and cross-curricular learning resources and projects by Alaw Primary School in the Rhondda – and so the story continues to evolve.

The Petition in Wales was organised by the Welsh League of Nations Union – forerunners of today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs – for whom Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was dedicated in 1938. With WW2, the Petition itself became somewhat forgotten – a ‘hidden history‘ – until the beautiful binding of the Memorial was ‘found in plain sight’ in the Temple Archives in 2014, when scoping ideas for the WW100 Wales for Peace project.

The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people; IWD has been formally celebrated by the United Nations since 1975, and adopted as a UN Day since 1977. Explore the history behind International Women’s Day here.

“IWD is about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness and taking action for equality. The IWD 2020 campaign theme is drawn from a notion of ‘Collective Individualism.’ We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen. 
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that?” International Women’s Day website

In Wales, through the Women’s Equality Network, #IWD2020 events are being coordinated nationwide.

To mark IWD2020, WCIA will be displaying the Women’s Peace Petition at the Senedd for the final conference and evening reception for the WW100 ‘Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers’ programme on Monday 9 March.

For IWD 2019, WCIA supported Gwynedd Museums and Heddwch Nain Mamgu to display our Women War and Peace Exhibition in Storiel, Bangor over Feb-April 2019. The exhibition has also travelled to Swansea, Criccieth, Croesor, and the Senedd in Cardiff over 2017-19. When not on loan to local venues, the Women War & Peace exhibition – produced by WCIA with photojournalist Lee Stow – can be viewed in Wales’ Temple of Peace, or as part of WCIA’s regular ‘Temple Tours and Open Doors‘ days. These also spotlight WCIA’s wider work on Women Peacemakers, such as Minnie James and the Mothers of Peace (the ‘war bereaved mothers of Wales and the world, who opened Wales’ Temple of Peace in 1938); and the anti-nuclear Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp of the 1980s-90s.

Whilst World War Two may have eclipsed the ambitions of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, the post-WW2 United Nations was the realisation of so much the interwar generation of women peacemakers had campaigned for. Over 2020-24, WCIA will be marking UN75, the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, by exploring the contributions of Welsh men and women to post-WW2 internationalism and human rights, and to anti-nuclear campaigning.

Recently unearthed Press Cuttings of the ‘sendoff at Euston’ of the Welsh delegation to America, Feb 1924.

Alongside this, it is the ambition of WCIA to celebrate the forthcoming Centenary of the Petition in 2023-24 through drawing the many and varied contributions of community groups Wales-wide together; alongside working with others, including the Smithsonian, to digitise and / or reunite the chest of signatories from America, with the Memorial Declaration and archives in Wales – and to share this remarkable story of women’s empowerment and leadership in international affairs with Wales and the world.

Visit Heddwch.Cymru or email if you would be interested in getting involved either as a WCIA supporter, community partner organisation, or archives researcher / volunteer writer.


UNA Exchange and WCIA ‘join forces’ for the Future of International Volunteering

Reflecting our shared roots at Wales’ Temple of Peace, the WCIA and UNA Exchange are merging from February 2020.

Founded alongside each other in 1973 – to mark the United Nations‘ 25th, and Temple of Peace’s 35th Anniversaries – WCIA and UNA Exchange have always had a close working relationship, a strong shared heritage, and a shared commitment to international peace building – with a particular focus on inspiring future generations, of every generation.

Heritage of International Volunteering - UNA Exchange

Future of International Volunteering: HAVE YOUR SAY - TAKE THE SURVEY

Why are the Organisations Merging?

UNA Exchange in summer 2016 renovated Wales’ National Garden of Peace (itself created by International Volunteers in 1988), as part of WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project.

As we approach our shared ‘half century’ in 2023, the challenges and opportunities of the world around us have evolved considerably over the last decade. The post-austerity funding environment for charities, coupled with more recent uncertainties surrounding Brexit, mean we have to think and work differently to ensure that the opportunities of international volunteering remain available to future generations.

We believe we can achieve more together, by pooling resources and energies. There are opportunities to make links between UNA Exchange’s life changing volunteering opportunities, and the WCIA’s work – for example:

As an organisation largely funded from European sources, Brexit (depending on its form) creates an extremely challenging funding environment for international volunteering. Although not easy for any charity in this sector, the WCIA has a wider base of funding sources, with greater resilience to changes in the European landscape; and there are opportunities for cross-funding between projects. There are of course challenges for WCIA’s funding in the future as well – which may affect the scale of what we can do. But WCIA are confident we will be able to continue the core work of international volunteering long into the future, and that a merged entity will safeguard UNA Exchange’s future work.

Story of Wales' Temple of Peace & Health

Short History of UNA Exchange (1973-2005)

International Volunteers and Wales' National Garden of Peace

'Robert Davies' Memoir: 1960s Peace Volunteering

The Merger Process

‘Growing Peace Stories’ was a joint UNA Exchange / WCIA heritage ‘Peace Camp’ project in Summer 2017, involving BME Women from Riverside working alongside international youth volunteers to explore intergenerational and intercultural views on peace today – whilst working together to build a community garden for future generations.

The form of the merger is that UNA Exchange will ‘close down’ as an independent charity, which is being done by the current UNA Exchange trustees. The staff will immediately transfer over to WCIA when the legalities of the merger are complete; and the WCIA are already taking on responsibility for UNA Exchange projects and programmes. Two of the current UNA Exchange trustees will join the WCIA Board in the new financial year, to ensure there is a clear voice among the WCIA trustees for UNA Exchange’s continuing work, and for international volunteering as an equal programme alongside WCIA’s other areas of work.

This won’t interrupt any of UNA Exchange’s current projects and, in the short term, things will continue largely as they are – for example, email addresses, the website and phone numbers will stay the same. From now until the end of this financial year (March 31 2020), we will be working with staff, volunteers, alumni and partners to make the transfer as smooth as possible, while also gathering ideas for the future.

A Note on Data Protection and Privacy

If UNA Exchange held any of your personal data, this has transferred across to WCIA – but we will only use this data in ways you have already agreed, for example, to communicate about UNA Exchange projects. You can read our Privacy Policy at

Shaping the Future – Have your Say

As this transition period gets under way, we would love to speak with you – the people who have been involved in and care about the work of UNA Exchange over the years – about hopes for the future, practical ideas about how you would like to be involved, reflections on priorities. Our review will be exploring:

  1. The context of international volunteering in 2020 – challenges and opportunities.
  2. UNA Exchange’s Story and Values – what makes it unique?
  3. Our shared heritage, including feeding in to the EVS Alliance’s ‘100 years of workcamps’ project – if you have memories of workcamps, we’d love to capture them – before March!
  4. UNA Exchange’s stakeholders and volunteers, present and past: who have we lost contact with, who might like to ‘give back’ and / or be involved in the future?
  5. Project Funding and Volunteering approaches past, present and future – where do we best focus our energies for sustainability?
  6. Future Supporter Communications – who are our different audiences, and what do they want to receive / hear about?
  7. How do we make the Volunteer Journey as supportive, enriching and exciting as possible?
  8. How do we offer returned volunteers the opportunity to become ‘internationalist ambassadors’ –involving them with communities in Wales, UK and world-wide, to continue building a better world?

Future of International Volunteering: HAVE YOUR SAY - TAKE THE SURVEY

Craig Owen, who has been heading up the Wales for Peace project for the last 5 years, will be in contact with key UNA Exchange contacts from late January, and would welcome inputs from all supporters if you have thoughts to share – contact

Join our Celebration of International Volunteering on 21 April

From the Temple Archives… UNA Wales’ quarterly bulletins from the 1950s and 60s offer rich insights into international youth volunteering activities from the 1950s-60s onwards.

From April 2020, we will start to make and communicate changes based on the feedback we’ve gathered, and the funding situation.

On Tuesday 21 April 2020, we will be holding an event at the Senedd, showcasing the work and achievements of Wales’ International Volunteers through the years; to bring people together, celebrate what UNA Exchange and WCIA have done, and explore next steps.

We would love to invite you to join in – please ‘save the date’! – and will send further information nearer the time. We will also communicate updates electronically for those who can’t come along, and via social media.

Stay in Touch

We’ll do our best to stay in touch throughout this process, but please do let us know if you think we could do more. We look forward to involving our supporters in shaping a new chapter of shared working – to advance international volunteering for future generations.

UNA Exchange Team / Enquiries:

Merger Review inputs:


#Temple81: Incredible Hidden Histories from 1938 opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace offer ‘Key to the Past’

Crowds gathered in the rain for the Opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace on 23rd Nov 1938

On Saturday 23rd November of this year, we marked 81 years to the blustery day in 1938 when Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was opened by war-bereaved mother Minnie James from Merthyr Tydfil – accompanied by ‘mothers of Wales and the world’, the Temple’s founder Lord David Davies, and among 500 specially invited guests, a young 14 year old schoolboy from Carmarthen, Gordon James.

#Temple81 may not hold quite the same ‘diamond anniversary status’ as the hugely ambitious programme staged by WCIA / Wales for Peace for #Temple80 in November 2018 – with 43 events in one month, culminating in a Gala Night Rededication (on 23rd Nov 2018) featuring a community performance of ‘A New Mecca’ and launch of the documentary film, ‘Voices of Temple80’.

However, in a remarkable turn of recent events, WCIA is rewriting the ‘hidden histories’ from that day following 3 incredible dicoveries linking the past to the present – through generations with ‘peace building in the blood’, quite literally. We are delighted to share these 3 incredibly inspiring stories for #Temple81:

  • ‘I Was There!’ Gordon James’ firsthand account of the opening ceremony as a 14 year old schoolboy, 80 years later: “23rd November, a Day to Remember”.
  • The ‘Founders Tribute Refound’ – Daniel Davies, descendant of Lord David Davies, rediscovers a memorial presented by the people of Wales.
  • Minnie James’ ‘Key to the Past’ to return to Wales’ Temple of Peace with her descendants.

View on Temple81 ‘Peacemakers Feature’ Page


The Story of Gordon James: ’23rd November – A Day to Remember’

Revisiting the Temple after 81 years, Gordon shares his memories of the Opening Ceremony – experienced through the eyes of a 14-year old schoolboy from Carmarthen.

View ’23rd November, a Day to Remember’ on YouTube. Filmed by Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham of Valley & Vale Community Arts, with #Temple80 music soundtrack by Jon Berry. Interviewed by Craig Owen, WCIA and Dr Emma West, University of Birmingham / WCIA Trustee.

Gordon James (standing) in 1938, Carmarthenshire prior to WW2

Gordon James revisiting Temple of Peace, Summer 2019

In early 2019, Gordon James attended the inauguration of the High Sherriff of South Glamorgan Dr Isabel Graham at the Temple of Peace, and casually remarked to one WCIA’s venue team that “The last time I was here, was for the opening…!” Gordon had been a 14-year old school boy at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen, when in November 1938 he was 1 of 4 young people from Carmarthenshire selected to ‘represent the future generation’ among the ‘Great and the Good’ at the prestigious opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace.

In Summer 2019, at the age of 95, Gordon retraced his footsteps into the Temple’s ‘Hall of Nations’ – and shared his remarkable first hand memories of the Opening Ceremony through the eyes of a child, on the eve of the outbreak of World War Two just months later. Interviewed by Valley & Vale filmmakers Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham, with WCIA Heritage Trustee Dr Emma West and Head of Wales for Peace Craig Owen, Gordon’s oral history shed completely new light on the opening ceremony. For one, WCIA previously had no inkling that children had been included in the audience. So we had no idea that anybody present would be alive today, let alone with such an incredible first hand account of the Temple’s opening ceremony – and having personally met figures such as David Davies and Minnie James who are legendary links to the past for us today! But more than anything, we were astonished by the clarity with which Gordon recollects the day… ’23rd November, a Day to Remember’.

I do remember there was this little old lady (Minnie James) who made a lot of fuss of… she was frail in comparison to all these ‘big men’ that were around her, important Archbishops and Mayors… But she had a composure about her, she coped very well I thought… I remember we were told why she was chosen.. she’d lost 3 sons in the war. If you can even imagine that… so, so awful. She was so composed in the presence of all those bigwigs! It was truly wonderful to be part of it.”

Gordon James, age 95 (Summer 2019) recollecting events of November 1938.

Daniel Davies, and the ‘Founders Tribute’ Re-found

Daniel Davies is the great grandson of Lord David Davies (1880-1944), founder of the Temple of Peace, and has been a Trustee and Vice Chair of the WCIA over recent years, supporting development of the organisation’s work on Global Learning, Action and Partnerships. Daniel has continued in his ancestors’ footsteps working in humanitarian affairs with Save the Children and ELRHA both in Wales, and in Geneva.

Daniel’s sister Eldrydd continues to live in Plas Dinam in Powys, the family of home of David Davies during the time (1920s-30s) he was founding the Temple of Peace and the Welsh League of Nations Union.

Lord Davies’ bust by Sir Goscombe John, looks over the Temple of Peace Hall today.

Memorial Tribute presented by the people of Wales to David Davies in 1935, rediscovered in 2018.

During Summer 2019, Daniel’s parents, the current Lord and Lady Davies, rediscovered – in a cupboard in Plas Dinam – an exquisite illuminated ‘Memorial’, presented by the people of Wales to Lord David Davies in 1935 to accompany the unique bronze bust by leading 1930s sculptor Sir Goscombe John – which hangs today above the Hall of Nations in the Temple of Peace.

The Memorial records the gratitude of Welsh communities and voluntary organisations, in particular from the post-WW1 Peace Movement and communities Wales-wide, for Lord Davies’ philanthropy in support of ‘building a better world’. It is hoped in the near future to display this beautiful memorial close to the bust it originally accompanied, with the kind support of Bea, David and Daniel Davies.

“It’s so important we don’t forget the driving force behind the peace and health movements between WW1 and WW2… and keep our attention on encouraging, especially young people in Wales, to take an active interest in the links between our health and wellbeing in Wales, and the wider world – to be truly global citizens.

Beyond its 80th year.. I hope the Temple will have many years ahead of carrying forward the message of peace and health that are in its title, in its bricks and mortar, its spirit… and the unique place it has in Welsh public life.”  

Daniel Davies, 2018 Oral History interview with Tracy Pallant

Discovering the Descendants of Minnie James, ‘Mother of the Temple of Peace’

Minnie James, ‘Mother of the Temple of Peace’ at the Opening Ceremony in November 1938

Marguerite, Robin and Jeanne are the great-grandchildren, and James and Emily the great-great-grandchildren of Minnie James – the war-bereaved mother from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil who opened the Temple of Peace, accompanied by ‘mothers of Wales and the World’ – and became an inspiration to a whole generation of peacemakers and women.

Previous research had suggested that Minnie had no living descendants, the loss of her 3 sons in WW1 having been the reason she was invited to open the Temple of Peace, as Wales’ ‘most tragic mother’- representing the loss of a whole generation.

However, as well as her daughters that were on record (all of whom died without children), Minnie had another daughter, Letty – who had escaped research, having been living with her aunts in Merthyr at the time of the 1911 census. Letty went on to serve as a nurse in World War 1 with the Red Cross in the Channel Islands, where she met her future husband, Jack Martel. Jack and Letty had 3 children, David, Elizabeth (Betty) & Daphne, who spent their childhoods on Guernsey – but with stories of their ‘grandmother of peace’, Minnie. With the occupation of Guernsey by Nazi forces in 1940 all three children were evacuated to the UK (David to live with Minnie and her two youngest children, Win and Bill, in Dowlais – where Minnie’s husband was in the Home Guard). At the end of the war, David and Betty returned to live on Guernsey while Daphne stayed on in England.

Robin Paul, Great Grandson of Minnie James

Millie and Henry, Great Great Great Grandchildren of Minnie James

In October 2019, Wales for Peace received a call from Robin Paul, who had been researching family history whilst his mother Daphne, Minnie’s grand-daughter, was unwell – and had stumbled across WCIA’s recently published ‘Peacemakers Feature’ article on Minnie and the Mothers of Peace. Tragically, on 7th November 2019, Daphne passed away aged 94, her brother David having died in 2012 and sister Betty (Marguerite and Jeanne’s mother) in 2016.  But Robin’s son James has two children, and James’ sister, Emily, Daphne’s grandchild and Robin’s daughter, will be getting married this December, age 32… and so the circle of life, and Minnie’s legacy, continues.

WCIA’s understanding had always been that Minnie was buried 1954, in Pant Cemetery, Merthyr, with the Silver Key (below) with which she opened the Temple of Peace – and the letters and mementoes from her sons who died in WW1.

But in a remarkable twist of history, these mementoes were actually passed on to her daughter Winifred, and thence to Betty and Daphne. With Daphne’s sad passing this November, the family have expressed their incredibly kind support to loan these incredible historical heirlooms to WCIA at the Temple of Peace, hopefully from the Spring of 2020, to create a display dedicated to Minnie and her sons as part of the Temple’s public exhibitions.

The Welsh Centre for International Affairs / WCIA are very grateful for this gesture of goodwill, which will offer a profound connection for visitors to the building with not only the causes for which it was built – peace, health and justice – but the very individuals who inspired its construction, and continue to inspire generations of internationalists today.

“Minnie’s Key’ from 1938 opens the locks linking generations past, present and future in the Temple’s story… Generations working to shape Wales’ role in building a better world of peace, justice and health.” 

Newspaper clipping from Nov 1938

Craig Owen, Head of Wales for Peace, Nov 2019

Recent picture of the beautifully inscribed key which opened Wales’ Temple of Peace, presented to Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil by Temple Architect Sir Percy Thomas on 23rd Nov 1938. Thought to have been buried with Minnie in 1954, the key has recently come to light through descendants of Minnie James just prior to #Temple81 – the 81st Anniversary of the opening which will be marked on 23rd Nov 2019.

Gold.. or Silver? Newspaper clippings from the time may stand to be corrected in light of the key’s rediscovery!      


The author of this article, Craig Owen, would like to express profound thanks to Gordon and Joy James; Daniel, Bea and David Davies; and to Robin Paul and his family for their contributions to this ‘Temple81’ feature.

Also to WCIA volunteers Peter Garwood and Frank Holloway for their original research into Minnie James and the Temple Opening.

I would also like to dedicate this article with a ‘special thankyou’ to ex-Wales for Peace staff Ffion Fielding, Mari Lowe and Fi Fenton, whose personal commitment in supporting volunteers to uncover the Temple’s histories over 2015-18 ultimately enable these ‘hidden histories’ to emerge in a way that is profoundly moving for both the WCIA team today, and for the individuals / descendants involved. Diolch.