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Remembering for Peace: ‘Turning the Page’ for 11/11 2021

WCIA marked Armistice Day on Thursday 11th November, with a time-honoured tradition of ‘the Turning of the Page’ of Wales’ World War One Book of Remembrance, in the Crypt at the heart of Wales’ Temple of Peace – built as the nation’s memorial to the fallen of WW1, and opened by war-bereaved mothers of Wales and the World.

The tradition was a daily practice from the 1930s to the 1960s, when the Temple of Peace was a place of pilgrimage for relatives and loved ones who would then participate in a ‘pledge to peace’ service in the Temple’s Hall of Nations, directly above the Crypt. But far from being a place of mourning, the symbolism of the Temple was always far more pro-active: to bring together the people of Wales to work for peace and health of future generations: to avert the twin scourges of war and disease.

Today’s ceremony was led by WCIA Heritage Advisor Craig Owen, and attended by a group of visitors to the Temple of Peace who then explored the diversity of names commemorated on just one page – which included women, nurses, volunteers, non-combatants, veterinary and labour corps. The Book of Remembrance is a national treasure ‘encased in Belgian bronze, on a pedastal of French marble’ – materials representative of Flanders’ Fields – and the 1,205 pages were traditionally turned daily. Names would be published in the Western Mail weeks in advance, so that families could undertake the pilgrimage to Cardiff to visit their loved ones’ inscription, and participa`te in a service – often with families of people with whom their loved ones had served. With over 35,000 names commemorated, it would take 4 years for each individual page to come back to display – so these Remembrance Services held great significance to the post-WW1 generation.

The Temple of Peace was opened by Minnie James, a collier’s wife from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, who had lost her 3 sons in the war. She represented and was accompanied by 24 war-bereaved mothers from across Wales, Britain and League of Nations member states, and was presented with an engraved key by Temple Architect Sir Percy Thomas with which she opened the building on 23 November 1938. WCIA have updated Minnie’s Story for #RemembranceDay2021, which can be viewed at:

Minnie James and the Temple’s ‘Mothers of Peace’

Founded by ex-Soldier and lifelong ‘Peacemonger’ David Davies of Llandinam, the Temple housed two bodies from its inception: the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) coordinating peace building and internationalist activities, and the Wales National Memorial Association (WNMA) working to eradicate Tuberculosis. Those bodies evolved after WW2 into the United Nations Association and National Health Service; and today their work is continued through WCIA, and the building’s ownership by Cardiff University.

Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance can be searched by visiting www.BookofRemembrance.Wales or www.LlyfryCofio.Cymru, whilst the story behind it is documented at: https://www.wcia.org.uk/blogs/war-and-peace/wwi-book-of-remembrance/