Temple85 Anniversary: ‘THE FIRST NHS’ – Book Launch & Panel on Wales’ Health Heritage

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NHS75 WCIA Peacemakers Feature ‘Temple of Health: a Forgotten Story?’

Marking the 85th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace & Health on 23 November 1938, WCIA invite health & social care workers, friends and local communities to join us for a special evening reception exploring the Temple’s rarely told ‘Health Heritage‘: what came before the NHS, and how Welsh health workers inspired and drove creation of the UK’s National Health Service. This event is part of the year of activities marking NHS75 , and is also part of WCIA’s 50th Anniversary year programme WCIA50.

Author Emma Snow launches her newly published book ‘The First NHS‘, about her great-grandfather’s work with the Wales National Memorial Association for Eradication of Tuberculosis (WNMA, 1910-1948), for whom the Temple was founded as its headquarters. After World War Two, the WNMA in its Temple HQ was commissioned / seconded by new UK Health Minister Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan (who grew up in Tredegar), as the ‘NHS Transitional Authority’ – charged with the unenviable task of constructing from scratch over 1946-1948, the structure of what would become Britain’s new National Health Service.

The NHS was born on ‘the appointed day’ of 5 July 1948 (some might argue, from this very room in th Temple), and we are delighted to be joined by Aneira Thomas, first baby born to the NHS at 1 minute past midnight in Amman Valley Village Hospital. Nye has recently published and will be sharing her story ‘Hold On, Edna!‘ described by the Mirror as “the touching story of Nye’s family – their loves and losses – and the launch of a treasured public service that has touched the lives of every family in the nation.”

Emma and Aneira will be joined by some inspiring speakers (see below) offering unique perspectives connecting past, present and future of health care in Wales, inspired by reflections from Emma’s research for ‘The First NHS’. There will be a theatrical and immersive element to proceedings as each speaker draws on quotes and ‘plays the role’ of key historic figures from Wales’ health care story.

WCIA will also illustrate the overlaps between the Temple’s ‘Health’ and ‘Peace’ missions over time, through post-war global health work of UNA, UNICEF, and Freedom from Hunger Campaigns, through to today’s Wales Africa Health Links. Would all of this have been dreamed by those attending the 1938 opening, among swirling storm clouds of World War?

#OnThisDay, 23 Nov 1938 – 85 years ago – the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace & Health amidst stormy clouds (both in weather, and in European peace) was witnessed by thousands. It was fronted by 3 key figures: founder Lord David Davies, architect Percy Thomas, and ‘mother of peace’ Minnie James from Merthyr, who opened the building ‘on behalf of the war bereaved mothers of Wales and the world’. From last year’s deeply moving Temple84 ‘Descendants Reunion’ event, Minnie James’ collections have been curated, and will be on display in the Council Chamber Library. 

WCIA will also be offering an anniversary lunchtime Temple Tour (12.30-13.30) – Register here.

The evening event will start at 7pm, with guests welcome to arrive from 6.30 for light refreshments and drinks in the Hall of Nations. We hope the event will have a relaxed, ’round table’ and conversational feel, and welcome health and social care workers, Temple friends, volunteers, students, community groups, civil serrvants, organisational partners past and present, as we look to the future of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health, and health care in Wales. We’ll be delighted if you can join us for this memorable and hopefully inspiring evening.


Speakers will bring ‘voices from the past’ from Emma’s research, and offer reflections on the present and future from their personal and professional perspectives. Subject to final confirmations, speakers will include:

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Short Film of 1938 Opening of Temple of Peace

1938 Opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace https://youtu.be/wk5on7Kc1Rs?si=U0HKwnB1Sr3nvjf0