Spring 2022 marks the centenary of WCIA’s predecessor, the Welsh League of Nations Union, becoming the formally constituted body that by the late 1920s would grow into one of Wales’ largest and most successful social movements of the interwar era – with over 1,000 branches active in most Welsh communities, and over 60,000 paid up members actively campaigning on internationalist issues of the day. Previous features on the WLNU have explored some of its key figures – such as Lord David Davies, Rev Gwilym Davies, Annie Hughes Griffiths, and Winifred Coombe-Tennant; and uncovered some of the inspiring campaigns originated by the WLNU, such as Wales’ Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill, the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America, Aberystwyth’s World Peace Congress, the 1935 Peace Ballot, and the story of Wales Temple of Peace & Health from conception to opening by war-bereaved mothers of Wales and the World.
Many of these remarkable accounts prompt present-day readers to marvel: “how did they do it?“ From a modern era in which social media and mass communication is the norm, and global campaigns can be signed up to (or indeed, dismissed) with a click of a button, it can seem incomprehensible that 100 hundred years ago an entirely voluntary, civil society movement could have marshalled such public opinion across Wales as to influence not just policy-makers on the world stage (such as in the League of Nations’ headquarters in Geneva) but whole populations (such as the ‘hearth to hearth’ messaging of the Women’s Peace appeal).
This feature takes a step back from the figureheads and the headline-catching campaigns of the Welsh League of Nations Union, to look beneath the bonnet at the mechanics of the WLNU’s operations: how it came into being, its organisational structure, the WLNU’s place within wider movements of the time, how League activities were organised, the people behind the scenes, bread-and-butter branch activism between the big campaigns, and a sense of the ‘timeline’ that joins together the League’s many achievements over the interwar era. So often, these can be viewed as the ‘boring bits’ less relevant to study questions or feature articles. But for any movement to ‘move’, like any vehicle it needs an engine, and fuel.
There can be little doubt that social justiceafter World War 1 fuelled the motivations of a generation of Welsh people to build a better world; and the Welsh League of Nations Union constructed an engine finely calibrated to the social context of the time to harness this energy and power a movement – the interwar generation’s very own ‘Justice League’
Founding of the WLNU
A ‘Welsh League of Nations Union’ was first proposed by David Davies of Llandinam from the stage of the National Eisteddfod in Neath in August 1918– 3 months before the WW1 Armistice, and 2 months before the formation of the British LNU. Given broad unease at the terms of the Paris Peace Process / Treaty of Versailles, which imposed crippling reparations on the people of Germany, many Welsh men and women were supportive of an International League of Nations in principle; and 3,000 members signed up by the end of 1918. However, for its first couple of years, the Welsh movement was a regional subsidiary of the British movement – which encouraged community branches throughout Britain.
The British League of Nations Union (LNU) was formed in October 1918, with the amalgamation of the League of Nations Society (LNS) and the League of Free Nations Association (LFNA), both established during WW1 to promote international cooperation.
The League of Nations international body itself came into being on January 10 1920. An International Federation, the IFLNS – International Federation of League of Nations Societies – was set up in parallel to coordinate LNU Societies developing in 40 countries, with a HQ in Brussels (latterly Geneva from 1934), and was granted a Royal Charter in 1925 by King George V.
Wales was designated a ‘regional committee’ within the British LNU, chaired by David Davies; although it adopted the title of ‘Welsh National Council’ in anticipation of more ambitious plans. A regional office was set up in Museum Place, Cardiff with an administrative staff of 3. The first national gathering in support of a Welsh League was convened for Whitsuntide 1920 (May 25th) in Llandrindod Wells’ Albert Hall, with a public meeting in the evening with the attraction of a ‘vocal recital’, as well as 5 high profile speakers. The 1920 Llandrindod Meeting approved formation of a provisional Executive Committee to develop plans for a distinct Welsh membership body.
Records of internal correspondence over 1921-22 suggest progress with the British LNU was slow, the Cardiff regional office considered ineffectual administratively and as a campaigning support ‘engine’. By January 1922, David Davies and the Executive Committee decided to ‘take control’ of Wales’ own affairs. On 10 January 1922, David Davies invited Gwilym Davies and a small group of respected organisers to a ‘Llandinam summit’ at his home of Plas Dinam, Powys, to set about founding and properly funding a semi-autonomous national body that would ‘mobilise the people of Gwalia’ – independent, though complementary, to the British Union.
Gwilym Davies, well known as a dynamic organiser and preacher, drafted proposals for a ‘plan of campaign’ that would enable every community in Wales to play an active role in organising for world peace – involving local branches, women, children, churches, schools, parliamentarians, civic leaders and international allies.
On 31 Jan 1922, at the WLNU’s Executive Committee in Shrewsbury, David Davies pledged an endowment to fund the annual running costs of the WLNU, to be supplemented through membership income to resource its campaigning work. Gwilym Davies was formally invited to take on the role of Honorary Director, and tasked with undertaking a review of the existing office and staffing with a view to restructuring and equipping Cardiff to support a national campaigning infrastructure: a virtual ‘Reformation’ of the WLNU, over Spring 1922, reporting his findings and recommendations to the board on 22 April.
David Davies meanwhile canvassed the ‘great and the good’ of Wales for potential membership of the WLNU’s Welsh National Council; and undertook a fact-finding trip to America over March 1922, to meet potential allies for the British LNU and in the American Welsh diaspora, from which he produced a report outlining his perceived strengths and weaknesses of the various bodies at that point failing to successfully make the public case for the United States to join and lead the League.
By Easter 1922, the WLNU staged their inaugural Annual conference in Llandrindod Wells, attended by representatives of LNU branches Wales-wide. Gwilym Davies’ proposed annual campaign programme was approved, and 20 leading figures elected to the WNC, following which, the WLNU’s first ‘public meeting’ was held that evening.
Following Easter’s proceedings, Gwilym Davies wrote to the British LNU with proposed changes to the LNU constitution enabling the WLNU to function with a degree of national autonomy. In accepting these amendments, British LNU Chair Gilbert Murray recorded that he was ‘delighted’ at the drive of Wales’ campaign for world peace alongside the strength of its ongoing commitment to the wider British movement.
The WLNU within wider Peace & Social movements
The concept of Civil Society, and of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as many charities, community and volunteering groups are known today – the ‘Third Sector’ (after State and Business sectors) – is a relatively recent construct, and not immediately apparent in archival materials and accounts of the pre-WW1 or interwar eras. Today’s WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action), itself founded in 1934 as the S Wales Council for Social Service, acts as an umbrella for 25 broad ‘sectors’ of activity across 22 CVCs (County Voluntary Councils) Wales-wide – many of whom have their roots in the Great Depression of the 1930s and post-WW2 reconstruction, and the social pressures / coordination needs these crises created.
This lower visibility of CSO coordination however in no way reflects the scale of community organisation, causes and social movements in which people of Wales were active pre-1930s; one only has to look at the breadth of participation in the Women’s Suffrage and Trade Union movements. Philanthropy and charity engaged the upper and middle classes, whilst downright necessity for the working classes, disenfranchised and excluded, drove widespread involvement in issues that brought people together across societal divides. The aftermath of WW1, for a nation riven by grief, galvanised a generation determined to pursue peace measures that would bring substance to the Armistice pledge of ‘Never Again’. Into this space, a whole ‘peace movement’ of grassroots community and interest groups, political advocacy and coordination bodies rapidly absorbed and orchestrated this mass public participation in what pre-WW1 had been a ‘niche’ sector of peace and internationalism – with varying degrees of inclusion, exclusion and success.
|Expressly Pacifist||Peace Society PACO (later WRI, War Resisters International) No More War Movement (NZ)||National Peace Council (NPC) Peace Pledge Union (PPU) Non-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) – evolved post-WW1 into No More War Movement UK (NMW)||Peace & Justice councils|
|Churches||WAPIFC World Alliance for Promoting In’t Friendship through Churches International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOC) Quakers||Fellowship of Reconciliation (Quakers) Friends Peace Committee||Cymdeithas y Cymod||Diocesan & Inter-church Peace Councils||Individual churches, chapels and congregations|
|Youth||Woodcraft Folk||Urdd Gobaith Cymru Gwerin y Coed||WLNU Junior Branches in Schools|
|Women||Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF)||WILPF UK Women’s Peace Council Women’s Cooperative Guild||Women’s International League Wales||North Wales Women’s Peace Council|
|Workers||Trade Unions international sections||International Brigades|
|Political||Labour & Socialist Internationale||ILP – Independent Labour Party UDC – Union of Democratic Control BSP – British Socialist Party||Plaid Cymru||Constituency Parties – Lab, Lib, Con, Plaid|
|League of Nations||International Federation of League of Nations Societies (IFLNS)||LNS (League of Nations Society) + LFNA = British League of Nations Union (LNU)||Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) National Council (WNC)||WLNU Districts N Wales WLNU Council||WLNU Branches WLNU Junior Branches|
It is estimated that over 50 UK national peace organisations existed in the early 1920s, (Richard Davis, 2017)  spanning the whole political and ideological spectrum – from faith-driven bodies such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Cymdeithas y Cymod in Wales) to the more overtly political ‘No More War Movement’ and Labour & Socialist International. It is important to note that as today, issue-based movements also sprung up in response to specific international events, such as the International Brigades and Refugee Committees responding to the Spanish Civil War – although they too would have an impact that would cast a profound ideological legacy.
The nature of pacifism advocated by many groups through this era is open to differing interpretations and historical debate. Martin Ceadal, 2000and 2014explores in detail the internal politics, factions and fractures across the British peace movement, through a period of immediate post-WW1 unpopularity when patriotic jingoism of ‘winning the war’ and the ‘glory of empire’ eclipsed most calls for cooperation. However, the pendulum of public opinion soon swung from one extreme to another, with perhaps one of the most visible ‘voltes face’ being the election to parliament by 1923 of Conscientious Objectors formerly reviled and imprisoned during WW1, such as Merthyr’s Morgan Jones. As the public became jaded by realities of post-war reconstruction, and realised the risk of future conflicts from potentially ineffective Peace Treaties and institutions,
Peace Movements quickly witnessed by a rapid revival, expansion and ascension.
The British LNU’s position as the ‘respectable, cross-party face’ of the peace movement placed it on the (small ‘c’) conservative side of many more radical voices. The LNU went to great lengths to maintain a ‘broad church’ of beliefs and ideologies, a deliberate strategy to maximise public appeal, promote debate and dialogue, and avoid the fragmentation visible principally among more left-leaning movements. Whilst the LNU’s natural ‘centre of gravity’ was among Liberal politicians of the day, it consequently attracted establishment figures across the political spectrum – from Labour’s Ramsey MacDonald and many early Trade Unionists, to Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill as leading Conservatives.
The Welsh League of Nations Union was a semi-autonomous region within the British LNU, directly administering all affairs within Wales. In practice, Welsh local branches paid their membership fees to the Welsh WLNU Office, of which a proportion (approximately 1/3) was transferred annually to the British LNU, the remaining 2/3 contributing to the running costs of campaigns and membership support activities in Wales.
Wales’ National Council took policy stances that could often appear more progressive or ‘radical’ than the LNU centrally, though regularly paving the way for the British League to follow – for example, in supporting David Davies’ idea of an International Police Force in the early 1930s (the origins of the UN Security Council and UN Peacekeeping), initially endorsed by the WLNU and latterly by the British body. Many Welsh campaigns capitalised on national character and identity – ‘Wales doing its own thing’ (eg Women’s Peace Appeal of 1923). Where supporting UK-wide LNU initiatives (eg the 1935 Peace Ballot), the WLNU explicitly encouraged a competitive motivation, challenging Welsh activists to ‘be the best’ region in the UK (eg ‘Wales tops the polls’).
In the runup to World War 2, the Welsh League took an earlier and more affirmative anti-appeasement stance than the LNU centrally, WLNU’s 1935 conference in Rhyl having backed use of force and shared League intervention against Germany, Italy and Japan as aggressor states. However, this stance divided Wales’ peace movement at the time, an ideological rift articulated by Ceadal as Pacifism vs Pacificism, which not only defined identified within the peace movement, but also the credibility with which proposals were received by policy makers:
“Anti-war sentiments expressed by movements such as the League of Nations Union and Peace Pledge Union were in fact widely shared from within official circles. The more clear-cut pacifists however – who refused to support a policy of either rearmament or of collective security in the name of the League of Nations – had little input into policy making and their ideas and leaders were, for the most part, dismissed out of hand.” Martin Ceadal
At a local level, WLNU and other peace activists (in particular across the faith and women’s movements) were encouraged to work together, though the degree to which this was effective depended how closely aligned the beliefs of local groups were. As Richard Davies  has observed, the contrasts between ‘Pacifists and Pacificists’ could drive divisions in some campaigns, and build bridges for others.
These fundamental differences in world views between pacifism and pacificism remain as relevant to internationalist movements today, not only in Wales, but across the world: indeed, we see them being played out in current media debates over the conduct of Russia’s war in Ukraine, with questions over whether the UK and others should provide arms and / or military assistance to the invaded state, and the nature of action to take against an aggressor state that ignores international norms. The WCIA today facilitates discussion around the very same debates that the Welsh League of Nations movement grappled with one hundred years ago.
 Ceadel, Martin, 2000 “Semi-detached Idealists: the British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945
 Ceadel, Martin, 2014 The Peace Movement: overview of a British Brand Leader’
 (the Liberal Party having swept to office from 1906 (particularly across Wales, with David Lloyd George), but supplanted by Labour over the 1920s as the ‘second party’ of British politics)
The WLNU was a membership-based voluntary / civil society organisation (CSO) with a national reach, adopting a classic ‘democratic structure’ of a Welsh National Council, with District Committees for each county of Wales supporting local adult and junior branches, to which individual members were registered. A conference structure facilitated participation in decision-making, both at a district level between neighbouring branches, and at a national level where WLNU policy was debated and formulated. ‘Youth Festivals’, ‘Peace Pageants’, Eisteddfodau, competitions and other such more informal participatory events were organised by branches , with support from the WLNU’s national council members, and Regional Organiser staff of 2.
The Welsh National Council (WNC)
The WNC of the LNU (from 1920, which formally became the Welsh League of Nations Union from 1922) involved a wide swathe of ‘the great and the good’ of interwar Wales:
|Role||1925 Postholders||Other interwar postholders|
|President||Mrs Peter (Annie) Hughes Griffiths, Llangeitho / Charing Cross *||David Davies (1920-1923); Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths (1923-26); Henry Gladstone (1926-29); Rev Elvet Lewis; Rev Principoal Maurice Jones; Thomas Purdy|
|Vice Presidents||Rt Rev Lord Bishop of St David’s John Owen* Mr David Davies MP , Llandinam*||As above + Rev Gwilym Davies|
|Hon Treasurers||Sir Herbert Cory, Cardiff * Mr John Hinds||Thomas Purdy Daniel Daniel|
|Hon Director||Rev Gwilym Davies of Cymrhymni / Aberystwyth *|
|Executive Chair & Deputy||Mr David Davies MP *||Mr David Davies MP * Mr Dudley Howe *|
|Executive Committee||Above members + NW Wales Mr W R Brookes, Llandudno Rev Gwynoro Davies, Barmouth Mr Derry Evans, Holyhead Mr Richard Hughes, Blaenau Ffestiniog Miss Emily Matthews MP, Amlwch Mr E Lloyd Owen, Criccieth Mrs D White Phillips, Blaenau Ffestiniog||NE Wales Mr Rhys Davies, Holywell Mr Henry Gladstone, Hawarden * Mr Cyril Jones, Wrexham Mr Fred Llewellyn Jones, Mold * Hon Sir J Herbert Lewis, Caerwys Mr J E Powell, Wrexham Mr T E Purdy, Colwyn Bay Sir Harry Reichel, Bangor * Rev Owen Thomas, Menai Bridge Major Wynn Wheldon, Bangor *||England Mr Morgan Jones MP, London Rev Elvet Lewis, London * NB A ‘North Wales Committee’ was constituted from 1925 onwards, being those members of the Executive based in NW and NE Wales, under the Chairmanship of Sir Harry Reichel and Major Wynn Wheldon.|
|SW & Mid Wales Miss Rosina Davies, Ferryside Rev Richard Jones, Llandinam Rev Herbert Morgan, Aberystwyth Mr H D Phillips, Llandrindod Wells Miss Gwen Prys, Aberystwyth Cllr William Rosser, Swansea Professor C K Webster Aberystwyth * Mrs H D Williams, Morriston Archdeacon R Williams, Llandeilo||SE Wales Mr Harry Cocks, Cardiff Mrs C Gruffydd, Merthyr Tydfil Cllr Dudley Howe, Barry * Mr Gwilym Hughes, Cardiff Dr Arthur T Jones, Mountain Ash Mr J Lloyd Jones, Barry Mr T W Langman, Cardiff Mr W A Phillips, Caerphilly Rt Hon Thomas Richards, Cardiff Mr E Hall Williams, Rhiwbina|
|Education Advisory Committee (WEAC)||Rev Gwilym Davies * (Hon Director) Major Wynn Wheldon (Chair) Professor C K Webster Educationalists from each county of Wales|
|Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC)||Chaired informally by Annie Hughes Griffiths throughout 1920s, with organising support from figures including Lady Brecon||1st meeting May 1933 at Aberystwyth WLNU Conf Representatives of Welsh women’s bodies – see WAC Archive listings|
The WNC over the course of its existence established a number of subsidiary bodies:
- Almost from the outset, a North Wales Committee was constituted involving those Executive Committee members based in NW and NE Wales.
- Also within the first months of the WLNU’s creation, the Welsh Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) was established as a body bringing together teachers of Wales, practitioners and leading educationalists, quickly establishing an international reputation for the quality of their work on curriculum development and resources which were replicated thrugh the League in Geneva. The WEAC were later commissioned by the WW2 Allied Governments to draft proposals for a post-war International Education Organisation, out of which emerged UNESCO.
- The Women’s Advisory Committee had its origins in early 1923 with organisation of the Welsh Women’s Peace petition to America, organising a conference in Aberystwyth and then national, regional and local coordination fora to coordinate the gathering of the 390,296 signatures ultimately sent to the women of the USA. Whist women continued to organise through the WLNU, it was not until May 1933 that a dedicated Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) was formally constituted.
Key Figureheads in the WLNU
The WLNU attracted support of many of the ‘great and the good’ of Wales, seen as a ‘respectable face’ among a 1920s peace movement with divergent factions, voices and political persuasions. However, many individuals played roles far in excess of association, or sitting on committees. Some WLNU key movers and shakers – mostly people of substantial privilege – were in themselves ‘peace champions’ of the interwar era, active across multiple peace bodies and networks.
|David Davies of Llandinam (1880-1944) Founder, Executive Chair and President of the WLNU Grandson of Victorian Welsh Industrialist David Davies ‘the Ocean’, Davies became MP for Montgomery in 1906. During WW1, he served with the Royal Welch Fusiliers; but was recalled to London as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lloyd George. They fell out over the conduct of the war, which Davies was increasingly horrified by; and in 1918 he proposed and founded the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), and Aberystwyth University’s Department of International Politics. He served as Chair / President of WLNU alongside serving on the board of the British LNU, and being elected ‘Controller’ of the IFNLS (International Federation of League of Nations Societies). In the early 1930s, Davies founded the parallel New Commonwealth Society in London as a policy forum to influence government. He co-funded Wales’ Temple of Peace as WLNU’s headquarters, opened in 1938. Penning many books on international relations including proposals for ‘uniting nations’,he passed away in 1944 shortly before his dreams came to be realised. WCIA Peacemakers Feature; Welsh Biography; Wikipedia;|
|Davies Sisters of Gregynog Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) & Margaret Davies (1884-1963), sisters to David Davies, were key sponsors in their own right of the WLNU’s work and particularly that of the WEAC (Education Advisory Committee), albeit mostly very much ‘behind the scenes’. They privately donated almost all of WLNU’s office costs through the interwar period, including loan (later converted to gift) of the League’s offices in Museum Place, Cardiff. During WW1, they had also coordinated and funded the evacuation of many hundreds of Flemish refugees to West Wales. Keen art and culture lovers, they bought Gregynog Hall in Powys in 1920, where they founded the Gregynog Press 1922 and Gregynog Music Festival from 1933. There they also hosted the WEAC’s annual ‘Gregynog Conferences on International Education’, which laid foundations for international educational cooperation ultimately realised with creation of UNESCO. On passing, they gifted Gregynog Hall to the University of Wales. Biography – ‘The Gift of Sunlight’|
|Rev Gwilym Davies of Cwmrhymni, 1880 – 1954 Co-Founder of the Welsh League of Nations Union alongside David Davies in 1922, Gwilym Davies became the WLNU’s Honorary Director and also in the same year founded Wales’ Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill, the first of many global campaigns he pioneered. He was Hon Director of the Welsh Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) from 1922 to 1946, from which role he was seconded by the Allied Governments to draw up a draft constitution for a post-WW2 International Education Organisation, which became UNESCO. From 192-46, he became the WLNU’s Hon International Secretary, based in Geneva and inputting directly to League of Nations deliberations. After WW2, was UNA Wales’ founding Director from 1946 to his passing in 1954; after which the Youth Peace Message was continued through Urdd Gobaith Cymru. WCIA Peacemakers Feature; Welsh Biography; Wikipedia|
|Annie Hughes Griffiths of Llangeitho, 1873-1942 Born Annie Jane Davies of Llangeitho, Ceredigion (1873-1898). Known variously as Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths of Charing Cross, 1914-1942; and Annie Jane Ellis of Bala 1898-1914.. Leading light of the League movement in Wales and overseas, as WLNU President and Chair of the Women’s Advisory Committee. Led Women’s Peace Appeal campaign 1923 & America Peace Tour delegation 1924; WLNU President 1924-1926; Chair of Women’s Advisory C’tee 1930-38; Passed away 1942; obituary in. Married (1916-1937) to Charing Cross pastor Rev Peter Hughes-Griffiths of Ferryside; previously married (1898-99) to Thomas Edward Ellis of Bala, Liberal MP for Merioneth and founder of Cymru Fydd, who died of Typhoid 1899. Annie brought up their son Thomas Iorwerth Ellis (1899-1970) as a single mother. Annie’s brother John Humphreys Davies (1871-1926) was Principal of Aberystwyth Uni 1919-26. WCIA Peacemakers Feature; People Collection Wales story.|
|David Samways, WLNU General Secretary 1924-44. Pictured welcoming ‘Mother of Peace’ Mrs Nixon from Northern Ireland, to the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace in November 1938. A fairly ‘behind the scenes’ character throughout the WLNU’s work of the 1920s and 30s, Samways was the ‘chief of staff’ holding together all of the League’s campaigns, membership support and operations. Through the 1930s he oversaw construction of Wales’ Temple of Peace ‘on the ground’, whilst also managing the logistics of campaigns such as the 1935 Peace Ballot, which canvassed over 1 million people in Wales on the arms trade. Remaining with the WLNU through WW2, he resigned due to ill health 31 Dec 1944 and passed away Summer 1945. Obituary 1946 WLNU Report, P6-7.|
|Major Edgar Jones and journalist son Gareth Jones Young Welsh Journalist famous for exposing the Holodomor, Stalin’s Ukrainian Famine, murdered in China in 1935. His father Edgar was a lifelong organiser for the WLNU, and became the 1st Warden of the Temple of Peace over WW2.||Rev Elvet Lewis (1960-1953) WLNU Lecturer and Speaker, and member of the Executive Committee throughout the 1920s-30s. Following its opening in 1938, he led services of peace and remembrance at the Temple of Peace. Famous as the bard (poet) Elfed.|
|Major Wynn Wheldon of Ffestiniog, 1879-1961 WEAC Chair 1924-1933, he led Wales pioneering global education work, resigning on appointment as Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Dept of Board of Education. Succeeded as WEAC Chair by EH Jones . Welsh Biography||Cllr Dudley Howe 1st Mayor of Barry) David Davies’ Executive Deputy, and Chair of WLNU Finance Committee 1922-46; Managed oversight over WLNU and Temple over WW2 years 1940-45, alongside President Dr Arthur Jones|
|Winifred Coombe-Tennant of Neath, first British woman delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva. Popularly known as ‘Mam o Nedd’, Coombe Tennant was a leading figure in the women’s suffrage movement Wikipedia Profile||Prof Sir Harry Reichel of Bangor, 1856-1931 President of WLNU during 1920s, he was the first Principal of Bangor University until retirement in 1927. Biography; Wikipedia|
|John Owen, Bishop of St Davids, 1854-1926 First President of the WLNU over 1923-4, he was instrumental in the League’s foundation out of the aftermath of WW1, and in galvanising the churches of Wales to support the League’s peace campaigns. He passed in 1926, shortly after the Faith Leaders Memorial to America. Biography; Wikipedia||Frederick Llewellyn-Jones WLNU President 1933-34 and prominent Lawyer, he was MP for Flintshire 1929-35 and a key figure in organising WLNU’s North Wales Committee and campaigning activities. Wikipedia|
|below||Lady Davies, nee Henrietta Margaret Ferguson of Pitlochry 1892-1948 – Wife of David Davies, after his death she became Hon President of UNA WNC (which succeeded WLNU). Peerage Record||Henry Gladstone of Hawarden Vice Chair of WLNU Grandson of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Wikipedia|
|Photo sought||Rev D C Davies 1870-1945 Initially Acting LNU Secretary in Wales 1920-22, ‘DC’ became the WLNU’s lead Lecturer and Speaker throughout the 1920s & 30s, visiting groups Wales-wide to mobilise public support. Passed away 1945||Photo sought||Capt Harri Williams of Cardiff Was one of the key organisers through the earkly years of the WLNU’s formation, and was David Davies’ initial nomination for General Secretary. He served with the WEAC through to 1939.|
WLNU Staffing and Organisation
Offices and Administration
When initially set up as a regional branch of the British LNU in 1920, a small office was set up at 6 Cathedral Road, Cardiff with a secretarial staff of 3: a Chief Clerk and Assistant, under an Acting Secretary, the Rev D C Davies. It seems there was dissatisfaction at the capacity and capability of the Cardiff office to support the movement in Wales; following the Llandinam Conference of Jan 1920, Rev Gwilym Davies’ was asked to lead an ‘operational review’ to create an effective campaigning and support structure (insinuating that existing arrangements were not up to scratch). Gwilym Davies’ Hon Directors Report of March 1922 pulled no punches: “I took charge of the office in February 1920, and found that it was ill equipped, with no proper systems of keeping accounts, or of records, or of filing. The staff consisted of two clerks… Miss Thomas has been with the Council from the beginning, and shows real keenness in the work. The other… terminated his engagement on March 16.” Correspondence from Capt Harri Williams references “the Chief Clerk… owing to his incompetency, has to go.”
Background correspondence sheds further light on ‘office politics’ behind the scenes, between David Davies’ apparent desire to shape the Welsh Union in his image, and Gwilym Davies’ assessment that “the whole of the organisation of the Union in Wales has to be restarted ‘do novo’”. Captain Williams – who had been asked by David Davies to ‘step in’ as General Secretary – cautioned the founder’s desire to install his own people, saying: “there is danger of the League in Wales being looked on as your personal movement, and if I accepted the post, it might give colour to that view.” It is suggested the Rev D C Davies had expected to be appointed as General Secretary, having delivered well-received speeches to meetings (though with no managerial expertise). He was instead asked to become the WLNU’s Speaker, regarded as a ‘relegation’. However, Rev DC Davies went on to perform the role as speaker and meetings organiser highly successfully for many years. In his place, a Mr Frederic Thomas appears to have been installed to oversee Management and Accounts; and by 1924, David Samways had been appointed as permanent General Secretary, remaining with the WLNU to his retirement and passing in 1944.
By 1925, the WLNU movement having doubled, “new premises were absolutely essential for health of the staff and efficiency of administration” (1925 Annual Report). It was decided to purchase a building with a £2,000 Bank Loan, to be repaid over several years. In the event, the acquisition of 10 Richmond Terrace on Park Place in Cathays (right) was effected in 1926 by a loan from the Davies Sisters of Gregynog, Gwendoline and Margaret. In 1932, they converted their loan into a gift to the WLNU, in recognition both of the financial challenge of the Great Depression, and of their quiet, behind the scenes support for the League’s work. It is notable that whilst David Davies famously and publicly gifted the WLNU’s future headquarters, it was his sisters who paid for the WLNU’s headquarters for 75% of the organisation’s existence – for which Gwendoline and Margaret Davies have historically not been fully credited, their contribution to the arts perhaps fitting gender portrayals more traditionally.
The Women’s Peace Appeal of 1923, along with the challenge of supporting many hundreds of community and schools groups, and setting up new ones, led to the creation of District Committees from 1923 (see P16), and from 1926 the appointment of two Regional Organiser staff roles for North and South Wales. These were filled by Sara Pugh Jones for North Wales – based from Llangollen – and Mr D Hughes Lewis for South Wales, based from Maesteg. There remain considerable administrative records and materials from their community works and travels supporting WLNU groups around Wales, in the National Library of Wales WLNU Archives.
|Hon Director Hon International Secretary||Rev Gwilym Davies * (1922-1927)|
|General Secretary||Mr David Samways (1923-1940); William Arnold (1940-1968)|
|Secretarial Staff||2 clerks: Miss Thomas & Mr W R Williams (1920-22; latter terminated) Accountant + 2 clerks (1922 onwards): Mr Frederic Evans (June 1922), Miss Thomas.|
|N Wales Organiser||Sara Pugh Jones (1926 onwards)|
|S Wales Organiser||Mr D Hughes Lewis (1926 onwards)|
|Speakers||Rev D C Davies; Mr David Davies MP|
|Temple of Peace, post 1938||Major Edgar Jones, Temple Warden|
The WLNU’s expanded staff and volunteers worked from 10 Museum Place from 1926 to 1939, at which point that building was sold – the proceeds offsetting the WLNU’s debts – as staff transferred to Wales’ new Temple of Peace & Health, opened on 23 November 1938. However, just 9 months later with the outbreak of WW2, the Temple was ‘mothballed’, and the WLNU’s work pared back to a skeleton staff so that most could be made available to enlist for war service. In practice, WLNU staff were seconded to some hugely significant roles in building the architecture for post-WW2 institutions of peace and cooperation: Rev Gwilym Davies and the while WEAC committee of educationalists were commissioned to consult upon and draft a constitution for a new International Education Organisation, leading to the creation of UNESCO from 1946. And several Secretarial staff were seconded to organise the first UN General Assembly of the United Nations in London, in 1945.
To bridge the gulf between the many hundreds of local WLNU branches, and the very small staff / organiser support from headquarters, from 1923 Hon Director Gwilym Davies proposed establishing ‘District Committees’: bringing together representatives of multiple local branches to coordinate campaigning activities, share organisational workload, and represent the WLNU to counties and constituencies. The 1927 Annual Report excerpt overleaf illustrates well the proportions between district committees, community and junior branches, and memberships.
Case Study – Cardiganshire District WLNU
In 1926 Cardiganshire’s 7 District Committees supported 28 adult and 2 junior branches:
- Aberystwyth DC –Aberystwyth Town, Alfred Place, English Wesleyan Church, Salem Chapel, Shiloh Chapel, St Paul’s, Tabernacl, University College, Capel Bangor, Dyffryn & Goginan, Llanafan & Crosswood, Penllwyn, Ponterwyd, Junior: Ponterwyd School, Aberystwyth County School.
- Aberaeron DC – Newquay
- Cardigan DC – Cardigan Town, Bancyfelin & Llangranog,
- Lampeter DC – Lampeter Town, Esgairlas, Silian (Bethel Chapel)
- Llandyssul DC – Cross Inn & Llandyssul
- Tregaron DC – Blaenafon & Blaenpennal, Llanddewi Brefi, Llangeitho, Pontrhydfendigaid, Tregaron Town, Soar-y-Mynydd Chapel, Swyddfynnon & Ystrad Meurig, Ysbytty Ystwyth
- Henllan DC – 0
It is notable that 3 of these district committees – Aberaeron, Llandyssul and Henllan – have 1 (or less) local branches in their immediate area. It is possible these districts had been set up either to establish new local groups, or to accommodate ‘branch-less’ members in those communities. Many branches at this point appear attached to institutions such as chapels, schools and colleges, an approach which may have disadvantaged rural communities lacking ‘bricks and mortar’ premises – or possibly with pastors less willing to lend rural chapels to a political cause. Casting forward to the report for 1929-1930, Cardiganshire appears to have grown at least 16 additional local branches of the WLNU, having organised successful Daffodil Days in…
Aberporth, Borth, Bronant, Llanilar, Bow Street, Derry Ormond, Devil’s Bridge, Felinfach, Glynarthen, Llanon, Llanrhystyd, Llechryd, Mydroilyn, Pontshaen, Rhydlewis, and Talgarreg. …as well as well-established districts. WLNU Reports of the 1930s highlight ‘Specimen Activities’ for particularly active branches and districts, which for Cardiganshire were Aberystwyth, Tregaron and Llangeitho – incidentally, the birthplace of WLNU President Annie Hughes-Griffiths.
The WLNU was one of Wales’ largest membership organisations not just in the interwar era, but to the present day – peaking at 61,262, across over 1,000 communities – adult groups peaking at 794, and junior groups at 302. There has been some ambiguity as to whether junior groups were connected to ‘Aelwyd’s’ (local groups) of the Urdd movement, which Gwilym Davies was also involved with founding in the early 1920s; however, analysis of WLNU reports throughout the era suggests almost all ‘junior groups’ were within primary and secondary schools.
To illustrate the geographic distribution of WLNU’s membership and its campaigning reach, the adjoining map superimposes membership figures from the 1925-1926 Annual Report, plotted over the historic counties of Wales.
Membership Levels over Time
The figures in the following table illustrate how these WLNU’s membership figures (and types) fluctuated through the interwar era. Whilst impressive participation from any angle, they reflect some changes, as well as the changing world environment in which WLNU was operating:
- In 1930, the ‘apparent dip’ in membership was actually a change in presentation; due to falling income, the WNC decided to measure paid memberships rather than signups. Note that the highest number of active local branches is also 1929-1930 – suggesting activity remained high.
- As the Great Depression of 1930-31 took effect, a decrease in paid memberships reflected the unemployment and austerity situation, as well as concerns about the League of Nations following the Manchuria Crisis.
- Further reorganisation in 1934, and presentational variations, create gaps in figures.
- The highest paid members was marked in 1937, as Wales’ Temple of Peace was under construction – and as concerns escalated towards WW2.
- With the outbreak of WW2, the Welsh League partially suspended work. Although some figures are given, may not represent similar measures of activity.
|Adult signup Membership||18,110||26,345||31,299||34,999||36,689||39,223||41,822||43,050||14,051|
|Adult paid Membership||15,146||13,630||13,537||15,675||18,255||12,745||13,018||7,828||4,635|
Annual ‘Plan of Campaign’ for Branches
Gwilym Davies’ ‘plan of campaign’ first prepared in 1922, following his appointment as Honorary Director, included a proposed scheme of activity for local branches designed to suggest a self-sustaining programme of activities: connecting them to the wider world, and encouraging critical thinking on big issues of the era, and keeping abreast of current affairs issues and challenges facing internationalism.
From the early 1920s, the WLNU started encouraging branches (and producing central support materials that enabled local members) to organise branch meetings, socials, public meetings, study circles / speakers training, fundraising concerts, church collections, Sunday schools, Armistice Week events, and Youth Rallies / Festivals.
A particular activity prominent in archive references from the 1930s is ‘lantern lectures’, slide shows on current affairs / League topics or campaigning issues, that were passed between local branches accompanied by prepared scripts for local presenters to read. These were organised both for ‘propaganda purposes’ and as entertainment / learning / public events.
Fundraising – Daffodil Days
By 1924, the sale of daffodils throughout the summer to raise money for the work of the WLNU had become a thriving tradition. Daffodil Days would frequently continue to occur until late September (despite the efforts of the executive committee to set a uniform national date in mid-May – tying in to the ‘Peace Day’ for the newly established Welsh Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill), and the event quickly cemented itself as an integral part of interwar Welsh culture.
In 1924 twenty six Welsh towns held a Daffodil Day in aid of the Welsh League of Nations Union, yet this number had multiplied almost tenfold by 1927, with 249 Daffodil Days. In just a few years, Daffodil Days had not only ‘blossomed’ into a recognised cultural event, but quickly become vital to financing the Welsh League of Nations Union, contributing over half the Council’s income for most of the interwar period. In 1927 alone, £1,877 16s 11d worth of daffodils were bought by the people of Wales in aid of the Union around 450,000 cardboard daffodils. Particularly impressive given that the population of Wales was recorded to be 2,656,000 in the 1921 Census.
Annual campaigns on specific issues were additional to the general activity of local branches, and often directed by campaign committees often at a district level, who liaised both with local WLNU branches, but also with other partners, influencers and organisations relevant to their area. Typically, these appear to have adopted a pyramidal structure whereby the WLNU Office and Regional Organisers, liaised with Districts, who coordinated branches, who conducted the door to door campaigning activity. The Welsh Women’s Peace Petition of 1923, for example, listed 17 county committees consisting of several hundred district organisers.
The 1935 Peace Ballot (below) took a similar approach, with ballot returns by county – and hefty encouragement of competition between counties to have the highest returns.
Current Affairs and Policy Debates
Local WLNU branches and district committees, as well as organising regular community events on global issues of most current interest, were also very pro-active in shaping the policy stance of the WLNU itself – on a hugely diverse array of issues. The 1936 Annual Report (below) for example outlines policy developments on Arms Trafficking, China, ILO membership for USA and Russia, Treaty of Versailles, Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), primacy of the league of settlement of disputes between states, colonial raw materials.
Although the WLNU was largely bankrolled by David Davies, members did not necessarily follow his bidding. It took from 1922 until 1935 for him to persuade peace activists to support the adoption of international policing (now more familiar as UN peacekeeping forces); and this stance permanently rifted the movement between pacifism and pacificism.
The Cardiganshire Peace Pageant of 1935, in the grounds of Aberystwyth Castle, attracted many thousands to watch children from every school across Cardiganshire perform in national costumes of most nations of the world.
Youth Festivals and Educational Activities
During the early 1920s, much of the WLNU’s youth activity centred around encouraging participation in the ‘World Wireless Message’ of Peace and Goodwill. As the work of the WEAC (Welsh Education Advisory Committee) also progressed and bore fruit in Welsh schools developing active curricula on global learning, the WLNU increasingly encouraged schools and junior branches of the WLNU to organise creative activities such as plays and pageants, and ‘Youth Festivals’. Many 1930s WLNU Annual Conferences were followed by a Youth Festival, where young people showcased their global knowledge, skills and ideas to inspire the WLNU’s amassed campaigners and organisers.
|Mountain Ash Festival of Youth From 1933 WLNU Report: |
“On the afternoon of Sunday, May 6th, under the auspices of the Mountain Ash (WLNU District) Committee, a gathering of about 7,000 assembled in the pavilion at Mountain Ash for the annual ‘Festival of Youth’, one of the finest in the Principality. This is the fifth annual festival at Mountain Ash, and the greatest praise is due to Miss Amelia Davies and her band of helpers”
For many years now, a Festival of youth is arranged in connection with the Annual Conference in the hope that branches throughout the country will make a real effort to organise similar festivals. No meeting is more popular than a Festival of Youth – such a gathering offers great opportunities in numerous directions. Day Schools and Sunday Schools are always ready to cooperate, and an appeal is made to branches throughout the principality to include a festival in their programmes for the coming year.”
Whilst the Welsh League’s activities and those of its members were primarily focused on shaping public opinion in Wales on world issues, the WLNU were also very pro-active in influencing on global issues through UK parliamentarians, the League of Nations itself, and through Welsh diaspora in America and elsewhere.
The League was a heavily Euro-centric organisation, in comparison to the post-war United Nations, with headquarters and key operational offices in Geneva, Brussels and other European capitals.
Winifred Coombe Tennant was the UK’s first female delegate to any international body, as British representative to the League of Nations Congress of September 1922.
Annie Hughes Griffiths and others involved with the Welsh Women’s Peace Appeal and Women’s Advisory Committee were particularly pro-active in relationships with women’s organisations in America, most especially the ‘Conference on the Cause and Cure of War’ formed out of Wales’ 1924 ‘peace tour’ – which brought together 9 US women’s networks with millions of members.
David Davies was elected ‘Controller’ of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies (IFNLS) which coordinated advocacy and campaigning between League-supporting bodies across the globe. Davies also regularly travelled to and liaised with America Peace societies, and had a home in Edmonton, Canada where he also made connections with Canadian civil society and parliamentarians. He was impulsive in mixing and influencing among European society contacts, and famously flew to Germany on the eve of WW2 in a last-ditch effort to avert war through appealing to some of Hitlers allies – who turned out to have already been ‘removed’.
Gwilym Davies through the 1930s acted as the WLNU’s Honorary International Secretary as an observer and advisor at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Along with other members of the WEAC Education Advisory Committee, he was seconded by the Allied Governments during WW2 to draft a constitution for a new International Education Organisation, which laid the foundations for UNESCO’s launch in 1946.
From 1928, the WLNU launched the ‘Geneva Scholarship Scheme’ which funded young scholars and leading Welsh peace activists to spend a summer at the League’s HQ in Switzerland, witnessing operations, feeding in to decision making, and sharing experiences on return. Most schools in Wales would take part in the coveted ‘Geneva Essay Competition’ on current issues, to win these coveted places which opened lifechanging opportunities.
The diagram below illustrates the extent of the League’s bodies / spheres of operation in 1930s.
Conferences and Public Events
Democracy and participation within the Welsh League of Nations Union were held together by a regular annual programme of conferences and events, including high profile public presence with pavilions at each year’s National Eisteddfod, Agricultural Show (now the Royal Welsh), and other key events.
|AGMs & Conferences||Public Events||Key Campaigns|
|1918||1918 – Neath Eisteddfod – WLNU proposed by David Davies||1917 – Birkenhead – Eisteddfod y Gadair Ddu; Hedd Wyn & the Black Chair|
|1919||1919 – Corwen Eisteddfod|
|1920||Llandrindod Wells Public Meeting||N Eisteddfod, Barry|
|1921||N Eisteddfod, Caernarfon|
|1922||Executive C’tee Jan 1922 and July 17 1922, Shrewsbury. Llandrindod Wells, Whit weekend May 1922 Inaugural AGM (1st)||N Eisteddfod, Ammanford Welsh National Show, Wrexham||WEAC Education Advisory Committee established May 1922. 1st ‘Children’s Wireless Message of Peace & Goodwill’ broadcast Whitsun (May 1922)|
|1923||Tregaron, April 1923 (2nd) Welsh School of Social Service, April 1923, Llandrindod Wells||N Eisteddfod, Mold Royal Ag Show,||WSSS proposed Women’s Peace Memorial to America, signed by nearly 400k women Wales-wide|
|1924||Llandrindod Wells, June 1924 (3rd)||New York; Washington; American Tour N Eisteddfod, Pontypool Royal Ag Show,|
|1925||Aberystwyth, Whitsuntide 1925 (4th) + Tregaron Public Meetings||N Eisteddfod, Pwllheli Royal Welsh, Carmarthen (biggest 52,731) Detroit, USA Churches Conf British Exhibition at Wembley – Women’s Appeal displayed||Dr Charles Webster of Aberystwyth University proposed memorial appeal between leaders of religion in Wales and America; presented in Detroit, Dec 10 1925 by Rev Gwilym Davies.|
|1926||Llandrindod, Whit Week 1926 (5th) Aberystwyth International Congress of Federation of League of Nations Societies (IFLNS), June 29-July 4 1926||N Eisteddfod,, Swansea Royal Ag Show,||International Congress of IFLNS held in Aberystwyth, June 1926, including a pilgrimage to Tregaron and the statue of Henry Richard.|
|1927||Colwyn Bay, Whit Week 1927 (6th)||N Eisteddfod, Holyhead Royal Ag Show,|
|1928||Swansea, Whit week 1926 (7th)||Geneva – ILO Memorial, March 1928 Royal Ag Show, July N Eisteddfod, Treorchy, Aug||Swansea Ann Conf proposed a memorial to the ILO in Geneva, a bronze bust of Robert Owen. Inauguration of Welsh Geneva Scholarships Scheme, competition among Junior branches for 2 week trip to LoN ‘Summer School Parties’ in Geneva.|
|1929||Wrexham, May 21-22 1929 (8th)||N Eisteddfod, Liverpool Royal Ag Show, Cardiff||ILO Memorial presented in Geneva March 11 1929, unveiled by David Davies.|
|1930||Llandrindod Wells, June 1930; LoN 10th Anniversary Conference (WLNU 9th Ann Conf)||N Eisteddfod, Llanelli Royal Ag Show, Caernarfon Caernarfon Peace Pageant||10th Anniversary of LoN marked with ‘Peace Week’ May 12-18, highlighted by series of public events ‘Storming the Castles for Peace’ in Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy and possibly others.|
|1931||Cardiff, Cory Hall June 1931 (10th)||N Eisteddfod, Bangor Royal Ag Show, Llanelli||Inauguration of Geneva Exhibitions Scheme, offering grants to WLNU Branch organisers to visit Geneva in September each year. Memorial organised from Wales to Geneva Disarmament Conference|
|1932||Bangor, May 6-8 1932 (11th)||N Eisteddfod, Aberavon Royal Ag Show, Llandrindod||Geneva Disarmament Conference opened Feb 2 1932, continued to 1933. David Davies granted peerage in NY Honours List by Ramsey MacDonald / King George V, in recognition of his work leading the WLNU. A memorial to Lord Davies was organised & bronze bust commissioned by Sir Goscombe John to mark the occasion.|
|1933||Aberystwyth, July 7-9 1933 (12th)||N Eisteddfod, Wrexham Royal Ag Show, Aberystwyth|
|1934||Llandrindod Wells, June 1934 (13th)||N Eisteddfod, Neath Royal Ag Show, Llandudno|
|1935||Rhyl, June 14-15 1935 (14th)||N Eisteddfod, Caernarfon Royal Ag Show, Haverfordwest||1935 Peace Ballot on European Armaments and the League of Nations|
|1936||Barry, June 1936 (15th) Festival of Youth||Aberystwyth Peace Pageant N Eisteddfod, Fishguard Royal Ag Show, Abergele||WEAC advanced first proposals for an International Education Organisation|
|1937||Carmarthen, June 1937 (16th)||N Eisteddfod, Machynlleth Royal Ag Show, Monmouth||Foundation Stone laid for Temple of Peace|
|1938||Barmouth, June 1938 (17th)||N Eisteddfod, Cardiff Royal Ag Show, Cardiff(+UKRAS)||‘War bereaved mothers of Wales & the World’ campaign for opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace, 23 November 1938|
|1939||Abergavenny, 2-3 June 1939 (18th) Festival of Youth||N Eisteddfod, Denbigh Royal Ag Show, Caernarfon||26,000 Temple visitors, including 233 organised groups & services|
|1940||Suspended for WW2||N Eisteddfod, Mountain Ash (Radio)||7,000 Temple visitors / yr in WW2|
|1941||Suspended for WW2||N Eisteddfod, Old Colwyn||7,000 Temple visitors / yr in WW2|
|1942||Suspended for WW2||N Eisteddfod, Cardigan||7,000 Temple visitors / yr in WW2|
|1943||Suspended for WW2||N Eisteddfod, Bangor||7,000 Temple visitors / yr in WW2|
|1944||Suspended for WW2||N Eisteddfod, Llandybie (Carms)||Shrewsbury, Exec C’tee Jan ‘44|
|1945||Temple of Peace, Cardiff, Oct 27 1945 (19th and last Ann Conf) – Transition AGM agreed name change from WLNU to Welsh National Council of the United Nations Association (UNA Wales).||N Eisteddfod, Rhosllannerchrugog (Wrexham)|
|1946||N Eisteddfod, Mountain Ash United Nations Week, 29 Sept – 6 Oct 1946|
WLNU Campaigns Timeline
|1918-22||A League of Nations Welsh body; Membership; Local branches; Events and activities|
|1922||Youth Peace & Goodwill Message Proposed April 1922 at the Welsh School of Social Service, 1st message broadcast June 1922. From 1923, broadcast 18 May annually, anniversary of 1899 Hague Peace Conf, via BBC World Service. Text remained same to 1930, when Great Depression prompted young people to reflect current concerns, hopes and dreams in each years message.|
|Teachers of Wales: WEAC and the Gregynog Conferences Welsh Education Advisory Committee 1st met May 1922, organised what became annual conf of leading educationalists at Gregynog Hall, Powys, hosted by Davies sisters. WEAC developed world’s 1st ‘global learning’ curriculum for schools, embedding ‘principles of League of Nations’: the ‘Welsh Scheme’ was promoted by the League of Nations internationally, and adopted across Europe and British Empire.|
|1923||Women’s Peace Petition Proposed April 1923 at Welsh School of Social Service in Llandrindod Wells, a June 1923 Welsh Women’s Conf in Aberystwyth appointed committee + regional organisers to coordinate gathering of 390,296 signatures Wales-wide, calling for America to join and lead the League of Nations.|
|1924||Women’s Appeal to America Final women’s petition “7 miles long”, conveyed in Oak Chest, with beautifully bound Memorial Declaration, by delegation of Welsh women to women of America at event in New York; after which, the Memorial was presented to President Coolidge in Washington, then 2 month tour of America, to ‘spread Wales’ message of Peace’|
|1925||Faith Leaders Petition to America Inspired by Women’s petition, in Autumn 1925 leaders of the Churches of Wales – on behalf of denominations and congregations – signed Memorial Petition presented by Rev Gwilym Davies Dec 10th 1925 to Annual Conference of Churches of Christ in Detroit.|
|1926||Women’s Peace Pilgrimage WLNU hosted an organised in Aberystwyth the World Peace Congress of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies, North Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage from Penygroes, Caernarfonshire, and South Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage from Swansea, converged on Hyde Park, London calling for ‘Law Not War’|
|1927||Kellogg Campaign Campaign for International Arbitration on Conflicts|
|1928||ILO Memorial Bust of Robert Owen created through public subscription, and presented by David Davies to International Labour Organisation Offices for display in Geneva, as a symbol of solidarity with workers of the world.|
|1929||Parliament of Peacemakers Women’s campaign to elect more female representatives and League-committed candidates in General Election.|
|1930||‘Stormnig the Castles for Peace’ To mark 10th Anniversary of League of Nations, WLNU groups organised series of major public spectacles ‘storming the castles for peace’ – performing peace pageants at Harlech, Conwy, Caernarfon, Caerphilly|
|1932||World Disarmament Conference and Memorial In 6 months prior to WDC in Geneva on 2 February 1932, WLNU branches organised hundreds of public meetings, resolutions to MPs and British Government. 1000 church congregations signed ‘Affirmation’ on Armistice Sunday, 8 Nov 1931, bound with a leather Memorial & presented to President of WDC Arthur Henderson at opening.|
|1932||Manchuria ‘Crisis of Confidence in the League’ Open letter from Gwilym Davies to WLNU membership following Manchuria Crisis.|
|1934||Welsh Headquarters Appeal launched Following Lord Davies’ sink fund for Temple to proceed|
|1935||Peace Ballot against Armaments / for League|
|1936||Spanish Civil War Fractured liberal and socialist internationalists|
|1937||Foundation Stone for Temple of Peace: Lord Halifax; speeches|
|1938||Temple of Peace Opening Minnie James; mothers and people of Wales|
|1939||Outbreak of World War 2 Remembrance Peace Pilgrimages to Temple; WLNU positioning Temple through wartime; WLNU skeleton operation & postwar planning Passing of Old Guard – David Davies & Samways; New leadership; Reviewing for post-war operations|
|1941-43||UNESCO Constitution Process of drafting through WW2|
|1945||Uniting Nations Transition from WLNU to the United Nations Association|
Legacy of ‘the League’ in Wales
The peace campaigns of the Welsh League of Nations Union were ahead of their time by a generation. Often discounted – then and since – as idealistic and politically impractical, many of the measures the WLNU and its members called for during the interwar era – ironically, to avoid outbreak of a second world war – ended up being integrated into the post-WW2 global architecture with creation of the United Nations and its many bodies, with a less Eurocentric, more universalist world view – and with America playing a lead role.
Expansion of the post-war state absorbed many functions previously the domain of Civil Society organisations and peace campaigners, into diplomatic services and functions such as the Foreign / Commonwealth Offices. Many Welsh interwar figures went on work in UN agencies, shaping the development of UNESCO, UN Peacekeeping, the UN Development Programme, World Food Programme, and many more. Campaigns such as the Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill have continued to this day, celebrating through the Urdd its centenary in 2022 – although with its WLNU origins largely forgotten today. Others, such as the Women’s Peace Appeal to America, have been relatively recently ‘re-discovered’ to inspire a new generation of women peacemakers.
The WLNU, its branches and members, and the debates they coordinated over 20-25 years were woven into the interwar fabric of practically every community across Wales, into the very psyche of Welsh society. Although the WLNU might not be an organisation that trips off the tongue – or indeed that most people have heard of – there can be little doubting the collective impact their organisational dedication had on shaping the identity of Wales and Welsh people to be a progressive, globally responsible, outward looking nation. This legacy is perhaps best reflected today in the pro-active approach of Welsh Civil Society and the National Assembly for Wales, towards a positive Welsh Internationalism: working ‘in league’ towards ‘social justice’.
Craig Owen, May 2022