The Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), 1918-1946

Predecessor to today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) was founded in the aftermath of World War 1 to support people Wales-wide in campaigning for Peace and International Cooperation. From Cardiff to Caernarfon, Denbigh to Tenby, the WLNU was part of the fabric of most Welsh communities through the interwar era, with 1,014 community groups and 61,262 members actively involved in the League’s campaigning activities. 390,296 signed the 1923 Women’s Peace Petition to America; 1,025,040 voted in the WLNU-organised 1935 Peace Ballot; WLNU’s Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill continues through Urdd Gobaith Cymru to this day (marking its centenary in 2022); and the Temple of Peace, opened in Nov 1938 as a headquarters ‘befitting one of Wales’ most prominent movements’, continues WLNU’s mission today through the global learning, global action and global partnerships work of WCIA.

Blwch llythyrau WLoNU yn y Deml Heddwch heddiw / WLNU Letterbox in the Temple today

The North entrance of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health proudly retains its WLNU mailbox, an understated reminder of the organisation that was once part of the fabric of every Welsh community: championing the hopes and dreams of a generation for a world without war.

The Interwar Peace Campaigns of WLNU

Welsh League of Nations Union Report, 1927 – now reproduced as a linen hanging in the Temple’s ‘Hall of Nations’

Under the organising leadership of Rev Gwilym Davies, and with the financial support of David Davies of Llandinam and his sisters Gwendoline and Margaret (who particularly supported public education work), the WLNU through the 1920s and 1930s pursued high profile international Peace campaigns that mobilised the Welsh population in support of internationalism, and aimed to strengthen institutions of global cooperation such as the League of Nations, International Labour Organisation, and others.

There was a particularly strong focus on leveraging Wales’ connections with America through the ‘American Welsh’ diaspora – the Women’s Peace Appeal to America of 1923, the Faith Leaders Memorial of 1925, the Kellogg Pact campaign of 1928, and US President Roosevelt and Chief Justice Evan Hughes addressed the opening of Wales Temple of Peace in 1938.

View Peacemakers Feature articles: “Man, Mission and Movement: the Welsh League of Nations Union and the Interwar Peace Campaigns of Rev Gwilym Davies” and “The Great and the Good: the Opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace.”

Researching the League: Digitised Records

Their activities can be explored in breadth through the WLNU Annual Reports 1922-45, digitised on People’s Collection Wales and Flickr as part of WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project. The original booklets, an invaluable resource, can be viewed in both the Temple of Peace Archives, and the National Library of Wales (where an array of records can be explored in the collections of the WLNU, Gwilym Davies and Lord Davies of Llandinam).

WLNU Annual Reports & Digitised Archive Materials

1922 Founding

Conference: 1918 Neath Eisteddfod, 1920 Llandrindod Wells

1922-3

1st Annual Conference, Whitsun Weekend May 1922 @ Llandrindod Wells

1923-4

2nd Ann Meeting April 1923 @ Tregaron

1924-5

3rd Ann Conf June 1924 @ Llandrindod Wells

1925-26

4th Annual Conference Whitsun 1925 @ Aberystwyth

Founding of Welsh League of Nations Union, May 25th 1920: Public Meeting, Llandrindod Wells (+ Executive proposals)

1920s WLNU Founders Correspondence

1922 (March) American Peace Movements Report by David Davies 

1922 (April 19) Hon Directors Report

1922 ‘Plan of Campaign’ for local WLNU Branches by Gwilym Davies

Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill first broadcast, 29 June 1922

3rd July 1922 1st proposal for Women’s Peace Appeal 

 

Women’s Peace Appeal Campaign organised Wales-wide from Easter 1923 – feature article and homepage

Welsh Women’s Peace Appeal to America – Memorial, Declaration, Chest and records  

Women’s Campaign County Organisers lists and Signup leaflets

Welsh Outlook feature ‘Women of Wales & World Peace‘, Nov 1923

Gregynog Teachers Conferences on International Education founded, hosted annually 1922-1937 by Davies Sisters

Welsh language WLNU Report

1924 Women’s Peace Delegation to America: Press and Media Cuttings

“Annie’s Diary” – WLNU Chair Mrs Peter Hughes-Griffiths’ account of American Peace Tour, Feb-March 1924.

Annie’s 1924 Diary Transcription and short film

1924 Welsh Churches and the League of Nations’ Booklet

Teachers and World Peace’ Guidance for Schools by WEAC published through LNU

‘Henry Richard – Wales’ Apostle of Peace’ 1924 WLNU Booklet

American Women’s Response – Carrie Chapman Catt, 1925: Conference on Cause & Cure of War  

Dec 1925 Faith Leaders Memorial to America

1926 Report & Account of the ‘Welsh Approach to the Churches in America’ & presentation in Detroit by Gwilym Davies  

 

North Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage for ‘Law not War’,  May 1926.

‘International Education in Schools of Wales & Monmouthshire‘: The Welsh Education Advisory Committee 1922-26

 

1926-1927

5th Annual Conference Whit Week 1926 @ Llandrindod

1927-8

6th Annual Conference Whit Week 1927 @ Colwyn Bay

1928-9
1929-30
1930-31

June 29-July 3 1926: League of Nations Federation Int’l Congress, Aberystwyth: Souvenir Delegates Guide delegate list & Programme of Meetings, June 29-July 3 1926.

WLNU branches and membership reach peak.

Daffodil Days feature article

Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance unveiled alongside opening of Welsh War Memorial by Prince of Wales (June 12 1928) 

View / Search the Names; Images of Book & Crypt  

1928 Conference Swansea launched ILO Memorial campaign, May 1928

Education – launch of WLNU Geneva Scholarships Scheme for secondary schools. 

‘Kellogg Pact’ signed in Paris, Aug 27 1928 following long campaign

March 11 1929, ILO Memorial and bust of Robert Owen presented from people of Wales to Int’l Labour Organisation in Geneva  

David Davies commissions design of Temple of Peace to architect Percy Thomas – feature.

Initially proposed in 1919 for Devonshire House, London, 1929 Architects Report proposes

World Peace Manifesto produced and candidates canvassed for July 1929 general election

1929 Conference in Wrexham (May)

Stock Market crash and onset of Great Depression.

10th Anniversary of LoN – Wales campaign includes ‘League of Nations Week‘ May 12-18 1930.

Public Festivals on theme ‘Capturing the Castles for Peace‘ started from Harlech Castle (May 10), 

Welsh Peace Exhibition in the Hague with Dutch LNUS. 

 

WLNU Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) established – see records of meetings.

Manchuria Crisis – Japanese invasion of China – undermines credibility of League of Nations. WLNU groups campaign for governments to honour their post-WW1 Covenant commitments (they don’t)

 

1931-32
1932-3
1933-34
1934-35
1935-36
  Peerage to Lord David Davies for his peace advocacy since WW1 (following retirement as an MP).  Bronze Bust and Memorial presented by Sir Goscombe John in 1935 (now displayed in Hall of Nations).

Equity Tribunal Campaign

2nd edition of ‘Teachers and World Peace’ Guidance for Schools 

 

1935 Peace Ballot Campaign – Feature article

1935 Peace Ballot – Briefing for Households; Canvassers Briefing; Bulletin 2, Jan 1935; Bulletin 3, Feb 1935; Bulletin 4, March 1935; Bulletin 5, April 1935; Bulletin 6, June 1935; Bulletin 7 / ONWARD, Oct 1935; YMLAEN / ONWARD Bulletin, May 1936

ABYSSINIA CRISIS (Italian invasion of Ethiopia) fatally undermines credibility of League of Nations. WLNU groups campaign for governments to honour LoN Covenant.  

1936 Aberystwyth Peace Pageant – WLNU Archives album presented to Gwilym Davies 
1936-37
1937-38
1938-39
1939-40
1940-41

Temple Foundation Stone ceremony, April 1937 starts construction on Wales’ Temple of Peace.

Photos & Media Coverage of Foundation Stone ceremony

 

Opening of Wales Temple of Peace: ‘The Great and the Good’ feature article. 

Opening Day archives and organisational records; speeches

Temple opening Media Coverage; Press Pack & Photos; Order of Service; Western Mail ‘Temple Opening’ Supplement 23 Nov 1938 

Temple of Peace 1938 World Maps of League of Nations mandates 

Outbreak of WW2; suspension of WLNU activities

Oct 1939, ‘Lord Davies’ last mission’ to Germany – account by Granville Fletcher 

Temple of Peace open throughout war as place of pilgrimage for WW1 Book of Remembrance, and services on ‘Remembering for Peace’ WLNU and WEAC (through Gwilym Davies) invited by British & US Governments to develop blueprint proposals for UNESCO

 

1941-42
1942-43
Image result for Lord Davies Memorial Fund
1943-44
1944-45
WLNU – UNA Wales combined Annual Report for 1943-1946
Temple & Book of Remembrance open for public pilgrimages 11-12am daily (6,000 / yr), + Services of Dedication

Temple & Book of Remembrance open for public pilgrimages 11-12am daily (6,000 / yr), + Services of Dedication 

Education C’tee work continued – scholarships, CEWC development, UNESCO proposals

Passing of Mrs Peter (Annie) Hughes Griffiths, WLNU ex-Chair / President and Women’s Committee head.

Passing of David Davies on June 16 1944, founder and sponsor of WLNU.

Lord Davies’ Memorial Service, Temple of Peace, June 27 1944

Lord Davies Memorial Fund

WLNU becomes United Nations Assoc (UNA) Wales, with educational activities separately constituted to CEWC (Council for Education & World Citizenship)

 

Inaugural meeting of UNA Wales, Oct 1945

Start of International Youth Service (IYS) and CEWC, the Council for Education in World Citizenship

First UNA Wales Conference in Wrexham

         
         
         

In 2021, the digitised archives of the League of Nations in Geneva will also become publicly available, following a 5 year, £25m privately funded heritage project.

LONTAD - League of Nations Archives

WLNU Branch Activities 

A typical ‘Plan of Campaign’ developed by Gwilym Davies with local branches (1922-23 programme for  Newport branch).

Grassroots community participation was at the fore of the Welsh League’s approach, with a comprehensive programme of activities led by local branches and activists. An overview can be gained from the 1922 ‘Plan of Campaign’ for local WLNU Branches drafted by Gwilym Davies. Activities included:

WLNU Membership 1920s-1930s

The table below summarises membership figures from interwar WLNU Reports (with thanks to Rob Laker and Stuart Booker, Swansea University). Years of particularly high membership are spotlighted in bold, with a peak of 61,262 in 1930 (just prior to the Great Depression). Despite a drop in paid memberships the following year, the highest number of branches in Wales – 1,014 – was recorded in 1931-2. The peak in junior branches, at over 302 across Wales, was to come in 1938. Further explanation of the figures is below.

Year

1923

1924

1925

1926

1927

1928

1929

1930

1931-32

Adult Membership 18,110 26,345 31,299 34,999 36,689 39,223 41,822
43,050
14,051
Junior Membership 2,686 4,247 6,080 9,801 10,653 11,727 14,784
18,212
12,749
Total Membership 20,796 30,592 37,379 44,800 47,342 50,950 56,606
61,262
26,800
Community Branches 280 415 571 652 700 770
794
764 770
Junior Branches 20 39 77 133 149 176 202 233 244
Total Branches 300 454 648 785 849 946 996 997
1,014

Year

1933

1934

1935

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

Adult Membership 15,146 13,630 13,537 15,675 18,255 12,745 13,018 7,828 4,635
Junior Membership 9,264     9.026 9,290 6,780 9,216 3,881 2,342
Total Membership 24,410 13,630 13,537 24,701
27,545
19,525 22,234 11,709 6,977
Community Branches 621   479 533   538 498    
Junior Branches 279   298 200  
302
227    
Total Branches 900   777 733   840 725    

Whilst impressive by any measure, these figures demonstrate changes that reflect the changing world in which the League of Nations Union was operating:

  • In 1930-31, the ‘apparent dip’ in membership was a change in presentation: due to falling income, the Welsh League Council decided to measure paid memberships. It will be noted that the highest number of active local branches is the same year – suggesting voluntary and campaigner activity remained high.
  • As the Great Depression of 1930-31 took effect, this had 2 impacts: a sharp decrease in paid memberships, reflecting the unemployment and austerity situation; and some loss of faith in the League of Nations itself following the Manchuria Crisis.
  • Further reorganisation in 1934, and some presentational variations, result in some gaps in figures.
  • Highest paid members was in 1937, as Wales’ Temple of Peace was under construction – and as people’s concerns around peace escalated in the leadup to WW2.
  • With the outbreak of WW2, the Welsh League partially suspended work. Some figures are offered – though these may not represent similar measures of activity.
  • Junior Membership / WLNU Branches largely operated out of individual schools Wales-wide. It has been queried whether there was overlap with the Urdd Youth movements local Aelwyd’s or youth branches / chapters, but it seems fairly clear from WLNU Archives that Junior branches were schools based ‘societies’.

Fundraising and ‘Daffodil Days’ 

The operating funds of the Welsh League were generated through widespread Fundraising by Branches, through organising annual Daffodil Days for Peace (explored by Swansea University History student Rob Laker).  

In 1927, branches Wales-wide contributed £1,507 12s 11d – approx. £93,000 today – towards the general running costs of the Welsh League, as well as funding their own local campaigns and activities.

View Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Rob Laker. Zoom, or click on pins, to find specific communities.

Online Resources & References

“To Strive for a World of Justice”

Community, Internationalism and the Campaign for Peace in Interwar Wales – Llafur Talk, Oct 2020

In the aftermath of the First World War, Welsh communities took concerted action in the name of internationalism, peace and equality with increasing frequency and commitment. In this Llafur online event, join us and our guests Craig Owen, Rob Laker, and Emma West, to explore these themes in an interwar context – from the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition of 1923, to the Peace Ballot of 1935 and the opening of the Temple of Peace in 1938. (view other Llafur Event Recordings).