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The ‘Great and the Good’: Opening Ceremony of Wales’ Temple of Peace, Nov 1938

Compiled by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace from research originally prepared by WCIA Volunteers Hannah Sweetapple (Summer 2016), Peter Garwood and ‘Temple Tours’ Volunteer Guide Frank Holloway, Summer 2017 and Anna Carlile, Autumn 2018; additional material researched by Temple Archivist Mari Lowe, Ffion Fielding, and Dr. Emma West, Birmingham University for our Nov 2018 ‘Wales for Peace’ exhibition. Final piece edited and developed by Craig Owen for WCIA’s ‘Peacemakers Features’ series.


Western Mail Souvenir Supplement, Nov 23rd 1938

In the months since the Temple80 Celebrations in Nov 2018 – marking the 80th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health on 23 November 1938 – there has been much interest in the Temple Archives, the original orders of service from the historic day and the digitised document collections assembled y Wales for Peace volunteers over 2014-19.

The purpose of this article is to bring these links together, and to offer a more depth and insight into the formal ceremonies and speeches made on the day, from the founder Lord Davies and ‘Mother of Wales’ Minnie James (who opened the Temple), to the addresses of the ‘Great and the Good’ – and who they were – as well messages from World Leaders such as US President Roosevelt and Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes.

It is important to read this whole article in the context of its historic setting in time. As the Temple of Peace opened in 1938, Hitler’s rise in Germany, alongside other crises had weakened the League of Nations, and World War Two was just 10 months from breaking out. But at this point, no one yet knew what was going to happen; would appeasement work? Many of the speeches refer to this climate of uncertainty.

Archive Materials and Links

Laying of the Foundation Stone, 1937

Laying the Temple of Peace Foundation Stone, April 1937

The foundation stone was laid by Lord Halifax Lord Privy Seal and Deputy Foreign Secretary, on Thursday, 8th April 1937. In the background of pictures are huts in which sandbags were being produced for air raid shelters – war preparations under way, a sign of the troubled times. His speech that day stated that:

“the new building would be symbolic of the dedication of thought to two great purposes – national health and international peace, both of which had become vital landmarks in the life of the people during the last twenty or thirty years. Nothing had been more remarkable than the way in which our common civic and national thought had come to rank physical health high because of the degree with which we recognised how important was the place that public health occupied in the capacity of our people to discharge worthily the duties of citizenship.

Twenty years previously anybody who tried to think internationally was in danger of being voted a theorist, a sentimentalist, and a crank. Now everybody knew that, whatever their political party and policy, it was imperative to appreciate the importance of international relations, because civilisation itself directly depended up the adjustments they might be able to make.

In a world where anxiety about security was leading everywhere to re-armament, those who loved peace needed to be strong if they were to make their voice heard. They must recognise that no final solution was going to be found by the determined removal of the causes of conflict that kept the world uneasy and unquiet. The basis of all true peace, and the only basis of true peace, mist be international good will and conciliation of the conflicting interests of nations.”

Opening Day of the Temple of Peace, 23 Nov 1938

Temple of Peace opening – Crowds gathered in the rain

The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health was the first building to be constructed in Britain to specifically intended to symbolise the devotion of Wales and its people to two great humanitarian causes. Designed by Cardiff Architect Sir Percy Thomas – and winning the 1939 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture – the completion of the Temple brought to fruition a conception which had been present for many years in the minds of its founders – in particular, Lord David Davies – and has provided a monument not to commemorate the deeds of the past and to express aspirations for the future.

“From the remotest ages mankind has endeavoured to symbolise its ideas through the medium of buildings and architecture. The Temple of Peace and Health was intended to be not merely an architectural ornament but the visible expression of two ideals. The first was crystalized in the tribute to the memory of King Edward VII in the form of national campaign to eradicate the scourge of tuberculosis from the Principality. The second was the crusade for world peace in which Wales has always played a leading part. It is therefore fitting that the first British building to be dedicated to these noble causes should have been erected on Welsh soil.”

Minnie James with Lord Davies (founder) and Percy Thomas (architect) prepares to open Wales’ Temple of Peace

The Temple was to serve as an outward and visible sign of the allegiance and loyalty of the people of Wales to the principles and objectives of the League of Nations. At the opening, Lord Davies said:

“It is not intended to be a mausoleum, and because, in 1938, dark clouds overshadowed Europe, that was no reason why we should have put up the shutters and draw down the blinds. On the contrary, this was the time for constancy and courage, this was a time when we, both as individuals and as a nation, should humbly re-dedicate ourselves to the service of the great tasks that lay before us. It was hoped that the Temple of Peace and Health would come to be regarded as the shrine of all that we hold most dear, and that it would prove to be of real service to the future welfare of humanity as the symbol of our determination to work for a better world.”

On the day a special train had left Paddington at 8.20 a.m. to arrive at Cardiff at 11.20 a.m. Then coaches were used to bring the party of mothers and other representatives to the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health.

The weather that day was a typical November day with a gale that had torn branches off trees in Cathays Park.

Many of the photographs and indeed film footage reflect the tempestuous weather of the day – with many media commentators observing how this reflected the context for international affairs in the stormy and uncertain times of 1938, although one article highlighted that a ‘rainbow had broken out’ at the Temple’s opening.

Alderman Sir Charles Bird

Alderman Sir Charles Bird, Chair of the WNMA

At 11.45 there was an introductory address on the Temple steps by Alderman Sir Charles H. Bird C.B.E, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He said:

“We are assembled here to day to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected.

It had been put into the heart of one man that some permanent memorial should be set up which not only enshrine the memories of the many Welshmen who gave their lives in the service of their country in the Great War but would at the same time serve the useful purposes of headquarters of two great Welsh National institutions.” He added that he “wished to place on record the gratitude of the people of Wales for Lord Davies’s great and varied public services to the Principality.

The first of the organisations is the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association which has done so much to restore health and happiness to many of the Welsh people who had been stricken with tuberculosis, and in still increasing measure is being used to stem the tide of that dread disease in our midst.

“The second is the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations Union, a movement which under happier auspices, and with more loyal support, might have led the world into a great sense of security than exists at the present moment.

” Much thought has been given to the question as to who should be asked to unlock the door on the occasion of to-day’s function, and it was felt that no better choice could be made than some representative Welsh mother, to represent not only the mothers of Wales and the Empire, who lost their sons in the Great War, but also to the mothers of other countries, the loss of whose sons has brought such poignant sorrow to them, whatever their nationality may be.

” So it is that we have with us today Mrs James of Dowlais who lost three of her sons, and we are all happy in the knowledge that she has been spared to join with us in this ceremony of dedication.

” It is, therefore , with great sense of the honourable position to which I have been appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Welsh National Temple of peace and Health, that I now call upon Mr Percy Thomas, the architect of this building to present Mrs James with the key, and to request her to perform the opening ceremony.

Minnie James from Dowlais – Mother of Wales

Read more about ‘Minnie James and the Mothers of Wales and the World’ 

At the ceremony Mrs James was wearing a hat and holding a large bouquet of scarlet carnations given by the Hon. Lady Davies and was wearing all three sets of medals that had belonged to her sons.

She was presented with a Golden Key by Mr Percy Thomas, the Architect, to open the doors of the Temple. He said: “Mrs James I have pleasure in presenting you with this key and asking you to accept it as a little token of this what I know must be a memorable occasion for you.” Mrs James said “Thank you”. She gave a short speech:

“In the name of the women of Wales it is my privilege to open the building. I dedicate it to the memorial to those gallant men of all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war. I pray that it may come to be regarded by the people of my country both of our generation and of those that are to follow as a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the millions who sacrificed their all; in a great cause, and as a symbol of our determination, to strive for justice and peace in the future.”

Because she was speaking in a low voice, and despite the microphone, the newspapers reported that not all the hundreds of people present were able to hear her.

War bereaved mothers at the Temple

She then took the key from the presentation box and symbolically put the golden key into the lock of the bronze doors, pushed the door open and was the first person of those gathered outside to enter the newly opened temple of peace. The guests entered the Great Hall and sat down. Mrs James and the bereaved mothers then entered the Great Hall and the assembled crowd stood up as the bereaved mothers and other representatives entered. They walked down the central aisle to the platform. Hundreds of guests from all over the world stood up in tribute and respect.

Dedicating the Hall of Nations: Order of Service

Temple of Peace Hammond Organ, rediscovered in the Basement 2018

The Hammond organ was played by Mr W. H. Gabb, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Llandaff Cathedral, the music was arranged by Sir Walford Davies K.C.V.D. Mr H. W. Gabb began to play a hymn and the choir of Llandaff Cathedral, boys and men, began to sing. The first hymn was: “O God our help in ages past.”

The Dean of Llandaff, Very Rev. D.J. Jones read a passage, Micah 1-7, from the scriptures and the Archbishop of Wales, Dr C. A. H. Green, the Rev. Dr Robert Bond, president of the Federated Council of Free Churches, and the Reverend Harris Jerevitch offered dedicatory prayers.

The Rev. Dr Elvet Lewis spoke in Welsh and then ended his remarks in English, “So this day we dedicate this Temple for Peace and Health. Health will make for better peace and peace will make for better health, and then the blessing of God will come on all people around us in god fellowship, in kindness, and in a harmony that will last forever.”


The mothers chosen to represent countries from all over the world stood up and spoke. First was Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh speaking on behalf of the mothers of Great Britain, then spoke Mrs R Struben form the Union of South Africa, speaking for the British Commonwealth mothers. Mrs Cederlund of Sweden for the Scandinavian countries said: “In the name of the women of Scandinavia I associate myself with the dedication of this building. May it be a constant reminder to the people of Wales of their duty to further the cause of progress, freedom, peace, and justice and of the debt they owe to those who fell in the defence of these ideals.” Mrs Moller spoke for the U.S.A., and Madame Dumontier from France spoke for the European countries.

Five of the mothers – representing much of the world – read messages of goodwill from their areas, speaking in their own languages.

Viscount Cecil, League of Nations Union

At 12.00 noon, Viscount Cecil of Chelwood began a service of dedication and gave an address to those present. He said:

“The Temple inaugurated a new centre of happiness from which would radiate all over the world a new impulse. Here was no set-back in the progress of conquering disease, but unhappily, that could not be said in regard to the other ideal of the Temple of Peace. Peace was being assailed almost throughout the world, and it required courage and faith at such a time to erect the monument opened that day. It was a splendid gesture and an inspiration to those working for peace.

This was one of the occasions when he ought to recall that his ancestors came originally from Wales, but, unfortunately, they did not bequeath him that eloquence that was so common among Welshmen. All I can do today is to say a few simple words of what this building means to me. The touching and impressive images we have just received from the mothers is one aspect of it. This is a great memorial of the past, That is right and proper, but to my thinking its main significance is not in reference to the past, but in reference to the future. We are here to inaugurate, I hope, a new centre of health, from which will be radiated all over Wales, all over Britain, and in the end all over the world, a new stimulus for the two great causes in connection with which it has been built.

As far as health was concerned its importance (the Temple) was enormous. But that matter was simple. There is no controversy about it. We all desire to see the health of the people improve. We all know what great work had been achieved in connection with that White Man’s scourge- tuberculosis by the organisation with which Lord Davies has been so long and so honourably connected. That is a splendid thing. We hope that this building would assist in carrying forward that great work. No setback had occurred in the march of progress in that respect and we hope that march will continue and be accelerated in the future.

And then about the other great cause – the cause of Peace. Here one admits the matter is more difficult. Peace is being assailed almost throughout the world. We look around the nations – there is scarcely one that is not preparing desperately for war. Nor is that all. Wars are actually raging in the east and in the west. Surely it required great courage and faith at this time to erect a monument like this, the object of which is to further peace, particularly through the League of Nations. That seems to me, I must say, a splendid gesture.

Lord Davies asks us not to be cast down by the past but to turn our eyes to the future, to consider what each one of us can do, inspired by such great effort as this to further the cause of peace.

Let us consider what it is that we mean by peace. I believe no one here will contradict when I say peace is much more than the absence or escape from war, or even from the successive threats of war. We aim at something much more than that. We aim at a new spirit among all the nations of the world. No doubt in the old days all that statesmen could do was to turn from the threat of war when it arose, to ward it off as it were by successful diplomacy. That was all that could be done. But it was not satisfactory. We did the best we could in this and other countries under the old system.

But we cannot forget, least of all on an occasion like that this, that old system ended in the catastrophe of 1914.That was why the nations came together after the War to consider what could be done for the future, though they did many foolish things.

They did try to set up some new system that would be a barrier against war. That part of their work – though it is not as strong as we would wish – still exists in the League of Nations. It is unnecessary, I am sure, for me to remind you of what the League is, nor have I the time, nor is this the proper occasion to go into a detailed explanation or a defence of the League of Nations. It is enough for me to say that it was built on two great conceptions.

One was that the nations had more in common with each other than they had of opposition, and if they could only be brought to see it each one of them would flourish and get stronger and happier and better the more they could co-operate with one and other.

International co-operation – as you will see in the preamble of the Covenant – was put into the forefront of the plan by which nations should be welded together through the League. That was what was intended by this great institution. International co-operation was the primary base, and then, in order to bring forth its fruits, there was the other great idea that nations must combine with one and other in order to prevent invasion or aggression on any one of their number. Those were the two conceptions on which the League of Nations was built. I know some people think it was a kind of brain-wave of President Wilson’s – that he had produced a new-fangled scheme and all the rest of it. No one who has looked into the history of this question will think that for one moment. There is a vast array – a chain of authority going back to the earliest ages of civilisation – of those who have thought and considered this question, who came to the conclusion that the only way in which peace could be maintained was by some such combination of nations for this purpose. I cannot cite all the authorities but I can cite two.

The Late Lord Salisbury was one of the greatest authorities of his day on foreign affairs, and at the end of his life he made a speech at the Guildhall in London- I think it was about 1907 – reviewing the then position of international affairs. The situation was not very unlike what it is now, although much less acute. Nations were building armaments against one and other and preparing for war. He pointed out that they could only end in disaster. And then he said we must hope that they will turn from this futile policy and form some international constitution which by its great strength will secure peace for a long time. That was said long before the League of Nations came into existence. We could scarcely have had a more precise prophecy of what was essential to save the world from disaster. Then I will mention one other great authority – Lord Grey of Falodon. He lived to see the League established and, after it had been brought into existence, he said publicly: “If this had only existed in 1914, we might have been spared the war of that year.”

Those are statements showing the kind of authority that lies behind this great conception. Believe me, there are only two possible ways of dealing with international relations. One is for all the nations to treat one and other as enemies: for each to say “Let us struggle to the utmost, let us aim at the survival of the fittest, let us apply to international life the principles of the jungle.” That is the one conception and unhappily, it has great advocates at the present time.

The other conception is that the nations must combine together, that they must protect on another, that they must establish in international affairs, as they have established in national affairs, the Rule of law. These are the only two conceptions that exist effectively at the present time.

Who can doubt for which of those two exceptions we should work. Do not let us forget all that the League has done. Till a few years ago it advanced steadily in strength and reputation. Now the whole basis of the League, the conception of the Rule of law in international affairs, has been challenged. It is for us to say whether that challenge should succeed. This building is Lord Davies’ reply.

Here, he says, is this magnificent erection, in this great centre of effort, we will renew the fight, we will make it stronger and stronger, until we have established, first in this country, and then throughout the world, the conception that right is might and that justice will prevail.

Messages from World Leaders

A number of messages were then read out by Alderman Sir Charles Bird:

32nd US President Franklin D Roosevelt

President Roosevelt sent a congratulatory telegram through Mr Joseph Davies U.S.A. Ambassador in Belgium:

“President Roosevelt has authorised me to convey to the committee , Lord Davies and those associated with him his congratulations on this monument to the ideal of international peace, based upon law and order, in contrast to force. The President has expressed to me his belief that the achievements of past civilisations and the hopes for all future development of the human race depend on the projection and adoption of this ideal as a basic principle in relations between nations on earth.”

Billy Hughes, 7th Prime Minister of Australia 1915-23

The Right Hon. William M. Hughes of the Australian cabinet (7th Australian Prime minister) had sent a telegram:

“As a Welshman and a Freeman of Cardiff, I offer my congratulations and sincere hope that the project will be crowned with success.”

US Supreme Court Chief Justice 1930-41, Charles Evans Hughes

Mr Charles Evans Hughes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States sent a message:

“Heartiest congratulations on the establishment of the Temple of Health and Peace. May this Temple be not only memorial but a constant inspiration”.

David Lloyd George, UK Prime Minister 1916-22

Former Prime Minister and WW1 leader Mr Lloyd George sent a telegram stating:

“Wales owes gratitude to Lord Davies for the present munificence with which he has founded in our midst a Temple consecrated to the ideal of peace on earth and happiness amongst men.”

The guests then sang the Welsh National Anthem and concluded with the UK National Anthem. As they all left the organist played Handel’s “Occasional Overtures”.


Civic Luncheon at City Hall – Speeches and Toasts

At 1 p.m. they were at City Hall, where a civic reception was given by the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell J.P., and the Lady Mayoress of Cardiff and Corporation of the City of Cardiff.





Temple of Peace Luncheon at City Hall

At 1.15 p.m. they were given lunch. The menu was extensive:

  • Grapefruit Cocktail
  • Crème Portugaise
  • Sole Bonne Femme
  • Roast turkey Chipolata
  • Croquette Potatoes
  • Brussel Sprouts Green Peas
  • Passion Fruit Ice Souffle
  • Fresh Fruit Salad and Cream
  • Cheese and Biscuits
  • Coffee.

The first toast of the luncheon was given by the Chairman to “His Majesty The King”.

‘Wales and the Welsh People’

The second toast was to “Wales and the Welsh People” given by Professor Gilbert Murray, M.A., LL.D. and Senator The Hon. James J. Davis.

Professor Murray reminded the audience of his own Celtic descent and expressed his gratification at being enabled to participate in such a historic occasion.” One thing which is certainly striking in all thoughts about Wales, is that in an age of nationalism the Principality has always been but a moderate drinker of that heady wine. In Wales we find a great national consciousness, a national pride, but none of the excesses and no ill-feeling, even against those odd English people who surround the Celts in every side.

Professor Murray pointed out that the great strength of Welsh nationality lay in the preservation of its language, and made special reference to the message of peace and goodwill broadcast each year from the Children of Wales to boys and girls in other countries. He expressed his pride at being associated with Lord Cecil and Lord Davies in this latest effort to advance the great cause for world peace and concluded by congratulating the City of Cardiff upon having acquired such a magnificent collection of public buildings in Cathays Park.

The toast was supported by Senator James J. Davis, former United States Secretary of labour. Senator Davis drew attention to

“the utterance of Abraham Lincoln that Wales, (for its size) had contributed more to the development of America than any other country. He emphasised that sons of Wales were to be encountered in many of the most responsible positions – industrial, professional, public and political – of American life, and declared that every one of them was proud to claim the Principality as “home”. Senator Davis paid a cordial tribute to Lord Davies for his determined efforts to bring about the entry of the United States into the League of Nations and expressed his pleasure at being enabled on this unique occasion to take part in a new effort to promote the brotherhood of man.”

Responded to by Alderman William Jenkins, M.P. who spoke partly in Welsh, Sir William “congratulated those who were responsible for the organisation of the opening ceremony upon having selected a simple woman of the people to own a building which was intended to symbolise the yearning of the masses all over the world for peace and health. Wales, he continued, had always regarded its Temples as landmarks, and he was especially proud to think that the first great edifice to be erected in Britain should be situated in his own country.

Referring to the services rendered in the cause of internationalism by such great Welshmen as Henry Richard and Tregelis Price, Sir William declared that the people of Wales had always fought for Peace and urged his fellow-countrymen to emulate the sterling example of their predecessors in striving to achieve the success of the greatest all crusades.”

‘Toasts to the Temple’

Eloquent expressions of goodwill for the success of the movements to be housed in the new building were delivered by Lord Kennet, Lord Snell, and Lord Meston in proposing jointly a third toast to “The Welsh National temple of Peace and Health”.

Proposed by The Rt. Hon. Lord Kennet P.C., G.B.E., D.S.O., The Rt. Hon. Lord Snell, P.C., C.B.E. and The Rt. Hon. Lord Meston, K.C.S.I.; Responded to by The Rt. Hon. Lord Davies.

Lord Kennet

Lord Kennet suggested that, though it might seem unusual to drink the health of “marble, bricks and mortar”, they could all join in wishing well to the future of the noble enterprise whose inauguration they had just witnessed. After referring to the contribution made by architects, engineers, and artisans to the completion of “a beautiful and dignified building”, Lord Kennet bestowed especial praise upon Lord davies for having conceived the idea of erecting a great temple as a means of securing the advancement of those humanitarian causes in whose service he had already laboured indefatigably.

“We know, however, that there is nothing he desires less than praise. Let us therefore give him what he desires most – our heartfelt thanks and warm support in the task he has undertaken.” Lord Kennett expressed the profound gratitude he felt for the imaginative and creative spirit of the Corporation of Cardiff without whose co-operation it would have been impossible for Lord Davies’ conception to be realised. In reminding those present that as a former Minister of Health he had been given exceptional opportunities of realising the advantages conferred upon the community by its social services. “I know”, he said, “of no service rendered more efficiently and with more benefit to the community than that of King Edward VII Welsh National memorial Association. It is a unique institution. The world, so far as I know, has nothing to show elsewhere that is comparable with it.”

Lord Snell

Lord Snell dwelt upon the social and spiritual significance of the idea expressed in the new building. “We always think of a Temple as the dwelling place of the gods,” he said, ” but this Temple is to be sanctified by its application to the higher purposes of man, Solomon’s temple was no doubt grander, more widely acclaimed, but it was no more socially necessary, and its served no higher purpose than this Temple will serve if it rightly used….. This building will stand as a great moral witness of our desire for peace. It will uplift our spirits. It will stimulate us to perform the tasks required of us. It is at once a witness and a call to duty. It is an inspiration and a commandment. It be Messianic in its influence, in its faith and in its motive, for out of its creative power may spring a people’s health and a beauteous and blessed peace”

Lord Meston

Lord Meston laid special emphasis upon the international character of the gathering which had been brought together to participate in the opening ceremony. ” Your guests”, he said ” have assembled to-day from every quarter and from many lands. They are here representing no party, no prejudices, no class and no creed. We are all one bringing our congratulations, our devotion. “ He expressed the gratitude of the British “minorities” for the order and peace which had enabled them to develop their culture and maintain their national pride. In these circumstances it was, he felt, most fitting that a Welshman should have endowed Britain with its first great temple dedicated to the cause of international understanding. “To many of us” , he concluded, “it seems that the outlook has never been darker, but it may not be that the greatest darkness is just before dawn – that the dawn will break from this Temple here in Wales and that the divinity which it enshrines will soon set forth upon a flight which will cover all mankind?”

Lord David Davies’s Address

Lord Davies responded to the toast with a historic address that recognised the human foundations from which the Temple of Peace was inspired and built.

“My first and pleasant duty is to thank my friends who have proposed this toast, for their eloquent and moving speeches, and their far too kind and generous allusions to myself. We remember with gratitude the invaluable services Lord Kennet has rendered to his country, especially when he presided over the Ministry of Health. Lord Snell, whose wise and dignified utterances we always listen to with so much respect, is an old campaigner in the cause of justice, and, as you are aware, is now Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords, whilst Lord Meston, after a distinguished career as one of our proconsuls in India, has recently undertaken the much more formidable task of re-organising the Liberal Party. I am sure we are all proud to welcome them here today.

I also want to thank my old friends and colleagues, Lord Cecil and Professor Gilbert Murray, for their presence on this occasion. They are the pioneers and veterans of the Peace Movement. They belong to the Old Guard and the motto of the Old Guard is “no surrender!” We recollect that Lord Cecil was a member of the Commission which drafted the Covenant of The League. Unlike most Statesmen, he has never repudiated his offspring, but during the last 20 years, with an unrivalled staunchness and determination he has worked indefatigably for the success of The League. I venture to think that if other Statesmen had followed noble example, Europe and indeed, the world, would not be found in the horrible morass they are floundering in to-day.

“Then there is my old friend, Sir William Jenkins. Diolch yn fawr i chwi am eich araith bwysig iawn. Sir William and his friends have staunchly supported the Memorial Association ever since its inception. There are few, indeed, who possess such an intimate knowledge of our problems in South Wales, or who are so closely associated with our national institutions.

“Now I come to our friend and fellow Welshman, the Senator- another Davis, you will observe, who since he left his native shores has somehow lost an “e”.

First let us congratulate him on his recent electoral victory, when the great and historic state of Pennsylvania returned him again to Congress. We are proud of the Senator. First, because he is a Welshman. Secondly, because he has not forgotten the land of his birth, and thirdly, because as Minister of labour, and afterwards as Senator, he has attained to such high and responsible positions in the great republic of the West.


Franklin D Roosevelt

“We have been honoured today by a wonderful message from the President of the United States, for which we are indebted to another Welshman – and indeed, another davies – His Excellency Joseph Davies, the United States Ambassador to Belgium. I am sure we all deeply regret that he is unable, owing to a long-standing engagement, to deliver his President’s message to us in person, especially when we remember his eloquent and inspiring address at the National Eisteddfod. I am sure you will agree that Mr davies has already won for himself a place in the affections of our people.




Charles Evans Hughes

” I must now pass from the Davies’s to the Hughes’s. We are proud to have received the blessing of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. For many years Mr Charles Evan Hughes played a distinguished part in the political life of his country, where he is now regarded not only as an elder Statesman, but also as America’s foremost jurist. During his brilliant political career and afterwards during his difficult term of office as President of the Supreme Court, he has won the esteem, not only of his fellow-countrymen, but also of the world. We are indeed grateful that this mighty son of Sir Fon for his inspiring message.”




Billy Hughes

“And lastly I come to a great Welshman, who leaving Sir Drefaldwyn at an early age , made his home in the Antipodes, and became the Prime Minister of Australia. We still remember with gratitude the great services (William Morris Hughes) rendered to the British Commonwealth during the World War. He also has not forgotten the land of his fathers, and from the other side of the globe he has sent us a message of God -Speed. Let us then, in return, send our heartfelt thanks and greetings to these illustrious sons of Gwalia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you will desire me to express, on your behalf as well as my own, our sincere and grateful thanks to the Chief Magistrate of this great City – to you my Lord Mayor- for the kindness and generous hospitality which you have extended to us on this occasion. It is to you, Sir, and your colleagues on the City Council, that we are indebted for the splendid site in Cathays Park on which the Temple of Peace and Health has been erected. Without your help and co-operation the project would have fallen to the ground, and on behalf of the Memorial Association and the Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union. and, indeed, as I hope and believe, on behalf of the people of Wales, I beg to offer you and your colleagues our heartfelt thanks.

Cardiff Architect Sir Percy Thomas at the Temple of Peace Opening Ceremony

Nor can I forget the debt of gratitude we owe to Sir Charles Bird and his co-trustees for the care and devotion they have displayed in carrying out this enterprise. To Mr Percy Thomas we are indebted for the architectural design in which I think he has expressed, with dignity and simplicity, the ideas and aspirations for which this building stands. I am sure everyone will agree he has added another gem to the galaxy of public buildings in Cathays Park- unique, I believe, in this country, and a monument to the foresight and wise initiative of your City Fathers.

“May I also express our sincere thanks to the Contractors, Messrs. Turner and Company, for the excellence of their work, and to all our friends on the staff of the City Council, the British Legion, the “Western Mail,” the Memorial Association, the League of Nations Union and the New Commonwealth Society; especially to Sir Robert Webber, Mr Chamberlain, Mr Kennedy Hunt, Mr Alban, Mr Samways and Mr Foot, who have spared no efforts to ensure the success of our proceedings here today.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I must confess that the opening of the Temple of peace and Health is a long cherished desire. At last it is a dream come true. Of course it may be said, “Why was this waste of ointment made? Why was this money not spent in some more direct way for the alleviation of suffering and the propagation of the gospel of peace? Well, I believe that no crusade can prosper to the highest degree, no movement can secure the best results, unless it possesses a headquarters worthy of its high calling, and it is through the medium of art and architecture. Throughout The Ages mankind has demanded its Mecca of inspiration, for where the treasure is, there will the heart will be also. The Mecca we have opened today embodies two living ideas – Health and Peace.

Twenty-seven years ago the people of Wales decided to pay a tribute to that illustrious Sovereign, King Edward VII, in the form of a crusade against the terrible scourge of tuberculosis, which for years had ravaged our country. King Edward had said, ” If preventable , why not prevented?” That was our slogan, and it is stil our watchword.

At the outset the Memorial Association was a voluntary organisation, but with the passing of the National Insurance and other Acts of Parliament, it developed into a Statutory body which, in effect, is a joint or federal authority of all the contributing County and County Borough Councils In Wales. During the period of its existence the death rate from Tuberculosis in Wales and Monmouthshire has fallen from 1506 per million to 881 per million- a decrease of 42 per cent. I confess we could have wished for better and more speedy results but we believe that with adequate resources and with to cordial co-operation of every Local Authority, the day will come when, like leprosy, typhus and small-pox, this infectious disease will be entirely banished from our country. In the meantime the Temple of Health will stand as a constant reminder of our duty as individuals and as a nation to redeem this solemn pledge.

Dr Richard Price

I now come to the second idea enshrined in this building – the cause of Peace – which I believe is very dear to my fellow countrymen. We are now beginning to realise that a durable peace can only be founded upon the eternal principles of Equity and Justice. This was the doctrine preached two hundred years ago, in the 18th Century, by that great- and perhaps – the greatest – of all Welshmen, Dr Richard Price, mathematician, economist, publicist, author, philosopher and Divine, who has not only received the Freedom of the City Of London, an invitation from Congress to become a citizen of the United States, and a resolution of thanks from the National Assembly in Paris, but was also elected a member of the Royal Society. This is what he said in his book on Civil Liberty:

“Let every State with respect to all its internal concerns be continued independent of the rest; and let a general confederacy be formed by the appointment of a Senate, consisting of representatives from all the different States. Let this Senate possess the power of managing all other common concerns of the united state, and of judging and deciding between them, as a common Arbiter or Umpire, in all disputes; having at the same time, under its direction, the common force of the states to support its decisions.”

Neath Abbey Ironworks, founded by Tregellis Price

He was followed by Tregellis Price, the Ironmaster of Neath Abbey, and indefatigable philanthropist who in 1815 became one of the Founders of the Peace Society.

Henry Richard of Tregaron, the ‘Apostle of Peace’

We also remember that for 37 years Henry Richard of Tregaron, was the energetic Secretary of this Society, which in the middle of the last century held a series of peace conferences throughout Europe, and paved the way for the establishment of the Hague Tribunal and the League of Nations.

Therefore we have reason to be proud of the part our little country has played in the promotion of this great cause. Consequently, I venture to suggest it is fitting that the first building in Great Britain to be dedicated to the cause of Peace should be erected on Welsh soil. I make bold to say it is an example which other countries may well follow, because the Temple recalls to our minds the existence of another building, erected in another small country, on the shores of lake Geneva – the Headquarters of a Confederation of Nations who have joined together in a solemn League and Covenant to resist aggression, and to settle their disputes by an appeal to reason instead of to force.

Let Temples of Peace arise throughout the world. They will be a constant reminder to each nation of its duties and responsibilities, of its loyalty and allegiance to the cause of justice and peace.

“It is true that to-day we live in an anarchic world. When we look round we find every nation feverishly re-arming itself; two sanguinary wars are still in progress, and a third has just been concluded.

The wind of madness which blew upon the world twenty years ago is not yet still. In such circumstances, some people , no doubt, will marvel at our temerity. They may even regard us insane, becauie it was Rouseau, I think, who once said that “to be sane in a world of madmen is in itself a kind of madness.” But let us not be discouraged. I remember – in 1916 – listening to a speech by Mr Lloyd George, delivered at the National Eistedfodd. I am sure we all deeply regret he was unable to accept our invitation to be here today. This is what he said: “Why should we not sing during the War? Why especially should we not sing at this stage of the War? The blinds of Britain are not down yet, nor are they likely to be. The honour of Britain is not dead; her might is not broken; her destiny is not fulfilled; her ideals are not shattered.”

Western Mail Supplement photo spread

I can assure you, my friends, that this building is not intended to be a mausoleum, and because at the moment dark clouds overshadow Europe and the world, that there is no reason why we should put upper the shutters and draw the blinds. On the contrary, in a world of madmen let us display constancy and courage. Let us as individuals and as a nation, humbly dedicate ourselves anew to great task remaining before us. This League of Nations, this Peace Confederacy, this new Commonwealth of Nations, can only become a reality if it is enshrined in the hearts of the peoples. Governments come and Governments go, but the peoples go on forever.

That, I venture to suggest, is the significance of the opening ceremony we have witnessed this morning.

May I express our heartfelt thanks to the devoted Welsh mother, and the mothers of the Empire and of the world who so nobly supported her, for the unique and splendid services they have rendered in kindling the imagination of our people. Mothers know from personal experience the sorrow and anguish of the war. Nevertheless, they were prepared, and I believe, if the necessity arose – which, God forbid – they would still be prepared to undergo the same intense anxiety and mental suffering in order to preserve our liberties, and to rescue the weak from the tyranny of the strong. Like the Unknown Warrior, they invite us to dedicate ourselves to a noble and righteous cause.

Is it to much to hope that every man, woman and child, from one end of our beloved country to the other, shall participate in this act of self-dedication of the people, by the people, for the people, by making a pilgrimage to this shrine? There, in a spirit of humility and with contrite hearts, let us all enlist in that might army which knows no frontiers, and is marching steadily forward towards the Empire of Right and the Citadel of Peace.”

A Toast to Cardiff

The third and last toast to “The Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Cardiff’ was proposed by Dr Thomas Jones, of Amlwch. He expressed his deep gratification that he should have been selected as the representative of North Wales to take part in proceedings which would become historic in the life of the Welsh people. After tracing the development of the present project which had been brought to final fruition in the opening ceremony, he returned thanks to the Cardiff Corporation and particularly to the successive Lord Mayors for the material contribution which they had made toward it success. He also stressed the close association which had always existed between the City of Cardiff and King Edward VII Memorial’s anti-tuberculosis campaign and expressed the earnest hope that the plans now under consideration for the erection in ” the metropolis of Wales” of a new Research Laboratory might speedily materialise.

In responding to the toast, The Lord Mayor (Alderman W.G. Howell) said:

“I want to thank Alderman Dr Thomas Jones very cordially for the kind and gracious way in which he proposed this toast. I would like to say that we in Cardiff are very proud of the valuable addition which has been made to-day to the beautiful specimens of architecture in Cathays Park. We congratulate Lord Davies upon the fruition of his labours, and upon the beauty of the building which has been erected, and we rejoice in the ideals of peace and health which it symbolises. This has been a great day for Cardiff and for Wales, for these twin ideals, so important to the well-being of a nation, have been crystallised in Temple which it is a joy to behold.

And we rejoice especially that this beautiful building has been evolved from the brain of a Cardiff man, one of our own people.

And particularly, do we welcome within our borders the women of courage from all parts of the Kingdom and from other countries who gave their sons in the service of their countries in the Great War and who gave themselves, in reality, made the supreme sacrifice. Wee glad to have the opportunity of meeting with them within the precincts of this City and shall honour and revere them and their sons as long as memory lasts. It may be some solace for them to know that the heart of this City beats in sympathy and in admiration for them.

It may be that by the proceedings of this day another blow may be struck in the cause of universal peace if the consecration of this wonderful building is to usher in more quickly the rule of law in international affairs and the reign of justice, equity and international righteousness. Then the work and labours of those who have promoted the building of the Temple of Peace and Health will have been fully and amply justified. It only remains for me to thank you all cordially for your presence and support to-day, for the many warm tributes that have been paid to this City which we so truly love and to wish success and prosperity to the great causes towards which such eloquent testimony has been borne by the various speakers.”

The event closed later that afternoon and the special train left Cardiff for London at 4.20 p.m.

League of Nations Union Evening Reception

The conclusion of the luncheon did not by any means bring the day’s proceedings to an end. It was followed by a reception at the Connaught Rooms, where Lord and Lady Davies acted as hosts to some hundreds of representatives of the Branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union from all parts of the country.

In the evening, what was described as, “the Union’s house warming” took place in the new Temple. With Mr Dudley Howe in the Chair, and Lord Davies as the principal speaker, the meting was a source of inspiration and renewed encouragement to those who have so loyally and devotedly served the cause of peace in the Principality. It began at 7 p.m. with a two minute silence, followed by a hymn, the Chairman’s’ address and an address by Lord Davies, following which a second hymn was sung.

“So ended a ceremony the memory of which will long endure in the minds of there Welsh people. But the ceremony itself was but the launching of a noble project. The task that now remains is to ensure that this national shrine shall become the focal point of our determination to serve those two great causes whose advancement it was erected to promote. Not until every Welsh man and woman and every Welsh child has made the pilgrimage to this modern Mecca, and there has renewed the pledge to fight valiantly for the achievement of the welfare of Wales and the peace of the world, will the new Temple have served its purpose.”

A Place of Pilgrimage, Remembrance, and Dedication to Peace

The Temple of Peace, and in particular the Crypt holding Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance, would become a place of pilgrimage for generations. The Author E.R.Eaton was the first to be given the opportunity to reflect on remembrance of conflict past, in the foundations of the building which would work towards peace in the future.

‘Thoughts from the Crypt’ by E.R.Eaton – the Book of Remembrance as a place of Pilgrimage

David Davies 75: Internationalist ‘Father’ of the Temple of Peace

By Craig Owen, Head of Wales for Peace at WCIA

On June 16th 2019 – appropriately enough, Father’s Day – it will be 75 years to the day since Lord David Davies of Llandinam (1880-1944), father and founder of Wales’ Temple of Peace & Health, passed away.

A leading thinker in Welsh internationalism who left his mark on the nation in a myriad ways, he died just months before the end of the World War that he had campaigned to avert, and on the verge of the creation of the United Nations that he had worked towards for 25 years.

David Davies’ Legacy

David Davies is a legendary figure to many generations who have worked, met, campaigned and volunteered at Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff since its opening in 1938. His name is also immortalised in the David Davies Memorial Institute, which resides at the world’s first Department of International Politics which he founded at Aberystwyth University in 1919 – this year celebrating its centenary – and in the David Davies Llandinam Research Fellowship at LSE. In 1910 he established the (King Edward VII) Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA), with the aim of eradicating Tuberculosis and advancing Public Health. It became one of the founding bodies of the Welsh National Health Service (NHS) in 1946-48 – which operated from the Temple of Peace and Health. David Davies was also instrumental in founding the Welsh National Agricultural Society (now the Royal Welsh) in 1904; in establishing National Insurance with David Lloyd George in 1911, and in founding the New Commonwealth Society in 1932.

Thousands of young people continue to participate in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wales he founded in 1928. His home, Plas Dinam, still stands sentinel over the River Severn at Llandinam in Powys, across the valley from his grandfather’s home of Broneirion – now headquarters of GirlGuiding Cymru. His sisters’ former home at Gregynog Hall, a centre for the arts and printing press since 1922 and University of Wales retreat from 1963-2013, is now in the care of the Gregynog Trust. Beyond Wales, David Davies’ internationalist ideas live on in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and in the European Union. The UN Peacekeeping force and the UN Security Council, to name but two institutions, are based directly on proposals he advocated between WW1 and WW2.

“Lord Davies was one who stood for great ideals. He had the imagination of a poet; he saw great visions. His deep sincerity, his great generosity, his burning faith made him one of those rare beings who overcome obstacles and change the course of history.” Viscount Cecil

David Davies, circa 1905 – Parliamentary Archives

Who was David Davies?

Oft overshadowed historically by his industrialist grandfather, also David Davies (1819-1890 – known as ‘Top Sawyer’ and builder of many of Wales’ railways, ports and coal mines), Davies was born into a ‘family of philanthropists‘ in 1880 – still firmly in the Victorian era. David attended Merchiston School in Edinburgh before reading History at Kings College, Cambridge. An avid Welsh Non-Conformist and teetotaller with a ‘roaring, infectious laugh‘, he travelled the world extensively at an early age, to Africa, Asia and the Americas – witnessing first hand the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, and owning a ranch in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). He consequently developed a keen interest in international affairs that became his life’s passion and purpose.

In April 1910, he married Amy Penman of Lanchester, Durham and they honeymooned in East Africa. Tragically, Amy picked up an unknown disease on this trip which affected her health throughout World War One. They had two children, Michael (1915-1944) and Marguerite (1917-1930). In 1918, Amy died; David was devastated. Several years later, in 1922 he met and married Henrietta Fergusson from Pitlochry in Perthshire (with whom he had 4 more children – Mary (1923-2001), Edward (1925-1997), Islwyn (1926-2002), and Jean (1929-2011)). Henrietta became an avid supporter of David and his causes – and would go on to continue his work after his passing.

Mentored and supported by the high flying Welsh civil servant and philanthropist Tom Jones from 1910 (known as “TJ,” secretary to 4 Prime Ministers and considered one of Wales most influential political figures), David – who went by nicknames of ‘Chief‘ to his workers and ‘Dafydd Bob Man‘ to his political contemporaries – was characterised as “having boundless energy”, “thinking far ahead of his time and his contemporaries” and “churning out the work of six or eight people”. But these attributes were also his Achilles heel; Tom Jones observed that “he was impatient of contradiction or resistance to his plans; most rich young men suffer from a similar defective training. Twelve months at a desk or in a coal pit in his youth would have taught him to work with others.” 

Critics remarked on Davies’ “over-confidence, impatience and intolerance for deliberation.” For his artistic and sensitive sisters Gwendoline and Margaret, he could be a pushy and challenging brother to ‘manage’, as he attempted to draw them into his many causes and projects. But Tom Jones also conceded: “only a man with his generous impulses and driving force could have overcome the obstacles in the way of (his) Associations. But… he took some managing.”

On their wealth, Trevor Fishlock – author of the sisters’ Biography – observes:

“For the Davieses, their fortunes were also a covenant. They understood very well the realities of the source of their inheritance, and of the human price of coal in the Rhondda. They felt indebted… and the immensity of their fortunes frightened them. They had seen their father devastated by anxiety over money… [and had heard their stepmother say] ‘You would never grumble about having too little money, l if you knew what it was like to have too much.'”

A Life Story yet Partially Told?

For a man of such considerable accomplishments, social and world vision, it is perhaps some surprise that no biography has yet been completed of David Davies. Until recently, his main published presence was through inclusion in E L Ellis’ ‘Biography of Thomas JonesEven his Wikipedia entry is remarkably scant for a man of his achievements.

Script of unpublished Biography of Lord David Davies Llandinam, 1953 by Sir Charles Tennyson – digitised at https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/552296

However, in 1953 the author Sir Charles Tennyson (1879-1977) – grandson of poet laureate Lord Tennyson – did indeed draft a script for a Biography of David Davies, now digitised by the National Library of Wales and publicly accessible. Sadly, this never reached publication; however, extracts were used for a smaller booklet compiled in 1995 by Peter Lewis, a Biographical Sketch of David Davies ‘Top Sawyer’ and Lord Davies of Llandinam. (reproduced from the Temple of Peace archives).

In 1963 – to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Temple of Peace – John Griffiths for the BBC produced ‘One Man and His Monument, a radio broadcast celebrating the life of Lord Davies including interviews with many of the people with whom he had worked (and even the nurse who looked after him in his final days) – an invaluable resource and insight into the time, the script for which remains in the Temple of Peace archives today. In 2017, WCIA Volunteer Maggie Smales published a blog responding to ‘One Man and His Monument’.

The Peacemonger feature article by J Graham Jones for the Liberal History Group (Winter 2000) offers an excellent overview of David Davies’ political and society achievements.

The Gift of Sunlight‘ by Trevor Fishlock, Gwasg Gomer Press, 2014 is an autobiography of David’s sisters Gwendoline and Margaret. The book beautifully interweaves their contribution to the Welsh arts with the social history of the times, illustrated with photographs and records from the family archive – including many accounts of their (sometimes challenging) relationship with older brother David and his many causes.

Pilgrim of Peace: A Life of George M Ll Davies’ by Dr Jen Llewellyn, Lolfa Books, 2016 is an autobiography of David Davies’ cousin, the pacifist, Conscientious Objector, peacemaker and parliamentarian George Maitland Lloyd Davies – whom David Davies’ appointed as Secretary to oversee his charities on tuberculosis (the WNMA) and housing (the Welsh Town Planning and Housing Trust).

Political Career

In the landslide election of 1906, David Davies was elected as the Liberal Party Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, a seat which he held until standing down in 1929.

An unconventional MP, he disliked parliamentary procedure and niceties, and regularly diverted from ‘party line’ in what he considered to be the best interests of Welsh people and world affairs. In June 1918, he sponsored a national conference in Llandrindod Wells to discuss ‘a measure of devolution for Wales‘, which went unsupported by colleagues. In 1925 – despite being the owner of the Rhondda’s Ocean Coal Company – he supported workers calling for a seven hour working day. He vehemently campaigned against the “evil spirit which appears to befog every utterance of the coal owners” and the government’s lack of conciliation surrounding the Samuel Mining Commission, seeking to involve the International Labour Organisation in averting what became the disastrous General Strike of 1926.

Despite this antagonistic relationship with political party machinery, Davies’ position in his constituency was unassailable. He was so popular, that in 1913 local Conservative press bemoaned “the cult of David Davies-ism… they have nothing in common with the ‘Radical Socialism’ which nowadays masquerades under the name of (his) ‘Liberalism.'” In present-day terms, his beliefs and interests would straddle the political spectrum: a liberal internationalist, a conservative champion of free enterprise and of hunting, and an advocate for workers rights, universal healthcare and social housing, who often spoke out against the establishment. In the context of Edwardian Empire, he was a maverick.

World War One

The outbreak of World War One in September 1914, as with every household across Wales, transformed the life and activities of the Davies family.

David Davies as a Commanding Officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers

Initially, Davies threw his characteristic energies into recruiting and raising a battalion, the 14th Royal Welch Fusiliers (Caernarfon and Anglesey), of which he became Lieutenant Colonel. Following formation on 2nd Nov 1914 in Llandudno and rigorous training in Snowdonia, they set sail for France in December 1915, to the Western Front trenches around Givenchy.

But Davies’ experience of the trenches horrified him. On his return in 1916, he spoke in the House of Commons imploring changes in war strategy, to reverse what he saw as the “massive, appalling and needless waste of life” and the “squalor, filth and lack of supplies to which our men are subjected”.

In June 1916, David Davies was recalled to England to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to War Minister David Lloyd George, and during December 1916 Davies was one of three ‘organisers’ instrumental in mobilising support for Lloyd George to replace Herbert Henry Asquith as Prime Minister and war leader – the only Welshman to have held the UK premiership. Davies quickly became part of Lloyd George’s inner circle, regarded as a “talkative, wealthy and light-hearted young Welshman in whose friendship and gossip he took much delight at this time.”

But Davies’ experience of the trenches, and his outspokenly candid feedback to the Prime Minister on the conduct of the war effort, soon caused a rift between them. On 24 June 1917, Lloyd George dropped a bombshell of his own:

 “[opponents say I am] ‘sheltering’ in a soft job a young officer of military age and fitness… In my judgment you can render better service to your country as a soldier than in your present capacity.” David Lloyd George’s dismissal note to David Davies, 24 June 1917

Bottom: David Davies during WW1 Military Service; Gwendoline & Margaret (Daisy) Davies pre-WW1; cousin George M Ll Davies, WW1 conscientious objector.
Top: George M Ll Davies during his military service; Gwen & Daisy nursing at the front in Troyes, France; cousin Edward Lloyd Jones, killed in action in Gallipoli, 1915.

A Dining Table and a Nation Divided

By 1917, the nation’s enthusiasm for a war ‘that should only last a few months’ had been dented by the catastrophic losses felt in every community. The Davies family represented a microcosm of the Welsh Nation – divided by war yet united in their desire for peace.

His cousin Edward Lloyd Jones had reluctantly signed up – somewhat sceptical of the war – and was killed in action in Gallipoli in August 1915. His brother Ivor Lloyd Jones was later killed in Gaza, Palestine in March 1917. Their close cousins’ deaths were felt painfully by David and his sisters.

His cousin George Maitland Lloyd Davies had initially joined the Territorial Army in 1909, but as WW1 loomed he could not reconcile the war with Christ’s teaching ‘thou shalt not kill’. Despairing at the co-option of churches and men of faith as a recruitment pulpit, he helped found Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, in 1914 – and from 1916 was imprisoned as a Conscientious Objector and opponent of the war.

David’s sisters Gwendoline and Margaret (Daisy) Davies supported the different positions their cousins had taken, as well as their brother David; but also carved their own distinct contributions to peace building in WW1. In August 1914 they organised and funded the evacuation of 91 Belgian Refugee artists and musicians to Aberystwyth on the ‘last but one boat to get away’. In 1916, they followed David to France as volunteers with the London Committee of the French Red Cross, where they set up a canteen in Troyes near the front of the Battle of Verdun, to support troops travelling to and returning from the front.

Booklet cover commemorating the Reunion of David Davies’ 14th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Llandinam in 1937.

Despite his disdain for the war, David Davies remained close to and a champion of the soldiers with whom he had served in 1914-16. Two decades after WW1, he hosted a Reunion in the grounds of his home at Llandinam from 30th July – 4th August 1937, for the surviving men of his 14th Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. A Programme for the 20th Reunion Week and a Reunion Memento Booklet – recently found by Lady Davies, who made these available to WCIA for digitisation on People’s Collection Wales – captured the spirit of their Remembrance and commitment to building a better world.

“In the silent moments of our remembrance, we confronted the great phantom host which included the dearest friends of our youth. They would have become restive at the thought of what we – who know what war means – are now doing to save their dear ones from a similar fate… They say:
“What are you doing about it all? Is it to be nothing… but the laying of wreaths and blowing of last posts?”

Post-WW1: A Crusader for Peace

In August 1918 – three months before the end of WW1 – David Davies took to the stage at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Neath, to call for the establishment of a ‘Welsh League of Nations Union‘ – even before a UK League – to harness the energies of communities Waleswide in pursuit of world peace. He was immediately supported by sign ups from the Maes and beyond:

“At the National Eisteddfod , David Davies first suggested the formation of the Welsh League of Nations Union, saying that Wales had an important role to play in the campaign for world peace. As the Union was formed in 1918 it had 3,217 members, but by 1922 this had grown dramatically to over 200,000. In 1920, Davies donated £30,000 to set up an endowment fund to establish a Welsh National Council of the League of Nations Union. By 1922 it had 280 local branches, and by 1926 the number had grown to 652.” Elgan Phillips, ‘When Aberystwyth hosted a Peace Congress

In 1919, David Davies and his sisters endowed the Woodrow Wilson Chair at Aberystwyth University, setting up the world’s first Chair and Department of International Politics “in memory of those students who perished in the conflict, to foster the study of the inter-related problems of law and politics, ethics and economics, raised by the project of the League of Nations.”

WLoNU letterbox at the Temple of Peace today.

Although a Welsh League of Nations Union had started work in May 1920, by 1922 limited progress had been made – despite the post-WW1 clamour for peace. With his characteristic drive, David Davies in January 1922 appointed a new staff, brought in the legendary Rev Gwilym Davies as Honorary President to coordinate the league’s activities in Wales, called a founding conference in Llandrindod for Easter of 1922, and donated a £30,000 endowment fund that transformed it into one of the most influential civil society bodies in Wales throughout the 1920s.

By 1929 there were Welsh League of Nations Branches in most communities – 794 adult branches and 202 junior branches, according to the 1928-9 WLoNU Annual Report, with a combined membership of 56,606 peace campaigners. The Young People’s Message of Peace and Goodwill founded in 1922 continues to be broadcast annually today; the Women’s Peace Petition to America of 1923-4 attracted 390,296 signatories, and was presented to US President Calvin Coolidge in March 1924. In 1926, the North Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage saw 2,000 women march from Penygroes in Caernarfonshire to London, calling for “LAW NOT WAR.” The Welsh Education Advisory Committee, of which the Davies sisters were a driving force, had developed the world’s first ‘peace education’ curriculum “to teach the principles of the League of Nations in our schools.”

In 1926, Davies pulled off the remarkable feat of hosting the League of Nations International Peace Congress in Aberystwyth – cementing Wales’ role in the leadership of international peace building.

A full set of Welsh League of Nations Activity Reports from the 1920s and 1930s have been digitised by WCIA’s Wales for Peace project volunteers, and offer a rich source for future research into the social impact of the Union in Wales.

A ‘Temple to Peace’

Davies had originally proposed the idea of a ‘Temple of Peace’ on the site of Devonshire House in London, in 1919. However, by the late 1920s, through the peace building efforts of the Welsh League of Nations Union, he had a mass movement behind him.

Percy Thomas Architect’s Drawings for the proposed Temple of Peace, 1929

During the 1920s, the Davies family had supported the creation of a Welsh National Book of Remembrance to commemorate the fallen of WW1. Serving as the roll call for the 35,000 men and women recognised by the Welsh National War Memorial – unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales on 28 June 1928 – the book is a work of art in Moroccan leather, gilt work, vellum and mediaeval calligraphy (in the style promoted by the Gregynog Press).

Davies announced his vision for a ‘Temple of Peace’ to house the Book of Remembrance in a purpose-built crypt, and to bring together future generations to work towards building a better world of peace, health and justice in memory of the fallen. By 1929, Welsh Architect Percy Thomas had been commissioned to design Davies’ vision, and he produced full architects drawings, a detailed report and even an architects model of what would become one of Cardiff Civic Centre’s most distinctive buildings.

However, in 1930 the Great Depression hit the UK – massively affecting both construction plans for the Temple of Peace, and also the campaigning work in support of the League of Nations, which started to lose public confidence, particularly following the Manchuria Conflict of 1931. Davies, rejected as ‘visionary and impracticable’ by many colleagues, was frustrated by the readiness with which people seemed to accept the rapid deterioration in international relations and rise in militarism that followed the economic crash.

“We are prepared to die for our country; but God forbid we should ever be willing to think for it.” David Davies, 1931.

Having stepped down from Parliament in 1929, Davies worked tirelessly to reverse the tide of pessimism against the League of Nations. He founded the New Commonwealth Society, and wrote prolifically for the Welsh Outlook, Manchester Guardian and The Times, penning a number of books which remain seminal works in the field of International Relations:

“We shall never get real prosperity and security until we get peace, we shall never get peace until we get justice, and we shall get none of these things until we succeed in establishing the rule of law by means of the creation of a really effective international authority equipped with those two vital institutions, an equity tribunal and an international police force.” David Davies, ‘the Problem of the 20th Century’, 1930

In 1933, Davies’ work in peace building was recognised by the national government of Ramsey MacDonald with his elevation to the peerage, as First Baron, Lord Davies of Llandinam.

Concerned at the escalation of rearmaments by nations across Europe, Davies sponsored the tremendous ‘Peace Ballot Campaign’ of 1934-5, in which – largely due to Davies’ influence – Wales attained the 12 highest returns for the counties of the UK, with turnouts over 90% in favour of stopping the arms race that was threatening to cause another World War.

In 1934, he also stepped in to the financial ‘breach’ by giving £58,000 (£4.04 million at 2019 values) to enable construction of the Temple of Peace to proceed apace.

On April 8th 1937, Davies led the ceremony for the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Temple of Peace, alongside Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax (view photographs and press cuttings). Following an incredibly rapid but high quality construction, made possible through Davies’ ‘Sink Fund’, the Temple was readied within 18 months.

On 23 November 1938, two weeks after the 20th Armistice Day, Wales’ Temple of Peace opened to tremendous ceremony and acclaim. In another of Davies’ brainwaves – following rejection of an invitation for the young Princess Elizabeth to open the building – he felt it more appropriate that ‘the poorest wife of an ocean workman’ (coal miner) should have the honour, representing the women, mothers and wives who had lost loved ones in WW1, and led peace building efforts in the years since. The search for the ‘most tragic mothers’ of WW1 gripped the press and garnered worldwide publicity for the ceremony. Minnie James from Dowlais became the ‘mother of Wales’, opening the Temple with a golden key and leading in 20 other women from across Britain and the Empire.


With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 would have prevented such a project from going ahead. Without Davies’ foresight and financial intervention, the Temple – and all of the work it has gone on to do over the 80 years since – would never have reached fruition. Davies had a vision for this to be the first of a string of ‘Temples of Peace’ all around the world, mobilising civil society activism to avoid conflict and build understanding. We can only guess at what his vision might have achieved had the outbreak of WW2 not curtailed his great dream.

‘One Man and his Monument’: Lord Davies watches over the Hall of Nations in Wales’ Temple of Peace to this day.

“I can assure you, my friends, that this building is not intended to be a mausoleum, and because at the moment dark clouds overshadow Europe and the world, that is no reason why we should put up the shutters and draw the blinds. On the contrary, in a world of madmen let us display constancy and courage. Let us as individuals and as a nation, humbly dedicate ourselves anew to the great task still remaining before us.” David Davies at the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace


In November 2018, WCIA staged a month long programme for Temple80 and WW100, celebrating the legacy of David Davies’ remarkable monument and the movements it has inspired.


The Tragedy of World War 2

Within a year, the Temple of Peace became ‘mothballed’ with the outbreak of World War 2 in September 1939.

Whilst Davies himself was now too old to serve in the army; his son Michael signed up to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Davies furiously advocated for initiatives that might turn the course of the war, or ensure a robust and enduring peace on cessation of hostilities. Fearing the possibility of losing his remaining family to invasion, with great sadness – and to the great reluctance of his devoted wife, Henrietta – he arranged passage for them to live in Canada for the remainder of the war. Their home, Plas Dinam, David gave over to Gordonstoun School which relocated from Elgin in NE Scotland to Powys throughout World Warv Two.

Lord Davies – the Last Mission by H Granville Fletcher is a fascinating account of one of Davies’ ‘last ditch attempts’ to avert the conflagration of World War 2, when he travelled to Switzerland in October 1939 – following outbreak of hostilities – to persuade German industrial magnate Thyssen to cut off the supply of arms to Hitler’s armies. His mission proved unsuccessful when he discovered that Thyssen had himself fled Hitler and was a wanted man; but he made it home to the UK.

The strain of the war and separation from his family took its toll on David Davies’ health, and by 1943 he was feeling actively unwell.

The Last Picture

David Davies (1880-1944), 1st Lord Davies of Llandinam, painted by Sam Morse-Brown; from collection of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

In February 1944, he sponsored (through his Welsh National Memorial Association at the Temple of Peace) the introduction of a fleet of mobile radiography units that would revolutionise X-Ray scanning for Tuberculosis and Cancer. Attending the launch of this cutting edge health provision at Sully Hospital, he volunteered to undergo the first scan. It picked up that he had advanced cancer of the spine. His wife and daughter were smuggled on a Navy freighter from Canada across the Atlantic, through U-Boat infested channels, to spend their final days together.

He died just four months later, on 16 June 1944, aged just 64, just 14 months before the end of World War Two. His ashes were scattered among the bracken on the hill he loved above Plas Dinam.

But David was spared the anguish of losing his son, Michael, just 3 months later. Michael Davies, who had briefly inherited the title of 2nd Baron Llandinam, was killed in action with the 6th Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 25 September 1944 during the liberation of Holland.

Working from Above

One cannot help but wonder if David Davies had been called to the ‘pearly gates’ to complete his mission from above. Within just a few years of his death, many of the causes and ideas he dedicated his whole life towards, saw fruition:

  • In 1946, the newly launched United Nations Association Wales – successor to the Welsh League of Nations Union – led by Rev Gwilym Davies (in whom David Davies had placed his peace building confidence from the 1920s), organised a Memorial Service for David Davies at the Temple of Peace, and the David Davies Memorial Appeal to rebuild his peace building movement for a new, post-war era.
  • 1946 the United Nations was setup – its secretariat established by Welshmen who had been contemporaries of David Davies – and his ideas became enshrined in UN Peacekeeping, in an Equity Tribunal in the UN Security Council, and in the International Educational organisation UNESCO.
  • The Temple of Peace and Health would become a powerhouse for Wales’ relations with the world through the United Nations Association and (from 1973) the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, as well as International Youth Volunteering through UNA Exchange.
  • In 1947 the Temple of Peace and Health also became the transitional home for the fledgling National Health Service for Wales, into which Davies’ Welsh National Memorial Association was absorbed -realising his ambition of providing universal health care to every man, woman and child. It went on to house the Glamorgan Health Board and latterly Public Health Wales.

Lord Davies’ bronze bust by Sir Goscombe John at the Temple of Peace

Today, within the Temple of Peace and Health, a beautiful bronze bust of David Davies by the great 1930s sculptor Sir Goscombe John is displayed above the entrance to the Hall of Nations, accompanied by a leather bound Memorial presented to him in 1935 in recognition of his contribution to Welsh public life and his mission for peace.

But on the 75th Anniversary of his passing, perhaps the greatest legacy of David Davies is the generations of peace activists and internationalists who have been inspired by his vision to build a better world, from WW1 to today – and no doubt his enterprising spirit will continue to live on in the Temple fo Peace for future generations to come.

Find out More

Join WCIA’s ‘Peace 100’ Gregynog Festival Lecture on 29 June 2019, marking the centenary of the Paris Peace Treaty following WW1.

About the Author

Craig Owen is Head of Wales for Peace at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. He can be contacted on craigowen@wcia.org.uk.

Craig would like to express his gratitude to the Davies family, in particular Bea and Daniel Davies, for their inputs and permission to share David Davies’ story and materials from the family archive; and to WCIA’s Wales for Peace project volunteers and partners who between 2015-18 have gathered together the stories of Wales’ Peace Heritage.

Twitter: @WalesforPeace

Facebook: @Cymru dros Heddwch / Wales for Peace