Out of the ashes of World War One, Wales’ first Youth Message of Peace and Goodwill in 1922 expressed the hope of a generation, that in future:
“there be no need for any of us, as we grow older, to show our pride for the country in which we were born by going out to hate and to kill one another.”First Young People’s Peace Message, 1922
A century later, the young people of Wales – yet to see their wish fulfilled – continue to be at the forefront of Wales’ peace and internationalist movements, as ambassadors of goodwill, international volunteers, passionate campaigners and activists confronting the world’s most pressing issues, from Nuclear Disarmament to Climate Change – with the centenary message for 2022 challenging leaders to urgently tackle the Climate Emergency.
‘Y Neges Heddwch’, initially known as the ‘Children’s World Wireless Message’, was first broadcast on 28 June 1922 from the Leafield Wireless Station (after initial plans for Caernarfon fell through), and from the newly-equipped Eiffel Tower. This pioneering moment was summed up briefly in the WLNU’s Annual Report 1922-23 (P.3):
Archives from the Welsh League of Nations Union and their Honorary Director, the Rev Gwilym Davies who founded the Peace Message, can still be explored among the collections at the National Library of Wales, many of which were digitised over 2015-19 through the Wales for Peace project. Internal correspondence from 1922 sheds a fascinating light on the organisation going on ‘behind the scenes’, to create and broadcast the first ever message of 100 years ago. These highlight for example that transmission plans had to be shifted rapidly between Marconi Wireless Stations at Lavernock Point (Penarth), then Caernarfon, ultimately being broadcast from Leafield in Oxfordshire. They also highlight the strength of input from schools and children across Wales from such an early stage.
From 1923, ‘Goodwill Day’ was established by the Welsh League of Nations Union for 18 May every year – chosen to mark the date of the 1st Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 – and later adopted / continued by UNESCO – a tradition observed to this day as the message turns 100. The ‘Neges’ was the topic of the world’s first ever Welsh language broadcast by its founder, Gwilym Davies, to mark St David’s Day March 1st 1923; and from 1924, the BBC World Service brought the Young People’s Peace Message to homes in every nation.
Over the century, every generation of young people have been part of forming, sharing and responding to the message of peace. Initially organised through the Welsh League of Nations Union (WCIA’s predecessor at the Temple of Peace), from 1954 it passed to Urdd Gobaith Cymru and has inspired the movement’s humanitarian and international work ever since – engaging 1,500 branches and 50,000 members across the country, not to mention many thousands of teachers and school children.
After World War Two, the establishment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod from 1947 – building international reconciliation and peace through music and cultural exchange – cultivated a parallel message, the Llangollen International Peace & Goodwill Message.
From 1922 to the early 1970s, the Message also inspired reciprocal responses from youth movements as far afield as Norway, Nigeria, and New Zealand; and the National Library of Wales archives contain hundreds of ‘replies’ charting the hopes, dreams and aspirations of young people the world over. During the 1970s, it is thought that declining resources, competing priorities and generational turnover led to this ‘reciprocal’ element fading from memory. This gradually became a ‘Hidden History’ until over 2015-19, the Urdd and WCIA collaborated on the Wales for Peace project with the National Library of Wales, to rediscover the stories behind nearly 100 years of messages.
The work of Urdd Aelwyds, volunteers and community groups over this period in helping to uncover the story of the Message, laid the foundations for this 2022’s centenary celebrations; and WCIA have been delighted to work alongside the Urdd on production of learning packs both on the history of the message, and on the Climate Emergency. WCIA Chief Executive Susie Ventris-Field will be accompanying Urdd members in marking the centenary of the Peace & Goodwill Message – and of WCIA’s predecessor centenary, the Welsh League of Nations Union – at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway, on 18 May 2022.
Visitors to Wales’ Temple of Peace can view a Peace & Goodwill Message covers from the last 100 years on permanent exhibition display in the south stairwell, overlooking Wales’ National Garden of Peace – charting the hopes and dreams of successive generations of Welsh youth. Explore these colourful covers virtually at People’s Collection Wales.
Click LH / RH to view Peace Message cover artworks through the decades: