Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU)

The ‘first predecessor’ to today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), the Welsh League of Nations Union was founded after World War 1 to channel the energies of people Wales-wide into Peacebuilding and Global Cooperation. WLNU’s letterbox remains on the North Wing entrance to Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health to this day, an understated reminder of an exceptional organisation once woven into the fabric of Welsh communities for nearly 2 decades.

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

The Interwar Peace Campaigns of WLNU

Welsh League of Nations Union Report, 1927

View Peacemakers Feature article: “Man, Mission and Movement: the Welsh League of Nations Union and the Interwar Peace Campaigns of Gwilym Davies.”

Under the campaign organising leadership of Rev Gwilym Davies, and with the financial support of David Davies of Llandinam, the WLNU through the 1920s and 1930s pursued high profile international Peace campaigns that mobilised the Welsh population in support of internationalism and institutions of global cooperation.

From Cardiff to Caernarfon, Denbigh to Tenby, at its high point 1,014 community groups, and 61,262 members were actively involved in the campaigning activities of the WLNU (see below). 390,296 signed the 1923 Women’s Peace Petition to America; and over 1,025,040 voted in the WLNU-organised 1935 Peace Ballot. WLNU’s Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill continues to this day through Urdd Gobaith Cymru (celebrating its centenary in 2022); and the Temple of Peace, opened in Nov 1938 as a headquarters befitting such a popular organisation, continues their mission through today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs… ‘grandchild’ of the WLNU.

‘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).

The Welsh Women’s Peace Petition delegation
depart Euston for America in 1924 – with 390,296 petitions.

Researching the WLNU

The campaigning activities of the Welsh League of Nations Union can be explored in greater depth through their Annual Reports 1922-45, digitised to People’s Collection Wales and Flickr as part of WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project with support of volunteers. The original booklets can be viewed in the Temple of Peace Archives, and extensive original documentary holdings can be explored in the National Library of Wales (WLNU, Gwilym Davies and Lord Davies of Llandinam Papers).

Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) Annual Reports (and Significant Events)

1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
Founding of Welsh League of Nations Union, Llandrindod Wells

Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill first broadcast

Women’s Peace Petition campaign

Gregynog Teachers Conferences on International Education founded

Women’s Peace Delegation to America

‘Welsh Churches and World Peace’ Campaign

Faith Leaders Petition to America

American Women’s Petition Response: Conference on Cause & Cure of War  

League of Nations Int’l Congress held in Aberystwyth

 

N Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage for ‘Law not War’

 

1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
WLoNU branches and membership reach their peak Temple of Peace proposed as Wales’ national memorial to fallen of WW1 David Davies commissions new WLoNU HQ – a ‘Temple of Peace’

 

‘Welsh Teachers and World Peace’ Manifesto published

Stock Market crash and onset of Great Depression WLoNU Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) established – see records of meetings

 

1932
1933
1934
1935
1936
    Equity Tribunal Campaign Peace Ballot Campaign Festival of Youth

 

1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
Foundation Stone laid and construction starts on Wales’ Temple of Peace Opening of Wales Temple of Peace Outbreak of WW2; suspension of WLoNU activities   WLoNU / Gwilym Davies invited to develop proposals for UNESCO

 

1942
1943
Image result for Lord Davies Memorial Fund
1944
1945
WLoNU – UNA Wales combined Annual Report
for 1943-1946
  UNESCO Death of Lord David Davies, founder and sponsor of WLoNU.

 

Lord Davies Memorial Fund

WLoNU becomes United Nations Assoc (UNA) Wales

 

Inaugural meeting of UNA Wales, Oct 1945

Start of International Youth Service (IYS) and CEWC, the Council for Education in World Citizenship
 
Welsh Churches and World Peace – Campaign Booklet, 1924 Teachers and World Peace, 1929 Manifesto Wales’ Peace Ballot Bulletins, 1935 (see more detail below) UNESCO Proposals, 1941-45 Gwilym Davies’ Memorial Service, 1955
         

WLNU Branches 

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:

Membership

The table below emerges from analysis of 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 actually 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.
  • However, 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.
  • The highest paid members ever was marked in 1937, as Wales’ Temple of Peace was under construction – and as concerns escalated towards WW2.
  • With the outbreak of WW2, the Welsh League partially suspended work, although some figures are offered – though these may not represent similar measures of activity.
  • A general question / point of interest on Junior Membership Branches, is whether these were the predecessors, parallel organisations or the same local bodies as the Urdd Youth movements local Aelwyd’s or youth branches / chapters. Given the overlap in mission between the WLoNU, Peace Message and the Urdd, it seems quite possibly these local groups may be one and the same.

‘Daffodil Days’ & Fundraising

The funds of the 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.