Remembering for Peace

Over 35,000 Welsh men and women lost their lives in the First World War. Wales' Temple of Peace was built to commemorate the 'loss of a generation', and to house the WW1 Book of Remembrance, which under the guardianship of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, toured Wales for the first time over the 2014-18 WW100 Centenary period. Working with the National Library of Wales, we have been digitising Wales’ National Book of Remembrance for the First World War, supporting people to uncover the stories behind the names - and how the horrors of war led people in Wales to campaign for peace and work for more positive international relations.

Wales and WW1      Wales War Memorial & Temple of Peace      Welsh Book of Remembrance        'Remembering for Peace' Touring Exhibition Soldiers' Stories       Objectors to War        White & Red Poppies        Weeping Window Tour       'Now the Hero' Swansea 2018

The First World War - Wales Remembers

War's Hell"The period from 1914 to 1918, and the immediate aftermath, shaped the Wales we live in now and we need to understand not only why nations went to war but also the lingering impact of that war on our daily lives." Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, 2014

War's Hell: The Welsh at the Battle of Mametz Wood, 1916 - National Museum of Wales

Over 700,000 British servicemen died in the field of battle in the First World War and it has been estimated that around 3 million people across Britain lost a close relative. WW1 was an unforeseen disaster that followed a period of increasing rivalry and mistrust between nations. While its most deeply-felt impact was the loss of human life, it had other far-reaching effects; it altered the balance of power in the world with the fall of great European empires and a shift of economic power to the United States. Within Britain, there were significant political changes and the role of the state became more prominent in the lives of individual citizens.

The war left the countries that took part in it impoverished. At the end of the war Germany was near starvation, while Britain was almost bankrupt. In some countries extreme political movements gained power, and a flawed post-WW1 'Peace Process' laid the seeds not only for the Second World War just over twenty years later, but most of the conflicts that defined the 20th Century. The sheer scale of the WW1 conflict and its enormous consequences makes it vitally important that, during the centennial period, we try to understand the causes and impact of the First World War and reflect on the great sacrifices made by individuals and communities, to learn how such conflicts may best be avoided in future.

Wales for Peace are involved with Cymru'n Cofio / Wales Remembers 1914-18, the Welsh Government-supported Framework Programme for the centenary commemoration period from 2014-19. WCIA's Wales for Peace contributions are included the annual programmes here for 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. For further sources of information about the commemoration click here, and you can view projects here supported through Cymru'n Cofio.

Welsh War Memorial and Temple of Peace

Welsh national memorialIn the early 1920s, following a campaign in the Western Mail, public monies were raised to build a Welsh National War Memorial in Cathays Park, Cardiff. The committee decided that as there were to be no names listed on the monument itself, a 'roll of honour' would be created - which became the Welsh Book of Remembrance. At the ceremony for the dedication of the memorial in 1928, the book was ceremoniously signed 'Er Cof' (in memoriam) by Edward, Prince of Wales. Held initially at the National Museum of Wales, in 1938 the book was transferred to a specially built crypt under the new Temple of Peace and Health in Cathays Park, Cardiff.

On the morning of November 23, 1938, Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais, representing the war-bereaved mothers of Wales (having lost three sons in the war) turned the key to open the door of the Temple, built as “a memorial to those gallant men from all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end all wars”. The National Book of Remembrance was placed in the crypt in the foundations of the Temple, displayed in a glass and French Bronze case, on a pedastal of Belgian Marble - materials chosen to reflect where so many lost their lives. Temple of Peace

The crypt was – and remains today - a place for quiet contemplation, and the symbolism is clear: this is the reason why we should strive for peace, this is the ‘foundation’ of our work. You can view the Book in its usual home in the Crypt under the Temple of Peace in this Flickr album here, along with the magnificant building inspired by the vision of a world free from war as the ultimate symbol of remembrance for a lost generation - a mission carried on to this day under the guardianship of the WCIA, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.

The Welsh Book of Remembrance

Book of RemembranceListed according to regiment, on 1,100 pages of leather bound vellum, the names of 35,000 service personnel (including some women) who died in the field of battle are written in beautiful calligraphy, and illuminated with intricate gilded patterns. To be included, people either had to have served in a Welsh regiment or be of Welsh birth or parentage serving in a British or Commonwealth unit.

The elaborate design of the book was the work of the respected calligrapher Graily Hewitt at his workshop in Lincoln's Inn, London, supported by a team of women working between the Gregynog Hall Press in Powys and Aberystwyth, and Midhurst, Sussex. Each name has been individually written in calligraphic hand, and the gilding techniques are a revival of those used in the Middle Ages - turning what is essentially a list of names into a work of art

Accurate Record or Symbolic Gesture? Throughout the 1920s - with an absence of dependable and centralised records - a nationwide drive was launched across Wales, with significant support of women's movements, to try to capture the names of all those who perished. However, some families held mixed and raw emotions on the nature of remembrance. Many felt their loved ones had been 'cannon fodder' for governments in a needless and wasteful war - and refused for their names to be used on institutional memorials that they perceived to glorify war, or justify further military recruitment. Out of such debates emerged the powerful symbols of the red and white poppies (see below), favoured by the military and peace movements for remembrance respectively. The symbolic significance of the book is often seen to be as important as its role as a record of the fallen:

"The collection of the names.. was a work of considerable magnitude... and although the list can scarcely be claimed to be absolutely accurate and complete, the greatest care has been taken to make it so." Excerpt from the Programme of the Unveiling Ceremony for the Welsh National Memorial.

Digitising the Book: A Modern Day Act of Remembrance 

Working with the National Library of Wales, WCIA are digitising and transcribing Wales national Book of Remembrance for the First World War, and supporting people to uncover the stories behind the names - with the help of volunteers across Wales who are invited to be part of the Wales for Peace project's ‘modern day act of remembrance, which will make the book, and the names, accessible online for future generations.

The online transcription tool, digitally commemorating the names of the fallen of World War I, was launched at the Senedd on Remembrance Day, 11th Nov 2015 by Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM alongside the opening of the ‘National Assembly Remembers’ Exhibition.

To view the Book: We hope to complete volunteer transcription (view guidelines here and volunteer login), and have an interface for searching the names in the WW1 Book, by Remembrance Day 2017. In the meantime, if you know the name or other details of a relative / research person of interest, but are unsure of their regiment, try the Commonwealth War Graves Commmission search database. To view the 1,100 scanned pages and names, you can also visit the regimental sets on People's Collection Wales.

WW100: The Story of the Book

To mark the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018, as part of WCIA's #Temple80 #WW100 events programme, we marked Remembrance Weekend with a talk drawing together 'the Story of the Book' - presented by Head of Wales for Peace Craig Owen with National Library Head of Digital Dafydd Tudur. The talk was summated in the following feature article, which can be printed as a booklet and has also been made available from the Royal British Legion 'Pop In' shop in St Mary St, Cardiff where the replica WW1 Book of Remembrance is on public display.    

'Remembering for Peace' Touring Exhibition

ExhibitionThroughout 2016, the Welsh National Book of Remembrance for the First World War has visited numerous venues and has been at the heart of our community activities across Wales - reuniting the names of the fallen with their communities of life, their descendants, and enabling volunteers to research the stories and the faces behind the names (see below), as well as to support WCIA with transcription of the 35,000 names from the book.

For each venue and location, WCIA have worked with local partners to adapt the exhibition, draw out local stories, and develop a bespoke programme for public visits, workshops and schools activities. You can view the exhibition panels on People's Collection Wales here (including soldiers stories from each location to date). View more about the travels of the 'Remembering for Peace' exhibition through 2016-17 to:


Soldiers Stories: Behind the Names

SoldierWorking closely with Wales at War, WCIA have been offering workshops supporting schools and community groups to research the faces and the stories behind the names in the Book of Remembrance. Our ambition, with the support of local volunteers, is to share 200 Welsh soldiers' stories, with a range of perspectives, in a wide variety of creative formats - exhibition displays, digital stories / videos, online writeups, local talks and school projects.

Soldiers Stories Exhibition Panels

Each exhibition host venue have engaged volunteers in researching and selecting focal stories for display, these can be viewed here on People's Collection Wales.

'The Soldier and the Statesman'

Working with Gwynedd Museums and Snowdonia National Park Authority, WCIA have been supporting learners to also explore the contrasting stories of two of Wales' most high profile WW1 figures:

  • War poet Hedd Wyn (Ellis Humphrey Evans) from Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd - a prominent peace figure and reluctant soldier, whose death in Passchendaele in 1917 came to symbolise the loss of a generation.
  • Prime Minister David Lloyd George from Llanystumdwy, Caernarfonshire - leader of the UK's WW1 war effort and widely credited with ending the war and leading the post-WW1 Paris Peace Process.
Discovering your own Relatives, or Histories from your Community
  • If you know the name or other details of a relative / research person of interest, but are unsure of their regiment, try the Commonwealth War Graves Commmission search database.
  • For broader guidance on tracing your relatives’ involvement in the First World War, visit here.
  • For further information on the Welsh Government Secondary School Grants scheme visit here
  • For further information on Cadw’s Grants for War Memorials scheme visit here

Soldiers Stories - from WW1 to Today

The Book of Remembrance and the Temple of Peace were commissioned in the hope of avoiding conflict after WW1. However, 100 years later the search for peace remains as pressing as ever, with each generation suffering tragic losses to the forces of war. 

Conscientious Objectors to War and 'The Peace Builders'

As with recent conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, through WW1 people held a wide diversity of views as to whether we should be pursuing war. Whilst many men in particular signed up to go to the front, many were in 'reserved occupations' critical to the economy - such as farming.

But many objected to war on grounds of conscience, and with the introduction of compulsory military subscription in 1916, over 900 men across Wales became Conscientious Objectors. WCIA's 'Belief and Action' exhibition, supported by Cymru'n Cofio, explores the explores the diversity of views on conflict and peace over the last century, and in particular the heritage of resistance to war.

Many ex-soldiers, servicemen and women returned from the trenches determined to build a more peaceful world, and in the post-WW1 decade many peace builders rose to prominent roles in society, founding movements that have defined Wales' psyche to this day. Explore more through our themes on Women, War and Peace, Temple of Peace and International Solidarity and the Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill.

A Tale of Two Poppies

The Red Poppy is well known as a remembrance symbol in the UK, for British military personnel fallen and living. Less well known is its origins as the idea of an American teacher in 1918, Moina Belle Michael, who conceived the silk poppy as a blood red symbol. “I pledged to keep the faith, and always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Field as a sign of remembrance.“ Moina Belle Michael.

The White Poppy was adopted from the 1920s by women’s movements, as a symbol of peace. A generation who had lost husbands, siblings and children grew unhappy at the increased use of the red poppy for military recruitment, and in 1926 the ‘No More War’ movement proposed the rare white poppy to remember all victims of war – soldiers, civilians, refugees, families –and to symbolise ‘Remembering for Peace’.

The ‘Wales for Peace’ Icon is a modern fusion of the white poppy and the red poppy, symbolising peace emerging from conflict, and the importance of dialogue between different ideas and world views that is essential to building and maintaining peace – internationally, in our communities, and as individuals.

Other symbolic poppies include the black poppy - representing BME and indigenous forces who have died in war - and the purple poppy, representing animals who die in war. View BBC article on different poppy perspectives.

#PoppiesTour: Weeping Window Collaboration with 14-18NOW

weeping windowThroughout Autumn 2016, alongside the visit of 'Poppies: Weeping Window' by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper to Caernarfon Castle, WCIA's Wales for Peace project were delighted to be working alongside 14-18NOW, Cadw, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, Gwynedd Museums and Mantell Gwynedd to support involvement of community groups and volunteers in exploring the impact of WW1 on Gwynedd. Extending far beyond the exhibitions and volunteer programme in the castle to include the development of a Caernarfon Peace Trail, Schools Conferences and Peace Heroes Awards, you can view WCIA's Autumn 2016 Gwynedd 'Remembering for Peace' partnership programme here.

During Summer 2017, Poppies: Weeping Window will be on display at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay from 8 August to 24 September, and WCIA are again delighted to be working with the Senedd, 14-18NOW and Glamorgan partners to develop a Welsh launch of the 'Women, War and Peace' exhibition with international photojournalist Lee Karen Stow for display in the Oriel.

'Nawr yr Awr / Now the Hero' 2018

Brangwyn PanelsThe Brangwyn Panels, displayed today in Swansea's Guildhall, were commissioned by the House of Lords to World War One war artist Sir Frank Brangwyn, a Welshman born in Bruges, Flanders, to commemorate the dead of WW1.

However, on their unveiling in 1933, peers decided that the 'bright and fruity' images from across the British Empire - which sought to portray fought-for ideals such as freedom, equality and emancipation from slavery - were too indelicate for their chamber.

The new Brangwyn Hall in Swansea secured the panels in 1934, and these were restored in 2014 to their former rich glory. To mark the centenary of the end of the war in Sept-Nov 2018, Wales for Peace will be working with acclaimed Welsh artist Marc Rees and a broad range of community partners to deliver a programme of events, 'Nawr yr Awr / Now the Hero,' using the heritage of the Brangwyn Panels to explore the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those in Wales who sought to build a better world after the Armistice - and, with community groups and schools, to explore lessons in peace building for today.

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