Themes: Belief and Action

'Belief and Action' explores the diversity of views on conflict and peace over the last century, in particular the heritage of resistance to war. From Conscientious Objectors who refused to fight in WW1 and WW2, to more familiar recent movements such as opposition to nuclear proliferation and the Iraq War, how have people and communities across Wales acted on their beliefs - and how would you do so today? 

Exhibition  Exhibition Tour   Events Archive    Learning Resources    WW1 Conscientious Objectors     Hidden Histories    

Wales & the Spanish Civil War     Conscientious Objectors WW2 to today   Communities of Resistance: References         

'Belief and Action' Exhibition

The Belief and Action Exhibition from Wales for Peace, supported by Cymru'n Cofio / Wales Remembers 1914-18 through (MALD, Welsh Government's Museums Archives and Libraries Division), explores the reasons why some conscientious objectors chose to take the difficult path of resisting conscription in the First World War. It looks at some of the problems that they faced, when hundreds of thousands of men believed it was their duty, and sacrificed their lives, to fight for their country. What makes an individual take a stand when they feel that their conscience won’t allow them to follow a certain path? It also explores the legacy of these actions. In the hundred years since the First World War, how have people in Wales followed their beliefs with action in the search for peace.

The exhibition launch in Pontypridd, was held in October 2016 at St. David's Uniting Church. View full album of launch event on Flickr here, (including exhibition panels).

The exhibition attracted over 2,500 visitors at Cardiff Bay's Pierhead Building through November 2016, and was on display in Lampeter Library, Ceredigion from 5th - 25th May 2017, including a public workshop on 17th May.

If your community would be interested in hosting a future 'Belief and Action' display, or researching, sharing and producing short digitial stories - please email

Belief and Action Tour Report 

Between 2016 and 2019, WCIA's Belief & Action exhibition has toured to 14 venues Wales-wide as a catalyst for community projects, and been seen by many thousands of people.

Download here the WCIA Belief and Action Project and Exhibition Tour - April 2018 Report to MALD.  

Venues included:

  • Abergavenny - National Eisteddfod
  • Pontypridd - St. David's Uniting Church
  • Cardiff Bay - Pierhead Gallery
  • Lampeter University Library
  • Carmarthen Museum
  • Cardiff, Firing Lime Museum
  • Aberystwyth - Morlan Centre
  • Llandudno - St John's Methodist Church
  • Ystradgynlais - Maesydderwen School
  • Bridgend - Tabernacl Chapel
  • Criccieth - Lloyd George Museum
  • Tintern Abbey
  • Cardifff -Temple of Peace
  • Bala - Cymdeithas y Cymod

Learning Resources - Exploring Belief and Action

Explore the 'big questions' behind belief and action... Is war ever justified? Is it cowardly to refuse to fight? Who do you believe? Should you always follow the beliefs of your friends, of your community? If you think your government is wrong - what do you do? How do you stand up and be counted? How do you support soldiers but not war? Would you go to prison for something you believed in? What is your future if you stick to your principles? How can the actions of one person make a difference? How do your actions follow your beliefs? Want to find out more? 

Here you can explore WCIA's Belief and Action exhibition online, and dig deeper, finding out more about the information on the panels and even making your own contributions. Click on the question you are interested in to find out more, and to access learning resources through Hwb (digital learning for Wales)

Learning Materials: Wales for Peace have input into the learning resources 'Teach Peace' and 'Conscience and Conviction' available through the UK Peace Education Network (PEN), hosted courtesy of Quakers in Britain. 

Peace Pledge Union UK as part of their Conscientious Objectors project have produced useful up-to-date references on Conscientious Objection Today around the world - still practiced in Finland, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Russia, the USA, Israel, Turkey among ohers.

Welsh Conscientious Objectors - The Pearce Register

The Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors

Over 900 men from Wales objected to fighting in WW1 as a matter of conscience. In 1916, with the introduction of military conscription, many conscientious objectors were imprisoned for their beliefs, their stories largely hidden from history. To mark the centenary of conscription their bravery was recognised with the unveiling of a new public ‘register of conscientious objectors’ at Wales’ foremost peace festival – the National Eisteddfod - in Abergavenny in August 2016.  

WCIA are indebted to Cyril Pearce, former Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds, for his meticulous life’s work in collating the ‘Pearce Register’. He has been working on the history of British 1914-18 war resisters for some time, having published 'Comrades in Conscience' in 2001, and will be releasing a new book, Communities of Resistance, in 2017. 

Please click here for guidance on searching and using the Pearce Register within WCIA's Peace Map. Click here to submit or share a hidden history from your local community or own research.

Hidden Histories from WW1

Wales for Peace are seeking volunteers and community groups interested in researching, sharing and producing short digitial stories about conscientious objectors from across Wales - please email to express interest.

Wales for Peace / David Davies Memorial Institute Lectures

Voices of Conscience - short Digital Stories (5 mins each)

Shared with permission from South Wales Quakers Area Meeting, produced by Breaking Barriers Commmunity Arts. This resource aims to explore a lesser-known aspect of World War I through the true stories of people who made a personal stand against war on grounds of conscience, and who looked for another way. The stories shed light on the World War I period, but are also relevant to contemporary society. 

Doves and Hawks - Audio Recording (26 mins)

Shared with permission from producer and Wales for Peace speaker Aled Eirug.

Harry M Riding Collection on People's Collection Wales (Digitised by Wales for Peace volunteers)

Harry M Riding was a WW1 Conscientious Objector from Christchurch area of Newport, one of over 850 from Wales who refused to fight in the First World War on grounds of conscience, and was arrested and imprisoned for his beliefs. This collection, including images of Harry before WW1, with other 'conchies' in Dartmoor Prison, and also the diary of Florence Jones - his future wife, who supported him through his stand against war - is shared with kind permission of Harry's grand-daughter Marie Skinner, of Griffithstown, Torfaen.

Llyn y Fan Fach, Carmarthenshire

In pursuit of a clean water supply for Llanelli, the water works at Llyn Y Fan Fach, Carmarthenshire, were built by 200 Conscientious Objectors who refused to support WWI. Some stayed with local families. Dyfed Archaeological Trust are investigating the remains of the water works and the stories of the men who built it and the community they lived with; if you are interested in volunteering or helping research, please contact or .

Wales and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39

Wise and Foolish Dreamers was a major WCIA project from 2007 to 2011, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which looked at Welsh participation in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Welsh International Brigades and relevance to people in Wales today. Under the theme of 'Belief and Action', this provides an alternative counterpoint to conscientious objection as many individuals - in particular from South Wales' mining communities - went against the government of the time, to take up arms against fascism and injustices of the Franco regime. 

The project featured a major touring exhibition, which visited over 20 locations throughout Wales, with 87 accompanying workshops engaging over 2,500 pupils and 300 adults. School pupils who attended the exhibition engaged in thoughtful discussion on related issues such as governance, the role of war, the nature of the heroic, the value and nature of history, and our relationship with other people and other parts of the world. Posters, workbooks and DVDs were provided to teachers, so that they could continue developing these themes in school.

The WCIA has since added to these resources by producing a comprehensive Education Pack, complete with teachers’ notes, lesson plans and student handling cards, which allow the learning to progress independent of the exhibition tour. Click here for full details of our 'Wise and Foolish Dreamers' resources.

Conscientious Objectors in WW2 and Beyond

From the Peace Pledge Union 'Conscientious Objectors project:
  • In WW1, 16,000 across the UK registered as Conscientious Objectors. This set a precedent for future generations.    
  • In WW2, 60,000 objected to conscription. 
  • Post-WW2, 10,000 refused military service. 
  • Compulsory military service (conscription) ended in 1963, and with it the requirement for civilians and citizens to register their conscientious objection.
  • Since 1970, about 40 military personnel have resigned service as conscientious objectors; this figure almost certainly under-represents the number of armed forces personnel with conscientious concerns. Actual numbers are not published, and the right to claim a conscientious discharge is little known and therefore little exercised.

Organisations such as Veterans for Peace bring military and ex-servicemen together to campaign for prevention of conflict through peaceful solutions today.

Conscientious Objection remains an issue today around the world, with military conscription still practiced in the USA, Israel, Finland, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Russia, and Turkey among others.


Wales for Peace Vlog and Blog Feature on protest and objection to war, from IWM 'Fighting for Peace' exhibition & debate, July 2017. 

Communities of Resistance: Publications and References

Pilgrim of Peace - A Life of George M Ll Davies by Jen Llewellyn - Y Lolfa

Daring to Defy - War Resistance in Port Talbot by Philip Adams - Briton Ferry Books

Not in our Name - War Dissent in Briton Ferry by Philip Adams - Briton Ferry Books


"A fascinating and powerful expose of anti war events and the fight for civil rights in the Port Talbot area of south Wales during World War One."

'Everyone from the area, my area, and well beyond, should know about these people and their struggles for peace. They can now tale their rightful place as part of the rich and revelatory history of this extraordinary place.' Michael Sheen, Actor

Anti war movements today are an integral part of our society and democracy; but in World War One, objectors to war in Port Talbot had to demonstrate incredible bravery and endure major hardships to stand up for their beliefs." Craig Owen, WCIA Head of Wales for Peace  

Events Archive

Belief and Action Exhibition, Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay, November 2016.

Belief and Action Schools Workshops, Pontypridd / Rhondda Cynon Taff, October 2016 - view Flickr album.

Belief and Action Exhibition, St. David's Uniting Reform Church, Pontypridd, October 2016 including high profile Launch Event. View Flickr album.

Conscientious Objectors hidden histories, landmarks and activities explored throughout Caernarfon Peace Trail, October - November 2016, explored further in Gwynedd Schools Conference.

Cytun (Churches Tent) Lecture by Aled Eirug on Opposition to WW1 @ National Eisteddfod, Abergavenny, August 2016 - view Flickr album.

National Media launch of Welsh Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors, August 2016, Cardiff / Abergavenny.

Public lecture by Aled Eirug as part of Gwyll Arall Festival, Caernarfon, 9 July 2016. Article here.

Community event 'Opposition to WW1 across the UK Context' by Rupert Gude at Morlan Multifaith Centre, Aberystwyth. Article here.

Public lecture and debate (to mark centenary of military conscription) by Aled Eirug at University of Wales Aberystwyth, 5 March 2016 as part of 'Remembering for Peace' event series with DDMI (David Davies Memorial Institute) and Dept of International Politics; along with launch of autobiography of George M Ll Davies by Jen Llewellyn at National Library of Wales. Video:

This week WCIA marked the centenary of military conscription in March 1916, with a lecture on 'Conscientious Objection' and opposition to #WW1 in Wales by ex-BBC Head of News, Aled Eirug, with Aberystwyth University's departments of History and International Politics. Over 800 welsh COs have a 'hidden history' waiting to be uncovered - and it was an inspiration to follow the lecture with Jen Llewellyn's book launch on George M Ll Davies, "pilgrim of peace," now available from Lolfa Publishers and Amazon. Do you know of or have a hidden history to share about people in Wales who took a stand against war? The Wales for Peace team would love to hear from you!

Posted by Cymru dros Heddwch / Wales for Peace on Saturday, 5 March 2016
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