Yesterday’s Western Mail, like many other papers, contained a lot of coverage about the start of the First World War 100 years ago. Part of the coverage included a reprint of the paper’s editorial from 4th August 1914, justifying, and supporting the decision to go to war.
But it was the final sentence which caught my eye. It read:
“In times to come, if Russia does become a menace to us in the East, well, England, allied with Japan, can deal with that situation.”
I suppose that it was a long time ago – I don’t think they would have dreamed of calling the Western Mail the ‘National Newspaper of Wales’ in those days.
It wasn’t just the Western Mail, though; another story on the same theme in yesterday’s paper referred to an obelisk at St Symphorien dedicated to the “German and English” soldiers who died in the Battle of Mons. Much of what was said and written at the time portrayed it as a war between England and Germany with a few supporting characters from elsewhere. England, Britain, and the UK were more interchangeable then than now, to the extent that the second and third were used at all. History is always changing.
It’s too easy to see this conflation of England and the UK as being some sort of slight to Wales; but it was the accepted norm at the time – even in Wales. Sometimes, it feels as though we are not making much progress, but stories like these help to underline how far we’ve come in building the confidence and identity of a nation which was all but invisible a century ago. There’s still some way to go, though.