Wednesday, 6 August 2014

From the past

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.


Anonymous said...

I think you need to review your own history. Your current positivism is entirely misplaced.

Yes, it is true many brave soldiers of Wales in many brave regiments have fought and died on the battlefields of Europe and elsewhere over the past century. But Wales as a 'nation' has never unequivocally allied its support to the political powers of Scotland and England in times of national crisis. Nor indeed has the population of the country ever attempted to rid itself of these and countless other 'militant trouble makers' over the decades.

Parallels with the Israeli/Palestine predicament are easy to spot. Israeli's have nothing against peaceful loving and peaceful living Palestinians. And Palestinians have nothing against peaceful loving and peaceful living Israeli's. But when either population allows its own 'militants' to cause annoyance and irritation for the other side trouble will ensue.

Wales will only find a peaceful and rightful place within the UK when it too finds the courage to stand up, single out and confront its own demons lurking within the population.

Until such, English and Scottish attitudes to Wales and Welshness will not change.

G Horton-Jones said...

Not sure which anon this is but here we go. Israel exists today because the West
was and still is on a guilt trip about the holocaust. Israel as a land entity was forced upon the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Palestinians are the victims of Western Politics.
Looking back the Crusades are part of the same process. The West wanted Jerusalem to control the overland spice Trade from the far East.
Am I a demon in being committed to Welsh Independence No I want the basic right to life on my terms not those decided for me by my neighbours

Anonymous said...

But Mr Jones, isn't that what most English and Scottish want for Wales too, independence.

How long is it going to take for you and yours to persuade your neighbours?

G Horton-Jones said...

I suspect that Solomon faced with demands for devolution would have opted for a Federal system of Government.
but in answer to your point there will never be a situation where the people of England or Scotland for that matter will be in a position to grant independence for Wales

In 1914 people were well aware that the Russian navy had been wiped out by the Japanese navy only a few years earlier hence the editorial

Spirit of BME said...

I fear we are not making much progress. The Welsh partake in sports events under the Union Flag and are blind to the fact that it does not represent us (thankfully).
Being a bit of a WW1 geek ,my reading of the language of the time; it was that the decisions about war and every other major issue was made in England by the English ,so people and other powers just said it as it was. Again ,no change there, but now the powers that be, use Britain more as a “courtesy” to keep the “other natives” happy

Anonymous said...

There isn't too much difference between the people of Wales and Palestine.

The Palestinians only 'discovered' their own identity when the PLO came into being. The Welsh did likewise when Plaid Cymru started up.

Thank goodness the English aren't as horrid as the Israeli's otherwise we might find life a whole lot toucher this side of the border.

John Dixon said...


A brave assertion, but it's like a chicken and egg question. Whilst the foundation of a movement to promote a particular national identity can certainly increase the attachment of people to that identity, could such a movement ever be established unless there was a degree of national identity already in existence for it to promote? History - including the history of nationality and national attachment - doesn't come in nice easy chunks which have beginnings and ends; it comes as a continuum in which identities and nationalities sometimes strengthen and sometimes weaken. It's only be trying to pretend otherwise that anyone can make such sweeping assertions as yours.