Hedd Wyn

  • August 1, 2013 - robphillips

On July 31st 1917, Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known by his bardic name of Hedd Wyn died at Pilckem Ridge. A native of Trawsfynydd, he was conscripted into the army as a result of the Military Service Act 1916 and won the chair at the National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead a few days after his death.

The National Library has already digitised a copy of  winning poem, Yr Arwr, but further material from Bangor University has also been digisited as part of the project and will be available to view later in the year.

Remembering the War

  • July 15, 2013 - robphillips

Most of the items we have digitized as part of the World War 1914-1918 and the Welsh Experience project, dates from the war itself. They reflect the experience of the people of Wales as was written down actually during the War. We’ve also digitised some items of the post-war period that looked back on the experience; a good example of this category is the South Wales Miners’ Library oral history interviews. However, the legacy of the conflict was felt for many years after the ceasefire in 1918 and capturing this is also important. So great was the impact of the war on communities that there was a need to ensure the memory of the war; to remember the individuals who died and remember the sacrifice of those who served. It was part of building “a land fit for heroes” as promised by David Lloyd George.

conwy4bach  conwy1bach

Communities across the country formed committees to raise memorials in the form of statues, plaques, playgrounds or community buildings. Such a committee was set up in Penmaenmawr on February 3rd 1919 and the minutes of the committee are now held at Conwy Archives. This is one of the items selected for digitization, and the story is fascinating.

An the initial meeting, the committee decided to build a community hall with a library. Almost immediately there was a conflict with the Men’s Institute who were also planning to build a hall. There were problems raising funds and a further public meeting was called. The outcome of the meeting was a new committee and a vote amongst the residents on the options of a hall, library, playground or scholarships or various combinations. Once again the people chose the hall but by November it was clear that such a plan was unaffordable. The committee the decided to erect a memorial in the form of a Celtic cross but location was not confirmed until November 1920 and at that meeting there was further opposition. A proposal was then agreed to cooperate with the Men’s Institute and combine their plan for a new hall and memorial.

By November 1923 the committee discussed the wording of the memorial wall and by May 1925, they were organizing the unveiling. The last meeting of the committee was on 14 September 1926, almost 8 years after the war ended. The committee’s problems however were not over, there was a £400 deficit to raise but Penmaenmawr got its memorial and it stands proudly to this day.

Project update – June 2013

  • June 17, 2013 - robphillips

Some time has passed since I last gave an update on the progress of the project on the blog. Since the fire back in April we have been working hard to ensure that work on the project continues and will finish on time. There is much to report.

The preparatory  and scanning work has now been completed.  253,800 images have been created and over 550 minutes of recordings of oral history interviews have been digitised. We have created electronic text files from typed transcriptions of the content of the recordings to enable searching, and these have been checked by volunteers. We are transforming these files to TEI format.

We are also working to ensure adequate metadata for each item. Catalogue records for items from the collections of the National Library already exist, and other libraries have provided metadata for their material. The staff here are working to convert this metadata to catalogue records in the Virtua system  following agreed standards for project metadata. The intention is to complete this work by the end of the month.

The development team has been busy ensuring workflows for ingesting digital assets to the National Library’s digital repository, Vital, are completed. We’ve had to develop new workflows for different types of material, two of them are now ready for use and the final two, for images and archival material, are scheduled to be ready by early July. We have begun to ingest material to Vital, using these new workflows.

Dafydd Tudur, NLW’s Rights Manager is continuing to assess IPR risks on items in the National Library’s collection and contacting potential sources of information about rights holders. Work on assessing IPR risks for material from partner libraries is nearly complete.

A lot of work has taken place on developing an interface for the project. A test version of the website has been created, using test data, although significant development work still needs to be completed before we can begin user testing.

Good progress on the work with local archives. Back in March we went to Gwynedd Archives to prepare metadata and scan items from the collections. As a result of this work we were able to plan further digitisation of collections from Gwent, Glamorgan, Conwy and Flintshire Archives. Work has begun at Gwent and Glamorgan, and the team will visit Conwy Archive next week.

So much has been done in recent weeks with more to keep us very busy.

MI 7b – the discovery of a lost propaganda archive of the Great War

  • April 15, 2013 - robphillips

This is part of a series of blog posts by people who have stories to tell about items which form part of the Welsh Experience of World War 1 project.

Capt A Lascelles-s Letter Dawson-s Lt James Price Lloyd - Welsh Regiment-s

Up until a few months ago, I’d never heard of MI 7b, and hadn’t much of a clue about my great uncles and their war service in the Great War. Today, April 12th is my 61st birthday, and I have been presented with an amazing story. It goes like this.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, three boys left Aberedw and went by train from Aberedw Halt on their separate journeys to the Western Front in France, and the killing fields of the Somme, Ypres, and one small corner of a foreign field whose name is unknown. Uncle Jim was shot and wounded at Mametz in the first Battle of the Somme, Uncle John was shot and wounded at the second Battle of Ypres, and Uncle Geoff was gassed early in 1918, I don’t know where or when, but he too survived. At the end of the war, Jim and John founded Craig y Nos prep school in Swansea, and Geoff went out to South Africa, where it was thought the climate would help his breathing. John died in 1954, Jim in 1955 and Geoff in 1961. They had spent all their post-war lives teaching and reached out to the young minds of very many people during that time.

What makes this story special is that when Jim was wounded, he started to write and as a result of his efforts he was recruited into a propaganda outfit run by military intelligence called MI 7. Between 1917 and 1918, he wrote extensively about tales of heroism and life in the front line trenches. His work was turned into propaganda articles that were meant for publication in allied newspapers and journals. Although his work was meant to be published, it was a highly secret operation. So secret, in fact, that immediately the war ended in November 1918, the unit MI 7 was disbanded and all its official documents were destroyed so no one would ever know it existed.

Uncle Jim was Lieutenant (later Captain) James Price Lloyd, the eldest son of the Rector of Aberedw and he took his work home with him. That is why over 150 different articles of MI 7b remain – the sole surviving archive and witness to a propaganda offensive that was directed, not at the enemy, but at the Home Front and the people of the Empire, her Colonies and Dominions.

By chance, these papers were discovered when I was clearing my aunt’s home. There at the bottom of an old leather trunk, full of stuff that was due to be sent as rubbish, was a small green pamphlet. On the front cover was the title MI 7b, for private circulation only and it was dated January 1919. It was the valedictory house journal of a secret organisation and it listed the names of all who worked there.

I looked for Uncle Jim, but I found A A Milne as well! I also found, Cecil Street the author of the Dr Priestly novels, the Frontiersman and author Roger Pocock, the Irish Poet Patrick McGill and JP Morton of Bystander fame. A little research showed me that it was a bit like the Magnificent Seven had ridden into town, except that these were more than twenty or so of the greatest literary men of their day all working for MI 7b, along with Uncle Jim!

It was then I remembered that there were family papers including Uncle Jim’s work, which had been kept in a box in a garage for many years and had lain unnoticed, unappreciated and forgotten for many years. It took me many months to sort out Uncle Jim’s papers and put them in order along with the dozens of photographs of the family taken between 1900 and 1920. The detailed picture that emerged was one that enthralled and excited me, but also scared me. I knew it was an important discovery, but I didn’t know what it was that I had. I had started out to write an account of Uncle Jim’s service record and my research notes grew into a book! It was only when I heard that the National Library was involved in a project called Casgliad y Werin Cymru – or People’s Collection Wales – and that project would feed into a wider programme, partly financed by the European Commission and called 1914-18 Europeana that I knew what to do.

I started out copy-typing the articles as I collated them – but that was too hard and too slow. I completed the collating task to identify two categories that provide the simplest of catalogues; the archive comprises “Tales of the VC” and what academics call rich or thick description of life in the trenches of the Western Front. I photographed each of the documents and tried to keep to the order in which they were written. Every page of the archive and the note books, each scrap of paper, cutting and original photographs has been digitised. In doing so, I became familiar with all the archive but, as yet, have read only a few of the texts.

The Casgliad y Werin project will achieve my objective to get the archive into the public domain so that the contents are preserved and ensure they survive, and be accessible to everyone without charge. In truth, every one of the Tales of the VC has already been bought and paid for, costing more often than not the ultimate price. I hope the relatives, the descendents of those whose heroism is recorded get to see and recognise the honour that is forever associated with their family. The tales should engender pride and respect, no matter what feelings one may hold about war and politics, for individual courage and sacrifice deserve nothing less. Another objective is to try and understand the significance of the archive; the contents may be easily read, but what does their very existence imply?

My initial reading shows me that not all the articles in the archive were “passed for publication” by the censor, though most bear the official stamp of MI 7b, or the mark of someone more senior in the War Office’s food chain. What is accepted, post correction and scrutiny, gets passed to the typing pool, some marked “Urgent”, and then was passed to biddable proprietors of newspapers and foreign news agencies. These were printed and informed public opinion, and moulded the debate on the Clapham Omnibus. Arguably, it is in the articles that weren’t used that the poignant and bitter truth is revealed. Many of the articles were too close to reality to have made it through the propaganda process without substantial revision; some of the early drafts are decidedly “off message”, but each adds a part to a vivid illustration from a contemporary perspective of a War fought almost a century ago.

“Britain’s Winged Warriors” describes the operation of the pigeon messenger service, others describe the “Evolution of the Tank”, or “How the Truth Comes to Germany By Air”; they are obvious propaganda pieces, but nonetheless interesting for that, but these general articles aren’t nearly as exciting as “A Trench Raid”, or “The Peril that Walks by Night”.  These are the right-down dirty, bloody, guts n’ glory, tell-it-like-it-is literary pictures that could illustrate a “Penny Dreadful” comic, or send frissons down the petticoats of any Edwardian parlour maid, or stirred the blood and stiffened the resolve of the young man whose call up was imminent. One thing these Military Intelligence documents all have in common is that they were intended for publication in the press throughout the Empire, her Colonies, and Dominions.  In total there are more than a hundred and fifty pencil drafts, manuscripts and typescripts, along with notebooks and maps, and each one still tells a tale. The truly exciting thing is, that all the documents were meant to have been silenced forever, because they were thought to be “too incriminating”. MI 7b was quickly disbanded in November of 1918, within days of the Armistice, and all its papers were destroyed, apparently.

Why did the Government and the Crown want MI 7 to disappear and for all the official papers to be destroyed?

The answer to the question “Why?” has yet to be answered fully, but it is very exciting to try and find out. The sheer scale of the propaganda offensive and the nature of the resources deployed to it suggests that “MI 7b – the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War” is a much bigger story than first meets the eye.

Jeremy Arter
April 2013

Copies of paper from the archive will soon be available to view as part of the Welsh Experience of World War 1 Project via the People’s Collection Wales website.
An e-book about the collection is also available.

Collecting and sharing the Welsh experience of World War One

  • March 14, 2013 - morfuddniajones

Do you have letters, photographs, postcards or other memorabilia from those who experienced the war either at home or at the Front? We aim to capture the personal experiences of the Welsh involved in the War. The war affected everyone; those who fought, and those who stayed behind.

If you have items relating to any aspect of life during the war years, please bring them along to Ruthin Library on the 18th of March or to Picton Community Centre, Haverfordwest on the 20th of March to have them preserved and shared digitally.


ww1_ruthin_m_hanner                      ww1_haverfordwest_m_hanner


For more information, read the press release on the National Library of Wales website

Collecting and sharing the Welsh experience of World War One

  • March 5, 2013 - morfuddniajones

Do you have letters, photographs, postcards or other memorabilia from those who experienced the war either at home or at the Front? We aim to capture the personal experiences of the Welsh involved in the War. The war affected everyone; those who fought, and those who stayed behind.

If you have items relating to any aspect of life during the war years, please bring them along to Pontardawe Arts Centre on the 12th of March or to Brecon Library on the 14th of March to have them preserved and shared digitally.

ww1_pontardawe_m_hanner                                       ww1_brecon_m_hanner

For more information, read the press release on the National Library of Wales website


Collecting and sharing the Welsh experience of World War One

  • February 14, 2013 - morfuddniajones

Do you have letters, photographs, postcards or other memorabilia from those who experienced the war either at home or at the Front? We aim to capture the personal experiences of the Welsh involved in the War. The war affected everyone; those who fought, and those who stayed behind.

If you have items relating to any aspect of life during the war years, please bring them along to Galeri Caernarfon on the 5th of March to have them preserved and shared digitally.

For more information, read the press release on the National Library of Wales website

Christmas in the WW1 Archives

  • January 4, 2013 - robphillips

As we come out of the Christmas period, I thought I’d share this selection of Christmas related images from the Aberystwyth Comforts for Fighters Fund archive.

Two of the cards are not really in keeping with the Christmas wish of ‘peace on earth’, but perhaps the most interesting is the representation of the 1914 Christmas truce, and the message added stating that the event was a myth. It would be interesting to know whether this was the feeling of those on the front, or added by a censor. Perhaps the production of official or semi-official cards for later years was a way of trying to avoid a repeat of the 1914 event. The 1918 card may well have been produced in advance, as of course the fighting ceased on November 11th that year, even thought the war didn’t officially end for some considerable time after that.

Archives and the First World War

  • September 18, 2012 - niawilliams

During this project we’re going to be digitising two main archives held at the National Library. The Aberystwyth Comforts Fund Papers and the Welsh Army Corps Records. The Aberystwyth Comforts Fund is made up of reams of bills and thank you letters written by the boys of Aber in thanks to Mr. Fear (Aberystwyth Comforts Fund leader) for his generosity in sending them out parcels of cigarettes etc. The amount of cigarette bills is pretty impressive considering.

Every now and again something interesting in the archives will catch your eye. There is the odd letter that makes you think. For example I saw yesterday a letter from an Aber boy saying that he would like to join the Aberystwyth YMCA however he couldn’t as he had a wife and three children waiting for him in Canada. This man had evidently emigrated to Canada before the war to have a family there, and yet he must have come back to Wales in order to fight. He must have really believed in the war. Then there are letters that come around the end of the war proclaiming the armistice and thanking God that it looked as if peace was coming at last. Many of the letters talk about God and the hope that He would guide the world to peace again. It shows a different world.

In the middle of the tenders and bills and general Paperwork that makes up the Welsh Army Corps Records  luck found a member of staff,  she found a button or a badge (see insert) which had the Welsh Dragon on it.   This made all the boring bills and tenders worth it as you never know what you’ll find in the treasure hunt that is looking through the Archives.

So watch this space you never know what we’ll find next.







The beginning of the First World War and Newspapers in Wales

  • September 18, 2012 - niawilliams

Having looked at over 40 newspapers one of the things which amazed me was the fact that the beginning of the First World War wasn’t heralded with major headlines across the front pages, but rather there would be a small article (perhaps), in some corner noting that the United Kingdom had declared war against Germany.

It’s hard to believe today, in an age when every little thing is huge news on the internet that a war which was to prove so bloody didn’t start with every single newspaper of the day shouting WAR from their front pages. To be fair it wasn’t that the newspapers ignored the war, at least not for the most part it was more a case of slipping seamlessly between the usual local news and information one week to a full coverage of what had been going on in the war the next. Often there’d only be a short sentence noting the beginning of the war, the real news was what was actually happening in the war.