Launching ‘The Welsh Experience of the First World War’ website

  • November 23, 2013 - morfuddniajones

A unique digital archive The Welsh Experience of the First World War ( was launched today at The College Merthyr Tydfil by Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills.

The Welsh experience of the First World War was developed as a collaborative initiative led by The National Library of Wales, in partnership with the Archives and Special Collections of Wales (partners are Aberystwyth University; Bangor University, Cardiff University; Swansea University; the University of Wales Trinity St David; BBC Cymru Wales, The People’s Collection, Wales, and archives and local records offices that are part of ARCW: the Archives and Records Council of Wales).
The project was funded by a £500,000 grant from the Jisc e-Content programme as part of their work in support of education and research, and through support from the partner organisations.

Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills said:

‘The Library has been for 20 years a trusted provider of digital content from its collections, based on a series of collaborative projects. ‘The Welsh Experience Of the First World War’ is an example of Wales-wide collaboration to create an important new digital resource and one that will prove invaluable for teaching, research, and public engagement, worldwide, free of charge, for all those interested in this important period of history’.

‘Digital resources can unlock our past for a variety of audiences, in Wales and around the world. This very special digital archive will be widely used for education and research purposes, especially as we approach the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. It reveals the hidden history of World War One, demonstrating its effects on all aspects of Welsh life. The archive will contribute greatly to the First World War commemorations in Wales by providing a comprehensive online facility for all sectors of education, local and family history researchers’ he said.

Paola Machionni, Jisc’s programme manager digitisation said:
‘I am delighted that Jisc have been able to support the development of this resource. It is a prime example of the benefits that digitisation can bring to researchers and the public at large by creating a virtual collection that reunites material from different physical locations. The Library and its Welsh partners are providing a really valuable, openly accessible, resource that can search collections of newspapers, images, sound and archival material both in English and Welsh.’

Aled Gruffydd Jones, the National Library’s Chief Executive and Librarian said that:

‘The National Library is proud to have led this important and unique initiative with the Archives and Special Collections of Wales. We feel sure that this innovative new digital resource will prove invaluable for teaching, research, and public engagement.

He added his thanks to the Minister for his support and to Jisc and the partner institutions ‘without whom The Welsh Experience of the First World War could not be delivered’.

The formal launch of The Welsh Experience of the First World War also marks the beginning of The National Library of Wales’ Community Partnership Initiative. This will enable more people across Wales to access the Library’s extensive printed, manuscript and visual collections. The programme was announced at the event by John Griffiths AM, Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport in the company of several partners from Merthyr Tydfil.

 Notes for editors

1.    ‘The Welsh experience of the First World War’ is a digital archive that contains digitised archives and special collections of Wales. The content comes from the partners organisations: The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth University; Bangor University, Cardiff University; Swansea University; the University of Wales Trinity St David; BBC Cymru Wales, and archives and local records offices that are part of the Archives and Records Council of Wales (ARCW). Community generated content was also created through workshops run by the People’s Collections Wales.
2.    The project benefited from funding provided by Jisc. The total cost of the archive was £1,000,000. Funding of £500,000 was provided by Jisc, and the balance provided by the project partners.
Jisc offers digital services for UK education and research. The charity does this to achieve its vision for the UK to be the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world.
Working together across the higher education, further education and skills sectors, Jisc provides trusted advice and support, reduces sector costs across shared network, digital content, IT services and procurement negotiations, ensuring the sector stays ahead of the game with research and development for the future.
Find out more at or contact the press team on
3.    The project was launched on November 28th 2013, at The College Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. It will be sustained over the long term by The National Library of Wales.
The digital archive will support all aspects of First World War commemoration activities in Wales, in consultation with the First Minister’s  First World War Commemoration Programme Board, Chaired by Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.
Historian Dr. Paul O’Leary of Aberystwyth University has used the resource to prepare an online exhibition (‘The First World War and the Industrial Valleys’). Dr O’Leary has said “It would have taken many years in the archives to find these resources and bring them together in a way that demonstrates the impact of the First World War on south Wales. Having the digital archive freely available will be of tremendous benefit for research and teaching”.

Further Information:
Elin Hâf 01970 632 471 or

A Trench Raid

  • August 15, 2013 - morfuddniajones

The following extract is taken from “MI 7b, the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War”.

A Trench Raid (21 September 1917)

At last, after what seemed years of waiting, the long-expected signal came, and we filed into the sap, and then crawled cautiously across No Man’s Land to the shelter of some friendly shell-craters about forty yards from the Boche wire. The signal for the final rush was to be an intensive bombardment on the flanks of the position we were to attack.

We did not have to wait long. Punctual to the second, the artillery strafe commenced and simultaneously a blinding sheet of flame and an earth-shaking roar told us that H.E. had completed the work of our wire cutters in blasting a gap in the entanglements. The next few minutes were crowded in the extreme. The whole party made a dash for the opening in the wire, scrambled over the parapet, and, as had been arranged, divided their forces, and bombed their way, right and left, down the trench. A sentry, who had been posted quite close to the point of entry, had been blown backwards off his perch by the force of the explosion, and was no longer in a condition to dispute our passage. The only real resistance we encountered was on the right where a machine gun team hurriedly dismounted their gun from its emplacement, and directed a stream of bullets down the trench in the hope of catching the attackers unawares when the rounded the traverse. But the Bombing Sergeant, crawling along the parapet, dropped a couple of Mill’s Bombs in the middle of the party, and then jumped down afterwards lest there should be any mistake. So it was that a battered machine-gun, plus a pair of stout Bavarians, very much the worse for wear, were shortly being passed to the rear.

Naturally the time is limited on a raid, and it is prudent to get back to the shelter of your own trenches before the enemy has time to recover from his surprise, and starts to retaliate. But before we turned back we lighted the fuse of an “infernal machine” which had been part of the R.E.’s contribution to the night’s entertainment, and placed it in an unobtrusive position at the foot of the traverse, with the object of discouraging any Huns from annoying us in our retirement. We returned to the original starting point to find the “moppers-up” had lured several unwilling captives from their under-ground funk-holes, and had already started to shepherd them across No Man’s Land on the first stage of their journey to England. As we picked our way through the shell-holes on our way home, our machine-guns were sweeping the Boche parapet on our right and left to restrain any vulgar curiosity on their part as to the fate of their brethren. The last of the excursionists dropped over our friendly parapet just as two infernal machines, in quick succession, rent the night with the roar of their explosion, and a salvo of “woolly bears”, the first fruits of retaliation, burst high up in the air over the ground we had just vacated.

The article, “A Trench Raid” was written by Lt J.P. Lloyd of the Welch Regiment in September 1917, and is one of 150 or so articles and stories he wrote. His work is the sole surviving archive of military propaganda from a secret outfit designated MI 7b. All the official documents of MI 7b were thought to have been destroyed at the war’s end.

Jeremy Arter
August 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.

Lt James Price Lloyd and the “Tales of the VC”

  • August 15, 2013 - morfuddniajones

Lt James Price Lloyd was my paternal great uncle and as a Second-lieutenant, he had been shot and wounded in the first Battle of the Somme in the fighting at Mametz on Friday, the 7th July 1916. Whilst recuperating, he responded to a War Office trawl for officers to write articles about the war. His work was accepted and on 7th July 1917, a year to the day since he had been wounded, he reported for duty with MI 7b.

He thought he was joining a unit set up to counter Hun propaganda, but that was just a cover story. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he was joining a strategic propaganda offensive aimed directly at the Home Front, and the home fronts of the Empire, her dominions and colonies. Allied nations too were targeted, as were neutral nations who needed to be swayed towards our cause.

MI 7b (1) had been set up in response to the perceived threat that support for the war was waning, that revolution was in the air, that there was discontent in the factories, and saboteurs active amongst us! In the autumn of 1916, through to the dread dark days of early 1917, disaster loomed. The nation, traumatised by the horrendous losses on the Somme front, faced insurrection in Ireland, revolution abroad, and was in danger of losing the battle at sea. The fear of losing the war and the prospect of famine brought home the reality of a modern, total war. To have any hope of preparing the nation not only to accept the huge losses that the strategy of attrition would inevitably demand, but also to sustain their faith that the cause was just and noble, and the sacrifice necessary, there had to be a counter-balance to the Roll of Honour.

The authorities recognised that they had to seize the agenda, set the tone, improve and sustain morale. To that end, the War Office trawled for officers with some time on their hands to write about the war, especially the human interest side. Capt Alan Dawson fielded their submissions and set up what became MI 7b (1).

It attracted some of the finest literary talent of the day, many of whom were serving in the Army and had connections to the popular newspapers and magazines of the time. Similarly illustrators and artists were recruited and so it was that MI 7b (1) was able to produce high-grade propaganda material in both graphic and text media from the outset. Given its connections and the newspapers’ insatiable appetite for war news, MI 7b (1) became a major source of news that was then reported by the press all over the English speaking world.

From August 1917, Lt James Lloyd wrote first-hand accounts of battles and daily life in the trenches, and Captain Bruce Bairnsfather provided cartoons and illustrations that gave the imagination a visual hook. It is clear that their work was integrated as a result of a clearly developed editorial strategy. Bairnsfather’s cartoon character “Old Bill” and his “Fragments from France” were a national sensation – Old Bill became the archetypal “Old Contemptible” and a much loved figure world wide. Lloyd’s retrospectives on fighting in France, along with Bairnsfather’s illustrations, allowed those on the world’s home fronts to identify with the men at war, and get that much closer to what they thought the war may be really like.

Lloyd had much to learn about writing propaganda as many of his drafts were too close to reality to have been passed fit for publication. Some of the most poignant and moving accounts he wrote, never made it beyond the manuscript. These “rejected” articles contain much that would otherwise remain hidden. In my view, these articles are that much more interesting and shed a truer and brighter light on events that went unreported.

As the propaganda agenda moved on, Lloyd was tasked with producing “Tales of the VC”, and so that his reports on the fighting in France weren’t stale, he was sent back to the Western Front to observe first hand. It is clear that Lloyd wasn’t the only MI 7b officer to undertake such travels, as A A Milne, too, undertook secret work in France at some time during 1918. Officers from MI 7b travelled the Western Front extensively witnessing, as opposed to taking a further active part in, the battles and major campaigns of the war from early 1917 onwards. Those accounts were their main source of war news reporting and were then distributed for publication around the globe. There are examples of newspapers carrying 2 or 3 articles sourced from MI 7b on a single page.

With War Office support, what had started out as a “one man and his dog” operation in early 1916, became a highly successful broadcast medium with global reach within 18 months or so, producing an estimate of 7,500 articles for syndication world wide. Had the “Green Book” – the secret valedictory house journal of MI 7b (1) – not been discovered by chance, those writing for MI 7b (1) would have remained incognito, and its secret work only imagined, as so little of its official archive is known to exist. A A Milne is now the best known member of MI 7b, and the current media interest in his role risks eclipsing the wider story. Milne was not the only surprise to be found on the inside cover of the Green Book, posted elsewhere on this forum. The list of members and their literary achievements is truly astonishing.

The 150 remaining articles in the archive are of a high literary standard and the articles and stories each stand on their own merit. They would be interesting enough on their own, but in the context of their being examples of a secret campaign, they are an invaluable source. Written by someone who had served and been wounded in the front line trenches, Lloyd’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into the realities of the fighting, and of life in France. His published work for MI 7b (1) is extensive, and I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me find examples. However, not everything was published, and the unpublished drafts provide tantalising glimpses into the realities as perceived at the time and written in the lingua franca of that era with its richness of slang, its wry observations on the detail of daily trench life.

It is also fascinating to view the propaganda production process in action; from idea to pencil draft, to manuscript and green-ink correction and censorship, to the typing pool and beyond to the higher echelons of the War Office food chain where it may be “Passed for publication.” Then, the article is there on the page of a Tasmanian journal, sitting alongside other articles from MI 7b. Each of the articles are under the name of the serving officer who wrote them giving no indication that they are the principal parts of a highly secret and sophisticated propaganda offensive.

If the newspaper articles indicate the scale and reach of the operation, the discovery of the Green Book indicates the calibre of its operatives and like the Rosetta stone, unlocks some of the mystery.

Why were so many talented and intelligent men willing to write propaganda in support for a war that each of them knew would result in further widespread slaughter? I believe that that they knew it to be their duty. They were recruited ostensibly to take part in a counter-propaganda offensive, and although that may have been plausible for a while, it is clear from what is written in the Green Book, that by the war’s end, some of these were men who felt that their integrity had been compromised.

If all their work was meant for publication, what was the secret? The real secret of MI 7b (1) was that the Crown and Parliament had a very great need for it, far greater than history may yet have acknowledged.

Why was it disbanded so quickly? The rapid disbandment of MI 7b did not affect its role and function, for that carried on. I think that Lords Northcliffe and Beaverbrook recognised that MI 7b (1) was a first class news agency with global reach, in effect, the information superhighway of its day. They took control of its infrastructure to further their newspaper interests, and MI 7b’s role and function morphed via the Ministry of Information through to the BBC.

From Adelphi House to Bush House!

With its records destroyed, and all its members bound by the Official Secrets Act, the story of MI 7b (1) might have remained an interesting, but obscure, footnote in history. With any luck, this discovery may yet inform our thinking about the First World War, and play a significant role in our understanding of the true nature of the conflict and the context in which it was reported.

Jeremy Arter
August 2013

“Tales of the VC”, 96 of the 150 or so articles can be found on:

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.

Participatory Design Workshop

  • March 12, 2013 - morfuddniajones

A Participatory Design Workshop was held at the National Library of Wales on the 6th of February 2013.
The workshop was collaborated by staff at the National Library of Wales and a team from the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield who are working on a project entitled Participating in Search Design: a study of George Thomason’s English Newsbooks. The goal of the workshop was to pilot a participatory design approach to the development of the library’s World War I digital resource by engaging with potential end users. The range of different media present in the archive means that compiling the digital resource has posed significant questions and challenges to the design of the interface.

The report by the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield can be seen by clicking on the link below

NLW WWI Design Group Report

Here are some photographs taken on the day.

DSCN2321hanner                     DSCN2314hanner

DSCN2316hanner      DSCN2320hanner


Creating metadata at Caernarfon Archives

  • March 4, 2013 - morfuddniajones

A team of us visited Caernarfon Archives today to prepare metadata for Gwynedd Archives that is to be included as part of the ARCW material for the project.  Members of People’s Collection Wales will be going there on Wednesday to digitise the material prepared today.

Rhys yng Nghaernarfon



Happy St Davids Day

  • March 1, 2013 - morfuddniajones


WW1 Recruitment poster

Using World War I archives for teaching students at Swansea University

  • February 14, 2013 - morfuddniajones

As soon as the documents from the Richard Burton Archives had been digitised and returned to Swansea, they were being used as part of a course for the Department of History and Classics. The Practice of History is a compulsory second year module which discusses the variety of historical sources explored by historians, how they can be used and the intellectual and practical problems that can arise from using them.

In a fresh approach this year the module is being taught using primary sources linked to particular areas of research. One group is studying World War I, in particular the home front, the battle front, and women and the war. Last week they visited the Richard Burton Archives for an introduction to using archives and to start using the documents selected.


Elisabeth Bennett
Richard Burton Archives
Information Services & Systems
Swansea University

The Red Cross Car

  • September 18, 2012 - niawilliams

While looking through the thank you letters written to the Aberystwyth Comforts Fund I found this poem among them…

The Red Cross Car

(pte. J. Oswald Thomas) 54 7.A. R.A.M.C.

B.E.7 France


 They are bringing them back who went out so bravely

Grey ghost like cars down the long white road

Come gliding, each with its cross of scarlet

On canvas hood, and its heavy load

Of human sheaves from the crimson harvest

That greed and falsehood and hatred sowed


Maimed and blinded, torn and shattered

Yet with hardly a groan or cry

From lips as white as the linen bandage

Though a stifled prayer, “God let me die”

To wring maybe from a soul in torment

As the car with the bloodred cross goes by.


The Red cross car! What a world of anguish

On noiseless wheels you bear night and day

Each one that comes from the field of slaughter

In a moving cavalry painted grey

And soon the waters at home in England

Lets praise the Red Cross Men, the people say.

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.