The Kaiser’s Black Guards

The 1915 South Wales Miners’ Strike

One hundred years ago, on July 15, 1915, two hundred thousand Welsh miners launched a strike for higher pay. Their coal was powering the Royal Navy in the midst of a world war. The miners defied the coalowners, the government, the law, the king and their own leaders. Why? And what lessons, if any, can be learnt for today? Robert Griffiths is a labour historian and currently General Secretary of the Communist Party.

Gallipoli and Bristol

A WoundedTurkish Infantryman Having A Drink Of Water
The horses, the horses, we couldn't get the horses off the beach; we should not have been there A British veteran of Gallipoli In the Autumn of 1914 a number of men from Bristol were recruited into the 7th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. They spent the winter in billets in Basingstoke and then moved to Aldershot in February 1915 for final training. They sailed from Avonmouth on 19 June landing at Alexandria, then moving to Mudros on 4 July to prepare for a landing at a place called […]

Do You Have A Conchie In The Family?

Whiteford brothers
From 1916-19 many men & women in Bristol organised opposition to conscription. Dozens of Bristolians were imprisoned as conscientious objectors. These included Walter Ayles, who was a city councillor and Bristol's most prominent opponent of World War 1; the three Reinge brothers from Totterdown who were all imprisoned for refusing to join the army; George Barker who hid fugitives in the cellar of his bicycle shop in Bedminster; the Whiteford brothers from St George, one of whom refused to […]

Bristol’s WWI Conscientious Objectors

Whiteford brothers
Last spring, based on documents in the Central Library, we published details of 47 men from Bristol who were imprisoned as conscientious objectors during World War 1. For moral, religious or political reasons they refused to take part in the war. Many people contacted us having seen these names and provided us with more information about these men or other conscientious objectors. Nationally, Cyril Pearce, has been working for many years to compile a database of conscientious objectors. To date […]

The Christmas Truce(s)

From ‘No-Man’s Land’ to ‘Every Man’s Land’

A British sergeant is shot dead almost at the outset, as he stands on the parapet. But this makes no difference. It must be an accident. The supreme craving of humanity, the irresistible, spontaneous impulse born of a common faith and a common fear, fully triumph. And so the grey and khaki figures surge towards each other as one man. The movement has started on the right. It spreads like contagion. Only we officers, the sentries and a few non-commissioned officers remain in our trench. The men […]

Bristol Independent Labour Party

Men, Women and the Opposition to War

#31 Bristol ILP Front Cover
During World War One a significant minority of women and men throughout the country took part in a peace movement. They demanded the democratic control of foreign policy, a negotiated peace and a just, non-punitive settlement at the end of the conflict. They also joined with the wider labour movement to oppose conscription. The nature of the anti-war movement, its leadership and the alliances made varied from city to city. In Bristol it was socialists of the Independent Labour Party who provided […]

Coal On One Hand, Men On The Other

The Forest of Dean Miners’ Association and the First World War 1910 - 1922

Coal on One Hand Men on the Other Front Cover
Coal on the one hand, Men on the other examines the impact of World War One on the development of the Forest of Dean Miners’ Association (FDMA), covering the period from 1910 to 1922. In order to understand the response of the leaders of the FDMA to the outbreak of war, this account identifies debates and conflicts within the union in the pre-war years. It also considers the influence that political philosophies and events in South Wales had in the Forest of Dean as a result of migration between […]

Echoes of the ‘Great War’

Imperialism, displacement and migration

World War One is often characterised in the popular memory through the narrative of trench warfare on the Western Front. However, it was a global war fought by imperialist powers, ranging from Africa and the Middle East to the South Pacific. These conflicts, essentially struggles to create or maintain empires, shaped the modern world, not only for the warring powers but crucially for their colonial ‘subjects’. We live with the resonances of WW1 today, from Rwanda to Kurdistan and from Palestine […]

The World’s War

Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

Documentary, talk and discussion David Olusoga's recent documentary The World's War challenged perceptions of WW1 with the stories of the millions of Indian, African and Asian troops who fought and died alongside white European troops on the western front and elsewhere. Using letters and diaries writer-director Dominic Rai brings to life the experiences of Indian soldiers in Flanders, popularised in the acclaimed novel Across the Black Waters by Mulk Raj Anand. Watch this talk:

Trade Unions and Resistance to the Great War

Class cohesion and spurious patriotism: trade union internationalism in the First World War In this talk Kevin Morgan considers the trade union radicals who from the earliest months of the war took up an internationalist and anti-war stance, and who gathered increasing support as the war went on. Their contribution to the anti-war movement has often been overlooked because of the unions’ majority pro-war stance. Nevertheless, this minority tradition was to receive a further stimulus with the […]