The Great War and the Valleys

Merthyr Tydfil and the Cynon Valley



Initial Responses

Different sections of society took opposing standpoints on the need for war in 1914. David Lloyd George, the most prominent Welsh public figure and Chancellor of the Exchequer, argued that the conflict was a war to defend the ‘five-foot five nations’ – small defenceless countries like ‘Gallant Little Serbia’ and ‘Gallant Little Belgium’ who were at the mercy of the great European powers. As one of these small nations Wales should do its duty and join the fight. Up to 1916 the army depended on recruits, so it had to persuade men of the case for war if they were to volunteer. But not everyone agreed with the war. Socialists such as James Keir Hardie, the Independent Labour Party MP for Merthyr Boroughs, was a determined opponent of the fighting, believing that the workers of Europe had more in common than the things that divided them. In the event, most ordinary people supported the war effort but it remained a controversial event.