Guest Blog by Gethin Matthews
Letters from the Holy Land:
the influence of the Middle Eastern campaign
in WW1 on Welsh culture and society
The First World War was a world-wide war which transported millions of young men away from their homes to foreign lands. Often these men sought an anchor which could help them make sense of their unfamiliar surroundings as they tried to convey their experiences to their loved ones. In the case of Welshmen who found themselves in Egypt and Palestine, they had a ready vocabulary to describe these countries which came straight from the Bible. The idea of the campaign in the ‘Holy Land’ struck a chord with newspapers and opinion-formers back in Wales, and shaped ideas which persisted with the Welsh public.
There were well over four thousand Nonconformist churches active in Wales at the time of the First World War. In many ways the chapels shaped contemporary Welsh culture, and their Sunday Schools were a powerful influence in developing the minds of youngsters across Wales.
After the outbreak of war in August 1914 the majority of the ministers and congregations put aside their moral objections to fighting, accepting the argument of a ‘just war’. Thus it was natural for them to support those men from their congregations who joined the Armed Services, by praying for them and through correspondence.