Welsh Call to Arms

Welsh politician David Lloyd George makes a powerful speech calling for Wales to do its bit for the war effort.

The most powerful and popular politician in Wales in 1914 was David Lloyd George. He was an influential member of the ruling Liberal party, and had been MP for Caernarfon since 1890. From 1908 he had been Chancellor of the Exchequer (that is, in charge of the United Kingdom’s finances). Some had expected that Lloyd George, as a radical politician and one who had campaigned against the Boer War (at the turn of the century) would oppose the war. However, after Germany had invaded Belgium he threw all his energies into supporting the war effort, and in trying to persuade his fellow-countrymen to do their bit for the ‘king and country’.

On the 19th September 1914 David Lloyd George gave a speech in London which had a huge impact. He explained why Britain had gone to war to protect the rights of smaller nations such as Belgium. He believed that Wales, a small country itself, should sympathise with Belgium and stand up against aggression and bullying by Germany, ‘the road hog of Europe’. The speech appealed to the patriotic spirit of the Welsh:

“Wales must continue doing her duty. I should like to see a Welsh Army in the field. I should like to see the race that faced the Norman for hundreds of years in a struggle for freedom, the race that helped to win Crecy, the race that fought for a generation under Glendower against the greatest captain in Europe – I should like to see that race give a good taste of its quality in this struggle in Europe; and they are going to do it. ”

Among the audience for the speech in London’s West End were a number of journalists, and Lloyd George’s words were reprinted at length in the newspapers of Wales, under headlines such as ‘Lloyd George’s Great Speech’ or ‘Outcome of the Great Struggle’.

A painting from 1916 by Kelt Edwards showing the Welsh dragon and a frightened German soldier with the motto ddraig goch a ddyry gychwyn - the red dragon inspires action.