Seventy-five years ago, on Tuesday 6 June 1944, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in what was the biggest naval, land and air military operation in history. D-Day marked the beginning of the long campaign, code named ‘Operation Overlord, to liberate north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.
Tens of thousands of troops, mainly from the UK, US and Canada, attacked German forces on five beaches on the northern coast of France: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. In the early hours of the morning, troops were parachuted in to enemy territory before infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the beaches, supported by nearly 7,000 naval vessels.
Plans for Operation Overlord began many months before the invasion. Over two million troops from more than 12 countries had arrived in Britain by 1944 in preparation. This included a battalion of American soldiers who were posted at Island Farm Camp in Bridgend. The huts had been built to house workers from the nearby munitions factory but had been empty until the Americans arrived in October 1943. It is said that General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself visited the camp in April 1944 to address the troops before their departure for France. Island Farm later became a prisoner of war camp for German officers. Read more about the Camp on People’s Collection Wales.
Leslie Illingworth (1902-1979), the Welsh political cartoonist, joined the Daily Mail in 1939 and the majority of his early work held at the National Library relates to the events of the Second World War. His depiction of the Normandy landings, dated 9 June 1944, is particularly striking and evokes the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. It shows Allied soldiers attacking the Germans on the beaches. Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower are looking down from above and Hitler, along with his other generals, is looking on with concern.
By the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a small foothold in France, which led to the liberation of Paris and eventually defeat over Nazi Germany. Over 150,000 Allied troops and 10,000 military vehicles were delivered to the Normandy coast during the day. Approximately 4,400 of those men were killed and a further 10,000 wounded.
“At dawn’s first light on 6th June our longest day began.” (NLW Facs 1028)
Emyr Humphreys, one of Wales’ most prominent and pioneering novelists, recently celebrated his one-hundredth birthday. His influence on Welsh literature has been substantial. Indeed, he was described by the poet R. S. Thomas as ‘‘the supreme interpreter of Welsh life’.
He was born in Trelawnyd near Prestatyn, Flintshire. He attended Rhyl Secondary School before studying history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. After the commencement of the First World War he registered as a conscientious objector and worked as a farm hand before being sent to the Middle East and Italy as a support worker in 1944 and 1946. After the war he worked as a teacher, producer with the BBC and as a drama lecturer at Bangor University before deciding in 1972 to focus on his writing.
Emyr Humphreys has published over twenty novels and has won many awards for his work, including the Maugham Somerset Award for Hear and Forgive in 1953, and the Hawthornden Prize for A Toy Epic in 1958. He also won the Wales Book of the Year in 1992 for Bonds of Attachment, and again in 1999 for The Gift of a Daughter. In addition, he won the inaugural Siân Phillips Award for his contribution to radio and television in Wales in 2004. The novelist, who also turned his hand to poetry and non-fiction, has also published a cultural history of Wales, The Taliesin Tradition (1983), which looks at Welsh identity through the literature and history of Wales.
His comprehensive archive was purchased by the National Library in 1994. It mainly includes his personal and professional correspondence, and manuscript and typescript copies of his published and unpublished works. The archive is vast – 79 boxes in all – which is testament to his lengthy career putting pen to paper about life in Wales. The catalogue is available to browse via the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue.
The National Library would like to wish him the very best on this special occasion.
This video is part of the Story of Wales series. Click on the Story of Wales category on the right to see all the posts. You can also subscribe to our blog on the right to receive weekly emails of all our posts.
Time was short between the referendum on devolution in Wales on 18th September 1997 and the first meeting of the National Assembly for Wales on 12th May 1999. The staff tasked with setting things up had less than 2 years to get everything in place and the law to establish the Assembly, which gave them the final framework received royal assent on 31st July 1998, less than a year before the first elections.
Among the many elements to establish was a system for recording and publishing the Assembly’s debates and decisions. There is no manual on setting up a parliament, so following good practice in other parliaments is the obvious option. In this case there was a clear precedent, followed by parliaments across the Commonwealth, Hansard. The United Kingdom Parliament had authorized the recording of transactions in printed bound volumes only since 1909, although individuals such as William Cobbett (1763–1835) and Thomas Curson Hansard (1776–1833) had been unofficially publishing them for over a century before that. The Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly also decided to establish their own versions of Hansard.
The first volume of the Official Record of National Assembly proceedings was printed and recorded the first words spoken in the Assembly by the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Michael, on 12th May 1999:
Good morning. This is an historic day for everybody in Wales. Having elected our Assembly for the first time ever, we now meet officially for the first time. As Secretary of State for Wales and as Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth, I welcome you here today.
As a new parliament, the National Assembly intended to take advantage of the developing technology to be transparent. From the beginning the Assembly had a website, and the Official Record was published there. The printed version lasted a little more than 1 year and after October 2000, the authorised version of the Record was only published on the web.
The Assembly’s proceedings were filmed from the start and between 1999 and 2007 they were broadcast on S4C2. Since 2007 they are available on the www.senedd.tv website. There are links to the written record so that someone watching the video can see read the transcript as well as the relevant agenda and papers. There are also links from the Record to the relevant art of the audiovisual file. This opens Assembly proceedings to a much wider audience than the traditional bound volumes.
The Official Record was bilingual in Welsh and English from the beginning, with the first words on the opening day recorded in Welsh together with an English translation. The system continues to this day, with audio-visual files on Senedd TV giving the option of listening in the original language or with simultaneous translation into English.
Twenty years since the first meeting of the National Assembly for Wales it is difficult to think that this kind of access to the Record is revolutionary. Filming and broadcasting of the UK Parliament was only authorised in 1989 and the UK Parliament’s Hansard only became available on the internet in 1997.
The Assembly continues to make adjustments to improve access to the Record. Now the record is much more interactive, with the ability to go directly to a specific piece of business, links from the Record to information about the Am who is speaking and functions to enable copying and sharing on social media. Senedd TV provides a similar service, allowing users to make and share clips. Today’s Record is a world away from the basic PDF Record of the early meetings.
Reporting Assembly debates on the web, and having audio-visual files recordings would be totally alien to Hansard, but what would he have thought? Would he be turning in his grave? I doubt it! His aim was to make parliamentary proceedings available to the people. I am sure that it would be very delighted, if somewhat surprised, that the work of those who came after him have opened up our democratic institutions to scrutiny in a way he couldn’t have possibly imagined.
National Assembly for Wales Archive and The Welsh Political Archive
In December 2017 the Library’s National Wikimedian began work on a Welsh Government funded project to improve the quality of information about people related to Wales on the Welsh language Wikipedia.
The entire project was planned using Europeana’s new Impact Playbook with the aim of exploring and document the changes, or impacts, to different stakeholder groups of delivering a range of Wikimedia based activities focused around collections at The National Library of Wales.
The Impact Playbook works by creating clearly defined change pathways with measurable outcomes (or changes) during the planning process, insuring that a wide range of outcomes and desired impacts can be assessed and measured at the end of the project.
This is the first time a project focused on Wikipedia based activities has been assessed in this way, so this was a great opportunity to explore and document the impact of working with Wikimedia in the culture sector.
The project focused around the release of 4,862 Welsh portraits to Wikimedia Commons, with an emphasis on improving access to Welsh language content and providing opportunities for the public to engage through the medium of Welsh.
Bilingual Wikidata was created for each portrait. This data was used to help create nearly 1,500 new Welsh Wikipedia articles, utilizing 25% of the images. The images generated 1.6 million page views in 55 languages in the space of a month, greatly increasing access to information about Welsh people.
Working with Menter Iaith Môn, a series of events were held at schools highlighting how Wikipedia-based learning can contribute positively to schools’ targets for the Welsh language and digital literacy.
A ‘hackathon’ event demonstrated the value of open data to the creative industries in Wales and a number of use cases were documented.
The project demonstrates how working with Wikimedia can help cultural heritage institutions build and support new communities and achieve outcomes which align with their core values whilst increasing access to, and use of, their digital collections.
For the last 14 weeks as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, the Library has welcomed 10 students from the MA Archive Administration and MSc Digital Curation courses from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Information Studies to work on one of our sound collections. We would like to thank the students for all their hard work and contribution towards the project, and to Crystal Guevara for writing this Blog about their time spent with us.
Timber, forest fires, road building, and World War II stories are just some of the subjects that are covered in a collection made up of 167 MiniDiscs, each containing interviews recorded from people who worked for or around the Forestry Commission.
As part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, the National Library of Wales is working on preserving and making available sound recordings that tell the story of wales through oral histories. Dr. Sarah Higgins, professor at Aberystwyth University arranged for ten students in the post-graduate Archive Administration course to help the Library work on a project called the Story of the Forest.
I was one of ten students that got to work on the project and I found that my appreciation for the people who had started the work for this story grew from admiration to urgency so that more people could hear and learn from the experiences of the forest workers who transformed the landscape of rural Wales.
The majority of these recordings are in Welsh, the remainder being in English. To place you somewhere in the timeline of history we’re talking about mid-Twentieth Century Wales. Due to a high demand for timber, the Forestry Commission bought slate quarries and farms to transform those areas into plots for forestry farming. Naturally, this meant an adjustment in lifestyle and some people adjusted well to it while others longed for the way that things used to be. The people who were a part of these changes weren’t interviewed until 2002 and 2003 by a team of interviewers who were motivated to get on record the rich details of this time of transition and change.
Because the interviews were recorded on MiniDiscs, they needed to be rescued from becoming completely inaccessible, since so much of the technology around MiniDiscs has already become obsolete. So, our job as archive students was to digitise the recordings on the MiniDiscs, catalogue all of the interviews, transcribe them, and then put together an online exhibit to showcase some of these interviews along with old photographs provided by the interviewees. To get all of this done we got to work with some of the Library staff. They gave us guidance on what to do and we in turn strategized the timetable and roles and responsibilities.
Everyone on the team got to perform unique tasks and we sought to rotate everyone through all the necessary jobs to get a chance at trying different things out. Each task required a different learning process and each one was vital to make these stories publicly available.
During the digitising I was able to appreciate having technology that allowed us to continue preserving these stories. While transcribing, I got to hear first-hand the core of what we were doing. Listening to the interviews, was insightful and eye-opening. They contain stories about forestry policy, road building, nursery work, farm life, and other topics like Land Army Girls, Prisoners of War, and life post-World War II. Then, while cataloguing we strived to do things meticulously, but efficiently to create useable information that would help future users navigate through the collection.
To become more connected with the project and feel the real human connection with the interviewees and their stories, we organized a trip to Corris. Corris is one of the places mentioned often in the oral histories and only a 40-minute drive from Aberystwyth. While we were there, we could see for ourselves the different types of trees in their separate sections, covering the hills. We took pictures of our visit to include in the online exhibit and add our own perspective to continue telling the story of the forest.
It was a great journey beginning to end. As we are only aspiring archivists at the moment, we relied heavily on the knowledge of all the library staff helping us work the technology and understand the metadata standards. Alison Smith, Berian Elias, Rhodri Shore, Gruffydd Jones, and Elena Gruffudd were especially helpful. That in and of itself was a lesson applicable in how to help and educate people who are learning to use archives.
To see these oral histories start off in a cardboard box and now find them searchable on the British Library catalogue brought a great sense of accomplishment for the entire team.
17 of these stories are now available to listen to online on the People’s Collection Wales website, along with more detailed stories about the specific process of cataloguing, digitising, transcribing, and work on the exhibit.
As International Conscientious Objectors’ Day is taking place across the globe today – 15th May, The National Library of Wales’ Screen and Sound Archive would like to draw your attention to a short film available on the BFI Player entitled Defending This Country Only Means Attacking Another. The title was taken from a Peace Pledge Union [PPU] placard seen in the film which was shot by Mr J. Fred Phillips, a cinema operator in Brynmawr from 1923 to 1958. He was also captain of the Monmouthshire Golf Club, Abergavenny, and husband of Pollto Williams, a finalist in several national ladies golf championships at Llandrindod. Other placards indicate the PPU beliefs: Mass Murder is No Defence of Liberty and Peace is Indivisble – We Seek Peace on Earth, Goodwill to ALL MEN. Hand-crafted placards that have a drawing of a blood splatter on them accompanied by the words Munitions from Ebbw Vale suggest that this could be a protest against the opening or operation of such a factory in the area. The Society of Friends (Quakers, pacifists) had set up projects for the unemployed (e.g. boot and furniture making – see also the film Eastern Valley on the BFI Player) in Brynmawr and area during the 1930s but many of the unemployed found work in munitions factories in Ebbw Vale during WWII. Or, given that the PPU undertook a Carlisle to London peace campaign in 1938, could this footage show a campaign visit to Ebbw Vale?
The Peace Pledge Union [PPU] was initiated in 1934 by Canon Dick Sheppard who had been an Army Chaplain during WWI. He wrote a letter to the newspapers asking men (as women were already active in the peace movement) to sign a pledge if they were sickened by what looked like the stirrings of another war: ‘I renounce war, and I will never support or sanction another.’ He was overwhelmed by the response. The movement included women from 1936. Today, the PPU is the provider of the white poppies worn on Remembrance Day. Such poppies were first worn, at the instigation of the Co-operative Women’s Guild on Armistice Day, 1933 (Armistice Day became Remembrance Day after the Second World War). Many of the women had lost loved ones during WWI and despaired at on-going preparations for further war. It was also felt that remembrance should include all the non-military victims of war too. The pledge today is as follows: ‘War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’
Mary Moylett, Cataloguer (Film) Screen and Sound Archive
This is a bit of a detective story. In 1979 the Library received a photocopy of a small map of Breconshire; the owner knew nothing about the map and asked if the Library could identify it. Despite the best efforts of the Library staff who even enlisted the help of the British Library’s map curators the item could not be identified. The photocopy was added to the collection with a note to the effect that should the map ever be identified the owner was to be informed.
Fast forward to spring 2019 and a Pembrokeshire map dealer called Berian Williams contacted me sending a scan of a small map of Breconshire and asking if I could identify it for him. At first I was stumped, it didn’t match any of the county maps I’d seen before. According to Mr Williams the previous owner had suggested that it might come from “The Pocket Tourist & English Atlas” by Orlando Hodgson published in 1820; however, that atlas did not contain county maps of Wales, though the style of the maps did look similar. Mr Williams also mentioned an article about a pack of playing cards by John Allen upon which Hodgson’s maps were based, but again this had no Welsh counties.
It was at this point that I came across the photocopy from 1979, it appeared to be the same map and on closer examination it turned out to be exactly the same copy (several stains and marks on the scanned image matched the photocopy). Having looked through all my printed references I was stuck and wrote back to Mr Williams saying so and telling him that it might take some time to track it down, if indeed that were possible.
And there this story might have ended; but I started thinking about the similarity with the Allen playing cards, was there a connection between the Breconshire map and the maps in Allen’s pack of cards? I decided to check the literature to see if Allen might have produced another set of cards with the Welsh counties, however there was no record of such a set. The article about the Allen cards also mentioned an imprint by Robert Rowe the engraver so I decided to look into him also. One of my reference works told me that Rowe had engraved another set of playing cards for a John Fairburn in 1798, could this be the source of the card?
I decided to see if there were any references to this set of cards online as they were not recorded in any of the reference works I checked. Eventually I came across a reference to Fairburn’s playing cards of 1798, this stated that the set included Welsh counties and more importantly had images of some of the cards – which matched the map we had. Finally the mystery was solved.
But this detective story ends with a surprise twist. After informing Mr Williams about my discovery I decided to enquire whether the map was going to be put on sale, with a view to purchasing it for the collection. To my complete astonishment Mr Williams replied that he had decided to donate it to the Library. This is an incredibly generous donation and we are most grateful to Mr Williams for his kind gift. This map has now joined the 1.5 million maps which form the National Map Collection here at the Library as part of Wales’s cartographic cultural history.
This video is part of the Story of Wales series. Click on the Story of Wales category on the right to see all the posts. You can also subscribe to our blog on the right to receive weekly emails of all our posts.
Dusty old deeds and documents? Dull and tedious? You must be kidding! Yes, the outer wrappers are very grubby but the documents inside are pristine, barely touched for a century or more. These are files from the Longueville solicitors’ office in Oswestry.
They derive from routine work carried out for the Brogyntyn estate which was one of their major clients. They deal with sales and purchases of property, family wills and settlements, and the work of those who acted as trustees for the family of Ormsby Gore, Barons Harlech.
Several items of interest have emerged, including the wonderful inventory of Glyn Cywarch, 1876 (see previous blog). There are details of a property at 12, Grosvenor Crescent, London, leased to William Richard Ormsby Gore by the builder, Robert John Waller, with full specifications of the painter’s works and fixtures for the house, 1871. There are interesting sale catalogues which record the dispersal of the Brogyntyn holdings in North Wales in 1911. The properties included the pilot houses and several desirable building plots in Borth-y-gest, Caernarfonshire, so you can trace developments there since that date.
Above all, there are hundreds of deeds, mainly for the purchases of houses, farms and lands near Oswestry. One massive parcel contained 9 packets holding 99 ‘old deeds’ dated 1607-1894, recording purchases by the Peate family of Pentreclawdd Farm in Selatyn, sold to William Richard Ormsby Gore, second Baron Harlech, in 1899. Another large bundle relates to the Pentrepant estate, which was purchased by Brogyntyn for £29,000 from Ethel Mary Ttrollope of Crowcombe Court, Somerset, in 1894. Many deeds record transactions of the Payne family of the Brick Kilns and the Jones family of the Forest. Among the latter was discovered the death certificate of poor William Jones who committed suicide ‘during a fit of temporary insanity’ at Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum, Bicton Heath, aged 36. Yet another intriguing tale has been unearthed from the dusty depths of the solicitor’s office.
A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.
Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.