Welsh Experience of World War One
Dr Lester Mason
Research in the field of Great War studies at UWTSD focuses on ‘war memory’. Dr Lester Mason has a specific interest in the various aspects of Great War commemoration in Wales, concentrating particularly in the west.During 2014 he is taking part in an AHRC and BBC project to explore the major impact that the War had on the day-to-day lives of ordinary Britons, including the people of Wales. This will explore the ways in which the 'Home Front' the war changed the lives of civilians in Wales at so many levels - from new opportunities for women in the workplace, to attitudes to family life and provision of welfare, to social mores and attitudes to sex and morality, to the impact of death and loss in war on an unprecedented scale.
Dr Mason's research has also looked at the business of Great War memorialisation, and the decision-making process around the development of memorial projects in communities as diverse as Llanelli and Ammanford, the towns of south Pembrokeshire, the villages of rural Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. He has also conducted research on memorials in both church and chapel establishments from all parts of west Wales. This spotlight on society in Wales during 1914-18 and afterwards has focused on local politics, the influence of religious leaders, the landed, business, professional artists and artisans, and organised labour, as well as the impact the views and actions of ordinary people, veterans, and bereaved families had on the commemoration process.
The stories behind the building of so many memorials, both monuments and utilitarian examples, are rich and varied, and go far beyond the material or spatial presence of these sites. Each memorial project holds stories and testimonies that get to the heart of how people at all levels of society coped during 1914-18, and reacted to the loss of family members, friends, or neighbours. As these projects unfolded, tensions emerged over how best to remember the fallen, who or what was to be remembered, and where - the commemoration process was anything but neutral. Different groups and interests including local politicians, veterans groups, bereaved families, organised labour, argued over the most appropriate way to commemorate the fallen. In some places, such as Ammanford, the commemoration process was played out while the coal-mining communities of the Amman valley found themselves in the midst of bitter and protracted industrial action; a ‘heady’ mix, and one that gives an insight into the nature of these industrial communities, at the level of the individual, as well as at a familial level, and beyond the home to wider associations, be they political, religious, or social.
AHRC's BBC ‘World War One at Home’ project