Wales remembers the first world war

(An account of the Commemoration Service held on 4 August 2014 in Cardiff)

It was almost dark when I walked down the slope to Llandaff Cathedral to attend the National Service of Commemoration to mark the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. I was there to represent Quakers in Wales and felt slightly apprehensive. Not because of the surroundings, I had walked down that slope many times in my pre-Quaker existence, but because these occasions can so easily turn into a celebration of victory or a glorification of war. I paused to observe the crowd entering and was pleased to see the religious and cultural diversity, from Jewish skullcaps to Muslim beards. Here and there a few policemen for security because the Queen was represented by her cousin the Duke of Gloucester and his wife.
Llandaff Cathedral, like St David’s Cathedral, sits in a hollow and is the seat of the Archbishop of the Church in Wales. It was severely damaged on 2 January 1941, when a mine was dropped near it during the Cardiff Blitz. Of British Cathedrals, only Coventry Cathedral was damaged more. Restoration was completed on 6 August 1960.
The Cathedral slowly filled with people representing our nation and by 21.30 all 350 seats were filled. Most people were dressed up with chains of office, decorations and other adornments. I felt rather plain in my simple black and grey outfit with a single white poppy for decoration. I found myself seated between a Councillor with three chains of office and a Member of the House of Lords, who was very sociable. He noted my white poppy and during the half hour break till the start of the service at 10pm we had a very amiable and varied discussion. He knew about Quakers as he had been to a Quaker service in America recently but he was unaware of Britain’s role in arming Israel, so I enlightened him and asked him to do whatever he could about this injustice.


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