Great Speeches of the War/Richards

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[Speech of the Secretary of the Miners' Federation at the Great Mass Meeting held in the Rink, Cardiff, on October 2, 1914.]

My Lord Mayor, Mr. Asquith, and Gentlemen:— On rising to second the resolution, I would like to say that we all understand what we are committing ourselves to in that resolution—that we all completely and absolutely and entirely accept the vindication that we have realized all along has been given by our statesmen and by the first statesman of the realm to-night on the policy of this country. We fully realize that—but we do more. We said in the resolution that we were going to provide them with everything that is necessary to prosecute the war to a victorious conclusion—[cheers]—and thus secure the lasting peace of Europe. [Cheers.]

The men of the Miners' Federation are already in their thousands helping to do it, and there are thousands here to-night who are going to help. ["We will."] That brings me to say why I am called upon to second the resolution. I am connected with that great army of brave men who do so much to provide the comfortable homes and to provide the industries of this country with a necessary commodity, and who brave as great dangers every day of their lives as soldiers do on the battlefield, and who are killed by the hundreds and wounded by their thousands every year in this country in producing that commodity. Why, it isn't much change when we ask the South Wales collier to go on the battlefield. ["Hear, hear."]

Many of your working places are dark and dismal, aye, and as dangerous as the trenches at the front. [Hear, hear.] They talk about the Jack Johnsons of the Germans; what about the bombs of Senghenydd? ["Hear, hear," and cheers.] They are not to be compared with them—they swoop 400 of them at a time into eternity.

The effect of the resolution we have moved to-night must be seen in the recruiting offices. All honour to the 30,000 or 40,000 Welshmen who have already, since the crisis arose, offered their services, gone into training, and are now ready to go to fight the battles of the country. All honour to them. [Hear, hear.] But the young men who are left, and who have listened to the speeches of responsible Ministers of the country, and the negotiations between this country and Germany—and there is no peace-loving Welshman in Wales who will impartially study them and also what Mr. Asquith has told us what Great Britain did to secure peace but will say that we were thoroughly justified in everything the Government have done. [Cheers.]

And had we not, as the Premier told us in his Guildhall speech, stood by our friends, it would have been better for us to be wiped out of the pages of history. [Hear, hear.] I have lately read and I commend you all to read the work of General von Bernhardi on Germany and the Next War, and you will see that every penny we could subscribe and every drop of blood we could shed must protect this nation from what had become the ruling passion of the German military force. [Cheers.] War to them was as divinely necessary as eating. Massacres, burnings, and murders were all part of the game, and we were told to look at the massacres, burnings, and murders not like children, but like men. All these were necessary, according to Bernhardi, in order that Germany should expand; that it might spread its great culture to all the nations of the world, [Laughter and applause.] Right, according to that general, was might, and the spoil was to the victor. That was the teaching of the German professors, invaders of the villages of the Belgians and of France. The nations which did not prosecute these ideals would become effeminate and effete, Bernhardi, however, should now have to wipe out a part of his book at Mons—that feat of the glorious British army. [Cheers.] Yes, and to be up-to-date he would have the battle of the Aisne to write up. [Applause.] What were our soldiers protecting us against? Have you read as I have—to the neglect of my business I am afraid—of the noble deeds done at the front? I am no authority on military matters, but did you read of the incident which took place in the British trenches the other day, when our soldiers wanted to send a message to the French? A brave soldier raised his flag, and was shot down; it was no use endeavouring to signal, and so the commander said, "We must have a cyclist to carry the message," One went, and he was shot down; a second was sent, and he shared the same fate; but the third did not hesitate, but took hold of his machine and went through the fire and smoke and delivered the message to the French commander.

Oh, I should like to have been there, to have seen the French commander taking the brave cyclist by the arm and saying, "Mon camarade." I, too, say to each man at the front, "Mon camarade—my comrades, every one." [Cheers.] The Prime Minister has told us very clearly what we have gone to war against; against Bernhardi's plan of campaign—to destroy Belgium, defeat France, and then wipe those "treacherous English" off the map. We have heard of those brave fellows fighting at the front. Don't run away with the idea that these men are defending France; they are defending Wales. [Cheers.] But we want more men. That is the text of this meeting, and we have men who from the very nature of their calling are fitted to be soldiers. They have the muscle and brawn, and as far as courage is concerned they are ready, for have they not spent their lives in the pits?

There must be no peace yet. Can I say that on behalf of the men of Wales? [Loud cries of "Yes."] Can there be peace now? [No.] What are those whinings to the great American nation? What did they think? The Germans had invaded France and Belgium, and they were top dogs. [No, no.] That reminds me of a fight at Aberdare the other day, when one fellow was on the top and the other under him, on the ground, but the former was shouting for help. "Why are you shouting? You are on top," queried a bystander. "Yes," was the reply, in pitiful tones, "but he is getting up," [Laughter and applause.]

Gentlemen. He is up. This old effete British lion is up, and he is not going to lie down until the terms of this resolution are carried out. [Cheers.] This war is to be prosecuted to a victorious end, and the peace of Europe established thereby for many years to come. [Loud cheers.]