THE WESTERN MAIL,
February 7th, 1933
A WELSHMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE (1)
Wales’s Bonds With the Continent
By GARETH JONES
Near the Isle of
Wight the fastest liner in the world, the steamship Bremen, having arrived from
New York, is waiting, and before long I shall be on board sailing to the Europe
of 1933. A journey of 6,000 miles lies before me through a continent which
is torn by national passions and class hatreds.
Europe of 1933 is more closely linked with Wales than one would imagine.
In 1914 a shot ringing out in a remote corner of the Balkans led to young Welsh
soldiers streaming from the valleys and villages of South Wales to the
battlefields of France. In 1919 it was a Welshman who played a leading
part in making the Europe of to-day, in framing its frontiers and in calling
into life the new States which have revolutionised the maps of 1914.
One Stroke of the Pen
In the last few
years a few dark-haired French business men and politicians, puffing at their
cigarettes round a conference table, have with one stroke of a pen, by a quota
or embargo, caused Welsh miners to lose employment.
The building of a
new railway from the coalfields of Silesia across Poland to the Baltic Sea led
to many a night of worry for the Welsh coal exporter to Scandinavia.
The red light of
alarm which shone out in May, 1931, when the greatest Austrian bank, the Credit-Anstalt,
was on the verge of failure, shattered so greatly the confidence of the world
that it led to the fall of the pound and had inestimable consequences to Welsh
Strife in some
far-off European corner may again cause the bugles of war to sound the alarm in
Wales. A group of business men sitting in Berlin or Vienna may again with
one small signature throw Welshmen out of work or cause Welsh-men to take up
their tools again. Wales and Europe are inextricably bound. What is
happening in Europe will hit or help Wales. To find out what is happening
in Europe is the object of this journey which will take me across the North Sea
to Bremen, down to Saxony, into the new State of Czecho-Slovakia to Prussian
Berlin, to the danger zone of the Polish Corridor and Danzig, through the vast
area of the new Poland, across the Soviet frontier into Moscow, into Red
villages and towns and then back home to Wales.
We Are Off!
It is time to
begin. The tender which carries the passengers from the port of
Southampton to the steamship Bremen, which waits in the roads, is hooting, and
we are off to seek to unravel the mystery of the Europe of 1933. We pass
the largest vessel in the world, the Majestic (56,000 tons), towering high in
its dry dock. Farther on a line of anchored ships lies idle, a tragic
commentary on the state of shipping. Seaplanes dart down and glide along
the water not many yards from the tender. The low coast of the Isle of
Wight can be seen to the west in the mist.
Soon the gigantic
form of the Bremen, with its two vast yellow funnels, looms before us.
The tender approaches and comes alongside. Hundreds upon hundreds of
port-holes look down upon us. As we British passengers step into the
opening in the side of the vessel a brass band on the upper deck plays “God
Save the King.” Stewards seize our luggage and march down endless
come from New York. What’s it like there?” I ask my steward.
he replies. “There are more beggars on the street than in Germany.
The poor fellows have no unemployment insurance. And there’s over million out
of work in New York.”
Honoured Welsh Bards
When the steward
has put my luggage in the cabin a voyage of exploration begins through this
vessel of 52,000 tons, which has won the Blue Riband of the Atlantic. From
the cabaret and dance hall of the boat, through the spacious lounge, along the
shopping street I wander, until I come into the library, where an agreeable
surprise awaits every Welshman.
of the leading nations of the world is carved into the wooden panels, and the
first quotation I see is from Dafydd ap Gwilym and begins:
Yr wybrynt helynt
A gwrdd drwst a
there is carved another Welsh poem:
Geinwawr ei grudd
Mae’r haul yn
dod ar donnau’r wawr
Fel llong o’r
The songs of
Welsh bards now decorate the swiftest vessel ever built.
But the vessel
is almost empty. A few lonely people stroll about, and the very silence on
board is symbolic of the crash in world shipping. A talk on the bridge
with the captain and other officers gives a clear picture of the distress of
The Yellow Races
The boat is only
25 per cent. occupied. Out of a possible complement of 2,500 passengers
there were only 600 on board from New York. Some of the officers curse the
tariffs of the world, and one of them says: “It is the doom of the white race
which we are seeing now, and the yellow races are listening. Every nation
is trying to save itself and basing its policy on a nationalism of a hundred
years ago. Only a new outlook can rescue us.”
Will the Europe
of 1933 have this new outlook? Or will the old hatreds remain? An
answer to this question may soon be found, because twenty hours have passed on
this German boat in a whirl of concerts, meals, films, and dances; the Bremen is
going slowly through the ice of the North Sea coast and Germany is in sight.