Gareth Jones

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THE WESTERN MAIL,  February 7th, 1933


Wales’s Bonds With the Continent


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. 

This turbulent 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 trade. 

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 corridors. 

“You’ve just come from New York. What’s it like there?” I ask my steward.

“Terrible,” 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. 

Poetry 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 hylaw

A gwrdd drwst a gerdda draw...

Underneath there is carved another Welsh poem:

Gwawr! Gwawr!

Geinwawr ei grudd

Mae’r haul yn dod ar donnau’r wawr

Fel llong o’r tragwyddoldeb mawr. 

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 seafaring folk. 

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.








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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