The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, 1934: Reflections on Armistice Day

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The year 1934 marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and for the November 1934 edition of The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, a large section was devoted to thoughts on that war and on the prospect of war in the future.

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The magazine opens with a guest editorial by Lord Davies of Llandinam, the patron of the magazine (Davies normally only wrote editorials at Christmas).  This piece starts with Davies’ recollections of how the War was dealt with at the time. Lord Davies likens the idea of going to war to a time when disputes in civilian life were solved by fighting, either in a duel or a battle. He then points out that in civilian life these had been replaced by the principles of law and order, but that there appeared to be no such system for disputes between nations, until the creation after the War of the League of Nations. However, not even that organisation was immune from criticism from Lord Davies, who claimed that …we have helped to turn it into a debating society.  He predicted that there would be another war in Europe, which would come with no warning, and could only be stopped by both a Tribunal and a police force.

Photo 6-Bombs were dropped and no damage was done

Over the next few pages, employees of the collieries owned by Ocean and National gave their recollections of the War, all with the intent of persuading the readers that peace was a better option than war. Some photographs are also printed, two of them showing buildings in London that had been bombed. One poignant photograph shows a collection of dead soldiers under the heading ‘Crisis Over!’ In addition to the photographs a pair of newspaper articles, reprinted from the Daily Express and Le Matin, refer to the horrific events that took place during the War.

Photo 7-War Fever Crisis Over

The final section of this dedication to the War begins with a cartoon depicting a giant man labelled ‘War’ being zapped by aircraft belonging to the International Police Force. The cartoon is titled ‘A Direct Hit!’ with the cartoonist, Mr Dick Rees, commenting, Sooner the better!

The final article of the anti-war feature is titled ‘The Oldest Racket’, subtitled ‘Wanted! – A New Police Force’, where the case was made for the formation of an International Police Force, either as a replacement for the League of Nations …or its effective reinforcement by the addition of the power which enables the Council to enforce its decisions. This proposed Police Force would be discussed in detail in the December 1934 edition.

Cartoon 4-A Direct Hit

From this point until the final issue in the collection at the end of 1936, the magazine adopted an anti-war rhetoric. Although the Second World War had not happened by then, 1936 had seen the start of the Spanish Civil War and before that the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and the Japanese invasion of the Manchurian region of China in 1931.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Davies the Ocean: 130 years since the incorporation of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd.

David Davies, often cited as the first Welsh millionaire, was responsible for the development of railways within Wales and was also the man behind the creation of Barry Docks. Alongside these enterprises, he also found success as a colliery owner, earning the nickname “Davies the Ocean” for his development of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, which was incorporated 130 years ago in April 1887.

1. DCOMC-30-3-78 David Davies_compressed

David Davies [DCOMC/30/3/78]

Davies entered the coal mining business in the 1860s, first hitting coal in April 1886, 15 months after the sinking of his first colliery, Maindy Colliery in Ton Pentre, Rhondda. In 1867 David Davies & Company was formed and new sinkings continued in the Rhondda for the next ten years. Davies won a worldwide market with his Ocean Steam Coal and his collieries continued to be a success. The whole enterprise became the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, incorporated in 1887, with Davies controlling the main portion of the capital.

2. D1400-2-2-1, Annual return_compressed

Extract from Park Colliery annual return for the year 1889 [D1400/2/2/1]

Records of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd survive at Glamorgan Archives and have recently been catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust funded Glamorgan’s Blood project. The records span the date range 1889-1944 and can be used to provide insight into the running of the financial side of the business through records such as annual returns and pay books, and the practical side of the business through illustrated volumes depicting sections of the coal face. The records can also be drawn upon to give a glimpse into working conditions, with accident and compensation records providing first-hand accounts of the dangers of the mining industry through entries relating to the Ocean Coal Collieries Maindy, Park, Dare, Western, Eastern, Garw, Lady Windsor, Deep Navigation and Avon.

3. D1400-4-2-1, Geological Section_compressed

Geological cross section showing the working face at Park Pits [D1400/4/2/1]

Paybooks and accident and compensation registers provide an insight to the lives of those working at the coal face, but an understanding of the people involved at the higher level of the coal industry can also be gained from a volume of royalty and wayleave payments within the collection. Royalties and wayleaves were the payments made to the owner of the land being worked by the colliery company and the volume gives an indication of how much money individuals received simply for the use of their land. Contrasting this volume with the colliers’ paybooks and accident and compensation registers within the collection serves to highlight the difference that existed at each end of the pay scale.

The collection also contains Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which demonstrate how the government were legislating the mining industry in the late 19th century. These documents show the relationship between the individual Ocean collieries and the H M Inspector of Mines, and they also tell us something about the Ocean Coal workforce. The documents are written in both English and Welsh, indicating that a proportion of the workforce were Welsh speakers only. The fact that the company had the documents published bilingually shows that they understood this and were keen for the whole of the workforce to adhere to the rules.

4. D1400-4-3-2, Special rules_compressed

A page from the Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 showing bilingual content [D1400/4/3/2]

The records of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd are an important resource for David Davies’ success as a coal magnate and as a primary source for workings of the coal industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Ocean Coal Company Ltd’s records, and those of its predecessor the David Davies Company, are now available to view on our catalogue, Canfod. See references D1400, D1402 and DX316 for detailed listings of the records that the Archives holds.