Spies And Troublemakers


The Tsar Goes Up In Flames – February 1917

This month sees the centenary of one of the key events of World War 1, the February Revolution in Russia. Unrest broke out among soldiers at the front and civilians at home. The Tsar abdicated and the Provisional Government under Kerensky was installed. There were demands for the war to be ended. Britain and France were desperate for their Russian ally to carry on the war. Intense pressure was exerted on Kerensky to keep Russia in the war.

On this centenary Aled Eirug is giving a talk considering the impact of these world changing events on the Welsh people. Aled is the former head of news and current affairs at BBC Wales and is writing a book on Welsh opposition to the First World War.

Date: Thursday 23rd February 2017 
Time: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm 
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EZ
Price: Donation 
Speaker: Aled Eirug

In 1917 in Britain, one of the government’s worst nightmares was developing. There had always been a ‘hard-core’ of opposition to the war on political, moral & religious grounds. Over the course of the war this opposition had developed as conscription was introduced. It began to be joined by industrial militancy as working conditions came under attack. With the February Revolution those opposed to the war could see an alternative and a way for the war to end. The authorities understood the threat this posed to Britain’s place in the war.

Aled’s talk reveals the activities of the British intelligence services in South Wales during the First World War, and examines their concern for the region’s threatening cocktail of industrial and social militancy and opposition to the war .From January 1916, the newly formed MI5 rapidly expanded in an attempt to combat the influence of a subversive combination of pacifism, socialism and industrial militancy. As the German threat from spies and espionage receded, the intelligence agencies re-directed their zeal at combating the enemy within. Aled studies the growth of the intelligence agencies in an industrial and labour context, highlights the monitoring activities and organisation of the intelligence services in south Wales, and considers the anti-war campaign that reached its height in 1917 bringing together under the banner of subversion, a toxic mix of support for the Russian Revolution, opposition to the war, and demand for workers’ control.

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor honours Bristol peace campaigner

A courageous socialist and peace campaigner” – that’s how Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell describes Walter Ayles, Bristol’s most prominent opponent of the First World War and former MP for Bristol North. McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington, the constituency for which Ayles was elected in 1950

At 3.30 pm on Thursday February 16th John McDonnell will visit 12 Station Road Ashley Down, BS7 9LB, the former home of Walter Ayles who was imprisoned in 1916 for his opposition to the war. In April 2016 the Bristol Remember the Real World War One Group unveiled a plaque on his home.

The Bristol Radical History Group has just published “Slaughter No Remedy”, a short biography of Walter Ayles with an introduction by John McDonnell. In it Ayles is quoted as saying: “Because horrible outrages and ghastly crimes have been committed by others, that is no reason why I too should kill and maim and destroy…Hate cannot be destroyed by hate. It can only be transformed by love.”

Join us there on Thursday February 16th if you can.

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com

‘Slaughter No Remedy’ – The Film

"Slaughter No Remedy" - Walter Ayles Appears Before The Military Tribunal
“Slaughter No Remedy” – Walter Ayles Appears Before The Military Tribunal

Earlier this year we unveiled a blue plaque at the house of Walter Ayles, Bristol’s most prominent opponent of World War 1 and re-enacted his appearance before a Military Tribunal to claim conscientious objector status.

UWE documentary film students have used film from these events along with other footage to tell the Walter’s story. The film will get its first showing (sorry, no red carpet) as part of our Film Night on Monday December 5th at the Cube Cinema at 8pm

The full programme for the evening is

Imprisoned For His Conscience” – a tape/slideshow about Welsh conscientious objector Jenkin William James

Whatever The Penalties” – a film by Simon Colbeck on the stand made by conscientious objectors in 1916

Slaughter No Remedy” – a film by UWE documentary students on Bristol conscientious objector Walter Ayles

The Last Dawn” – a film by Colin Thomas on Welsh and Canadian soldiers shot by the British Army during the First World War

Not In Our Name” – a film from Campaign Against the Arms Trade on recent resistance to an arms factory in Northern Ireland

Unseen March” – a film about the government’s attempts to increase military involvement in our schools today

After the films there will be a panel discussion with Professor Lois Bibbings, an historian of conscientious objectors, Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace and documentary film makers Colin Thomas & Ben Pike.

Full details about the Cube and how to book tickets are on their website – here. Directions to the Cube – here

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com

CANCELLED – Sylvia Pankhurst, ‘The Dreadnought’ and the Great War

Sylvia Pankhurst
Sylvia Pankhurst

The event below has been concelled due to illness. It will be re-arranged at a later date

Although her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel were vocal supporters of World War 1, Sylvia Pankhurst’s newspaper ‘ The Dreadnought’ was the most consistently anti-war publication. It not only opposed the global conflict but condemned the crushing of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, supported the 1917 Russian Revolution and campaigned for a revolution in Britain. Come and hear more about her life and her part in resisting the war.

Date: Thursday 24th November, 2016
Time: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EZ
Map: Here
Price: Donation
Speaker: John Newsinger

Professor John Newsinger is the author of numerous books including The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (2006)Fighting Back: The American Working Class in the 1930s (2012) and most recently The Revolutionary Journalism of Big Bill Haywood: On the Picket Line with the IWW (2016).

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com

Wreath Laid for Bristol’s Deserter

Wreath Laid For Alfred Jefferies - November 1st 2016
Wreath Laid For Alfred Jefferies – November 1st 2016

Over sixty people came to The Dings Park in St Philips, Bristol on November 1st to remember Alfred Jefferies, the only man from Bristol to be shot for desertion in World War 1, and his brother Arthur who was killed in action. The park is a short distance from where the brothers lived before they volunteered to join the army.

November 1st was the centenary of Alfred’s execution. The ceremony began with the reading of a quote from a soldier who served in the same battalion as the Jefferies brothers which referred to Alfred’s execution, saying no-one would remember him. One hundred years later the gathering in the park was specifically to remember Alfred.

After several brief speeches and a minute’s silence, the Last Post was played. Then David Jefferies, Alfred’s great-great-nephew and Arthur’s great-grandson, laid a wreath and a sign was attached to the park railings in memory of the two brothers.

The Remembering The Real World War 1 group are proud to have moved Alfred Jefferies from being a forgotten name to being part of Bristol’s public history. His name should never be forgotten again.

Sign Erected For Alfred & Arthur Jefferies - November 1st 2016
Sign Erected For Alfred & Arthur Jefferies – November 1st 2016

Media coverage of the event can be seen at

BBC Points West – here – about 15 minutes in

ITV West – here

Bristol Post – here

Bristol 24/7 – here

(The BBC & ITV links may not work for long – so view them soon!)

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com


Two Chances To See Classic Film

If you missed seeing ‘Battle Of the Somme‘ when we put it on at the Watershed in July there are two more chances to see it locally in the next few weeks.

Sunday 13 November – Curzon Cinema, Clevedon, 2.00pm. The film is being shown with live piano accompaniment by internationally acclaimed pianist Stephen Horne, long considered one of the leading silent film accompanists. He will be joined by composer and percussionist Martin Pyne. These are the musicians who accompanied the film at Watershed in July. More details on the Curzon’s website here where you can also buy tickets.

Friday 18th November – Clifton Cathedral, 8.00pm. The film is being shown with live orchestral accompaniment. Bristol Symphony Orchestra are performing the score written by Laura Rossi for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. More details on the cathedral’s website here where you can also buy tickets.

‘University of Fishponds’ – Opposition To World War 1


Colin Thomas will be speaking about opposition to the First World War in Bristol at a meeting organised by the University Of Fishponds on Sunday 13th November at Kingfisher Cafe, 99 Burley Grove, Bristol, BS16 2LE – 7.00pm to 9.00pm

‘Canting humbugs’was the way some in Bristol characterised opponents of the ‘Great War’. But is is increasingly clear that local councillor Walter Ayles and others who were prepared to go to prison for their opposition to the war, had considerable local support. Colin’s talk will be illustrated with video extracts.

More details on Kingfisher website here. The website advises booking – there’s a phone number & email address on the website.

“Stony Broke in No-Man’s Land”

Local singing group the Hotwells Howlers are putting on their World War 1 show Stony Broke in No-Man’s Land” on Friday 11th November at 7.30pm at St Bartholomews Church Hall, Somerville Road/Maurice Rd, St Andrews, Bristol BS6 5BZ. 

It’s a musical show, with songs, tunes, readings and images about The Great War in North Somerset, Bristol, Bath and South Gloucestershire. Entrance is free but there will be a collection for British Red Cross. More information about the group and the show can be found on their website here.

Bristol Victims Of the Somme

National memorial Arboretum Stake For Alfred Jefferies
National memorial Arboretum Stake For Alfred Jefferies

Among the hundreds of thousands of men killed on both sides during the battle of The Somme in 1916 were two brothers from The Dings in St Philips, Bristol.

Arthur Jefferies was killed on 16th September. His brother Alfred died on 1st November. Arthur was killed in action. Alfred was shot for desertion – the only man from Bristol to suffer this fate. They were both victims of the Somme. Along with 358 other men, Alfred was pardoned in 2006.

12 noon on Tuesday November 1st 2016, the centenary of Alfred’s execution, the Remembering the Real World War 1 group will lay a wreath in The Dings Park, Oxford Street, St Philips (map here) in memory of both brothers and all those others who died on the Somme.

Members of the Jefferies family will be there, together with Geoff Woolfe, author of ‘The Bristol Deserter’ the Bristol Radical History Group pamphlet about Alfred Jefferies. The pamphlet will be available on the day. Details of where else it is available can be found on the Bristol Radical History Group website here

For more information email rememberingrealww1@gmail.com