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The British LNU became the largest and most influential organisation in the British peace movement. By the mid-1920s, it had over a quarter of a million registered subscribers and its membership eventually peaked at around 407,775 in 1931. By the 1940s, after the disappointments of the international crises of the 1930s and the descent into World War II, membership fell to about 100,000.
The ideological flexibility of the LNU managed to ensure that the campaigning efforts spread widely. A large volume of leaflets, flyers and pamphlets, and a monthly newspaper journal of news and opinions of international affairs called Headway were created. This literature managed to arrive at local branches, churches, schools Rotary Clubs and trade unions to Scout Troops and Women’s Institutes but teaching of the LNU was dominated by church congregations. By implementing this strategy, the British LNU managed to gain a mass following. The LNU managed to secure the support of churches, numerous youth groups and of course schools, this strategy inspired a young generation and ensured support for the league of nations in the future. Individual membership grew steadily throughout the 1920s and peaked in 1931 at just over 400,000. A count of total enrolments was kept, and in 1933 over 1million British people had belonged to the movement at some point since its creation. Most joined through local branches, which ran study circles and organised public meetings. Branches were pivotal in attempts to gain support for the League. They were a sign of local and regional communities welcoming to the League and international world. These Branches once again showed the overwhelming effort and support for the league, members of the public ran branches in every corner of Britain and conducted many activities on their own accord to gain support of the League of nations in every corner of Britain. The British LNU did attend many commemorations of war, the branches laid wreaths and made sure their image was sold. In 1933, the LNU supplied speakers for nearly 4,500 meetings in Britain.
Interestingly, the LNU implemented very extensive efforts to make their propaganda extremely symbolic or ritual. This was present from the start. In 1919, the LNU instigated the first ‘League of Nations Day’, scheduled for 11 November, the date of the signing of the Armistice the year before, with a ‘League of Nations Sunday’ in churches two days earlier. The LNU hoped that schools would mark the occasion with special assemblies, prising hymns, readings and dramatic tableaux.
The Welsh LNU created daffodil days in 1922, these organisations raised on average between a quarter and a third of the Welsh LNU’s income was raised through daffodil days. This sale of the national flower of Wales showed that the LNU’s work was on a national scale, a report in the Western Mail even noted that the national flower of Wales had become the international flower of peace, this of course tied brilliantly with the WelshBritish LNU’s aim of turning Britons into “enlightened patriots”, this included the Welsh people and balanced nationalist and internationalist views very well to persuade more to join the cause and support the LNU.
Despite Helen McCarthy stating the LNU’s gospel of universal participation was belied by the sociological reality of its membership, dominated as it was by middle-class branch officers or super-wealthy patrons’ it is possible to find that there were a huge number of branches in industrial areas such as Swansea, and even rural Ynys Mon had a staggering number of branches, showing that the British league of nations was very influential in promoting the league of nations in different corners of society.
In summary, to emphasise the significance of the British support for the League of Nations, a nation wide survey called the peace ballot was held during 1934-35, it collected the public’s opinion on the league of nations at a time where British membership of the league and the league was in question. The British LNU could boast that 11.8 million people responded to the ballot, and in Wales 62.3% of the adult population (1,025,040) voted! This was a major success for the British LNU, even in times of hardships that would prove to be the beginning of the end for the league of nations, the support was plausible, equally between 10,000-15,000 people volunteered to canvass the ballot in Wales, once again showing the support and interest in the league of nations thanks to the efforts of the British LNU.
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