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Eryr Wen

The Free Wales Army (Welsh: Byddin Rhyddid Cymru) was a paramilitary Welsh nationalist organisation, formed in Lampeter, Mid Wales, by William Julian Cayo-Evans in 1963. Its objective was to establish an independent Welsh republic. The organization had no more than 20 members, but claimed to have 2000.[1][2]

The FWA first appeared in public at a 1965 protest against the construction of the Llyn Celyn reservoir.[3] In 1966 they took part in Irish celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, marching in Dublin.[4] for A 1967 interview with David Frost brought the group to the attention of a wider audience.[5] The group courted publicity,[3] and its leaders attracted a great deal of media attention with extravagant claims of financial support from millionaires, "links with the IRA and Basque separatists," dogs trained to carry explosives, etc.[2] Members wore home-made uniforms and marched in historic sites like Machynlleth, as well as carrying out manoeuvres with small arms and explosives in the Welsh countryside and claiming responsibility for many of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru's bombings.[2][5][6] They also advocated for families of victims of the Aberfan disaster whose compensation claims were being blocked, "marching on their behalf and working behind the scenes for them."[2][3]

The group was generally not taken seriously by the media,[3] and one government memo warned against "taking the organisation's activities too seriously," saying this "would give to it an unmerited importance and publicity which its leaders are plainly seeking".[7] However, against a backdrop of Welsh nationalist bombings and protests against the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales the FWA presented an appealing target to the government, and in 1969 nine members were arrested and charged with public order offences.[2][6] The trial, in Swansea, lasted 53 days, ending on the day of the investiture.[6] On the first day of the trial the defendants were "greeted with an impromptu recital of Land of My Fathers from the public gallery."[2] Almost all of the prosecution's evidence came from journalists who had reported the group's claims.[2][6] Evans, his second-in-command, Dennis Coslett (who refused to speak English throughout the trial), and four other members were convicted; Evans and Coslett spent 15 months in jail.[2][8]

The Army's motto was "Fe godwn ni eto," Welsh for "We shall rise again." Its crest was Eryr Wen, a white eagle mounted on dark green shield, commonly seen in shorthand, with the flag of Wales on the top left hand corner.

The FWA was rumored to have received arms from the Official IRA, although Evans later denied this.[5] In Ireland, one rumor—used against the OIRA by its rivals within Irish Republicanism--was that the OIRA had given or sold most of its weapons to the FWA as part of its turn away from political violence, leaving it defenseless when intercommunal violence erupted in Northern Ireland in August 1969.[9][10][11][12] Scott Millar, coauthor of a history of the OIRA, writes that there was contact between the two groups (including FWA members training in Ireland) but no large-scale transfer of arms took place.[13]

In 2009 photos of the group's exercises taken by undercover police officers (and introduced as evidence at the 1969 trial) were brought out of storage and put on display in a museum exhibit.[14]

Further reading

  • Clews, Roy. To dream of freedom. ISBN 0-86243-586-2.  
  • Coslett, Dennis. Rebel Heart.  
  • O'Callaghan, Sean. The Informer. ISBN 0-552-14607-2.  
  • Coslett, Dennis. Patriots and Scoundrels. ISBN 0-86243-718-0.  

See also


  1. ^ "On This Day July 19, 1966". The Times. 2009-07-19. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Funeral for Free Wales Army chief". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  3. ^ a b c d Higgit, Duncan (2004-05-22). "Dennis Coslett: Free Wales Army commandant". Western Mail. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  4. ^ Pittock, Murray (1999). Celtic identity and the British image. Manchester University Press. pp. 111.  
  5. ^ a b c Stephens, Meic (2004-05-21). "Dennis Coslett: Dashing commandant of the Free Wales Army". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  6. ^ a b c d Hannan, Patrick (2005-11-16). "Obituary: Tony Lewis". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  7. ^ "Free Wales Army inquiry revealed". BBC News Online. 30 March 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  8. ^ "Wales On Air - Free Wales Army". BBC. Retrieved 2009-10-28.  
  9. ^ Whyte, J.H. (2004). "The north erupts, and Ireland enters Europe, 1968-72". in J.R. Hill. A New History of Ireland. VII. Oxford University Press. pp. 339.  
  10. ^ Burton, Frank (1978). The politics of legitimacy: struggles in a Belfast community. Taylor & Francis. pp. 17.  
  11. ^ Johnston, Roy H. W. (2004). Century of endeavour : a biographical and autobiographical view of the 20th century in Ireland. Academica Press. pp. 286.  
  12. ^ Caitlin, Hines (1994). "FROM CIVIL WAR TO THE WAR FOR CIVIL RIGHTS". Beyond the Pale. San Francisco, CA.: Irish Republican Socialist Committee of North America.  
  13. ^
  14. ^


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