Wartime inflation has eroded the purchasing power of workers’ wages in Britain and other European countries.Welsh coal miners decide to take industrial action to protect their living standards. The government had issued an order under the Munitions Act, declaring strikes in the coal industry illegal on account because of coal’s importance to the war effort. However, the miners defy the order and go on strike, shutting down the Welsh coal fields.
The coal industry is indeed vital to the war effort. Britain’s war industries run on coal while the navy has a prodigious appetite for the fuel. If the strike continues long it will be a disaster.
Elements of the press heap vitriol on the miners, with cartoons portraying them as wallowing in a sewer of greed and treachery, if not in outright alliance with the Kaiser. The papers report also on the satisfaction the coal strike is leading to in Germany and Austria-Hungary. The newspaper owners appear to be seeking draconian action to end the strike.
The government however decides on a different tack. David Lloyd George, the Minister of Munitions, arrives down in Cardiff to negotiate with the striking miners. A Welshman himself, Lloyd George is known for his radical views and has experience in brokering solutions to difficult industrial disputes. If anyone can bring the Welsh miners strike to a peaceful end, it is he.
A typical Welsh collier (The Illustrated First World War, reproducing articles from The Illustrated London News)
Wallowing in the Sewer (Cartooning the First World War)