South Wales’ society underwent considerable
changes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The heavily
populated industrial communities included in the list of Monmouthshire towns
reflected the movement towards workers’ self-education, militant consciousness
and working class political constituencies which, along with neighbouring
Glamorgan, went on to produce some of the key names in socialism.
It is likely that a young man enlisting in his local Territorial unit within
this region would be familiar with some of the most prominent newspapers
and pamphlets in Wales and that his father, or grandfather, would have encountered
the co-operative societies, seen their friends enter the army, navy or even
boxing as a way of making a respectable living, and observed the pressures
towards unionism which resulted from a wave of catastrophic pit disasters
and a deliberate reduction in miners’ wages. His father might well have
rejoiced or grumbled as the Welsh Sunday Closing Act was passed in 1881,
but the influence of the chapels set a pattern of Dissent which would have
been a deep and lasting part of the young Territorial’s culture and awareness.
Probably, he would have benefited from the increasing provision of schools
in Wales and he might well have believed himself to be part of a generation
for whom a bright future shone.