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Tregarth is a village in the Ogwen Valley, Caernarfonshire. Its Wesleyan Methodist chapel, ‘Shiloh’ and church, ‘St Mary’s’ are still open and have memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives in the First
World War. The church also holds the Sunday school’s memorial and a stained glass window dedicated to the Brock brothers, whose father was the headmaster of the local school. The gates to the church are also a memorial to those from Tregarth who died during both world wars.

DSCN0336 (800x600)Shiloh’s memorial lists the names and homes of members of the congregation who died fighting the war (for example: Richard Jones – Tyddyn Dicwm). It was necessary to include the street or farm where the fallen had lived, as the community identified them by their place of residence rather than by their surname. Therefore, Richard Jones would probably have been known as Richard Tyddyn Dicwm. The gates outside St. Mary’s and the Sunday school memorial also note where the soldiers had lived in Tregarth. This was also important because a number of the soldiers had the same surname – there are 43 names on the Sunday school memorial, 13 of whom are ‘Jones.’

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St. Mary’s memorial, by contrast, seems less concerned with remembering the soldiers as part of the local community, and more concerned with showing their important role in the Great War. The memorial does say where the soldiers lived. In the majority of cases it does not record the first names of the deceased. Instead, it lists their rank in the army; first initial; surname; area in which they fell and the year they died. The stained glass memorial to the Brock brothers in St. Mary’s echoes this focus on military accomplishments. Although we know from the Sunday school memorial that they lived at Sunnyside, the inscription on the stained glass makes no reference to this. It reads: ‘In loving memory of Lieut. Herbert Leslie Brock (BA Wales) 20th Div. MGC. Killed in action in France April 10th 1918 age 28, and Private Ivor James Baxter Brock 14th Batt. R. W. F. killed in France Sept. 1st 1917 age 19. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” S. John XV 13.

Different memorials commemorated men in different ways, and the same can be said of newspaper obituaries. This project seeks (among other things) to analyse memorials from all over Wales to see if it is possible to identify patterns in their styles and wording. For example, was including the soldier’s home address on a memorial a trait unique to north Wales, or was it common across rural Wales? Did all Anglican churches note where and on what date members of their congregation had been killed in action? Further research also needs to be done on whether the religious denomination or political outlook of the newspapers had an influence on the style of obituary they published.

Below are examples of Tregarth men’s obituaries from three newspapers. Y Llan was a bilingual Anglican newspaper, whilst Y Gwyliedydd Newydd was Wesleyan. Y Genedl was more political than religious. It supported the Liberal party, but welcomed contributions which reflected the socialist point of view.

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Both Y Llan and Y Genedl’s obituaries seem to stress that the fallen were brave men who had fallen for king and
county. Whilst Y Llan (28/4/1916, p. 7) extended its deepest sympathy to David Williams’s whole family, especially his widow, his young children and his mother, they believed that ‘ond y mae cysur i’w gael wrth feddwl ei fod wedi marw wrth wneud ei ddyletswydd’ (but there is comfort to be had in the thought that he has died doing his duty). A month later, Y Genedl (23/5/1916, p. 8) was even more emphatic that the soldiers were dying for a just cause. It’s article was about a memorial service to Richard Price Jones, but in the middle of the article it refers to all soldiers involved in the war: ‘Da gweled yr ardalwyr yn gollwng dagrau hiraeth, ac o barch, ar ôl y bechgyn sydd yn rhoddi eu bywydau i lawr i gadw y gelynion rhag gwneud ein gwlad fel Belgium, Serbia a Pholand.’ (It is good to see the locals shedding tears of loss and of respect for the boys who have given their lives to prevent the enemy from making our country like Belgium, Serbia and Poland.’) Richard Price Jones’s memorial service was held at the Calvinistic Methodist chapel in Tregarth, but unfortunately I do not know if the chapel is still in use or if any memorials are preserved there.

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By contrast, the obituaries in Y Gwyliedydd Newydd seemed less certain that the Great War was a just cause that was worth the cost. It also acknowledged that not all soldiers on the battlefield wanted to be there. My research so far has not been very extensive, so the first obituary I found relating to a soldier from Capel Shiloh is from September 1916. Conscription had been introduced in March 1916, and attitudes towards the war in Britain as a whole were less fervently patriotic than in the hopeful days of 1914. Also, as Dafydd Roberts has explained in his article, ‘”Dros ryddid a thros ymerodraeth” Ymatebion yn Nyffryn Ogwen 1914-1918’ (“For Freedom and for Empire: reaction in the Ogwen Valley 1914-1918,’ Caernarvon Historical Society Transactions, 1988-9 p. 107- 123), the residents of the Ogwen valley had been reluctant to enlist since the outbreak of war. Methodism in pre-1914 Wales had a strong pacifist tradition, which may also have influenced the newspaper’s views about the war. Y Gwyliedydd Newydd’s coverage of Rowland Hughes’s memorial service (12/9/16, p. 6) refers to the battlefield as ‘faes y gyflafan ofnadwy’ (the field of awful massacre). When Owen Ellis was killed at the front, the paper (30/1/1917, p. 7) played with the phrase ‘maes y gad’ (battlefield) calling it instead ‘maes y gwaed’ (field of blood). By the time David Richard Jones was killed (2/7/1918, article published 24/7/1918, p. 8), Y Gwyliedydd Newydd was referring to the whole war as ‘y gyflafan erchyll yma’ (this horrific massacre).
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In two articles about members of Shiloh’s congregation who had died at the front, the paper makes it quite clear that they had not enlisted because they believed in the glory of war. The first, Rowland Hughes’s (12/9/16, p. 6), stated that he ‘Ymunodd a’r fyddin o argyhoeddiad dwfn. Methai a chysgu’r nos gan faint bwysai ar ei feddwl. Cychwynnodd i’r chwarel at ei waith, troes yn ei ôl, a cherddodd i Fangor i ymuno a’r fyddin, – “yr wyf i fod i listio, meddai, i ymladd dros gyfiawnder.” (He joined the army from deep conviction. He could not sleep at night because of the weight on his mind. He started towards his work at the quarry, turned around, and walked to Bangor to enlist in the army, – “I am going to enlist, to fight for justice”.) Although he had eventually decided to fight for his principles, the newspaper makes it clear that this was not an easy decision to make. The second example is Owen Ellis (30/10/17, p. 7). When describing his character, Y Gwyliedydd Newydd said he was: ‘un o’r bechgyn tyneraf ei ysbryd, a pharatoaf ei gymwynas. Er iddo farw’n filwr ar faes y gwaed, nid milwr mohono wrth anianawd. Yr oedd o duedd enciliedig, gwell ganddo wrando na llefaru. Er hynny, pan alwyd arno i gyflawni’r annymunol gwnaeth hynny yn ffyddlon a theyrngarol. Da gennym glywed gan ei Gaplan iddo farw fel y bu fyw, yn llawn arwriaeth.’ (He had one of the gentlest souls, and was always happy to help. Although he died a soldier on the field of blood, he was not a soldier at heart. He was of a retiring nature, preferring to listen than to preach. Despite this, when he was called upon to do the objectionable he did that faithfully and loyally. We are glad to hear from his Chaplain that he died as he lived, full of heroism.) Although this extract refers to Owen ‘doing his duty’ and ‘dying a hero’ it also, I think, makes it explicitly clear that he should not have died ‘on the field of blood.’

This article has only looked very briefly at the some of the memorials in one village. There is far more scope for others to find out more about the memorials and obituaries in their own local communities.

April 11th, 2016

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Tabernacl, Caerdydd WW1On a wall inside the Tabernacl, the Welsh Baptist chapel on the Hayes in central Cardiff, there is a memorial to the six men of the congregation who died in the Great War.

The memorial itself is impressive, being carved in marble.Tabernacl 1916_rhestr1

There are no records to indicate whether the chapel displayed a ‘Roll of Honour’ as the war was being fought, to highlight the contribution of a large number of the congregation to the war effort. However, the chapel’s Annual Reports do note the names of all the men who enlisted, and so we can trace how the war had a deeper effect every year on the congregation. There were 45 names on the list at the end of 1915, 62 by the end of 1916 and 66 in 1917 (including four who had been killed). The membership of the Tabernacl during the war fluctuated from around 520 to 560, so the total of 66 represents a sizeable proportion of the young male membership of the church.

 

List of chapel members serving in 1916

 
Tabernacl 1916_rhestr2We can also see how the War’s impact became deeper and more painful from the minister’s comments in the reports. At the end of 1914 there was more discussion about the fire that had damaged the chapel than about the War, but the Rev Charles Davies’ comments became ever more emotional as the war dragged on and took an ever-increasing number of young men from his flock. Looking back upon 1916, he wrote that the young men left a large gap, and that their valuable contribution to the life of the chapel was deeply missed by those who were left. However, there is no doubt that the minister considered the war to be just, as he used such words as ‘teyrngarwch’ (loyalty), ‘dewrder’ (courage) and ‘aberth’ (sacrifice) to describe the men’s contribution to the war effort. He declared that as they faced the dangers and discomforts of the war, they were fighting ‘er amddiffyn ein gwlad, a sicrhau buddugoliaeth i gyfiawnder a gwir rhyddid yn ein byd’ (to defend our country, and to ensure a victory for justice and for the true freedom of our world).

In the lists of the men there is information about where a number of them were serving. At the end of 1916 a large number were in training camps in England or Wales; 14 with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) on the Western Front; six in Egypt; four in Salonica and one in Bombay.

The first name on the memorial is Oscar D. Morris. It is possible to find a great deal of information about him: the letter he wrote as he sought to join the Welsh Army Corps are available on the Cymru1914 website – http://cymru1914.org/en/view/archive/4089505

One can also find a report on his promotion to lieutenant (August 1915 – http://cymru1914.org/en/view/newspaper/3886208/7/ART121) and then reports on his death on the Western Front on 21 April 1917 (http://cymru1914.org/en/view/newspaper/3886989/1/ART11 and http://cymru1914.org/en/view/newspaper/3886999/3/ART35 )

Tabernacl, Caerdydd WW1_cuThe second name is W. Bevan Rees, originally from Llandybïe, Carmarthenshire (who was 20 years old and working as a miner at the time of the 1911 census). He died in Palestine on 3 November 1917.

Reggie I.V.C.Thomas is the next name: he died on 24 November 1917 aged 19, while serving on the Western Front with the South Wales Borderers. He has no known grave, but his name is on the Cambrai memorial.

One can find John Wynford Thomas as a 12 year old boy in the 1911 Census, living in Lampeter Velfrey. There is no indication of when he moved to Cardiff, but he enlisted in the city, joining the South Wales Borderers. He was killed in Flanders on 31 October 1917.

Despite his common name, it is certain that the William John Thomas named on the memorial was an 18 year old who died on 11 July 1918 while serving with the Army Service Corps. He is buried in Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff.

However, the final name on the memorial is not on the list of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. According to the Tabernacl’s records he was a soldier in 1916, serving as a Gunner with the RFA (Royal Field Artillery) on Salisbury Plain. The chapel’s report says that he died on 18 February 1919.

March 22nd, 2016

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In the Independent chapel in Rhyd-y-main (six miles from Dolgellau on the way to Bala), there is a brass plaque in a prominent position to commemorate the local men who were killed in the First World War. It isRhydymain - Capel yr Annibynwyr (6) situated on the wall behind the pulpit, so that any worshipper who is looking at the minister will have the memorial in their line-of-sight.

 

The inscription reads:

ER  COFFAWDWRIAETH  SERCHOG  AM

Y  RHAI  A’U  HENWAU  ISOD  A

SYRTHIASANT  YN  Y  RHYFEL  FAWR

1914-1918

“MEWN  ANGHOF  NI  CHANT  FOD”

 

(In loving memory of those who are named below who fell in the Great War 1914-1918, “They shall not be forgotten”). After the list of names, including their home addresses, there is a verse from the Bible: “MYFI  YW  YR  ATGYFODIAD  A’R  BYWYD” (‘I am the resurrection and the life’: John 11:27). These words are familiar, and one can find similar inscriptions in chapels and churches all over Wales.

There are eleven names listed:

Lewis Jones  Rhydymain - Capel yr Annibynwyr (8)                            Esgeiriau
Hugh Edward Evans                 Glan Eiddon

William Williams                        Ty Cerryg

William Evan James                  Braich-y-Ceunant

John Richard James                  Braich-y-Ceunant

William Hughes                          Ty Capel

Robert Griffiths                           Pen-y-Bont

Edward Evans                            Blaen-y-Ddol

Thomas Evans                           Coedrhoslwyd

Eiddion Thomas Marchant         Railway Cottage

Joseph Martin                            Bryncoedifor

 

Interestingly, these same eleven names are to be found in the memorial tablet of another local chapel. Siloh was a Calvinistic Methodist chapel between Rhyd-y-main and Bryncoedifor, founded in 1874 which is now a private dwelling. Its marble tablet is now located in the chapel’s graveyard.

Rhydymain - Bryncoedifor - Siloh (5)

Thus, whereas most chapels in Wales commemorate only those from their own congregation who served and fell, in this case both chapels have made the decision to jointly honour all the men from the area who were killed. At a time when there was a fair degree of rivalry between the different denominations, perhaps this is an indication that they saw that they were united by their grief more than they were divided by their doctrinal differences.

 

Almost all of the men commemorated here can also be found on Dolgellau’s war memorial. Research on these tells us more about them (the sources of information consulted are a booklet to be found in Meirionnydd’s archives in Dolgellau, and the website http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Merionethshire/Dolgellau.html ).

 

 

Edward Evans                     Son of John and Jane Evans of Blaenyddol, Rhydymain. Served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Killed in action at Bullecourt 27 May 1917, aged 25. Commemorated on the Arras Memorial

Hugh Edward Evans           Son of Griffith and Mary Anne Evans of Glan Eiddon, Rhydymain. Served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, with the ‘Welsh Students’ Company’ that went out to Salonica. Died of malaria in Greece 28 October 1917, aged 23. Buried in Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Salonika, Greece.

Robert Griffiths                 [Commemorated on the Dolgellau memorial and in the CWGC records as Robert William Griffith]. Son of David and Elizabeth Griffith of 2, Penybont, Rhydymain Served with the 9th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. Killed in action 20 December 1917, aged 20. Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

John Richard James              10th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 25th Division. Killed in action on the Somme 28th November 1916. Buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps

William Evan James                10th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 25th Division. Killed in action on the Somme 16th August 1916. Buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont

Both James brothers enlisted in London.

Lewis Jones              Son of John and Jane Jones of Esgeiriau, Rhydymain. Served in 1st Battalion, The Welsh Guards. Died of wounds at home 25 September 1917, aged 21. Buried in the graveyard of Rhyd-y-main’s Independent Chapel.

Joseph Martin                Son of Samuel and Mary Martin of Trewent, Altamon, Launceston, Cornwall. Served in 13th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Killed in action 29 October 1916, aged 24. Buried in Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres.

Eiddion Thomas Marchant         Son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Nelson Marchant of Railway Cottage, Rhydymain. Served in 233rd Company, Machine Gun Corps. Killed in action at Ypres 4 October 1917, aged 21. Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium

William Williams               Served in 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Died of wounds 21 September 1918. Buried in Thilloy Road Cemetery, Beaulencourt

 

 

Of the other two men commemorated, it is quite likely that William Hughes can be identified –

William Hughes         [Probably] Son of William and Ann Hughes of 91 High Street, Blaenau Ffestiniog. Served in 1/5th Battalion, South Wales Borderers. Wounded in action on the Marne Front and died of wounds on 30 May 1918, aged 19. Commemorated on the Soissons Memorial

 

However, the research that is available does not identify Thomas Evans of Coedrhoslwyd.

March 7th, 2016

Posted In: chapels / capeli, iconography, memorials

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