As the ‘Welsh Memorials’ project gathers information of WW1 memorials from all over Wales, one pattern that it to be expected is that memorials in sparsely populated rural parts of Wales are generally less substantial that memorials from urban areas. It stands to reason that chapels and churches in these parts would not have provided as many men for the armed forces as those in more densely populated areas. Furthermore, in industrial Wales there were often memorials established by workplaces, which sometimes list dozens of names of the fallen. Clearly this is not going to be the case in areas where the men worked as tenant farmers or farm labourers.
So the memorial in the ancient church at Aberyscir, four miles west of Brecon, is rather typical of the modest commemorations in rural Welsh churches. It contains details of five men of the parish, arranged in alphabetical order.
The first two names on the list are brothers, sons of Francis and Lucy Dickinson of Aberyskir Court, from a local gentry family. Both died in the final months of the war. The younger brother, Digby Dickinson died on the Western Front on 18 August 1918, leading his men in an attack. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his date of death as 28 August, but this report in the local newspaper, which gives a glowing account of the young lieutenant’s courage, confirms that it was actually the 18th.
The elder brother, Francis Dickinson, died a month later in the battle of Doiran on the Salonica Front. This battle, in a forgotten theatre of the war, was a complete failure for the British, and cost the lives of dozens of South Wales Borderers.
A memorial service for the brothers was held in Brecon on 1 November 1918, ten days before the Armistice brought the fighting to a close. This service was held two days after the death of another of the men commemorated on the tablet.
John Lewis, son of John and Anne Lewis of Llanddew, was killed on the Western Front on 29 October 1918. His photograph can be found here on the Cymru1914 website.
No information has yet been found regarding the other Lewis named on the Aberyscir memorial, Sgt. W. G. Lewis. However, there are many details regarding Edgar Gilbert. He was the son of Eli and Elizabeth Gilbert of Llwyn-llwyd, Aberyscir. Prior to the war he had been working as a collier in Llanhilleth. Both he and his brother Joseph joined the South Wales Borderers in the summer of 1915.
Edgar was wounded in early 1916 (see an extract from a letter here) but returned to action. On 25 July 1916 he was wounded severely in the kidneys, and as a friend went to rescue him and carry him to safety both were killed by machine gun fire. The news was conveyed back to the family by his brother Joseph.
Edgar Gilbert is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial as he has no known grave – along with over 72,000 other names of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Somme area. However, his name does appear on another memorial – his parents’ gravestone in the churchyard at Aberyscir.
g.h.matthews July 22nd, 2016
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