Events took place across Gwent yesterday to mark the centenary of the First World War with all ages taking part in the commemorations. HAYLEY MILLS, FRAN GILLETT and KEILIGH BAKER report.
IN Torfaen, children from Cwmbran’s Summer Playschemes formed a guard of honour at a service yesterday at the Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The children also brought along craft items based on the theme of poppies.
In Blaenavon an exhibition was launched to commemorate Torfaen’s contribution to the First World War.
The exhibition, 100. The Great War. The Terrible War, will tour the county for the next four years.
It is the result of more than 300 conversations with residents, local history societies and youth and community groups, many of whom donated objects, keepsakes and photographs. The idea is to paint a picture of life in Torfaen during the war years from 1914 to 1918.
A film of people’s stories and memories has also been produced as part of the exhibition.
The leader of Torfaen council, Bob Wellington, said: “Torfaen lost many men and women in the First World War. Every village and community in the borough was affected and has its own story to tell.
“As we mark 100 years since the war began, this exhibition aims to tell those stories to the wider community for the first time.” The exhibition will be based at the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre until 31 October 2014 before it begins its tour of the county.
He added: “We hope that over the next four years everyone in Torfaen will have the opportunity to visit the exhibition, and that more people will be inspired to come forward to share their own stories, or objects that may have been hidden away in the attic for years, that can be added to the exhibition.”
The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: Then and Now programme, and was a partnership between Torfaen council and Head for Arts.
As part of the project a travelling heritage van, decorated as a First World War dug-out, travelled the county to encourage conversations about the war and raise awareness of the upcoming centenary.
For more information visit torfaen.gov.uk/heritage
Retired policemen and young cadets gathered at the police headquarters in Cwmbran to commemorate the 14 officers from Monmouthshire and Newport constabularies who died.
Officers, staff and pensioners of Gwent police were invited to yesterday’s service, which welcomed the great- niece of one of the Monmouthshire constables who had travelled from Spain.
The Police Federation paid for Susan Parfitt, whose great uncle Sidney Pucknell was a Monmouthshire constable and died in the war, to attend the service.
She said: “It was wonderful. We didn’t know much about him but we got in touch with Gwent Police and the researcher found out all this information about him.”
Two poppy wreaths were laid by the Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Jeff Farrar, and Shelley Bosson, Chief Executive for Gwent’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Staff and officers had been researching their former officers who served in the war, and discovered Newport officer Smart Cullimore was part of the party who captured German ship the Belgia.
Chief Constable Farrar said: “I was fascinated and humbled to read their stories. These were young men, often single, who volunteered to fight for their country and were slaughtered in the biggest ever loss of British lives.”
Goff Morgan, writer and historian from Newport who spoke at the service, said: “My own grandfather fought in the First World War, but he never spoke about it which was the case with many.
They shut it off as it was so traumatic.”
Retired officer Bryan Wilson, 57, from Newport, said: “It’s incredible. I’ve got a real interest in the Great War and it is top class the force are commemorating today.”
Sixteen-year-old Gwent Police Cadet Rhys Baldwin said despite having no direct link himself to the First World War, the service was incredibly important for all cadets to remember the history.
l In Newport, the 104 Regiment of the Royal Artillery fired a gun at 11pm last night [Monday, August 4] to mark the centenary.
A small service was held at Raglan Barracks and five men fired the gun in unison with other regiments from barracks across the country.
Earlier in the day, crowds gathered outside the entrance to Newport’s civic centre, on Godfrey Road, for a service conducted by the Rev Canon Ray Hayter.
‘Waste’, a poem by the Reverend Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, was read out along with prayers and the blessing of the flag.
The Mayor of Newport, Cllr Matthew Evans, Rosemary Butler AM, MP Jessica Morden and MP Paul Flynn all attended the event.
A small exhibition of First World War memorabilia, borrowed from Newport Museum, was also on show for members of the public.
Newport Council also joined in with the national Lights Out event from 10pm to 11pm last night with all council premises’ lights turned off.
l In Blaenau Gwent, a service and parade was held in Cwm to mark the centenary attended by dignitaries, local people, and with a performance from the Patrick Sheen singers.
A project to help make communities in Blaenau Gwent more aware of the work of the armed forces is culminating in a grand event to mark the centenary of the First World War this month.
Thanks to £7,000 funding from the armed forces community covenant grant scheme, the Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum has been working with local people of all ages to get them involved with heritage activities in order to learn about the War and its impact on the communities of Blaenau Gwent.
The grant scheme was set up by the Ministry of Defence to fund local projects that bring together the civilian and armed forces communities.
Through a series of workshops, people were encouraged to have a greater empathy for the experiences of the armed forces, both in the past and fighting in conflicts today.
l Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and nations, communities and individuals of all ages came together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died through a series of events.
All of this will be celebrated with a full programme of free events at Bedwellty House and Park, Tredegar, on Sunday August 17.
Following a 10am Ecumenical service at St. George’s Church, there will be a parade through town, tribute-laying and the ‘Last Post’ at the War Memorial.
The day will feature performances from Tredegar Town Band, Oakdale Silver Band, Tredegar Orpheus Choir, Ebbw Vale Male Voice Choir, Patrick Sheen Singers, together with a variety of displays and exhibitions from a wide area.
Eifion Lloyd Davies, Chairman, Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum, said: “The workshops and the event at Bedwellty is the result of a vision by the Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum to mark the centenary of the First World War with a series of events which can involve the whole community. We are delighted that so many organisations, including the Royal British Legion, Bedwellty House and Park and others have joined us to bring such a vibrant event, which will appeal to all ages, to Blaenau Gwent.
“It is our ambition to host the event in Tredegar in 2014 and at other venues in the borough over the next four years so that we can involve the whole of the borough’s community in our commemorations between now and 2018.”
Other community projects can follow on from the success of these events get involved in the commemoration by bidding for up to £250,000 in funding as the Ministry of Defence invites people to apply to the scheme.
Blaenau Gwent groups are eligible for the funding because the Council signed up to the Community Covenant.
For more information on the fund and its criteria call 01495 355815 or visit blaenau-gwent.gov.uk