A CROWD gathered at the bottom of Stow Hill earlier today from where Newport soldiers marched to war in 1914 to remember the day which saw most of them killed exactly 100 years ago.

The 1st Battalion, the Monmouthshire Regiment lost 85 men in the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge on the 8th May 1915 in what became the bloodiest day of the war for Newport.

Standing in rain beneath a leaden sky, men of the Monmouthshire Regiment's successor unit, The Royal Welsh were joined by the Mayor of Newport councillor Matthew Evans, veterans and around 50 people to mark the anniversary.

The centrepiece of the service was a sculpture, hewn out of cedar wood by Caerleon artist Chris Wood. It depicts the defiant but doomed stand by Captain Harold Thorne Edwards who, as he fired his revolver, replied to the German urging to give up with words: “Surrender? Be damned!”

It joins an existing slate plaque inscribed with the regimental crest and the words of commemoration which were read out: “They wrote the saddest yet most glorious chapter in Newport's history on May 8th 1915, when in an heroic stand against great odds before Ypres, The Monmouthshires helped to bar the Germans from the vital Channel ports.”

Following the reading a bugler sounded Last Post as the standard of the Royal Welsh Old Comrades Association was lowered.

Newport military researcher Shaun McGuire was inspired to help re-create a memorial when he saw a picture in the Argus from 1947 of eight may trees in Belle Vue Park. “They were planted there to commemorate 8th May, but had long since gone. It started the idea of making a memorial to the men who died that day," he said.

The result is both the new memorial and the planting of eight new may trees and another plaque at Blaina Wharf on the banks of the Usk. An additional service took place there following the one on Stow Hill.

Newport councillor Charlie Ferris was another driving force behind the campaign. He said: “I'm so proud and pleased that Newportonians supported this, they didn't let the centenary just pass by. We've had donations of £1000's from large companies and we've had donations of coppers to support it.”

Brian Flook, whose grandfather Henry Flook was killed on May 8th during the battle, was there today. He said it was “very pleasing to honour him after all these years”, adding: “It's been a long time, but we've finally got there. I'm very proud of him and his pals who died on that day when they gave their lives for us.”

A small bag of earth was collected from the site of the battle at Frezenberg near Ypres and brought to the service today.

That soil, which was soaked with the blood of Newport soldiers that day, brought part of them home as it was scattered on a patch of ground in front of the memorial where their barracks once stood.