AS WE enter the year which marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the Argus is teaming up with the organisers of a campaign to mark the contribution of Gwent people in the Great War.

Next week will see the launch of a weekly column revealing stories about Gwent people’s experiences in the First World War. Those stories will not only be about soldiers, sailors and airmen, but about people and events on the home front.

The column will be written by organisers of a project called ‘Journey’s End’ and its title reflects how many of the dead were buried here and how the search is hoped to be complete in time for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on November 11. It tells also how all their journeys were ended by the Great War.

Some stories the column will look at include that of Mrs Annie Cropper who lived in Crick and was honoured in the New Year honours list of January 1918. At the outbreak of war, she had turned a privately-owned orphanage in Caldicot into a Red Cross hospital and threw her energies into her work as its ‘Commandant’.

This was despite losing her husband, John Cropper, a doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps, who was lost when the hospital ship Britannic, hit a mine in the Aegean Sea. Her only son was killed too in France, aged only 19 years. For her work she was awarded the MBE.

0n January 14 1918 it was announced in Parliament that Lady Mackworth, daughter of Lord Rhondda of Llanwern House, had been appointed Chief Controller of Women’s Recruiting for the whole of Britain, becoming one of the most prominent women in the country. As a militant suffragette she had been briefly imprisoned in 1913 after putting an incendiary device into a post box in Risca Road, Newport, but during the war took the path of many other suffragettes in giving full support for the war effort as a means of converting the government to the cause of women’s suffrage. In 1915 she had been on the Lusitania when it was sunk by a U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Prior to her appointment she had been responsible for recruiting members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps in Wales.

The columns will also refer to how the Argus was reporting the progress of the war, as they did in the last edition of 1917.

The Argus told how 1917 “had been a year of unfulfilled hopes. The great offensives at Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai had all failed to break the deadlock on the Western Front. Hopes that the overthrow of the Tsar in February would lead to Russia fighting the war with new vigour were dashed as the Russian army collapsed and Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over and signed an armistice with Germany”.

There was concern too over the losses of merchant shipping and scarcity of food. “The U-boat war was taking its toll and food queues were a common sight” readers were told.

“With no stirring events in other fields of activity to distract attention, thoughts this morning are centred gloomily upon the return of our mercantile losses. The U-boats appear to have had one of their “best” weeks. The French have lost nine vessels of over 1,600 tons. We have lost 18 (or rather 16, for two of earlier dates are included), as well as three ships under 1,600 tons. The total of 18 is set against 14 the previous week.

The total number of ships of all nationalities entering or leaving Bristol ports last week was 180, as against 4,771 in the previous week. This is 662 vessels fewer than the average of the previous three weeks of December and 959 vessels less than the average weekly movement over the previous nine months.

The campaign has been launched by the Gwent branch of the Western Front Association and one of their aims is to find the former homes of the fallen and hope that those now living there will place a printed poppy, provided by the group, in the front window around November this year.

They have been given £7,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help fund the project.

Peter Strong, Chair of Gwent WFA, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the National Lottery. Newport and Gwent played an important part in the First World War, with 5,000 men and women losing their lives while others were affected in countless ways. Our ‘Journey’s End’ project will allow us to commemorate the end of this terrible conflict in appropriate ways. We are very keen to include as many groups and individuals from around Gwent as possible in our project.

A series of events organised by the group this year, will include monthly guided tours of St Woolos Cemetery in Newport, where 170 men and women who served in the conflict are buried.

Richard Frame is a member of the group organising the search. He has uncovered stories which tell not only of men killed in battle but of those meeting their end in more mundane but equally tragic ways.

He will tell some of these stories as he leads tours around the cemetery. Anyone interested in the tours should meet at 10.00am at the main entrance in Bassaleg Road on the second Wednesday of each month. The talks will run until November 2018.

St Woolos Cemetery contains the war graves of 167 Commonwealth service personnel from the First World War. There are also 10 foreign national service graves the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are responsible for from countries like Portugal.

At the entrance to the cemetery there is also a larger war memorial commemorating the local dead from the First World War.

Richard Frame has already uncovered stories of men from Newport and Gwent killed in battle.

One of those stories is of a sailor from Newport. Signalman John Evelyn Garrett of 12 Carlisle Street, served on HMS Penhurst. She was a ‘Q Ship’, one of the merchant ships heavily armed with concealed weapons designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks. As the submarine showed itself, the guns of the Q Ship were uncovered and would open fire on the unsuspecting U-Boat.

The project also aims to help people in Newport and across Gwent to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War. Volunteers will research photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to help them build a clear picture of what life was really like.

This investigations will be aided by three primary schools who will use research materials to prepare performances to be given at Newport Cathedral in November 2018. On Saturday 10th November 2018, a public commemoration event will be held at the Cathedral, with stalls, re-enactors, film, music and talks.

Also, to commemorate the importance of St Woolos hospital as a military hospital during the Great War a ceramic plaque will be unveiled at the hospital.

The Western Front Association was formed in 1980 to maintain interest in the First World War and works to “perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of all, from all sides, on all Fronts: on land, at sea, in the air and on the Home Front”.

The Gwent Branch draws members from Greater Gwent and surrounding areas and they meet on the fourth Wednesday of alternate months at the Constitutional Club, Park Road, Abergavenny NP7 5TR. Unless otherwise stated, meetings begin at 7.30pm and visitors are always welcome.

To get involved, call 01291 425638, e-mail or visit