This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. To mark the occasion, the Argus has teamed up with an initiative commemorating the contribution of people from Gwent in the Great War. This column is written by organisers of the project called ‘Journey’s End’, and its title reflects how many people from the region died in service. A major commemorative event will be held at St Woolos Cathedral on November 10

IN October 1918 Newport YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) held a ‘hut week’ to raise funds for its work in the town, with a flag day and door to door collections.

By this time, the YMCA red triangle symbol had become well known in Newport.

Upon the outbreak of war the YMCA had begun to provide tents for soldiers in various army camps to use as recreation, reading and writing rooms. As the winter of 1914 approached, the tents were replaced by huts. In South Wales the YMCA estimated that with each hut costing £200, it would need to raise £5000. The YMCA huts became a well-known and welcome feature of camps at home and abroad.

At the start of the war, with thousands of recruits being based in Newport before being sent overseas, the YMCA turned its central base in Commercial Street into dormitories. By the end of the war it had provided bed and breakfast accommodation for 27,000 men.

The YMCA ‘hut’ in Thomas Street near Newport Station, opened in December 1915, proved a boon to many men who needed shelter while travelling through Newport to and from leave. Initially the ‘hut’ was only opened during the night but from February 1917 it was kept open 24 hours a day. During the railway strike in September 1918 it had organised volunteer drivers to take soldiers who found themselves stranded on Newport station as they tried to get home on leave. No records were kept of exact numbers, but by the end of the war refreshments and camp beds had been provided free of charge to hundreds of thousands of men.

In May 1917, the Women’s Section, led by Mrs Le Grand Chambers, set up a large marquee in Bellevue Park. During that summer they provided 16,000 free teas for wounded soldiers. The exercise was repeated in 1917 and in 1918 they were allowed to use the park pavilion. During the winter months, teas were issued form the Commercial Street rooms. This continued until all the local military hospitals were closed in 1919. In all, 120,000 free teas were given out.

Other YMCA facilities were set up at for sailors landing at Alexandra Docks and at the Baptist School room on Stow Hill for recruits reporting for medical examination a Wooloston House War Hospital.

There is no doubt that thousands of men from Gwent and beyond had every reason to be grateful to the volunteers who greeted them under the sign of the red triangle.