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The elegantly simple Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff, (1924–8 by Sir Ninian Comper) is a focal point for the commemoration of all the Welsh men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country. The circular Classical colonnade evocatively opens to the sky and encloses a three-side podium with three bronze statues representing the different military services.

Remembrance: War Memorials in Wales

War memorials are a constant reminder of the service and sacrifice of those who defended our freedoms in previous wars and conflicts and protected the way of life we can all enjoy today. Although other conflicts and those that fell in them were commemorated before the 1920s, the huge shock of loss during the First World War led to the erection of tens of thousands of war memorials in the greatest wave of remembrance ever seen in the UK. This public display was a powerful response to the scale of losses suffered and a focus for peoples’ grief, sense of loss but also pride. Thirty-five thousand Welsh men and women were killed during the First World War, a loss shared by almost every community.  (Only three ‘thankful villages’ in Wales are known to have seen the safe return of all their servicemen: Herbrandston in Pembrokeshire, Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn in Ceredigion and Colwinston in the Vale of Glamorgan.)  War memorials have been a poignant focal point for Remembrance in towns and villages throughout Wales for nearly a century. There are 2,590 war memorials in Wales. They range from free-standing monuments and sculptural masterpieces to simple plaques in chapels, churches, schools, post offices and banks. Collectively these are by far the largest body of public memorials in Wales, with examples in all communities. In addition, there are war memorial halls in villages and suburbs across Wales, recognisable by the Welsh words emblazoned prominently on their facades: ‘Neuadd Goffa’.

1.	This war memorial set on the top of a prominent outcrop within the churchyard of St. Tysilio’s Church, on an island in the Menai Strait, has religious as well as civic significance.
This war memorial set on the top of a prominent outcrop within the churchyard of St. Tysilio’s Church, on an island in the Menai Strait, has religious as well as civic significance.

Many memorials contain the rich language of symbolism. At Pontmorlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Fate is personified as a woman and flanked by both a miner and a mother carrying her child. All have an air of resignation shown by their downward glances towards the inscription below listing the names of those who died in the First World War.

3.	School communities also commemorated the fallen. The names of former pupils who were killed in the First World War were recorded on this memorial outside the former grammar school (later college) in Llangefni, Anglesey. There is a statue of a servicemen in dress uniform with his hands resting on a reversed rifle on top of the memorial.
School communities also commemorated the fallen. The names of former pupils who were killed in the First World War were recorded on this memorial outside the former grammar school (later college) in Llangefni, Anglesey. There is a statue of a servicemen in dress uniform with his hands resting on a reversed rifle on top of the memorial.

The process of commemoration began immediately after the War and many committees- not without tensions of class, locality and language- were established in the 1920s to provide their communities with war memorials, although there are also examples from later and earlier conflicts, especially the South African War (1899–1902).

1.	This monument in the centre of Guildhall Square, Carmarthen, was designed by E V Collier (1905–6) to commemorates the earlier South African War.
This monument in the centre of Guildhall Square, Carmarthen, was designed by E V Collier (1905–6) to commemorates the earlier South African War.

2.	Figures in the Royal Welch Fusiliers memorial in Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, depict eighteenth- and nineteenth-century soldiers. Created by the sculptor, Sir W. Goscombe John, and erected in 1924, this memorial emphasises the continuity of the regiment which is more than 300 years old. This is further emphasized by the much later, modern memorial below (located to the west of the Welch Fusiliers War Memorial above), commemorating soldiers who died during the Falklands War in 1982.
Figures in the Royal Welch Fusiliers memorial in Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, depict eighteenth- and nineteenth-century soldiers. Created by the sculptor, Sir W. Goscombe John, and erected in 1924, this memorial emphasises the continuity of the regiment which is more than 300 years old. This is further emphasized by the much later, modern memorial below (located to the west of the Welch Fusiliers War Memorial above), commemorating soldiers who died during the Falklands War in 1982.

This is further emphasized by the much later, modern memorial below (located to the west of the Welch Fusiliers War Memorial above), commemorating soldiers who died during the Falklands War in 1982.

The Second World War did not lead to many new memorials but the names of fallen servicemen were added poignantly to the lists already inscribed on the monuments of the ‘Great War’. Memorials today continue to serve as a permanent reminder of those who have died in any conflict.

1.	These unusual decorative gates leading to the Italian Gardens at Pontpool Park were unveiled on 27 December 1924 as a memorial to the men of Abersychan and Pontypool who fell in the First World War. The names of those who died in subsequent conflicts were added later. Their design celebrates local iron-working skills in their construction.
These unusual decorative gates leading to the Italian Gardens at Pontpool Park were unveiled on 27 December 1924 as a memorial to the men of Abersychan and Pontypool who fell in the First World War. The names of those who died in subsequent conflicts were added later. Their design celebrates local iron-working skills in their construction.

The elegantly simple Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff, (1924–8 by Sir Ninian Comper) is a focal point for the commemoration of all the Welsh men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country. The circular Classical colonnade evocatively opens to the sky and encloses a three-side podium with three bronze statues representing the different military services.
The elegantly simple Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff, (1924–8 by Sir Ninian Comper) is a focal point for the commemoration of all the Welsh men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country. The circular Classical colonnade evocatively opens to the sky and encloses a three-side podium with three bronze statues representing the different military services.

3.	A final memorial to the First World War, completed on the eve of the Second, was the Temple of Peace and Health, Cathays Park, Cardiff, by Sir Percy Thomas, 1937–8.   The institution was founded by Lord Davies of Llandinam to promote peace and health and has a memorial crypt below the ground-floor hall.
A final memorial to the First World War, completed on the eve of the Second, was the Temple of Peace and Health, Cathays Park, Cardiff, by Sir Percy Thomas, 1937–8. The institution was founded by Lord Davies of Llandinam to promote peace and health and has a memorial crypt below the ground-floor hall.

Nicola Roberts, Communications Manager

Further information:

War Memorials Register held by the Imperial War Museum is a comprehensive national register of over 90,000 UK war memorials: https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials.

War Memorials in Wales  by Cadw. Free PDF download.

Cymraeg: Cofebion Rhyfel yng Nghymru

Angela Gaffney, Aftermath: Remembering the Great War in Wales (University of Wales Press, 1998).

10/11/2022

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