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’.
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).
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.
Nicola Roberts, Communications Manager
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).