Flintshire Memorials Lecture at Bodelwyddan Exhibition

Audience moved by Flintshire WW1 War Memorials lecture

at Bodelwyddan Castle launch of Book of Remembrance exhibition

 

Viv and Eifion Williams delivered the 'Stories from Flintshire’s WW1 Memorials' lecture to launch the ‘Remembering for Peace’ exhibition of the WW1 Book of Remembrance at Bodelwyddan Castle which continues until the 19th of June. The lecture was highly praised by the attendees who also went on to view the actual Book of Remembrance and transcribe some of the names of the fallen.

 

‘STORIES FROM FLINTSHIRE’S WW1 MEMORIALS’ LECTURE

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The http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/ site is a remarkable achievement which includes over 2000 pages of research and over 3000 images. Eifion started by emphasising the importance of sharing through the website. Indeed once the website was established, initial research into one local memorial snowballed into information exchange with people from all over the world. This enthusiastic response encouraged Eifion and Viv to extend their project to cover the whole of old ‘Flintshire’, an area which included Bodelwyddan. Their generosity in sharing all the research on-line is rewarded by the knowledge that on average about 200 people a day engage with their WW1 heritage website.

 

Viv introduced some of the personal stories behind the names, the men and women whose lives were so tragically cut short because of WW1. Conveyed with a combination of detail and empathy, Viv captured her audience as she shared the life stories of some of the individuals recorded on the memorials. Following are some of the people highlighted in the talk.

 

Bodelwyddan:

William Albany, from Ontario, was a native American Indian of the Alongquin tribe. His signature on the attestation papers was a simple cross. Having served in France with the Canadian Railway Troops, he died at Kinmel Camp from bronchial pneumonia caused by flu.

William Lyle Haney, from Canada, but originally from farming stock in Minnesota, described himself as a ‘rancher’ and was a Gunner in the Canadian Artillery when awaiting repatriation at Kinmel Park in March 1919. He was shot in the face during the ‘riot’ that took place at the camp.

 

Bagillt:

Ellen and Annie Crosby were sisters from Toxteth who had emigrated to Canada but whose mother lived in Bagillt. Their return voyage to visit their mother was booked on the Lusitania which was torpedoed off the Irish coast by a German U boat on 7th of May 1915. Annie’s body was never found but Ellen’s body was labelled 133 and buried in a mass grave at Cobh.

Viv also provided the broader context by showing evidence of the British propaganda posters accusing the Germans of barbarity for striking a civilian vessel, but she also shared the previous German Embassy warning that “travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own peril”, and referenced more recent indicators that the Germans had grounds to believe that the Lusitania was carrying arms and ammunition. Here was a timely reminder that the first casualty of war is truth when dealing with historical evidence in relation to war and propaganda.

Arthur Rowland Jones was another with a Lusitania connection, when, as First Officer, he commanded Lifeboat 15 which saved 80 people, some plucked from the sea. However it was while he commanded the ‘Avanti’ that he was killed in action in February 1918.

 

Connah’s Quay:

George Povey’s story was indeed a sad one. Pardoned posthumously in 2006, in 1915, on the 11th of February, he was shot at dawn for ‘deserting his post’. He was in fact an early volunteer in August 1914 and was a corporal in the Cheshire regiment. But early on the morning of the 28th of January, he and four privates left the trench in ‘panic’, seemingly in the belief that the Germans were in their trench. There is no record of evidence in his defence, and so the cause of ‘panic’ will remain obscured, but the facts remain that George died aged 23 after only six weeks’ service in France.

The picture of a proud father with the Rogers brothers, on the day they signed up in Shotton, reminded the audience of the initial pomp and ceremony surrounding the 1914 recruitment drive. By August 1915, two of the brothers were dead. At Gallipoli, Edgar was wounded in hand-to-hand fighting and Douglas, coming to his brother’s rescue, was fatally bayoneted. Whilst Edgar was taken to the hospital ship, the third brother, Rowland, had joined the stretcher party and found his mortally-wounded brother Douglas.

 

Bettisfield:

Walter Maddox, known as a childhood hero for his efforts to save schoolmates from a frozen pond, enlisted in August 1914 as a blacksmith but died of TB on 26th of June 1918. His story reflects the health challenges faced by soldiers, as his illness was attributed to “active service, exposure and hardship”. He suffered for six months before TB was diagnosed, and spent another year in virtual isolation before he died.

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Viv and Eifion’s delivery of the histories behind the names on the Flintshire war memorials was outstanding, with the feedback indicating appreciation from all who attended the lecture. Therefore, rather than outlining more of the content, including the histories of Walter Brooks and his mother’s potato whiskey or Willie Hodkinson and the pain of missed communications, you will gain more insight by attending the presenters’ next speaking engagements or by reading the extensive volunteer research on www.flintshirewarmemorials.com.

 

LAUNCH OF BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE EXHIBITION

 

Admiration for the dignity afforded to the names in the Book of Remembrance was evident when Morrigan Mason, Deputy Director of Bodelwyddan Castle Trust, invited the visitors to attend the launch of the ‘Remembering for Peace’ exhibition. Side by side with the actual Book, usually kept in the crypt of the Temple of Peace, was a screen showing the scanned pages, thus allowing people to search for names digitally.

 

Some attendees had noted family names in advance and were ready to research. Scrolling on-line through the pages of the Book of Remembrance, digitally scanned and by the National Library of Wales and accessible on the People’s Collection Wales, Menai Williams (below left) found the name of her great-uncle Hugh Thomas Davies from Abergele. She transcribed the name in a digital act of remembrance. Claire Lewis (transcribing below right), an experienced research volunteer for the Flintshire War Memorials, also found relatives, including her great great uncle, Albert Cartwright. Yet another who succeeded in transcribing the name of a relative, Samuel Ellis, was Morrigan Mason.

 HH - BoR Menai finds relative.jpgHH BoR Claire shows how its's done.jpg

Volunteers have played a significant part in the exhibition, researching the hidden histories as well as facilitating transcription opportunities for visitors. One of the fascinating stories uncovered by volunteer Patricia Satchell (below) was that of John Leonard Nuttall who, in 1916, was severely wounded by shrapnel and sent home to his mother to recover on a house at the Bodelwyddan estate. However the impact of the war experience on his mental health proved too much, and in June 1916 he hanged himself. His story is a timely reminder, during the centenary years of Remembrance, that not all soldiers whose lives were destroyed by WW1, are commemorated on war memorials. Many survived physically but were destroyed mentally due to shell shock. Thankfully there is greater awareness and recognition of mental health issues by now, although concerns continue into the 21st Century as to the full impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders on soldiers and their struggle for adequate provision.

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Further interesting and thought-provoking stories are portrayed on the panels at the exhibition. If you have an opportunity to visit the exhibition at Bodelwyddan Castle, before it ends on June 19th, you will find that the book is open on the page listing John Leonard Nuttall, one of over 35,000 human stories that lie behind the ornate list of names in the WW1 Wales Book of Remembrance.

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