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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr


geraint

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Pals with satelite TVs may be interested to know of an excellent First World War programme that went out last night on S4C. The follow up will be next Tuesday 9.30. Called 'Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr' (Voices of the Great War). Its a Welsh medium programme, but the news-reels and photography in itself was excellent. I think that a sub-title system is available. Based on letters written by and to Welsh language soldiers in 1914-8 it's a riveting programme.

I never knew that Wales had more men enlisted by mid 1915, per head of population, than England, Scotland or Ireland! Nor that 20% of all serving soldiers from Wales were monolingual Welsh speakers.

I know that forum member Trebrys was involved in research - well done Iwan! Apologies if others were as well!

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Some of my relatives definitely didn't speak English. I remember meeting them when I was very very small and they were incredibly old.

How were such men's letters censored? By people who could read Welsh? I'm interested because it's often said that men had to write in English. What if they couldn't? Is that a myth?

(Please don't ask me to source this; I can't.)

Gwyn

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Gwyn

The Army Council Wales ensured that the Officer/ OR ratio regarding language was over 50% Welsh speaking officers. They could censor accordingly. The problem was in the regiments which had no connection with Wales. All Welsh medium letters in those regiments were sent to the WO, London, and censored there. For the ordinary Welsh speaking Tommy, there was no problem in either sending nor receiving mail. I have heard it said that in some of the border regiments such as the Cheshire or Shropshire Regts, nonWelsh speaking officers would scan Welsh letters looking for recognisable proper nouns - placenames, dates, etc. then send them on as censored or not as the case may be.

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Ayesha watched this rather than the programme on BBC1 on Kelly and Tuffers.

She said it was really very good.

I'll take her word for it (being the white sheep in the family that doesn't speak The Language of Heaven!)

:P

Bruce

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Thanks, Geraint.

Thinking about it, I feel fairly sure that the problem of censorship of letters written in Welsh is mentioned in the film "Hedd Wyn". (I know Ellis Evans was in RWF.)

I found the website of 'Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr' with a Clic option to view. That's the programme, is it?

Gwyn

Bruce - you can learn it online free at the University of Wales at Lampeter. See. :)

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Gwyn

The Army Council Wales ensured that the Officer/ OR ratio regarding language was over 50% Welsh speaking officers. They could censor accordingly. The problem was in the regiments which had no connection with Wales. All Welsh medium letters in those regiments were sent to the WO, London, and censored there. For the ordinary Welsh speaking Tommy, there was no problem in either sending nor receiving mail. I have heard it said that in some of the border regiments such as the Cheshire or Shropshire Regts, nonWelsh speaking officers would scan Welsh letters looking for recognisable proper nouns - placenames, dates, etc. then send them on as censored or not as the case may be.

Of course I believe this to be true, 'cos Gwyn says so, but in all my extensive research on 2nd RWF, I have never come across [and remembered!] any reference to Welsh-speaking officers, or censoring of letters in Welsh. Someone please remind me, or put me straight!

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Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr!! Yes. The above, incorrect title was the name of last night's programme. Apologies. Have edited!

Grumpy

The reference above was for the Welsh Army proposed in 1914-5 by LG and others. As you know, it didn't reach 'Army' size and remained as the 38th Division. The reference is for that division, and not for the two regular RWF battalions. (1st + 2nd). They were not, as you know, part of 38th Div. Apologies for being unclear.

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As I said, I can't source it, so I asked whether it was a myth that men were supposed to write in English. It's something I've heard repeated, that's all and I suspect I might have noticed a reference in 'Hedd Wyn', but without watching the entire film again...!

Either way, out of curiosity, I'd like to know what happened to letters written in Welsh and whether it raised a problem in the censor process.

Gwyn

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I believe that it was mentioned that the last Welshman killed was Sergt. Robert H. Jones, from Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Sergt. 2509 Robert H. Jones of 1/7th Battalion R. W. F. was killed on 08/12/1915 aged 22yrs. he was the son of Humphrey and Elizabeth Ellen Jones of 2 Parry's Terrace Blaenau Ffestiniog remembered at Lala Baba Cemetery. (Incidentally, of all the 200 and so names I have of casualties from Blaenau kept on my PC for over four years. When I opened his file last night to see if I had any other details, of all the files kept his was 'corrupt' and I was unable to open it, the others were all OK? Luckily I had kept a written file on all. STRANGE???

Hwyl

Kevin

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Kevin,

this might turn into a "who was the last..." contest, but I do have an Anglesey casualty - 12152 Pte William Hughes of Llanfaethlu, serving with the 10th RWF - who died of wounds on Gallipoli on 6 January 1916 aged 21 and is buried in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery.

I gave the "Lleisiau" team a hand many months ago, mostly just pointing them to likely sources, and am glad to see their project bearing fruit.

There is a formal Army Council Instruction from 1918 allowing Welsh soldiers to write letters in their native language, and stating that in the event of their officers being unable to censor them, the mail was to be forwarded to the War Office where competent staff would undertake the task. Must have led to some delayed post, if it was implemented! Sorry I can't give chapter & verse - I did have a xerox of the order many years ago from the IWM Library but left it at work when I moved job...

If you haven't had enough of WW1 in Welsh, I was interviewed for BBC Radio Cymru a couple of weeks ago on the subject of recruiting and casualties etc. but forgot to ask when it would be broadcast...?this weekend? It took some 20 minutes or more, but I suppose I'll be lucky if 10 are aired after editing etc. Anyone seen an advert for it??

I admit to being surprised to see the statement that Wales provided more men proportionately in mid-1915 than the other constituent parts of the UK. I'd like to see the source for that since it never emerged in my recruiting research in the 1970s-80s, and I thought I'd combed the official documents. It might be made plausible if taken as a proportion of some specific figure - such as of total population, or males of military age, or whatever. There was certainly a canard that Wales had produced more soldiers proportionately by the War's end, in Nicholson & Lloyd Williams' 1919 book "Wales - its part in the War" , but their figures are significantly at variance with those of the final War Office stats.

LST_164

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Grumpy - as an afterthought. I did know one 2nd battalion RWF Welsh speaking officer. OM Roberts was a Lieutenant, and is the 'Roberts' mentioned by Graves in GTAT regarding a trench raid. OM Roberts became a county councillor well into his eighties and was one of the Plaid Cymru founders during the 1930s.

Edit - He's also mentioned in Dunn, and is a contributor to TWTIK. Also, other officers named became literary or academic figures in "Welsh" Wales after the war.

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Kevin - I've got stuff on the death of Robert H. Jones......I've even a photo of his grave! He was killed by the same shell that killed another man from Abergynolwyn......whose name I don't have right now, so the claim is only half "right", if at all!! It's in my files somewhere! This man's brother was also killed at the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign and the parents at Abergynolwyn in their grief renamed the house Suvla House!

More details will follow if you wish. I'll be away from the computer until Monday now.

By the way, there is a programme on Radio Cymru tomorrow afternoon on the sinking of the RMS Leinster which might be of interest to the Welsh speakers of the Forum.

Trebrys.

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Treblys, any further details would be gladly recieved. For info 2 Parry's Terrace is the four houses adjacent to the rugby field as you leave for Dolwyddelen.

Hwyl

Kevin

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This site (in Welsh), states that the soldier's letters back home were initially in welsh whilst he was within the UK, but that there was a 'censor's requirement' when in France that letters should be in english only. Presumably, pals who were bilingual would write for them?

http://www.gtj.org.uk/cy/erthyglau/llythyr...fel-byd-cyntaf/

This specific example of a welsh letter from the front shows that the 'censor's requirements' were not always applied at the front, but the 'Welsh' scribble on the top left corner seems to be some form of indication as to where the letter should go for later censoring:

http://education.gtj.org.uk/cy/blowup1/18389

Postcards in welsh from the front were evidently also sent:

http://education.gtj.org.uk/cy/blowup1/1737

As for Wales providing more soldiers than any other area of the UK, I can't say I'm surprised, as the socio-economic conditions within Wales would have been very poor indeed in all but the industrialised south. Certainly, members of my own family, who we'll be especially remembering tomorrow morning, left a poor cottage background where gathering cow pats to keep themselves warm and in cooking fuel was the norm. It is remarkable that this was only 90 years ago.

Shame S4C's I-player thing doesn't take into account the fact that most of Wales only has ADSL broadband, so I'd have to sit here for about six days before it had uploaded!

I hope the rain stays off for people tomorrow.

J.

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Excellent input Fotonix!

"Gathering cowpats to keep themselves warm " :lol: Still goes on in some villages!

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Is there any other way I could get a hold of this programme? My internet connection is way too slow to see it through clic. Do S4C do DVDs of these things? I must be the only Welsh speaker in Australia and it is becoming fearsomely rusty! Would really love to see a Welsh perspective on the war.

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Melwar

A book has been published based on the TV series. Details here.

Aled

Marvellous. Thanks, Aled.

Sorry... Rhyfeddol. Diolch, Aled!

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  • 2 years later...

I am interested in many of the points raised in the above discussion -

I am currently running a project called 'Welsh Voices of the Great War Online' - which is not related to the S4C production "Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr", despite the similarity in the names - although the success of that series in finding "new" evidence was part of the inspiration to run this project. 'Welsh Voices' aims to gather and make available information and material related to the experiences of the Welsh in the First World War - for more details see the website www.welshvoices.com

Much of the material we have gathered relates to the interesting question of the use of language in letters home by soldiers whose family language was Welsh. Very soon we'll have some examples available to show the variety of ways these soldiers corresponded - in Welsh, in English of varying degrees of proficiency, and half-and-half.

In the meantime, the project will continue to gather material online until February 2011.

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I'll take her word for it (being the white sheep in the family that doesn't speak The Language of Heaven!)

But I seem to remember you could recognise the rude words when used by one of my classmates to another...

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.Much of the material we have gathered relates to the interesting question of the use of language in letters home by soldiers whose family language was Welsh. Very soon we'll have some examples available to show the variety of ways these soldiers corresponded - in Welsh, in English of varying degrees of proficiency, and half-and-half.

In the meantime, the project will continue to gather material online until February 2011.

I've got the site on my 'favourites', and am looking forward to this exciting development. Am i right in thinking that all evidence gathered will be made available freely on line? You have a few samples at the moment, but it will all become available presumably?

I've read a lot of local newspapers, and it's surprising how many Welsh medium letters were published, even in the English papers. There's also the matter of printed welsh medium posters and fliers. I hope that you will form a central deposit for such items. I've often wondered how much material may be in the Nat Library at Aberystwyth. Did the documents belonging to The Welsh army campaign by DLG and Williams Brynsiencyn etc end up there?

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Geraint,

the Welsh Army Corps papers are indeed at the National Library. When I sorted through them in the late 1970s I was apparently the first person to have had a look since their deposit shortly after WW1! They've since been catalogued by the Library, which beats wading through box after box of files in the hope of finding relevant material (I was researching for an MA thesis on Recruiting in Gwynedd back then). The Welsh language material therein is - not surprisingly - minimal. Being the working papers of the Welsh National Executive Committee there's a lot about contractors for boot brushes but very little on Lloyd George or John Williams Brynsiencyn!

They are quite extensive and do contain a few recruiting fliers, but not the larger posters. The NLW however does have some of these and English language WW1 posters. The IWM London Dept of Art has a good set of the Welsh 1914-15 Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, and the later Parliamentary & Joint Labour Recruiting Committee examples (plus a few fliers in Printed Books Dept). Other specimens of fliers and posters are at the University College Bangor Archives and their Welsh Library collections.

LST_164

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