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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Cemeteries and Memorials


tonycad

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When I first saw the Dragon Memorial to the 38th Welsh Division, overlooking Death Valley and facing the Hammerhead Copse at Mametz Wood, I was not taken with it, as I thought it was too fussy in its detail, and it was not in the usual genre of marble/granite obelisk type divisional memorials of the Western Front. I also thought that the metalwork would deterioriate with age.

After several visits, it has grown on me, and I have the strong impression that it is saying yah boo to the enemy in the woods.

This is why I have changed my avatar.

Tony

post-4728-1131386724.jpg

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and I have the strong impression that it is saying yah boo to the enemy in the woods.

Tony

It is saying more than 'yah boo' to the enemy.

Look at the direction it is facing and what it holds in it's claws and what is coming out of it's mouth. It is not just defiance. there is an element of determination and aggression here.

I assume that we both used the term 'yah boo' in deference to our more delicate Pals. I could think of much more appropriate phrases!!

Martin

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I assume that we both used the term 'yah boo' in deference to our more delicate Pals. I could think of much more appropriate phrases!!

Not for a Nonconformist Welsh man, it wouldn't be, and many of them would have had an evangelistic Chapel background, the Revivals of 1904 being well within their recent past. Men like my grandad would never, ever, even in appalling circumstances, have uttered anything uncouth. I never ever heard my own father swear, either.

Gwyn

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Well, that is me told!

I can not for the life of me imagine a large body of men, faced with the situation they were faced with, all conforming to the tight language strictures of their day.

Sorry but that I think is the reality. It does not mean though that they would utter the language of today. Language changes and what was a swear word then may be harmless today.

Also, my original posting does not necessarilyl mean that I would have uttered really fearsome phrases.

Probably would have said 'Oh, b****r!'

Martin

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The dragon was sculpted by David Peterson, the son of a well known Welsh boxer, and was erected in 1987. It depicts the fighting strengths of the Welsh Division having the wings of a bat, claws of a lion, neck, ears and mane of a horse, the head of an alligator, the tongue and tail of a serpent and the horns of a bull. Quite a combination!

Erected solely by public subscription, it is maintained by the South Wales Branch of the WFA - to whom donations for its upkeep can be made!

Bernard

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I picked up on your reference to restrained language ‘in deference to ... delicate Pals’ and speculation about 'appropriate phrases'.

As a linguist I would not be so glib as to argue that the men were using the language of today. For a start, which language? For significant numbers of Welsh men, English was completely foreign. I have talked to people of my generation from Welsh backgrounds whose grandparents simply did not know any English swear words and for whom the most appalling thing they could utter was ‘Diawl’. Nor would I generalise about all men.

I did observe that for a hypothetical man from a passionately evangelical Nonconformist background, cursing would have been anathema. Apart from the home, Chapel would have been the sole influence on his life and thinking. He went to chapel meetings in the evenings when he had done his day’s work, he attended on Sunday, his social life was chapel (and probably only within the denomination too) and his family were chapel. The intensity of passions inspired by the Revivals which swept Wales, and most recently that of Evan Roberts in 1904, was something that deeply and powerfully affected many for the rest of their lives. That was their reality. His cynicism and determination to expose the effects of religion was one reason Caradoc Evans’ writing was banned.

I am not being idealistic, attributing widespread piety and saintliness to people in ghastly situations. I come from a family of Nonconformist preachers and Welsh capels are in my blood. I was basing my remark on old men whom I have met, who have since died, whose level of gentle innocence was quite unimaginable to us today; on Welsh and English literature about Wales at the turn of the last century which my grandfather collected and passed on to me, and on my preacher grandfather’s sermon notes which I have.

I see the Dragon as communicating anguished defiance, yet with pain etched into its contours. It looks most stark and poignant in an evening sun, deeply crimson and vibrant against the impassive dark weight of the woods.

Gwyn

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This is one of my favourite memorials, and I make a point of visiting if I'm in the area.

I'm not Welsh, no real connection with the Welsh. My only family link is I had a Gt Gt uncle who was in the 2/SWB who fell at Gallipoli, funnily enough he wasn't Welsh (having come from South London), and I didn't know about him when I first visited the dragon at Mametz...............wonder what drew me to it (just coincidence!).

To me, it makes me think of the brave 38th and it also makes me remember my Gt Gt uncle

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If anyone has a spare hour or two there is a fantastic eyewitness account of this battle and events leading to it here;

http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~alwyn/Mametz/

Any Welsh readers on these boards who can translate the following, contained on the opening page?

'. . . . . . . . i ddwys goffau Y rhwyg o golli'r hogiau'

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Thanks, Graham. Wyn Griffith writes beautifully. I have some of his books here (from grandad). It amazes me that having described the painful difficulty of learning English, his prose is so graceful and vivid.

I have here also a newspaper cutting (from grandad as well) which extols Wyn Griffith's descriptions of the formative influence of chapel life and the Revivals as an antidote to the views of Caradoc Evans.

(Some of?) his papers are at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Gwyn

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It is an englyn by R Williams Parry and I think it is on the memorial at Penygroes. Wyn Griffiths originated from Machynlleth.

O Gofadail gofidiau - tad a mam!

Tydi mwy drwy'r oesau

Ddysgi ffordd i ddwys goffau

Y rhwyg o golli'r hogiau.

Rather than have a go myself I’ll look in my Welsh poetry books for a translation. Sorry to cheat, but I don’t and can't cross-translate Welsh poetry in my head.

An englyn, by the way, is a particular metrical form, usually with four lines with one rhyme ending and a set number of syllables. The effect is usually quite intense. I would say a lot more but it would be very boring for people who are not into cynghanedd.

Gwyn

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If anyone has a spare hour or two there is a fantastic eyewitness account of this battle and events leading to it here;

http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~alwyn/Mametz/

Any Welsh readers on these boards who can translate the following, contained on the opening page?

'.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  i ddwys goffau Y rhwyg o golli'r hogiau'

Broadly it is 'tearfull/sorrow in the memory of the tearing appart(emotionally) at the loss of the boys(lads), but I would tend to think more in the lines of utter dispare at the loss is more accurate. I also visit the memorial on every visit and find it a totally appropriate memorial which fires the emotions of patriotism in me, oh, not all the lads were chapel goers, some only went to please the mine owners and managers of the day, no bowing to the masters no work. Hwyl Kevin

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Gwyn,

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to look this up for me (and everyone else)

I agree totally, I found his account both powerful and moving.

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Scroll down nine images here and you can see the memorial in its setting. Also the bottom picture.

http://www.nantlle.com/hanes-pen-y-groes-cardiau-post.htm

Gwyn

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Kevin, is there still a drill hall in Penygroes? C6 RWF?

If there is, do you have a camera handy?

Gwyn

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Kevin,

Utter despair.............Yes that would be a fitting quote. Thanks for helping me out with that.

Utter despair at the wasted lives

Utter despair at the destruction of his beloved company/division

Utter despair at his own inability to change things

Utter despair at having to order a runner due to cut telephone lines and that runner by pure fate being his brother, who is never seen again.

Yes utter despair is a very apt epitaph indeed.

Gwyn,

Thanks for the picture link.

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Graham, I couldn't find one in my poetry books, so I have PMd my translation. I am too shy to put it on the forum! There are people who are far better able to do it than I am.

I feel that the englyn has also a message of learning from the memory of the devastating losses (that is a very loose paraphrase and not a translation).

However, I did come across again his powerful epitaph for Hedd Wyn with its haunting lines about the black, empty Chair (from the Eisteddfod where Hedd Wyn won the Chair posthumously), so it wasn't a waste of my looking.

Gwyn

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Gwyn,

Thanks for the PM.

Moving words indeed.

Tony,

Sorry I feel that I have hi-jacked the thread a tad. :huh:

Hopefully the questions and answers will be of use to all

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Graham Smith.

Graham,

When I post a thread to the Forum, I generally have three motives.

First, to share my experience with Pals.

Hopefully to learn more on the subject from Pal's responses.

That a thread will develop around the subject, which will shed extra light on and around the subject.

This thread meets all expectations, so no apologies for hi-jacking.

Please continue them coming.

T :) ny

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It's a lovely clear photo, Tony - saturated colours.

Bernard's details were illuminating too.

Gwyn

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