What was in PenCambria: Issue 26 Summer 2014?

Introduction and Contents at a glance

This year, indeed almost to the day this edition comes out, is the centenary of the out break of the First World War – the Great War, the War to end all wars, as it was called after the event, until twenty five years later. In order to mark the occasion this edition of PenCambria is devoted to all things related to this epoch-changing event.

The Great War brought down the crumbling edifices of the European monarchies and finally brought about the social changes for which the people had been agitating for over one hundred years, since well before the end of the Napoleonic wars. The experience of the millions of men on the battlefield belongs to them, very few of them talked about it afterwards – they could not do so except to other soldiers, an experience common to all men who have served in conflict – and in this edition there is relatively little that relates directly to their service. However, one of the defining features of World War One was that it was the first time in history that the whole country took part.

Five million men were recruited in Britain and the British Empire for battlefields and the Royal and Merchant Navies, these latter often forgotten in the carnage of Flanders. But they all needed to be fed, clothed and armed, cared for when injured, the country still had to function while they were away from their civilian jobs and much of this work was taken up by the women. They worked in ammunition factories, on the land and in the hospitals and in a whole range of other essential services.  Working class women were used to working in factories, shops, offices and other establishments; upper class and aristocratic women were used to organising charitable activities, but this was the first time that middle class women had joined the work force en masse rather than wait for a suitable marriage partner to be presented to them. Even children and animals were commandeered.

In fact after the war girls at school were told that due to deaths of so many men, one in ten of them would not find a husband and so they should prepare to spend their lives doing something other than running a hone and raising a family. It is also an interesting fact that women over thirty years of age were given the vote in February 1918, a few months before the end of the war, as if the government recognised that  many women would soon be fending for themselves and they did not want to have to deal with suffragette activity on top of everything else that would beset them.

In this commemorative edition with Lawrence Johnson and Brian Lawrence we discover how the outbreak of war was reported in Montgomeryshire in the County Times and, with the Declaration made by the King George V, how Rhayader mustered in support.

Nia Griffiths has embarked on a remarkable project to bring to light the stories of the men whose names appear on the cenotaph and the memorial tablets in the Llanidloes, some of whom appear in this edition.

War makes poets of us all and none better than those two great, war poets, profiled here by Reginald Massey: Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, a native of Oswestry.

Gilbert Phillips, a Newtown man, was a prisoner of war in Germany and his daughters very kindly talked about him to Brian Poole.

Jack Morten served in Europe and the Far East and his mother kept all his letters in a shoe box. Norma Allen reviews a book written by his daughter-in-law who typed up all the letters and researched his Battalion.

Mary Oldham meanwhile looks at the Davies Sisters of Llandinam, who provided canteens for the Frenchmen at the Front.

Florence Haynes was recruited into the Women’s Land Army and Gwenda Trow was very kind to tell me all about this feisty lady. In addition, she gave me Florence’s Land Army Handbook, which I have reproduced for you all to see just how seriously these women were taken, how important their service was and what was expected of them.

Countless numbers of animals are used in the pursuit of war, none of whom have any choice but to give their lives when the time comes. Diana Brown sheds light on this sacrifice.

Gardening is an unlikely pastime pursued behind the lines of both armies and Diana Ashworth has been digging around to find out more.

The nursing profession as we know it today grew from the need to nurse the soldiers who had, in so many cases, suffered such terrible injuries. Chris Barrett has researched this history and pays tribute to all the nurses who were killed in France but whose names do not appear on any role of honour.

In the Dragons Crypt Norma Allen continues the story of Selina, and Bruce Mawdesley tells of a narrow childhood escape.

The true feelings of the men at the Front are revealed in the songs they sang to keep themselves sane and the words of some of these – those that are printable! – are interspersed in this edition, gleaned from The Wipers Times and Trench Songs from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive.    Toodle pip!    Good-byee!

Gay Roberts, Editor


World War 1 – Rhayader 1914 Brian Lawrence

Remembering the Great War RCAHMW

The War Cloud Lawrence Johnson

Remembering the First World War – A Llanidloes Trail Nia Griffiths

Sassoon and Owen – Great War Poets Reginald Massey

The Conquering Conkers Gay Roberts

The Great War and a Newtown Man as Prisoner of War in Germany  Brian Poole

Post Card in Newtown on 14th August 1914 submitted by Sterling Mullins

Book Review: “I remain, Your Son Jack”  Norma Allen

Preparing for the Front RCAHMW

The Davies Sisters at the Front in World War One Mary Oldham

Florence Haynes  as told to Gay Roberts by Gwenda Trow

The Women’s Land Army L.A.A.S. Handbook

“They Had No Choice” Diana Brown

Kitty Gay Roberts

War and Gardening: Gardening in the Trenches in World War 1 Diana Ashworth

Finding their Voices Nurses and Midwives in Wales 1910-1940 Chris Barrett



The Dragon’s Crypt

In Time of War: part two : Gathering Shadows Norma Allen

Guardian Angel Bruce Mawdesley

In Their Own Words : Songs and Snippets The Soldiers of World War One