Remembering The Great War

St. Mary's Church
Bronllys, Breconshire

Just one mile north-west of Talgarth, as you head north on the A479 perhaps towards Hay-on-Wye in search of old books, take time to stop off at Bronllys. Here in the village you will find St. Mary's. A fine church in early Norman style (rebuild in 1887) with its unusual detached tower set north of the chancel east wall.

Churchyard memorial, St. Mary's

Entering the churchyard the first war memorial can be seen to the left and close to the path. Erected by parishioners it takes the form of a horizontal stone scroll and commemorates the dead from both world wars.

Inside the sixteenth century north timber porch now, where an oak panel made in 1928 tells of how on 17 May that year the east window was dedicated as a memorial to those that served in the Great War. There are forty-two names listed, those that served, along with two men recorded as having been killed in action.

East window memorial board, St. Mary's

Originally on the south wall, a wood panel commemorating the two men who were killed is now located on the rood screen at the west end of the church. With Christ on the Cross in the centre, the simple dedication reads - Bronllys Parish In Memoriam 1914 - 1918 - R.I.P.

Wood panel commemorating two soldiers killed. St. Mary's

Private Edward Charles Gundy served with the 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers and was killed in action in Flanders on 10 November, 1917. The Borderers that day taking part in the attack at the Goudberg Spur, north of Passchendaele.

The second name on the memorial is that of Private (shown as Signaller) Bernie Jones. Killed 30 August, 1918 during the Battle of Bapaume. The 15th Welsh Regiment had returned to the Somme on 5 August and would find the River Ancre in full flood and its bridges destroyed. On the night of 22/23 August the Battalion crossed the river near Hamel. The men wading through the water up to their chests while under fire. They later took part in the fighting near High Wood, and at time of Bernie Jones`s death were preparing to attack the village of Morval.

At the east end of the church, the memorial window features Christ and the twelve apostles in the centre, with St. Mary to the left, and St. David to the right. The dedication - To The Glory Of God And In Memory Of Those From This Parish Who Served In The Great War is written on a scroll towards the bottom of the central light.

Return now to the churchyard where the grave of a former vicar, the Rev. William J. Davies, also commemorates the death in France of his son. Private John Cynfyn Davies of the 16th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Killed in action on 22 April, 1918.

Bronllys Hospital

From St. Mary's turn left now onto the A438 and after a short distance, right onto the road leading up to Bronllys Hospital. Originally known as the South Wales Sanatorium, the building was erected with the aid of funds provided by the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association and its early post war patients included many discharged sailors and soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. In the reception area, and besides a fine bronze bust of King Edward, a brass plaque has the inscription -

To The Glory Of God
In Honoured Memory Of
The Hospital Staff
Who Fell In The Great War
Their Name Liveth For Evermore.

The names, ranks and regiments of four men are commemorated. Both Private William Lloyd and Corporal Joseph Herbert Smith served with the Brecknockshire Battalion, South Wales Borderers, and died in Aden on 4 July, 1915. The men being lost to heatstroke and exposure during the march to Lahej (see St. Mary`s, Brecon).

The next man Alfred George Reed, is shown on the memorial with the rank of Sergeant, 2nd Grenadier Guards. He served with the 3rd Battalion, and died with the rank of Corporal during the fighting at Boesinghe, north of Ypres, on 31 July, 1917.

The last name is that of Private John Henry Watkins who served with the 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers and died from wounds received in France on 26 November, 1918.

Copyright © Ray Westlake, May, 2002

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