Remembering The Great War

Bwlch, Breconshire

The village of Bwlch (a gap or pass) lies south-east of Brecon, its war memorial, a stone Celtic Cross, being located at the junction of the A40 and B4560. Carved into the base of the cross, the dedication -

Erected By The Inhabitants In Grateful Memory

Of The Men Of This District Who Laid Down Their Lives

In The Great War 1914-1918. Their Name Ever Liveth

Village War memorial

The lettering in places now difficult to read, the remaining three sides of the base carry, by order of death, the names, ranks and dates of death of fifteen men.

First side: Private Percy J. Evans, killed in action with the 2nd Border Regiment on 26 October, 1914. The Battalion that day holding trenches at Kruiseecke near Ypres. Sergeant T. Charles Hadley, killed with the 2nd South Wales Borderers at Gallipoli on 4 September, 1915. Driver John William Jones, Royal Artillery. Killed 30 December, 1915, also at Gallipoli. Private David Thomas Lewis, killed with the 1/6th Welsh Regiment in France on 1 April, 1916, and Rifleman Ernest O'dell, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, 17 May, 1916.

Second side: Private Edmund Fitton, died 29 July, 1916. Gunner William Frank Morris, Royal Artillery, died 7 July, 1917 in France. Signalman Wilfred E. Evans, September 1917; Roy James Oldcorn, 28 November, 1917, and Private Cyril John Powell of the 1/15th London Regiment (see Penul Chapel below).

Third side: Private Sydney Barter, 9th King`s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 17 January, 1918; Private Albert Meager, 22 March, 1918; Private William H. Booth, 13th East Lancashire Regiment, 22 August, 1918 in France; Private William Owen Lewis, 9th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (see Penul Chapel below) and Aston Talbot, 29 October, 1918.

Penul Chapel Presbyterian Church Of Wales

Private Cyril Powell memorial, Penul Chapel.

Situated just off the A40, the Penul Chapel Presbyterian Church of Wales has a single memorial bearing the cap badge of the 15th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles). Erected by family and friends, a white marble tablet mounted on wood to the left of the pulpit recalls the death of nineteen year old Cyril John Powell.

The Battalion War Diary of the 1/15th London Regiment records how the morning of 30 November, 1917 opened with an intense bombardment from German guns of every calibre. Before long the enemy's infantry could be seen advancing in many waves from the area beyond Bourlon village. Also noted is the isolation of the Battalion at this point. With no signal communication, either with Brigade Headquarters, or units close by, the Commanding Officer had therefore to rely on the services of runners, an hour`s journey, and four pigeons. Throughout the morning little happened on the front held by the Civil Service Rifles, the enemy appearing to concentrated their efforts on the sectors to the right and left of the Battalion`s position. In the air, however, low-flying aeroplanes caused a number of casualties as, notes the regimental historian - they swarmed like bees above machine gunning into the crowded trenches.

Soon after midday the enemy turned their attention towards the Battalion. "B" and "D" Companies both noted as having suffered heavily. About 4 pm, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel W.H.E. Segrave, led what men he could muster through a hail of rifle and machine gun bullets in order to restore the line. A successful operation, which -

"....inspired the men of the Civil Service Rifles with such confidence and enthusiasm, that they carried out their advance as at a Salisbury Plain manoeuvre, the colonel with a map in one hand and a whistle in the other, giving his directions by signal."

Casualties, however, were severe. When relieved from their trenches during the night of 1 December, the Battalion`s losses after roll call were established as twelve officers and two hundred and seventy-eight men.

The relatives and friends reference to "a large grave" was probably based on an early report received from the Battalion. Shell craters often being used as mass burial sites. If the grave was marked at all, subsequent battle activity would, however, have resulted in its loss. Cyril Powell`s name now appears on the Cambrai Memorial to those who fell in the 1917 operations and have no known grave.

In the chapelyard, mention is made on a family headstone of "William Owen Lewis, Died in Germany Oct. 14, 1918." No rank or reference to military service being given. Private William Owen Lewis was taken prisoner while serving in France with the 9th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and having died from heart failure on the date stated, was buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Cassel, Germany.

Copyright © Ray Westlake, March, 2002

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