On the western side of Gwent, Blaina lies close to Abertillery and Ebbw Vale and in this article I deal with its main town memorial, that recently erected in the park and sports ground at Surgery Road, along with those to be found in three of its churches. Details are also included of the ten war graves to be found in the local cemetery. For further information, and a complete record of all names inscribed on the memorials, see my books War Graves and Memorials in Gwent Volumes 1 and 2.
At the sports ground a piece of local stone rests on a paved platform, around the four sides of which black marble panels bear the names and ranks of those who were killed. One hundred and fifty in number, the names are for both Blaina (the headquarters of "H" Company, 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment in 1914-18) and the neighbouring Nantyglo.
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Of Wales
|The church in Chapel Road, found in the area of Blaina know as West Side, was built in 1860-1 and has no war memorials of its own. Thanks, however, to local historian and church member, Danny Morris, a number of items belonging to two, now demolished, schools, and the old St. Peter`s Church (demolished in 1969 and replaced by a modern building), have been saved and put up for display in the School Room at Ebenezer.|
Unveiled on 17 November, 1920 at St. Peter`s, a marble tablet displays at the top, crossed rifles and a laurel wreath. Below this the dedication:
To The Glory Of God And In Proud And Grateful Memory Of Those
From This Parish Who Fell In The Great War 1914-18.
They Died As Few Men Get The Chance To Die
Fighting To Save A World`s Morality
They Died The Noblest Death A Man May Die,
Fighting For God, And Right, And Liberty:-
And Such A Death Is Immortality.
Below this, and also from St. Peter`s, a brass plaque headed "The Glorious Dead", records in six columns the names and ranks of one hundred and four men. A small brass plate at the bottom records "The Above Tablet Was Erected By The Blaina United Choir And Friends Nov. 17th 1920".
Another brass plaque, formerly at the West Side School next door to the church, and now at Ebenezer, bears the inscription: "In proud & loving memory of the Old Boys of this School who fell in The War 1914-1919. Erected by Staff & Scholars".
At the Blaina Boys School a Roll of Honour was kept throughout the First World War recording the names of teachers and past scholars then serving with the Colours. Now at Ebenezer, the roll, which includes a portrait of King George V, gives the names and regiments of some three hundred and ninety individuals.
Nantyglo and Blaina Cemetery
There are ten war graves within the cemetery which is on the main road just south of Blaina.
Petty Officer Stoker W. Broome of HMS Endymion. Died 4 August, 1916. The Cruiser Endymion served in the Dardanelles for most of the war.
Private F. William Fowler, South Wales Borderers. Thirty-nine when he died on 31 December, 1916.
Driver Alfred Hopkins, 57th Reserve Battery, Royal Field Artillery. Died from sickness, aged twenty-seven, on 30 April, 1916.
Private A. Mills, 1/5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Awarded the Military Medal, Private Mills was forty when he died on 14 December, 1920.
Private Charles Pugh, 3rd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers was forty-eight when he died on 8 November, 1918. His wife, Miriam, died in 1943, and was buried with her husband. The original Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone being placed within a curbstone.
Pioneer William John Le Visconte, 3rd Canadian Pioneers. Thirty-two when he died of sickness on 8 September, 1916.
Ordinary Seaman H. Wilbert of HMS Victory. Died 7 October, 1918.
Private W.H. Wilkins, 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment. Fifty-two when he died on 17 February, 1920.
Lance-Sergeant Daniel Williams, 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment. Died, aged thirty, on 10 September, 1917.
The remaining war grave is that of Private C. Vaughan, 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment who is buried in a family grave. Part of the inscription reads:
Private Cyril Vaughan 2nd Welsh R.
Beloved son of Thomas & Elizabeth Vaughan of Six Bells
Who died Nov 3 1915 at Frensham Hill Hospital from wounds received
At the Battle Of Loos. Aged 24 Years.
Only a British Soldier, only a Mother`s son who fell on the
Field of battle my duty I have done.
I have served my King and Country you know I did my best,
Now I`m asleep in Jesus, a British Soldier`s rest.
St. Peter`s Church
The new St. Peter`s in High Street, Blaina, has a brass plaque on the west wall inscribed
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. To the glory of God and in honoured memory of the men of this Congregation who fell in The Great War 1914-18."
Unveiled on 17 November, 1920, the plaque goes on to records the names and ranks of twenty-seven men - Captain J. Lancaster, Lieutenant F.H.V. Bevan, Lieutenant G.H. Adney (awarded Military Cross), Petty Officer W. Broome, Company Sergeant Major D.G. James, Sergeant J. Gregson, Corporal T.D. James, Trooper J.F. Williams, Private G.L. Williams, Gunner J.C. Jones, Driver G. Berton, Privates F.J. Brooks, S. Berton, W. Carey, F.W. Fowler, A. Hughes, S.C. James, F.J. Williams, W. Jenkins, E.J. Jones, W.J. Le Visconte, F.W. Lockstone, J. Morden, J. Salisbury Price, H. Richards, J.R. Sheargold and Thomas Fletcher. The memorial ends with the word "They died that we might live".
Commissioned into the 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment in May, 1908, James Lancaster was killed during the 8 May, 1915 fighting at Frezenberg Ridge. On that day, notes the battalion records, the Monmouths' trenches were badly damaged by enemy shell fire. Several infantry attacks followed, these being beaten off, but by 10 am "there were few survivors to hold up the attack." The order to retire was given, but an intense machine gun fire "practically swept away the few survivors of A and D Co.'s......D Co. stuck it gallantly. They lost their only officer, Capt. James Lancaster, beloved of all who knew him." Captain Lancaster`s name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing at Ypres.
Also with no know grave, and on the Jerusalem Memorial, is Lieutenant Francis Harry Vaughan Bevan. Originally with the 8th South Wales Borderers, but killed in April, 1917, during the Second Battle of Gaza, while serving with 14th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.
Buried at Vaulx Hill Cemetery in France, is Lieutenant George Henry Adney, MC, who was killed in action near Beugny on 2 September, 1918. He was twenty-one and served with the 7th Tank Corps. Petty-Officer Broome, of HMS Endymion, died on 4 August, 1916 and is buried in Blaina Cemetery.
United Reformed Church
|Formally at the old St. Peter`s, a white marble memorial to Sergeant
John Gregson can now be seen to the left of the pulpit at the Blaina United
Reformed Church (built 1886) in Gladstone Street. His sister, requesting
a new home for her brother`s commemoration when the original building was
demolished in 1969.
Sergeant Gregson served with the 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment, which at the time of his death was working on railway construction and the building of defences close to the Hindenburg Line.
The men were, in the main, unarmed and heavily laden with material. On 30 November, the enemy pushed forward with a huge counter attack and succeeded in breaking through all along the line immediately in front of the Monmouths. With what weapons could be found from the dead and wounded, the men defended their position as best they could, but were soon forced to retire. John Gregson`s body was never found. His name being placed on the Cambrai Memorial to the missing at Louverval.
|The church has its own memorial in the form of polished wood panels
set behind the pulpit. The names of those killed, and served, are recorded
in gold "Old English" lettering. Those who fell being indicated by the letter
"R.I.P." and the year of death.
"To the glory of God
Left panel: William J. Allen, Ivor R. Angell, Ernest Bridgeman, Harold L. Brooke, Ernest G. Carpenter, Phillip Davies, Will Dimmick (RIP 1915), William J. Dimmick, Evan Evans, John Finney, Charles Gomery (RIP 1915), Tom Greenslade, Albert Jelly, Henry Jelly (RIP 1915), Alfred E. Jones, Alyn A. Jones, Eddie J. Jones, Edwin T. Jones, Emlyn Jones, Fred Jones, Gwyn O.L. Jones, John E.H. Jones, W. Eddie Jones, John Langley (RIP 1918), Fred Larkin.
Right panel: Arthur Long, Phillip H. Middleton, Edward G. Morgan, Reg Morgan, William Oakley, Matthew Osland (RIP 1918), Dan Parry, William Parry, Eddie Probert, Reg Savage, George Spacey, William H. Sutton (RIP 1918), Ernest Thomas, John Thomas (RIP 1915), T. John Tranter, George True, Walter True, William J. Vaughan (RIP 1917), James White, Frank Wilcox, Dorset P. Williams, George Williams, Frank Window, Edwin Withey.
The names of those that served in the Second World War have been added to the memorial.
Copyright © Ray Westlake, September, 2002
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