Trelewis War Memorial
Trelewis Memorial being unveiled in 1925
On Sunday, May 31st, 1925 the Trelewis War Memorial to the 45 young men who had sacrificed their lives in the Great War was unveiled. It was reported over two pages in the “Merthyr Express” with two photographs and some almost poetic reporting. The headlines were: TRELEWIS WAR MEMORIAL - IMPRESSIVE SCENES AT UNVEILING CEREMONY - A worthy tribute to fallen heroes. The Report started: “Sunday last will long live as a day of sacred and proud memories in the minds of the residents of Trelewis and it will be spoken of as such in the story handed down to the generations yet unborn. Fully 3,000 people stood in silent admiration as the Union Jack which had veiled a majestic and beautiful monument was unfurled, revealing the little mining town’s tribute and memorial to the 45 gallant men of Trelewis who laid down their lives in the great war.” A stormy night and a rainy morning had preceded the ceremony but then the weather turned out gloriously fine. “The Great War, like unto the storm, was a thing of the past and a great peace had taken its place.” The War memorial was topped by a life-size figure of a mourning soldier, made of Sicilian white marble, with head reverently bowed and hands resting on an upturned rifle. It had been erected in a peaceful location adjacent to Captain’s Hill. The Memorial was unveiled by John Davies (seen on platform at right) who having been headmaster at Trelewis from 1881-1913 would have known most of those named on the memorial.
Earlier there had been a large procession through the village led by the Treharris Workmen’s Silver Band. A dense crowd of spectators had lined the road leading to the memorial The Memorial Service was led by the three local ministers and then John Davies rose to unveil the Memorial. Of the 45 names on the pedestal, two of the youngest were aged only 19, most were in their twenties and the oldest was aged 46. Remarking on the unveiling, he said: “We have today performed an honourable but sad and solemn ceremony……. All suffered in the Great War, but nothing compared to these who gave their all.” His thoughts that day were of those he had known as pupils at the school who had concentrated on “the acquisition of learning, preparatory to the battle of ordinary life.” Now the remains of some were interred in foreign soil, some unknown were laid “Ei enw dyna’i gyd” - (“His name and nothing more.”). The Memorial was then dedicated, followed by the Last Post and floral tributes were placed at its base by relatives of the fallen and various societies. The Reveille, singing of “Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah”, “God Save the King” and the Benediction marked the conclusion.
The incription on the Memorial reads "Erected by the Inhabitants of Trelewis to the glory of God and the Immortal Memory of the men of this Village who died for their Country in the Great War 1914-1918 They died that we might live Gwell Angau Na Chwilydd" ('Death rather than Dishonour'). It was the Caiach Lodge of the RAOB which had first started the movement for a memorial. But when villagers learned that the memorial was only intended for members of the Lodge they wanted something for the whole village. So in September, 1919, a meeting was held in the vestry of Ebenezer Chapel to discuss how to proceed. A committee was formed chaired by T W Lewis and including John Davies amongst its members to raise money for a War Memorial. Various fund-raising activities were begun. Trelewis School participated on 2 occasions in 1919 when the School was closed for a carnival and sports to be held. When the original fund-raising committee stalled with the fund reaching £161.15.9, a fresh committee led by Mr Ivor Lewis, made the final push to raise the £250 required. Of all the interested parties, at the forefront of raising money for the impressive war memorial, was the Trelewis Ex-Servicemen’s Club which became part of the British Legion after the latter was founded in 1921. Previously, it had also been active in supporting the families of those killed in the war. For many years it was to be a focal point in the life of the village, using as its base one of the original huts left by those who had sunk Taff Merthyr Colliery. In all, it took over six and a half years and the overcoming of many difficulties before the objective was accomplished with an estimable memorial constructed by Messrs David Williams and Sons of Abercynon.
Towards the end of the twentieth century, the War Memorial had become neglected and even subject to vandalism. The British Legion, inspired by its women members, wished to rectify a deplorable situation. It was decided to raise funds to move the memorial to a more prominent and safer spot, opposite the main road, near the Ffald bridge. It was erected on in its new spot on 9th Febuary 2002 by The Royal Engineers. On June 23rd, 2002, about 500 people took part in the re-dedication of the War Memorial. There were 300, mostly ex-servicemen, who marched from the Millennium Park through the village to the new site, led by the Salvation Army band. Local clergy officiated at the service of hymns and prayers. The Mayor was also in attendance and the Chairman of the Trelewis Cenotaph Project, Shirley Bufton, presented him with the symbolic deeds of dedication. The laying of wreaths and poppy crosses was followed by the Act of Remembrance. At the close, light refreshments were served at the Bontnewydd Hotel and in Trinity Church Hall. The report in the “Merthyr Express” was much briefer and less lyrical than that of the 1925 ceremony but it had a much larger, coloured photograph than on the former occasion. (The above is mainly taken from "A Village Headmaster - John Davies (1851-1942)" by Alun Watkins)