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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
WWI tunnel 'messages' exhibition
David Gepp
Mr Gepp hopes to solve the mystery of what happened to the soldiers
A photographer hopes to solve the mysteries behind touching messages left in a railway tunnel by soldiers before they went to fight in World War One.

David Gepp is to exhibit pictures of the graffiti scrawled by young recruits at Berwyn, Denbighshire, in the hope their families will come forward.

One message, written by a soldier who died in the war, is believed to read: "I want this baby."

The collection will be shown at next week's Llangollen Fringe Festival.

Some locals have known of the existence of the messages for some time, but their history has never been publicly examined.

Alfred James Candy, as seen on Llangollen's war memorial
Alfred James Candy is honoured on Llangollen's war memorial

It is believed the teenage conscripts used indelible pencils issued for the front line to write notes in the tunnel, which passes underneath the Llangollen Steam Railway line at Berwyn station.

One partially-obscured note, signed by AJ Candy, reads: "I really want -- is baby."

The soldier - whose name appears on Llangollen's war memorial - was believed to have been killed in action.

David Gepp, who lectures in photography in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, believes the note was a deliberate message to a loved one.

A scrawling in the tunnel
Young recruit R.Roberts returned as a Lance Corporal

He said: "It looks as though he left messages for his lover here.

"The sad thing is that he went off to war and didn't ever come back. There's no trace of him."

Mr Gepp, a frequent visitor to Llangollen, was walking his dog with his wife when somewhere living nearby told him where to find the messages.

He has spent the last five years photographing and researching them, and will show the collection in an exhibition called Autographs from Llangollen.

He added: "When the tunnel was built in around 1864, it was lined with a type of tile that took pencil readily and local people took to writing their names or messages to loved ones on them.

It became a real obsession trying to discover who they were and what fate befell them in the trenches
David Gepp

"It soon became apparent that a great number were written by the young men of the town heading off to the First World War.

"It became a real obsession trying to discover who they were and what fate befell them in the trenches."

War memorial

One message is signed by R.Roberts in July 1913.

A separate scrawling next to it, left on 25 December the following year, is signed Lance Corporal R.Roberts - indicating he had been promoted and returned.

Four out of 11 soldiers' names researched by Mr Gepp now appear on Llangollen's war memorial.

While his exhibition is intended to convey an anti-war message, he also hopes it will encourage families to provide more information about the soldiers' lives.

Llangollen Fringe director Alan Found said: "I know that David is very keen to trace as many descendents of the names from the tunnel as possible, so this could prove to be very, very interesting."




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