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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 January, 2005, 14:27 GMT
Heroes' story retold 90 years on
The Swansea Battalion
A Swansea Battalion company outside the George Hotel, Mumbles
The 'forgotten' story of a World War I fighting unit made of men entirely from Swansea is told in a new book.

The Swansea Pals Battalion fought in some of the major battles of the conflict and suffered heavy losses.

Author and historian Bernard Lewis has spent more than two years trawling through records and interviewing relatives of the men who served.

More than 600 were killed. Almost 90 years later, it is thought none of those who survived remains alive.

Everyone in the area had either lost someone or knew someone who had been injured or killed
Author and historian Bernard Lewis

"The battalion was originally formed following an appeal by the mayor of Swansea," Mr Lewis said.

"All the lads who joined at first either lived or work in Swansea.

"It was more common for such battalions to be raised this way in the north of England, although there was a Carmarthen and a Cardiff battalion and a couple of Gwent battalions."

One of the most tragic stories in the book concerns the battle at Mametz Wood during July, 1916.

"Seven hundred members of the Swansea Battalion were involved in an attack on Mametz Wood on the Somme," Mr Lewis explained.

'Forgotten event'

"During the battle 100 were killed and 300 wounded. This had a tremendous impact on Swansea and its residents.

"Everyone in the area had either lost someone or knew someone who had been injured or killed."

Such battles led to the dilution of the pals battalions as the military did not want such large numbers of casualties from single towns or cities.

Author Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis said the story had been at risk of being lost

"The day was subsequently marked as Mametz Memorial Day which was commemorated in Swansea until the outbreak of World War II," added Mr Lewis.

"This is now a forgotten event and with no known veterans of the Swansea Battalion still being with us and a dwindling band of surviving relatives, the memory of the battalion and what was achieved was at risk of being lost altogether."

Mr Lewis, who works for Swansea Council's environment department and lives in Neath, said after the war ended in 1919, some of the Swansea Pals felt the scale of their sacrifices was not fully appreciated.

"They hoped that a history would soon be written to put the record straight," he added.

"Despite these good intentions nothing was ever done. I would like to think that they would see my book as fulfilling their wishes in that respect after a gap of almost 90 years."

Swansea Pals - a History of the 14th (Service) Battalion, Welsh Regiment in the Great War, is published by Pen and Sword Books.

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