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Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Tuesday, 28 September 2010 11:32 UK
Memorabilia gives voice to Welsh role in the Great War

World War One soldier, Griffith Jones
Preacher John Williams of Brynsiencyn encouraged young men to sign up as Welshmen and CHristians

If you've got a German helmet from World War I hanging around the house Dr Gethin Matthews would like to hear from you.

He's manager of the Welsh Voices of the Great War project that's been travelling round the country looking for memorabilia from 1914-18 and comes to Llanberis this week.

"I've read lots of accounts of soldiers saying they've captured a German platoon and now they all have German helmets, but I haven't seen one yet, " he said.

"But we have had some gems. One thing looked like a rattle they might use at a football game, but it was to warn of a gas attack. We also had a bayonet which is a really nasty implement. I hadn't realised how long they are."

The project is creating an online archive of memorabilia from World War I to give an insight into what life was like for soldiers and their families.

Staff from Cardiff University's School of History and Archaeology will at the National Slate Museum, Llanberis, on Saturday to share their expertise.

I like to think of it as a national archive of what Wales was like and how it changed during the war years
Dr Gethin Matthews

"This is the final roadshow of seven we've held across Wales," said Dr Matthews. "It's remarkable the wealth and material that people have up in their attics."

As a social historian, Dr Matthews is fascinated by letters and diaries recording life at the Front and at home.

"It shows what they were thinking and how their attitudes changed from, say 1914, to 1916," he said.

"People used to correspond quite frequently, so there was a regular conversation between home and the Front.

"Many letters seem to be self-censored though, and leave out the gory details. You have to read between the lines to find out what's really going on."

One person who will be bringing items to the roadshow is Julie Williams, marketing manager for the slate museum.

"We've come across some postcards from my great grandfather to my nain, his daughter," said Julie, who was touched at the sweetness of the correspondence.

Tudur Williams and Jac Williams
Tudur and Jac Williams have items from their great great grandfather

"He called himself Tada (father), and her Doli fach (Dorothy). He asks if she's been a good girl, to look after her mam and says that he'll be home soon and they could be a family again.

"He did survive the war and came home to his little girl."

Another item from Julie's husband's family is a treat box which his great uncle received for Christmas 1914.

"I think every soldier had a treat box. It would have been full of chocolate, and maybe some cigarettes," said Julie.

"He was one of three brothers who went to fight and, quite unusually, all three came home.

"We really hope others will come along with things like these so we can find out what local men contributed to the war. Many died, but many did come home."

One soldier who wasn't so lucky was Griffith Jones of Y Ffôr, near Pwllheli, whose photo has been sent to the project's website.

Dr Matthews has discovered that he was recruited by John Williams of Brynsiencyn, Anglesey, who was famed for for preaching from the pulpit in full military uniform, telling young men it was their duty to sign up as Welshmen and Christians.

"Griffith ended up in Memetz Woods, a part of the battle of the Somme where many Welsh soldiers died," said Dr Matthews. "We also have a photo of the medal his family received for his sacrifice. They were known as the death pennies."

The project website is open to contributions until February 2011, then everything will be catalogued and transferred to the People's Collection, a major government-funded archive.

The roadshow is at the Slate Museum, Llanberis between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, 2 October.




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