In the years following the end of hostilities in the First World large sections of the population had the painful experience of dealing with the loss of loved ones killed in action. This grief was particularly acute when we consider that the majority of the causalities were young men in the prime of their lives. Due to the enormous number of soldiers killed, in Great Britain approaching one million, the government and military authorities deemed that the repatriation of bodies was impractical. The casualties of war were therefore remembered across on war memorials across the country.
War memorials took many forms; national, such as those in Whitehall in London and in Cathays Park in Cardiff; and local memorials dedicated to those lost from cities, towns, and villages across the country. There were also memorials to particular groups, including individual sporting teams, church congregations, former pupils at individual schools and many other groupings.
At Glamorgan Archives we have in the collection records relating to the erection of a number of memorials in the county. This short piece will discuss the memorial at Caerphilly, and also make reference to those less than three miles away at Senghenydd and Llanbradach.
As was the case with the erecting of many memorials, the organising committee reflected the structure of the local society, namely local political parties, church groups, trade unions, ex-servicemen and dependent widows. In the case of Caerphilly, the diversity of the interested parties did leave potential for controversy, which to some extent did occur. Civil organisations tended to favour a memorial which provided a facility for the greater community, with such proposals in various Welsh towns including public memorial halls, libraries, and a swimming pool. In Senghenydd, the memorial took the form of clock tower located on the main square.
In contrast to the proposals of civil organisations, military bodies argued that the memorials’ should reflect the sacrifices made by solders and be either a comrades club for ex servicemen to meet, or a permanent memorial such as was finally erected in Caerphilly.
An indication of the debate surrounding the form of the memorial in Caerphilly can be found within local authority minutes and collected newscuttings (ref.: D163/U/4).
John Arnold, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer