A Tour of Langemark Part One – The Welsh Memorial Park & Hedd Wyn Plaque

The Welsh dragon that stands atop the memorial in the new Welsh Memorial Park,  opened in 2014, on the road between Pilckem and Langemark.

So new, in fact, that at the time of our visit, construction appeared to be still ongoing; ‘Croeso’, by the way, is the Welsh for ‘welcome’.  The area around Langemark (Langemarck during the war, and here we are not much more than half a mile from the south western outskirts of the village – there’ll be a map next post) saw much fighting for the first three and a half years of the Great War, not least the so-called ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ during the First Battle of Ypres in 1914, which we shall come to later in the tour, the first German gas attacks on 22nd April 1915 at the start of the Second Battle of Ypres, which has been covered elsewhere*, and the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

*For full details you really need to read the whole of the Tour of Boesinghe, but as the Carrefour des Roses is on this very road about a mile away to the south west past Pilckem, and there’s some interesting stuff regarding the gas attacks therein, I shall direct you to that post if to no other.  Just remember, as we tour these Great War sites around Langemark that, for a few hours on 22nd April 1915, when a survivor later recalled seeing two greenish-yellow clouds being blown towards him on either side of the village and wondering what on earth it was, this whole area would have been a smoke and gas-filled scene of chaos and horror, as the new weapon, blanketing the ground, descended on the terrified Zouave soldiers and drove them out of the French front line, setting off a chain reaction and opening what became a 8000 yard gap in the Allied lines before night was out, on which the Germans failed, indeed, as we now know, never intended, to capitalise.

But the war could possibly have been lost then and there, in fact right here, in these fields south of Langemark and north of Boesinghe (the wind farm within the new industrial estate along the eastern bank of the Yser Canal that featured so much in the Boesinghe tour can be seen in the background).

Nice bench.  The Memorial Park itself is sited on our old friend the Pilckem Ridge, the battlefield where so many Welsh troops died at the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, as we saw in the cemeteries visited during the latter part, once again, of the Boesinghe tour.

Nice dragon too, designed by artist Lee Odishow, made of twenty five cast bronze pieces welded together before transportation from Powys in Wales, standing on a cromlech of three upright blue pennant stones with a fourth slab horizontally on top.

‘In remembrance of all those of Welsh descent who took part in the First World War’.

Nearby, a single headstone of CWGC-type design…

…is inscribed with the words of the first verse of the Welsh National Anthem, Land of My Fathers: ‘This land of my fathers is dear to me, Land of poets and singers, and people of stature, Her brave warriors, fine patriots, Shed their blood for freedom’.

The ubiquitous information board…

…contains some interesting information on the Welsh attitude to the war.

Surprisingly, this memorial is the only national Welsh Great War memorial outside Wales, and the wording on the plaque is quite specific, in that it includes all Welsh men and women who took part in the war, in whatever theatre they served, including the Home Front.  I believe that the original idea for the memorial came from the local Belgian population, who bought the piece of land on which the Park has been created.

Anyway, next time I am passing we’ll see how the Park looks now – I do know that a number of stones adorned with Welsh regimental emblems have been added since our visit – but in the meantime, just a few yards away,…

…a whole wall dedicated to the Welsh poet Ellis Evans, or Hedd Wyn, as he is better known.  You may remember we visited his burial place in Artillery Wood Cemetery not so long ago, and I raised certain questions about the date of his death – questions that are still unanswered and ongoing, by the way.

Evans was born in 1887 and by the age of twenty was already well-known and respected in Welsh poetry circles.  In 1907 a fellow poet suggested he take the bardic name Hedd Wyn, literally ‘blessed peace’.

Interestingly, the plaque simply states that he was mortally wounded on 31st July 1917, and that I have no disagreement with whatsoever.

So, time to move on,…

…although not to Ruisseau Farm Cemetery, some distance across the fields from here, where we shall find ourselves nearer the end of this tour.  No, our next stop, and the first of four cemeteries we shall be visiting, is no more than five hundred yards straight up the road towards Langemark.

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15 Responses to A Tour of Langemark Part One – The Welsh Memorial Park & Hedd Wyn Plaque

  1. Nick kilner says:

    Superb

  2. Steven Hearnden says:

    On this note, In Parenthesis by David Jones is worth a reference.

    • Magicfingers says:

      …although not exactly bed-time reading, I would suggest…?

      • Steven Hearnden says:

        Not really, unless you like to relive the horrors of Mametz on the first day of the Somme.

        • Magicfingers says:

          Indeed Steven, but I was referring mainly to the language. Not the easiest book to read from that point of view – or at least, I found it difficult at times. But well worth a reference, going back to your original point.

  3. Thought it might be of interest; Ellis Humphrey Evans, aka Hedd Wynn, served in the ‘Poets Regiment’ the Royal Welch Fusiliers – as did Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves. You can’t get a better understanding of the Regiment, or indeed the true horrors of trench warfare than to read Graves’s autobiography ‘Good-bye to All That’, especially the 1929 first edition. The 1957 edition was heavily revised by Robert Graves but although a lot more polished it looses the spontaneity and immediacy of the earlier version . . . .

  4. Morag Sutherland says:

    Good evening thanks for the post . It looks lovely when the daffies are in bloom around it….I might have photos somewhere….

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Morag. Well, I shall certainly return one day soon to take a look; when I’m in Flanders it’s a road we use frequently. I’d like to see your pics though.

  5. Marg Draycott says:

    Great post M visited there last year. See the write up on returned from the front, his original wooden cross held in the museum in his home village trawsfynedd. Same date of death as the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge I believe

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks M. That is very interesting, actually, because it had never occurred to me that the cross still existed. I have just checked it out. And it does rather throw a spanner into the works. I will explain all in due course.

  6. Marg Draycott says:

    Glad I spiked your interest M, now I can’t wait to see what the spanner is. Don’t take to long

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