Scores of people visited the exhibition in the council chamber of Penarth Town Council
Scores of Penarthians have been attending a special exhibition at West House, (the headquarters of Penarth Town Council) today to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.
The event – entitled “Lest we Forget” had been a year in the planning. It drew together contributions and exhibits from a wide variety of local organisations and historical records.
Members of the Western Front Association helped local residents trace the war records of their ancestors
Many local families attending today were interested in tracing the military careers of their forebears with the help of members of the Western Front Association who were able to carry out live, on-line, internet searches to track down the war records of their ancestors.
Faithful modern reproductions of 1914 toys were available for children at the event
At the entrance to West House were a selection of 1914-vintage toys for children to try out.
Also at the event were members of the Glamorgan Heritage Society bringing the event to life by dressing in real WW1 uniforms. Typical weapons and firearms of the era were on show along with authentic uniforms of the period and a wide range of wartime memorabilia.
A genuine taste of 1914 food was specially cooked for the event including Breakfast Cakes and “Eggless Sponge”
Insert Ivanhoe Avon (aged 18) of Penarth whose box of WW1 keepsakes was found by his daughter in law Marion Avon (right). She met the Mayor of Penarth Cllr Martin Turner at today’s special event
Amongst the displays was one dedicated to Penarth war-hero Ivanhoe Avon whose family once lived at “Avon’s Corner” (where Westbourne School now is). His daughter-in-law Marion Avon – who herself narrowly missed being interned by the Nazis when France fell in WW2 – discovered his war records, books and keep-sakes in his original black signal box – still in pristine condition. They included a Union Jack which he took with him everywhere, a watch, a signals handbook, binoculars, a camera and his military medals.
Amongst other poignant exhibits was one from local Quakers (who meet in The Kymin every Sunday). They displayed the white feathers which 100 years ago were sent by women to any men they adjudged to be shirking war service – many of whom were, in fact, conscientious objectors, pacifists or Quakers.
Penarth’s Head Librarian Marcus Payne explains the research carried out to list all Penarthians killed in WW1
One of the most impressive achievements on show was the work carried out by Marcus Payne the Head Librarian at Penarth Library who has painstakingly researched all the names recorded on local war memorials -including the cenotaph in Alexandra Park and has now compiled what is regarded as the most complete list of the fallen of Penarth.
Penarth Head Librarian Marcus Payne’s remarkable compilation of WW1 casualties.
The names are recorded in special bound volumes which were on show at West House today and are also available to be researched at Penarth Public Library.
Mr Payne says that about 360 local men – and women – died in action in WW1 – 300 of them from Penarth itself .
The list of the casualties in the newly compiled records include the three Penarth holders of the Victoria Cross (two from WW1 – Sgt Samuel George Pearse & Captain Richard Wain - and from WW2, Dambusters leader Wing Cdr Guy Gibson) .
ONE OF PENARTH’S PATRIOTIC FAMILIES
The newspaper clipping that tells the story of Penarth’s Gillies family
One of the news clippings discovered by Mr Payne is headed “One of Penarth’s Patriotic Families” and is the remarkable account of just one Penarth family – the Gillies family of 7 Plassey Square, Penarth – who had no less than four of its siblings – three brothers and a sister – with the forces in France.
Alec Gillies, the eldest of them, had emigrated to Canada but returned for the war to serve with the 1st Canadians and was wounded twice and gassed three times.
His brother Jack Gillies had also emigrated to Canada but, like his brother, returned to serve with the 2nd Canadians . Jack was reported to have been killed on June 6th 1916.
The third brother Charlie Gillies had been one of the first to join up. He was badly wounded in the battle for Dardanelles, invalided home, recovered and volunteered to return to active service – which he did in 1916. In March 1917 he was wounded and gassed, sustained wounds in both legs and had to have his left arm amputated. He was brought home again to the Red Cross Hospital at Knighton, Radnorshire where the newspaper reported he was in a “critical condition”.
The fourth member of the Gillies family on active service was a sister of the three brothers, Agnes Gillies – who served in France with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
Cross Keys Silver Band provided the accompaniment to the event at West House
Deputy Town Clerk Keri Hutchings
The accompaniment for the event was provided by the Cross Keys Silver Band under their new musical director Benjamin Atkinson.
The event was organised by a WW1 event steering committee under the auspicies of Penarth Town Council which was initially chaired by last year’s Town Mayor Cllr Neil Thomas and chaired this year by current Town Mayor Cllr Martin Turner.
The event was co-ordinated by Deputy Town Clerk Keri Hutchings .