Grangetown at War - researching World War One casualties for online memorial

Click on the banner above or here to see the online memorial as it looks so far

Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

We are marking the centenary of the deaths all 440 men and women from Grangetown who died on active service, day by day until 1921.

We will be including biographical details here and also Tweeting the names via @GrangetownWWI.

If you know of an ancestor whose anniversary is coming up and you have additional details or photos, please email us on There is a full list of those who served and died here.

Ship sunk 100 years ago with oldest Grangetown war casualty

On July 18th 1916, a Cardiff steam ship was torpedoed off the North African coast by a German U-boat. The SS Llongwen was on route with cargo from Naples to Barry when she was sunk.

The crew of 31 men managed to abandon ship 90 miles north east of Algiers, but sadly a lifeboat capsized and 14 men drowned. Another 17 including the captain, chief engineer, 2nd officer, steward, two apprentices and 11 crew landed safely in Naples a few days later after being picked up by an Italian steamer called Brent.

Among those who died was Robert Payne, a donkeyman on board. He was 61 and from Bromfield Street in Grangetown. He was possibly the oldest Grangetown casualty of the war. He left a wife Anna.

Others who died included First Mate John Owen, 36, originally from Llangranog and second engineer George Day, 32, from Crwys Rd in Cathays. Third engineer John Kerr, 34, left a widow in Fields Park Rd in Cardiff. Half the crew who died were firemen and trimmers from India, as well as Irish, Finnish and the ship's cook, from Greece.

The Llongwen had been launched in 1907 in Cardiff and belonged to the shipping firm W and CT Jones. It took cargoes such as grain to Italy, also had trips to Baltimore before the war.

Exploring the Grangetown men lost at the Somme

July 1916 was the month in which more men from Grangetown died than any other. The fact that this coincided with the start of the Battle of the Somme is no coincidence.

A total of 18 would died in the first 16 days of the offensive - including members of the Cardiff Pals and Glamorgan Pioneers in the Welsh regiments at Mametz Wood. Most were rememembered on the Grange Gardens memorial but not all. Who were they? What happened to them?

On 1st July, exactly 100 years from the start of the great battle, Grangetown Local History Society presented more about who they were, as part of its World War One project.

Private Frank Gillespie was your typical Grangetown soldier in many ways. He was 22 years old and newly married when he was sent to the Somme. He lived with his parents in Knole Street – number 36 – and worked down at the Docks. There was an engineering firm called Loveridge in Hannah Street which made equipment for ships and he was a smith’s striker. Hot work.

He was the eldest of 10 brothers and sisters, the son of a Somerset man who had also worked in the shipyards. Frank enlisted as soon as he could at the start of the war as a 20 year-old. He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment. He had been invalided home twice, before the Battle of the Somme. Frank married around the time his baby daughter Ellen was born in March 1916 but he was soon left his wife Agnes and was back over to France.

The South Staffs were in the 7th Division, 91st brigade – and part of a diversionary attack on Gommecourt, north of the main Somme battle that morning. The Germans were well dug in to withstand the artillery barrage and responded with machine gun and rifle fire. Frank was one of those missing presumed dead.

As well as the Grange Gardens memorial he was remembered on the Grangetown Baptist church memorial. Agnes his widow remarried in 1923. The daughter who never knew him moved to the United States and died 10 years ago.

You can read more about the Grangetown men who died in the first few days of the Battle of the Somme here

Remembering the Battle of Jutland

Grangetown Local History Society held a commemoration of the 12 men from Grangetown who died on 31st May 1916 in the Battle of Jutland.

This naval battle in the North Sea is a too often forgotten in the history of World War One but it was the occasion when more men died in one day from our area then any other in the course of the conflict.

The names of the men were read out by members of the society, local children and police officers at 6pm at the memorial in Grange Gardens, while a dozen crosses and a poppy wreath were laid. A poem was also read out to remind people of the families left behind in the conflict.

The men who died were:

The ships:

HMS Defence - 903 crew died when ship exploded after being hit by German fire.

HMS Indefatigable - 1,017 crew lost on the battleship when she sank at Jutland.

HMS Queen Mary - 1,266 crewmen were lost, only 20 survived - she was shelled, exploded and sank quickly in the North Sea, off Denmark - the wreck is a protected war grave

HMS Black Prince - all 857 crew died after ship was fired on by a German battleship.

+ Name appears on Grange Gardens memorial

Another mystery solved - a soldier with a chequered history who survived but died tragically later.

A name that cropped up in research whose military history proved hard to pin down was Jack Hedges of Saltmead. The South Wales Echo carried a notice that he was "reported killed" in June 1915 and had been a "well known boxer."

Well, it's now been discovered that he actually survived the war and lived until 1932. No casualty or obvious military record could be found for him - which prompted suspicion - but there are other records which point to his survival.

Hedges, born in 1887 to a flour mill worker, lived at one time in Monmouth Street and later in Wedmore Road. He had six professional fights between 1907 and 1912 in Caerphilly, Barry, Cardiff and Swansea. They included a defeat in September 1909 and a win in February 1912. He sparred for Jim Driscoll, who called him a "pluckly little fighter".

But he became better known, at least to the local police and magistrates, as a troublemaker. He went to a reform school in Dinas Powys as a teenager and then involved in mainly petty crime before being jailed for three years in November 1909 for his part in a nasty assault involving a gang of young men on a woman on the Taff embankment. Hedges had been with friends who got drunk spending his winnings from a prize fight in Mountain Ash. The 1911 Census finds him in prison. What ties this Hedges as one that survived the war is the link to his brother Ernest, a sailor. Both were convicted in August 1914 of assaulting two police officers, who intervened to break up trouble in the town centre one Sunday night. John Philip Stephen Hedges appeared in the dock with something of a truncheon injury and the officer described him "as one of the most violent prisoners he'd ever arrested". The court heard he had 15 other convictions, besides the case which led to his longer prison term. That also marked the end of his brother's time in the Navy.

That same Hedges died in Cardiff, aged 45, although tragically. By this time he was working as a ship's fireman and living in Llanbradach Street with his sister Gertrude Brooke. He left home on the morning of January 16th 1932 to join his ship on the Alexandra Dock but never showed up and was reported missing. Three months later, his body was found floating in water near the Roath basin. An inquest was held on May 5th, the cause an apparent drowning with the body in a poor state and having been in the water "for some months." An open verdict was recorded.

Mapping Grangetown: Language, Place and Poetry A creative writing workshop looking at Grangetown and World War One was presented by Cardiff University as part of its Conflict and Creativity season with Dr Dylan Foster Evans and writer Jon Gower.

Pictured above is poet Rees Rees "Teifi" (1870-1948), who lived in Cymmer Street in Grangetown during the war and published a volume of poetry in 1915. Dr Evans explained that Rees, who worked in Penarth Docks, was educated in the Rhondda but lived in Grangetown for 20 years, during which time he wrote poetry about the war. His early writing was caught up in the general "call to arms" and recruitment drive, with his poetry evoking Llywelyn, Owain Glyndwr and even the Duke of Wellington. His later writing was more reflective and reflected the loss and sacrifices.

Wrth sengi llwch eu hoesau hwy,
Wrth gogio nosau brad,
Ein calon dd'wed o dan ei chlwy
"Rhaid marw dros ein gwlad."

As we tread the dust of their lives
As we remember the nights of betrayal,
Our heart says in its wounds:
"We must die for our country."

Translated by Dr Dylan Foster Evans from Marw dros ein gwlad (To die for our country)

Mi glywais gwympo'r cedyrn
A llawer arwr tlws
On heddyw cwympir dewrion gwlad
Braidd yma wrth fy nrws
Mae llef pob newyddiadur
Yn lleddf gan alar mawr
Mae'r oes yn llawn gofidiau lu:
Dont gyda'r hwyr a'r wawr.

I heard that the brave had fallen
And many a fair hero,
But today the country's brave men
Almost fall here by my door
Every newspaper's cry
Is sad with great grief,
The age is full of numerous woes:
They come with evening and the dawn.

Translated by Dr Dylan Foster Evans from Oes y Gofidiau (The Age of Woes)

Dr Evans also talked about Edgar Phillips "Trefin", (1889-1962), born in Pembrokeshire but who learnt Welsh after moving to Cardiff, including some some time in Grangetown including at what is now Ninian Park School (then Sloper Road School). He was working as a tailor but also went off to war and was wounded in 1917, when part of a house collapsed after he was sheltering during a bombardment. His poetry was also written to fellow soldiers, including some in English.

The Mother (6 September 1917)
I remember seeing the boys
Marching all together
Their footsteps like thunder
Echoed through the street;
Hooray! Hooray! shouted the children -
Foolish youth is thoughtless;
A mother's heart asked quietly:
"Will my boy come back home?"

When Spring comes over the hills
With flowers on every side,
What will be on the little mound -
My son's grave over in Flanders?
Oh! I wish I could, like a bird,
cross the rough sea,
I'd be content if I could plant
One flower on his grave.
Gunner E Phillips

See more about the season here

Driver Christmas Williams

Christmas Williams on his horse

A descendant of a collier who died just over a month before the end of World War One has sent us copies of photographs of him. Merthyr Vale-born Christmas Williams also has a memorial stone in his home village, as well as being remembered on the Grange Gardens memorial. He was the son of a collier but moved to Grangetown, where he and his wife Beatrice (who lived latterly at 43 Wedmore Rd) had five children. He was a driver with the Royal Artillery and died of wounds suffered five days before at the age of 32. He worked as a plate layer in a coal mine before becoming a barber - and apparently ran several shops, although none in Grangetown, before he joined the Army in 1915. Family say his body was in a very bad state when he died. He is buried near Arras.

He is circled in this group photo here, with barbers sitting in the front row.

A memorial walk on your smartphone

The stories of some of the Grangetown men who died in World War One can now be heard on a heritage walk app which has been produced by Cardiff Metropolitan University.

People can download a free app to their phone and starting at the memorial in Grange Gardens take a self-guided walk around the area, stopping at various points where soldiers used to live and hear their stories.

The Grangetown War project teamed up with Dr Spencer Jordan, of the Cardiff Metropolitan University, who developed the People's Stories app with colleague Dr Gareth Loudon. It tells the stories of eight men who fought in World War One, which were researched by the project.

It can be downloaded for free for Android from Google Play. An Apple version is available on iTunes which you can access via the App Store on any iPhone. Search on "Grangetown” to find it. It's suggested you take headphones for your smartphone, which needs 3G or 4G access and for your location services to be switched on. When you reach the memorial, turn on the app. It should pick up your location and you can start. The walk takes you down Holmesdale Street, into Clive Street and around back.

Read how it was featured in Wales Online and the South Wales Echo

Mystery over brass plaque

Where did the plaque come from originally? We're trying to solve the mystery of a plaque, containing the names of two Grangetown soldiers who died in World War One.

We were alterted to its existence by a church magazine in Dorset, which came across the names on our online memorial while trying to research it. A parishoner had come across the plaque in a sale of oddments some time ago.

David Evans and John Withers

The brass plaque pays tribute to Sgt John Withers of the Royal Marine Artillery - whose story we also feature here - and Pte David C Evans, of the South Wales Borderers. It appears to be part of a larger memorial, and included as an add-on. The two men, one who lived in Bromfield Street and the other with his wife in Clive Street - served in two different regiments and died at two different times, but there is a possibility they shared membership of the same organisation. Sgt Withers was in the Salvation Army and attended services at the Grangetown Weslyan Chapel. Although we don't know whether Pte Evans did similarly, or the two men were connected through another organisation or sporting club.

We're making inquiries but if anyone can shed any light, let us know!

Grangetown remembers war centenary

The commemoration took place on Saturday 2nd August 2014 - the closest weekend to the anniversary of war being declared

We never knew them but we never forget them. A commemoration at the war memorial in Grange Gardens marked the centenary of the start of World War One in Grangetown.

Grangetown Local History Society organised the event on Saturday 2nd August 2014, which included static displays and a service was attended by all branches of the Armed services, the Prince of Wales Army Band, the Merchant Navy and veterans organisations. See more on our Events page about the commemoration and exhibition

Meanwhile, a special WW1 edition of Grange News was delivered to hundreds of Grangetown homes, telling some of the stories of those who served.

Zena Mabbs, of the society, said: "A list of names of the fallen is available in our free booklet - with copies in local libraries and which will be distributed amongst the community, while our web pages containing the details of each name will be a wonderful resource now and in the future for researchers.

"The activities in the park gave those present and now living in Grangetown a flavour of the era of WW1 and raise awareness of the sacrifice made by people who once walked the streets where they live."

Special booklets were produced - and also a commemorative edition of Grange News (click to download a PDF copy)

Online memorial remembers 140 more Grangetown names

A total of 330 servicemen and Merchant Navy seamen are remembered on the memorial in Grange Gardens. Now Grangetown Local History Society has started to try to put family and service details to each name on the monument, as well as uncovering more men and one woman - at least 140 so far - who were not included.

The task is already going well. Many details of where many of the men lived and when they died and where they were buried, as well as brief family details and their occupations, have been put online in recent months. But the Society is now appealing for families to get in touch with any stories, letters or photos.

If you have any details, family information or photos of descendants, please get in touch with the society by emailing or you can also follow the project on Twitter @GrangetownWWI

The society also holds meetings once a month, on the first Friday at 2pm at Grangetown Library. Look out for special events.

Stories of Grangetown men who fought and died

Here are just some examples of the stories we will tell - the lives behind the names on the memorial: DIED AT SEA The stories of Elmer Darrock who ended up being buried in the United States and John Cleal, who postponed his wedding to fight in a Naval battle.

HONOURED BY THE FRENCH Diaries of life in the trenches help remember John Henry Withers, who was killed shortly after he married.

THE SCHOOLBOY RUGBY STAR WHO FELL AT YPRES A few years after he played as a teenager for Wales George Harben died in Flanders. But his family suffered a second tragedy, which is not recorded on any memorial.

A WIDOW FOR 50 YEARS Soldier John Melean died after the end of the War but just before his wife reached hospital.

'COURAGE BORDERING ON RECKLESSNESS' The story of Lord Ninian Edward Crichton Stuart, local MP amd the highest ranking officer on the memorial who was killed rallying his men.

BLOODY DAYS OF JULY 1916 A look at some of the men who died at the start of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

DIED IN THE SECOND BATTLE OF THE SOMME The family of Pte Tom Goodland, who died at Mametz Wood two months before the end of the war, have been left some evocative photos of him - and his medals.

ONE OF MANY CASUALTIES ON A TROOP SHIP Henry James died in 1917 on his way to fight in Salonika when his ship was sunk by a U-boat.

WALES RUGBY INTERNATIONAL The story of Dai Westacott, who played for Wales and Cardiff but was later injured in the Somme and killed at Ypres.

THE SOLDIER WHOSE NAME WAS ADDED TO THE MEMORIAL 83 YEARS LATER The story of Pte Bill Laugharne, whose body was found nine years after his death - and was missed off the memorial.

THE FIRST WELSHMAN TO DIE IN THE WAR The story of William Welton, the 19-year-old from Grangetown who became the first casualty, only 32 hours into the war on August 6th 1914.

THE SOLDIER ON MEMORIAL WHO LIVED TO TELL TALE The remarkable story of Sgt Alf Norman who survived the war but whose name ended up on the memorial.

POVERTY NOT PATRIOTISM L/Cpl Horace Maynard, who died at the Somme, but joined up to help keep his widowed mother from the workhouse.

CARDIFF PAL AND LIGHTHOUSE VESSEL TRAGEDY The story of L/Cpl Alf Johnson, 24, the first reported casualty among the "Cardiff Pals" battalion. And Capt Hugh Leopold Phillips, who left a widow in Grangetown when his lighthouse vessel was sunk by a mine.

LIVES IN BRIEF The boys who died on the ships + One of three sisters who served in France + The docksman who left a young daughter.

SURVIVORS' STORIES Some of the Grangetown men who came home but for some, life was short or never the same again.

MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER - AND HOW TO RESEARCH AN ANCESTOR The story of Pte Ivor Darby, and a few tips on how to go about finding details of your ancestor's war service.

WHY WE BUILT A TRENCH Fitzalan High School explain how they commemorated the war by building a replica trench in the school grounds.

The Grangetown streets where they mourned the men who didn't come home

Very few streets escaped the effect of the war. We've reproduced a contemporary map here - thanks to Glamorgan Archives - and plotted where those who died were from in Grangetown. There are others too, not included, for which we have no exact address. Click on image or here for a larger map. You can also look at the list of streets here.

Click on the photos above for larger images to see the names on the Grangetown war memorial

Names on the memorial needing more research We're particularly interested in tracking down details of the following men on the memorial, including those with Grangetown connections which are uncertain. Some details on the memorial so far have proved inaccurate, so we'd like to hear from anyone who can help us:

CALLAN, Thomas On St Patrick's RC Church plaque, no details traced
CAVANAGH J Welsh Regiment TWT Royal Engineers Lieutenant - No details can be traced
CHIPLEN, Frederick - Grangetown address/connection?
COLEMAN, James Mark Grangetown address/connection?
DE VINE, James Arthur Forrest Grangetown address/connection?
DRURY, Robert b Lincoln but where did he live in Grangetown?
EVANS, D Welsh Regiment 3rd Battalion Private No details can be traced
GULMAN,J Welsh Regiment 2nd Battalion Private No details can be traced
HUGHES, S.J Welsh Regiment 13th Battalion Sergeant No details can be traced
JARVIS, J Mercantile Marine S.S "Freshfield" Seaman Gunner d 5 Aug 1918; Grangetown address/connection?
JONES, W G Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regiment Private Grangetown address/connection?
JONES, William Norman, Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st Battn Exact Grangetown address?
LEWIS, John A, South Wales Borderers 5th Battalion Grangetown address/connection?
MCLAREN, David.L CWGC 2759421 Royal Naval Reserve H.M.S "Ashtree" Sub-Lieutenant d 21 July 1918 - illness Husband of Emily McLaren, of 41, Romilly Rd. West, Victoria Park, Canton, Cardiff.
MURRAY, James, Welsh Regiment 16th Battalion Grangetown address/connection?
O'LEARY,W.J Royal Navy H.M.S "Vivid" Eng Navigator No details traced
O'REILLY, Richard On St Patrick's RC Church plaque, no details traced
OLSEN, T Royal Navy H.M.S "Gosamer" Seaman Is it Trygve OLSEN, born Norway, living in Seaman's Hospital, Ferry Road in 1911 - a marine stoker, b 1889?
PAYNE, A Royal Army Service Corps Driver No details can be traced - possibly Alfred Edward Payne (b 1892, 32 Penhaved St) who may be the same who joined the RASC as a driver, No 174169, reinlisting in March 1916. -
PRIEST, C Royal Navy H.M.M.S No.7 Stoker No details can be traced - could have been serving on the Q7 ship Penshurst, which was sunk on Dec 25 1917.
REES, David Edmunds CWGC 3031914 Mercantile Marine S.S "Camerata (not Camelata) from Swansea Second Engineer d 2 May 1917, aged 24 Grangetown address/connection?
REES, George. Herbert, Rifle Brigade 3rd Battalion, (The Prince Consort's Own) Grangetown address/connection?
RIDLAND, W.C Machine Gun Corps Private Looks likely to be W Cridland - not sure of exact Grangetown address but connected to Grangetown family
SAUNDERS,William Welsh Regiment 2nd Battalion Private Exact Grangetown address needed
SHECHAN, I Welsh Regiment 6th Battalion Private No details traced
SMALLBRIDGE, C Royal Navy H.M.S "Warwick" Private No details traced
SMITH, T A Royal Army Service Corps Driver No details traced
THOMAS, George Edward, Welsh Regiment 11th Battalion Grangetown address/connection?
THOMAS, William J CWGC 607434 Royal Army Medical Corps 2nd (Welsh) Field Ambulance Private 1477 d 13 Aug 1915, aged 21 at Gallipoli Grangetown address/connection?
WALES, T.A.L Royal Navy H.M.S "Bellona - poss died at Battle of Jutland 1916 No details traced
YORATH, W Welsh Regiment 9th Battalion Private No details traced

If you have any details for the above, please get in touch with the society by emailing

The memorial's history

The crowds out for the unveiling of the memorial in July 1921 The Grangetown War Memorial was dedicated at 3pm on 7th July 1921 - this coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Battle of Mametz Wood in the Somme, which saw many Welsh casualties. The memorial was paid for by voluntary subscription and contributions, led by an organising committee - the Grangetown War Heroes Committee - chaired by Thomas Williams. Others on the committee included vice chairman, boilermaker Fred Cornish, baker John Henry Parfitt, Russian-born pawnbroker Morris Hauser, one time greyhound trainer turned hotel worker Robert Hornett, docks worker Thomas Podd and another local baker John Charles Julian (Hon Sec, who died before the unveiling). The dedication ceremony included music from the Cardiff Naval Brigade and the guest of honour was MP Sir Hebert Cory. Plans for the memorial were announced a few weeks before the end of the war.

A copy of the programme for the memorial's opening. Click on the image above to look inside. Thanks very much to Ken Poole for sending us a copy of this artefact.

The name of another soldier Pte William Laugharne, 23, was added on a plaque in 2000. His body was not found until nine years after his death in October 1917 and too late to be included on the original memorial. A plaque was also added by Grangetown Local History Society to remember those who died in World War Two.

There are 58 members of the Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve and merchant navy on the memorial - the youngest just 15.

Names include the local MP and landowner, Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, and also a Wales rugby international.

School digs trench to mark centenary Fitzalan High School near Grangetown has been involved in its own project to mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War One, including constructing a trench in the grounds. Grangetown Local History Society was delighted to be invited to the commemoration day on July 10th.

"Our trench looked very realistic and it was a good experience," said year 8 pupils Ray Hext and Jake Holmes.

"All pupils in Key Stage 3 had a special timetable so that they could learn about life in the trenches and the First World War. There were special assemblies and all of the different departments across the school joined in. We also had a re-enactor visit (a Tommy) and First World War artefact boxes from Cardiff Castle." ry Society was delighted to be invited to the commemoration day on July 10th.

You can read more about the Fitzalan trench here

Primary pupils learn about Great War

Grangetown Local History Society visited St Paul's Church-in-Wales primary school to give a presentation to pupils about our World War One project.

Michelle Darby-Charles told the story of her great-grandfather Pte Ivor Darby, who was killed in the war in May 1918 at the age of 32. Pupils also used our popular display map to find soldiers who may have lived on their own streets more than 100 years ago.

The lesson was a great success and we have been invited back in September. It's great to see the interest in the stories from children younger and older in the area.

© Photos: Roy Paul

Descendants tell their stories

Rita Spinola of Grangetown Local History Society, interviewing Joyce, a descendant of F.R. Marshall, one of the men on the memorial. Myrtle Hill (right) with a photograph of her grandfather, David Westacott, who was a Welsh rugby international - you can read his story here. We have also started a page of audio interviews with relatives.

Listen to an interview with Sheila Kite about her uncles Rifleman Ivor Jones and Eddie Jones, both killed in World War One

Listen to an interview about L/Cpl William Allsopp, d 1915

Useful links: Wales Remembers
Cymru 1914 digital archive
Welsh Voices of the Great War
BBC World War One
National Museum Wales events
Glamorgan Family History Society WW1 blog
Rhondda Remembers
West Wales Memorial Project
Talking History 1914 blog
The Cardiff Story Museum
War Memorials Online

© Grangetown Local History Society 2016

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