Earlier this morning (Thursday 17th July) soil from the top of Pen y Fan was blessed during a special service on the mountain top and then carried down to make its way to a special event to be held on Flanders Field on 16th August involving the unveiling of a Welsh Memorial to mark the those of Welsh descent who took part in the First World War.
Blessing the soil, Rev Richard Podger said: “Gathering in this special place, this mountain top with beauty all around, we remember and connect with those from Wales who took park in World War One and fell to earth on Flanders Field a century ago.
“We pray that we may all learn from the past, and that war shall be no more today in many parts of today’s world. So, bless this sample of precious earth to be sent to Flanders Field, a century after the beginning of hostilities, in memory of all those from this part who gave their lives there.”
Reverend Richard Podger from the Parish of Cantref, where Pen y Fan falls in, was accompanied by nearly 40 people including Colonel Kevin Davies, Deputy Commander from HQ 160 Brigade, along with officers from the National Trust in Wales, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority, members from the Welsh Memorial in Flanders Committee and over 15 Army College students.
Original reproductions of First World War sandbags – kindly donated by the Belgium company Mutoh in recognition for the event – have been used to collect soil from Wales’s two largest mountains, Snowdon and Pen y Fan, where it will be laid on Flanders Field at a ceremony to mark all those of Welsh descent who took part in the First World War. Two Welsh schoolboys – one from North Wales and one from South Wales – will be speaking at the dedication service in Flanders, describing the two fallen Welsh soldiers, after which they will place the soil at the memorial base.
The event has been four years in the making, and has been a labour of love for Peter Carter Jones, who is the leading co-ordinator of the Welsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign. A large specially commissioned bronze memorial dragon has been fitted to the top of the Cromlech, where it will be officially unveiled at a special memorial service on the 16th August by the Welsh First Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales.
Nearly 40 representatives from across the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park attended the small blessing event to mark the beginning of the Welsh soils journey across the sea. The service of blessing was also attended by Robert Reith and Joe Daggart from National Trust in Wales; Cllr Geraint John, John Cook, Julian Atkins and Jon Pimm from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority; Sue Brook from the Parish of Cantref, 160 Wales Brigade, Paul Silk and Lt Col Ian Gumm, members Welsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign, Lieutenant Colonel Jonah MacGill and Major Bruce Radbourne from the Infantry Battleschool.
The First Minister, who is leading Wales’ First World War Centenary commemorations, through the Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918 programme said: “Today’s symbolic event recognises the tremendous sacrifice and bravery by the people of Wales during the First World War. The soil will be taken to Langemark, the site of the first national memorial outside Wales, a lasting tribute to all Welsh people who took part in the War. I am honoured to be taking part in the unveiling of this new memorial.’’
Speaking at the top of Pen y Fan, Colonel Kevin Davies said: “This is quite a special day for all of us and we stand here in honour of those who fell. The battles that were fought by our brave soldiers were the inspiration for me joining the army and being here for the blessing of this soil at the start of its journey across the sea in tribute to those who took part in the First World War is very special indeed.
Mr John Cook, Chief Executive of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said: “I feel extremely honoured and humble to be here today. I’m very proud to be involved in such a moving event of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. That we can make even a small contribution as part of the wider programme of commemorations marking the centenary of the Great War is indeed, an honour.”