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Wales Remembers First World War Centenary At Grave Of Hedd Wyn

14 August 2014

On Sunday, August 17 a service will be held at the grave of Welsh poet Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, known as Hedd Wyn, as part of a weekend of activities to commemorate the 40,000 Welshmen who died in the First World War.

Thousands of people are expected to travel from Wales to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Artillery Wood Cemetery in Flanders, Belgium to attend the service; which will feature a sixty-strong male voice choir, prayers, readings and the laying of wreaths.

The event at Artillery Wood is preceded on Saturday 16 August by the dedication of a new Welsh memorial at Langemark. The eight-foot tall bronze dragon, was sculpted at Wales' Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Powys, after £130,000 was raised by the public, over four years, through the Welsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign.

CWGC historian, Dr Glyn Prysor, said: "Like so many Welsh men and women, Ellis Evans left his home to serve in a war which at times defied imagination. Writing as Hedd Wyn, his poetry was among the most profound, moving and inspirational to emerge from the war. Artillery Wood Cemetery is a place of pilgrimage for those of us who come here to reflect on his life, and the lives of thousands of his countrymen who now lie in Commonwealth War Graves, or whose names are inscribed on Memorials to the Missing, across Flanders, Europe, and the world."

Ellis Evans came from a farming family in rural Gwynedd and enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in February 1917. On 31 July 1917, the first day of the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (part of the Third Battle of Ypres), he was hit by a piece of trench mortar shell near Langemark and died at a nearby aid post. He is buried at the CWGC Artillery Wood Cemetery in a plot close to fellow poet Francis Ledwidge.

Evans was largely self-educated and showed an early talent for poetry in the Welsh bardic tradition. He took the first of the six poetry chairs he would win in competition in 1907 and was awarded his bardic name Hedd Wyn ('blessed peace') in 1910. Soon after his departure on active service, he completed Yr Arwr (The Hero), his entry for the 1917 National Eisteddfod, for which he was posthumously awarded the poetry chair.