First Minister continues his First World War visit in northern France

19 / 09 / 2013
© Gary Williams

© Gary Williams

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, will visit the Somme battlefield today  (19 September) as part of a journey around the battlefields of northern France and Belgium at the start of the Welsh programme of commemoration of the First World War.

He will visit the Mametz Wood memorial to Welsh soldiers killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The memorial is being revamped with money from the Welsh Government.

The First Minister said:

“The Battle of Mametz Wood is hugely significant for Wales. Not only did it cause grievous losses amongst the Welsh troops that fought there, it also continues to inspire a wealth of artistic and cultural work that has influenced the way we see the First World War in Wales.”

“We must continue to remember the men who fought here and honour them, and the many others like them. This memorial, like the new one which will be built in Flanders, the site of which I visited yesterday [18 September], is a very important way of reminding and educating this and future generations about the War and I am pleased that the Welsh Government has been able to contribute towards its refurbishment.”

The First Minister is expected to meet members of the south Wales branch of the Western Front Association (WFA), which raised the money to build the memorial originally in the 1980s, as well as members of the local community.

The memorial to the 38th (Welsh) Division stands in countryside just outside the small village of Mametz in region of Picardy, overlooking Mametz Wood, the Welsh Division’s objective in the battle in 1916. The battle was part of the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest battles of the First World War and one in which more than 1m soldiers on both sides were killed or wounded. The 38th Division suffered 4,000 men killed or wounded in the Battle of Mametz Wood alone and the memorial commemorates them and their comrades.

The Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths, announced in July that the Welsh Government would contribute £7,000 toward the refurbishment of the memorial. The WFA has raised additional money to carry out other repair work to the memorial site and the work is expected to be completed by next summer.

The First Minister’s two-day visit to Flanders and Picardy is the start of the Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918  programme of commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.