The speaker at the AGM of the Deganwy History Group on November 16th at Peniel Chapel was Adrian Hughes, a Committee Member , who stepped in at short notice and gave a most interesting talk. Adrian, who is the proprietor of the Home Front Museum in Llandudno firstly explained how, as a young boy of eight, he became interested in war and this began when he learned of the massacre in 1944 of the inhabitants of a village in France called Oradour-sur-Glane by the SS Panzer division. He was also intrigued by pieces of an incendiary bomb that had fallen into his Grandmother’s garden in Bebington and had heard about members of his family who had been in the War and his grandfather who had served as an Air Raid Warden.
In 1999 he bought a carpet warehouse in New Street, Llandudno and a year later had converted it into the Home Front Museum where he continued his boyhood passion for all things related to the Second World War.
Adrian showed us photos of the war memorial in Llandudno and explained how it came to be built there. After the First World War the Town Council started to investigate the possibility of a memorial to those who had died being built at the bottom of Mostyn Street on a piece of land known locally as Bog Island but this plan was eventually scuppered and the present site on the promenade was chosen after a design by local architect Sidney Colwyn Ffoulkes.
Adrian was invited to climb to the top of the war memorial to take a photo of the newly gilded flaming grenade which demonstrated his enthusiasm. There are 218 names of Llandudno men from World War 1 and 124 from World War 2 on the monument. An interesting early photograph showed wreaths of white chrysanthemums surrounding the monument before red poppies were thought of to remember Armistice Day.
In Llandudno after the First World War every child was given a Peace Mug and the Urban District Council gave a plaque to every family that had lost a member and each surviving serviceman was given a certificate. We saw a photo of a plaque belonging to the late Ivor Davies, a local man.
Adrian explained how, after WW1 only the wealthy were able to bring the bodies of the dead back for burial in this country. So many servicemen’s families were not able to afford to do this and the French Government banned exhumation of bodies so there was no repatriation and each person remained where they fell.
In 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter which was later renamed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This now honours 1.7 million men and women who died in both World Wars and have no known grave.
Adrian has become a volunteer for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in North Wales which entails visiting all the cemeteries and making sure the graves are in good condition.
This has entailed a lot of travelling in his spare time and Adrian showed us photographs of many cemeteries that he had visited both in this country and abroad. We were told there was a standard shape for the headstones although not all were made of the same materials and the inscription on them could vary with possibly a regimental crest or badge at the top of each stone.
Each cemetery has a register box detailing the names of those buried, there is usually a wall surrounding the cemetery and the larger ones have a stone of sacrifice on which is inscribed words by Rudyard Kipling “Their name liveth for Evermore“.
Because of his interest, Adrian has travelled extensively at his own expense visiting the countries where Llandudno men have been buried and taking photographs of each grave for families here. Due to being in business during the summer he can only travel during winter months which means it is sometimes difficult to access the cemeteries and on one memorable trip to northern Norway he had to use a spade to clear away the snow from one stone. Fortunately, he had a spade in his hire car!
Many members of the audience had visited some of the cemeteries in France and Germany and recognised many of the places in the photographs. After answering questions from the audience Adrian was thanked by the Chairman, Kevin Slattery.
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