Cynwyl Elfed (or Conwyl) is a village which lies about six miles north-north-west of Carmarthen on the A484 road to Newcastle Emlyn, alongside the River Duad. The parish church is dedicated to St, Cynwyl, and was founded in the 6th Century. There are no war memorials inside Eglwys y Mwnt, at Cynwyl, so I have used the names of the men that were published in the 1922 published Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll and I have also added two men from nearby Cwmduad. Any photographs of any local memorials would be most appreciated.
The Great War, 1914-1918
Thomas Ansell, Private, 14340, Welsh Regiment. Thomas was born at Cwmduad, the son of John and Hannah Ansell. The family later lived at Cnwcdu, Pencader. He enlisted at Carmarthen into the 1/4th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was formed during August 1914 in Carmarthen. The Battalion was attached to 159 Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, and in July 1915 sailed from Devonport for Egypt. On 9 August 1915 the Division had moved from Egypt, and landed on Gallipoli. They fought on Gallipoli until evacuation in December 1915, after suffering terrible casualties, and moved to positions on the Suez Canal. In early 1917 the British were fighting in Mesopotamia, before moving into Palestine to fight the Turks, and Thomas was killed in action in Mesopotamia on 25 January 1917. He was just 19 years old, and is remembered on the Basra Memorial, Iraq.
Gwilym Bowen, Private, 202649, Welsh Regiment. Gwilym was the son of David and Hannah Bowen, of Meddygan, Cynwyl Elfed. He was working as a farm hand at Danygraig, Cwmffrwd prior to enlisting at Kidwelly into the 4th Welsh. He was posted to the 18th Welsh for a short period, but soon transferred to the 11th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was in Salonika attached to 67 Brigade, 22nd Division. Gwilym probably arrived in Salonika early in 1918. He took part in the Battle of Doiran on 18 September 1918, and was killed in action that day, during a gallant charge by the division against the Bulgarian trenches. Gwilym was 34 years old, and is buried in Doiran Military Cemetery, Greece.
John Davies, Private, 64471, Welsh Regiment. John was born at Cynwyl Elfed, the son of Alexandra and Rachel Rees, later of 46, Pentwyn Avenue, Penrhiwceiber, Glamorgan. He enlisted at Mountain Ash into the army, and was posted to France, where he joined the 14th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was attached to 114 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. John probably joined the Division after its attack on Pilckem Ridge in July 1917, during its move to the Armentieres area at the end of August. In April 1918 the Division moved to the Somme, to reinforce the British lines north of Albert, at Aveluy Wood. From here it took part in the great advance, crossing the River Ancre on 21 August 1918, and helping to drive the Germans back towards the Hindenburg Line. John was killed during the advance on 8 October 1918. He was 21 years old, and is buried at Bois-Des-Angles British Cemetery, Crevecouer-Sur-L’Escaut, France. John is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
David Evans, Corporal, 55430, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. David was the son of John and Anna Evans, of Bankbach, Merthyr. He worked at Baily Farm, Conwil prior to enlisting at Carmarthen into the Pembroke Yeomanry. He later transferred into the 16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, which was attached to 113 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. The Division had landed in France during December 1915 and had spent their first winter in the trenches near Armentieres. In June they marched south to the Somme, where they were tasked with the capture of Mametz Wood. The attack on the wood began on 7 July, but met with fierce resistance, and it took a second offensive on 10 July to finally clear the wood. The Division suffered terrible casualties at Mametz, and were taken out of the line, and moved to Ypres to rebuild. Here they fought at Pilckem Ridge, which is where David was killed on 30 July 1917. He has no known grave, and so is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
John Griffiths, Private, 28837, South Wales Borderers. John was the son of David and Jane Griffiths, of Weinolau Hermon, Cynwyl Elvet. He enlisted at Brecon into the South Wales Borderers, and was posted to their 3rd Battalion, which was a Reserve Battalion, which trained and supplied men for the front line units. John became ill, and died on 10 October 1916. He was 21 years old, and is buried at Cynwyl Elfed (Hermon) Congregational Burial Ground. John is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
John Clarke Harries, Private, 320401, Welsh Regiment. John was the son of James and Hannah Harries, of Riverside House, Cynwyl Elfed. He returned home from Canada to enlist at Carmarthen into the Pembroke Yeomanry. The Pembroke Yeomanry moved to Norfolk as part of the 1st Mounted Division, before sailing for Egypt in March 1916. After twelve months on the Suez Canal Defences, the Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanry merged to form the 24th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, and were attached to 231 Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The division took part in the advance into Palestine from March 1917, and fought at the Second and Third Battles of Gaza. Due to the terrible casualties suffered by the British on the Western Front in March and April 1918 the Division was recalled to the Western Front, and arrived at Marseilles during May 1918. They then fought at the Second Battle of Bapaume during the great offensive, and fought in Flanders before returning to the Somme and fighting at the Battle of Épehy, as part of the offensive towards the Hindenburg Line. John was probably wounded at Épehy, and returned to Hospital at Colchester. He died there on 3 October 1918, aged 29, and his body was returned home for burial at Rhydargeau (Horeb) Baptist Chapelyard.
Evan Holmes, Private, 885, Australian Infantry. Evan was born in Cynwyl Elfed, the son of Josiah and Mary Holmes. The family resided in Pencader prior to emigrating to Australia, where they lived at Bungalow, Cairns, Queensland. Evan enlisted at Cairns on 12 March 1915 into the 25th Battalion, Australian Infantry, which was attached to the 7th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division, and he landed on Gallipoli with his Battalion just months later. Evan was shot in the head on 13 October 1915 and brought to a Field Ambulance, where he died that same day. He was just 18 years old, and is buried at 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery, Gallipoli. His brother George Henry Holmes also fell. Evan is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
George Henry Holmes, Private, 2899A, Australian Infantry. George was born in Pencader, the son of Josiah and Mary Holmes. The family emigrated to Australia, where they resided at Bungalow, Cairns, Queensland, and George enlisted at Cairns on 20 June 1916. George was posted to the 52nd Battalion, which was attached to the 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and he embarked at Brisbane on 27 October 1916 bound for England. After a spell in hospital ill, he was posted to the Western Front on 25 June 1917, where he joined his Battalion in the line. The 4th Australian Division were by now posted in Ypres, and were ready to take part in the Battles of Third Ypres, or Passchendaele. George was killed in action during the Battle of Passchendaele on 18 October 1917. He was 21 years old, and is buried at Passchendaele New British Cemetery. His brother Evan Holmes also fell. George is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
Evan Jones, Private, 202746, Welsh Regiment. Evan was the son of William and Elizabeth Jones, of Cwmcain, Talog, Carmarthen. At the outbreak of war, Evan was residing in Llandeilo, and he enlisted at Llanelli into the 9th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The Battalion formed at Cardiff on 9 September 1914, and was attached to 58 Brigade, 19th (Western) Division, crossing to France in July 1915. It saw its first action at the Battle of Loos. They then moved to the Somme in 1916, and attacked on the second day of the Offensive, capturing the village of La Boisselle. In June 1917 the Division fought at the Battle of Messines, and throughout the Passchendaele offensive. That winter they moved to positions north east of Bapaume to rebuild and rest, but on 21 March 1918, the area was hit by the desperate German Spring Offensive, which was aimed at winning the war before the full power of the American Army could be organised and brought into action. The 19th Division suffered terrible casualties, and were moved to positions near Messines, south of Ypres, but they were hit here again when the Germans switched their attack to Flanders, and Evan was Killed in Action around the time of the Battle of Bailleul, on 16 April 1918, aged 22. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.
John Jonathon Jones, Sergeant, 1445, Australian Imperial Force. John was the son of Evan and Esther Jones, of Cynwyl Elvet. He emigrated to Australia in 1896, and had served during the Boer War with the Australian Light Horse. At the outbreak of the Great War, John enlisted again, at Broadmeadows into the 13th Battalion, Australian Infantry. In December 1914 the battalion sailed from Albany to Egypt, where it became part of the 4th Brigade, 1st ANZAC Division, and landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. John was wounded twice at Gallipoli, and was promoted Corporal. The battalion remained on Gallipoli until evacuation in December, and returned to Egypt. Here, the 4th Brigade was combined with the 12th and 13th Brigades to form the 4th Australian Division. In June 1916, the 13th sailed for France and the Western Front. Its first major action in France was at Pozieres in August, then during the attacks on Mouquet Farm. John suffered gunshot wounds to the thigh on the Somme on 30 August 1916, during the attack on Mouquet Farm, and was evacuated to the University War Hospital, Southampton. He died of his wounds there on 19 September 1916, aged 41, and was brought home for burial at Blaenycoed Congregational Chapelyard, Cynwyl Elfed. John is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
Thomas Jones, Private, 14141, South Wales Borderers. Thomas was born at Cynwyl Elfed, and lived with his wife Margaret Jane Jones, at Bryn Awel, Clifton Terrace, Llanelli. He enlisted at Llanelli into the 5th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, which was attached to 58 Brigade, 19th (Western) Division. The Division crossed to France during July 1915, and moved to positions near Loos, where it took part in the opening attack of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. It remained in the area over the winter, holding the line around the Duck’s Bill sector. On 14 March 1916 Thomas was stationed in a listening post in a mineshaft in the Duck’s Bill salient, when it was countermined by the Germans. The entire northern half of the Dick’s Bill salient was destroyed in a massive explosion and a party which was sent out to attempt to rescue any survivors took heavy casualties. Thomas still lies under the ground at the Duck’s Bill, so the 41-year-old is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, France. Thomas is not listed among the Cynwyl men on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
William Jones, Private, 31534, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. William was the son of William and Elizabeth Jones, of Cwmcarn, Talog. He served with the 7th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry on the Western Front during the war, and after the Armistice remained in the army, transferring to the 2nd Battalion, KSLI, which had been deployed to Fermoy, in Southern Ireland. On Sunday 7 September 1919, William was one of a group of soldiers who were heading to attend a Church Service, when several cars pulled up nearby. A number of Sinn Fein activists armed with clubs and pistols poured out of the cars and attacked the soldiers, attempting to steal their rifles. William was shot dead while attempting to fight back. A resulting court case refused to treat the incident as murder, as the Judge stated that the activists were intent on stealing rifles, not of causing murder, which prompted a riot by other members of the battalion who went on the rampage in Fermoy, causing damage to around 60 shops. The KSLI were swiftly moved to Cork and replaced by a battalion of The Buffs. William, who was just 20 years old, was brought home and buried with full military honours at Blaenycoed Congregational Chapelyard, Cynwyl Elfed. Presently he is commemorated on the Brookwood (United Kingdom 1914-1918) Memorial, England. His brother Evan had been killed during the war.
William Martin, MM, Private, 20462, Welsh Regiment. William was born at Leeds. He resided at Cynwyl Elfed prior to the war, and enlisted at Carmarthen in March 1915 into the 15th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The battalion was the Carmarthen battalion, and after training at Rhyl, moved to Winchester in the summer of 1915 as part of 114 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. The Division crossed to France in December 1915, and took over the line at Fleurbaix. In June 1916 it moved to the Somme, where it captured Mametz Wood by 12 July 1916. The Division then moved via Hebuterne to positions at Boesinghe, and in July 1917 took part in the successful capture of Pilckem Ridge. After wintering around Armentieres, the Division moved to the Somme in April 1918, taking over the line from Albert to Hamel. On 21 August 1918 the Carmarthen Battalion waded across the River Ancre, and launched their attack on the German positions at Thiepval and Pozieres, driving the Germans back over the coming days. William was killed on 30 August 1918, during the attack on Morval. He is buried at Morval British Cemetery, France. William had been awarded the Military Medal for the Ancre Crossing.
Ebenezer James Owen, Lance Corporal, 21892, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Ebenezer was the son of Evan and Hetty Owen, of Tymawr, Cynwyl Elfed. He enlisted at Holborn, London into the 16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The battalion was raised at Llandudno, and moved to Winchester in the summer of 1915 as part of 113 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. The Division crossed to France in December 1915, and took over the line at Fleurbaix. In June 1916 it moved to the Somme, where it captured Mametz Wood by 12 July 1916. The Division then moved via Hebuterne to positions at Boesinghe, and in July 1917 took part in the successful capture of Pilckem Ridge. After wintering around Armentieres, the Division moved to the Somme in April 1918, taking over the line from Albert to Hamel. On 21 August 1918 the Division launched their attack on the German positions opposite, driving the Germans back over the coming days. Ebenezer was wounded during the advance, and died on 26 August 1918. He is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, France.
Thomas Arthur Owen, Private, 73785, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Thomas was the son of Evan and Hetty Owen, of Ty-Mawr, Cynwyl Elfed. He resided at Treorchy prior to the war, and enlisted at Porth into the army. He was posted to France in 1917 where he joined the 19th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, part of 119 Brigade, 40th (Bantam) Division. Later in the year the Division took part in the Battle of Cambrai, playing an important role in the attack on Bourlon Wood. Thomas was wounded sometime after this, and died, aged 19, on 2 January 1918. He is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, France.
Reginald James Thomas, Rifleman, Z/1340, Rifle Brigade. Reginald was the son of David and Nellie Annie Thomas, of 12, Oakley Road, Small Heath, Birmingham. His Grandparents, Mr and Mrs Thomas, lived at Ty’rshyme, Cwmduad. Reggie worked in a factory in Birmingham, and was a well known and regular visitor to his family at Cwmduad. He enlisted at Birmingham into the army, and was posted to France where he joined the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade, which was attached to 41 Brigade, 14th (Light) Division. The Division landed in France in May 1915, and saw its first action during the Action of Hooge, where the Division were the first to be attacked by the German use of flamethrowers. They then fought at the Second attack on Bellewarde. The line settled down over the coming weeks, and Reginald joined the battalion together with a party of reinforcements in August. On 8 October 1915, Reggie was sent out to No Man’s Land as part of a wiring party. The men were spotted by a German sentry, and a firefight took place, and Reggie suffered a bullet wound to his leg, which severed the main artery. He died after being dragged back to his own lines that night. Reggie was 23 years old, and was buried by the side of a railway by his comrades. His grave was exhumed after the war and he now lies in the massive Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Belgium.
William Thomas, Private, 10725, Welsh Regiment. William was born at Cynwyl Elfed. He was a pre-war regular, and served with the 1st Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The battalion was at India at the outbreak of war, as part of the Dehra Dun Brigade, Meerut Division. It returned to England, landing at Plymouth on 22 December 1914, and joined 84 Brigade, 28th Division, landing at Le Havre on 18 January 1915. The Division moved to positions near Ypres, where it saw its first major action during the Second Battle of Ypres. William was killed here on 17 February 1915. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. William is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
Ernest Turner, Private, 26078, South Lancashire Regiment. Ernest was the son of William and Mary Turner, of 20, Atherton Street, St. Helens. He married prior to the war, and lived with his wife, Alice Avinia Turner, at Chapel House, Cynwyl Elfed. Ernest enlisted at St. Helens into the 7th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, which was attached to 56 Brigade, 19th (Western) Division. The Division crossed to France during July 1915, and moved to positions near Loos, where it took part in the opening attack of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. The following year the Division moved to the Somme, where it took part in the second wave of the attack on Ovillers-La Boiselle on 1 July, capturing the village at heavy cost. It then fought through the Somme Battles of Pozieres and the Ancre in 1916. Ernest was killed during the winter on the Ancre, on 31 January 1917. He was 32 years old, and is buried at Couin New British Cemetery, France. Ernest is not listed on the Carmarthen County War Memorial Roll.
World War Two, 1939-1945
Clifford Lewis Evans, Sapper, 2144528, Royal Engineers. Clifford was the son of Henry and Elizabeth Evans, of Cynwyl Elfed, Carmarthenshire. He served with the 125th Quarrying Company, Royal Engineers. Little else is known, but Clifford was killed in Normandy on 29 August 1944. He was 24 years old, and is buried at Bayeux War Cemetery, France.