Ponthenri is a small village located in the heart of the Gwendraeth Valley, halfway between Carmarthen and Llanelli. The men from the village who fell during the Great War are commemorated on the War Memorial which stands outside Bethesda Chapel at Ponthenri. The photographs of the memorial were kindly sent in by Simon Williams.
The Great War, 1914-1918
Thomas Hughes Beynon, Private, 32748, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Thomas was the son of David and Ellen Beynon, of Mansant Farm, Ponthenri. He had served in the Royal Dragoons, but transferred into the 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was attached to 13 Brigade, 5th Division. The Division had been in France since 15 August 1914, and fought at the Battle of Mons, and during the retreat south to the Marne. The division then took part in the First Battle of Ypres, where the German drive to the channel was halted. March 1916 saw the Division moving to positions between St. Laurent-Blangy and Vimy, near Arras, and the Division saw plenty of action during its spell here. On the 1st July, 1916 the Battle of the Somme opened, and the Division moved south fighting at High Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy. On 5 October, after suffering heavy casualties, the Division moved to Festubert, where they remained until March, 1917. They next saw action at the Battle of Arras, fighting at the Battle of Vimy in April 1917, and the attack on La Coulette. On the 3rd May they fought in the Third Battle of the Scarpe, and captured Oppy Wood. On the 7th September, they were pulled out of the line again, and moved north to join the great offensive in Flanders, the Battle of Passchendaele. Thomas was killed around Poelcapelle on 4 October 1917. He was 25 years old and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.
Roger Bowen, Private, 31823, Welsh Regiment. Roger was the son of John and Margaret Bowen, of Belmont, Ponthenri. He enlisted at Llanelli into the 19th Battalion (Glamorgan Pioneers), Welsh Regiment, the Pioneers to the 38th (Welsh) Division. The division moved to the La Bassée area where they trained in trench warfare, and in June 1916 marched south to the Somme area, where it was tasked with the capture of Mametz Wood. The first attack went in on 7 July, 1916 but was repulsed with heavy losses, and it was three days later that the attack was renewed, with the 15th Welsh acting as reserve troops on the first day. On the morning of 11 July the fighting in the wood had become severe, and the whole division ended up embroiled in the fighting. Many of its men lost their lives during the remainder of the day, one of whom was Roger. He was 22 years old and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.
William Howells, Private, 20096, Welsh Regiment. William was the son of Richard and Hannah Howells, Arfryn House, Myrtle Hill, Ponthenri. He enlisted at Llanelli into the 15th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was known as the Carmarthen Pals battalion, and trained at Rhyl before landing in France in December 1915 as part of 114 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. The Division took up positions in the Nursery Sector near Fleurbaix, for trench familiarisation. During March 1916 the battalion moved to the Cuinchy Sector, renowned for being a terrible part of the line, due to the almost continuous underground war being fought there. The battalion suffered the explosion of an underground mine there on 9 March 1916, suffering seven men killed and fifteen wounded. William was probably among the wounded men who were evacuated to the hospital at Bethune. He died of wounds at Bethune on 21 March 1916, aged 27, and is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery, France.
John William Jones, Private, 203406, Welsh Regiment. John was the son of Walter and Mary Jones, of Myrtle Hill, Ponthenri. He originally served with the 4th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, before being posted to the Middle East, where he joined the 8th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The battalion was the Pioneer battalion to the 13th (Western) Division and had fought at Gallipoli before being evacuated to Egypt in January 1916 and had then taken part in the campaign in Mesopotamia. The campaign became renowned for the terrible conditions and sickness experienced by the men, and John became one of the many men evacuated home suffering from sickness. He died on 20 March 1919 and is buried in Ponthenri Welsh Baptist Chapelyard.
Johnny Lewis, Private, 31799, Welsh Regiment. Johnny was the son of John and Jane Lewis, of Ponthenri. He enlisted at Llanelli into the Welsh Regiment and was posted to France where he joined the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was attached to 3 Brigade, 1st Division. Johnny probably joined the battalion in 1915 and would have fought at Loos in September. During the summer of 1916 the division took part in the Somme offensive and the 2nd Welsh suffered heavy casualties during its time there. In 1917 the division took part in the Passchendaele offensive and over the winter remained in trenches in Northern France. Johnny was wounded during the Battle of Bethune, when the division got caught up in desperate fighting trying to stem the German offensive on the Lys valley, and died on 18 April 1918, aged 26. Johnny is buried at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, France.
Cecil Owen Maple, Private, 20660, Welsh Regiment. Cecil was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Maple of Salisbury. His father had died in 1899 and his mother had married Thomas Johnson before the family moved to 15, Bargoed Terrace, Ponthenri. Cecil enlisted at Llanelli into the 15th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The battalion had formed as the Carmarthen Battalion and trained at Rhyl before moving to Winchester with the 38th (Welsh) Division. The division moved to France early in December 1915 and took up positions in the Fleurbaix sector. Sometime after moving to France Cecil was transferred to C Company, 14th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was in the same division. During June 1916 the division marched south to the Somme area and on 7 July went into action at Mametz Wood, a strongly defended woodland which was the key to Bazentin Ridge. Cecil was killed in Mametz Wood on 10 July 1916, aged 19. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France. His brother Reginald also fell, and is commemorated at Tumble and Llanelli.
David Thomas, Private, 54182, Welsh Regiment. David was the son of George and Maria Thomas, of 28, Orchard Street, Carmarthen. He was a collier at Ponthenri prior to the war, and enlisted at Carmarthen into the army. He was posted to France to join the 13th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was attached to 114 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. David probably joined the battalion at Boesinghe, after the Divisions mauling in the capture of Mametz Wood. David was killed during a wiring patrol near the Hill Top trenches on 30 November 1916, aged 21. He is buried at Essex Farm Cemetery, Belgium. His brother Robert fell on 30 July 1918. David is not commemorated at Ponthenri.
Robert Thomas, Private, 201073, Welsh Regiment. Robert was the son of George and Maria Thomas, of 28, Orchard Street, Carmarthen. He worked as a collier at Ponthenri prior to the war, and enlisted at Carmarthen the 1/4th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which was the local Territorial Battalion, attached to 159 Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. The Division landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, on 9 August 1915, and was immediately thrown into action, spending the next few days in isolated pockets, fighting against a Turkish counter-attack during the Battle of Sari Bair, and then at the Attack on Scimitar Hill. The Division remained here throughout the coming months, and suffered severe losses in manpower strength during the great November 1915 blizzard on Gallipoli, when its total strength was reduced to less than that of a full-strength Brigade. On 11 December 1915 the Division was evacuated to Mudros, and by 23 December 1915 were moved to Egypt. They remained on the Suez Canal Defences for the next twelve months, where it took part in operations against the Sultan of Darfur, and in March 1917 took part in the advance into Palestine. Robert was wounded in Palestine, and died on 13 July 1918. He was 25 years old, and is buried at Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel. His brother David had fallen on 30 November 1916. Robert is not commemorated at Ponthenri.
David Gwynne Williams, Private, 31821, Welsh Regiment. David was the son of David and Maria Williams, of Glyncoed, Ponthenri. He enlisted at Llanelli into the Welsh Regiment and was posted to the 19th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The 19th Welsh were formed as the Pioneer Battalion of the 38th (Welsh) Division and landed in France during the first week of December 1915, moving to the Fleurbaix sector. During the ensuing months the division moved about the line, from Givenchy in the south, to Fleurbaix in the north, learning the arts of trench warfare. The sector was relatively peaceful, except for Givenchy, where mining and countermining went on eternally, and was extremely wet. David was killed in action on 27 April 1916, aged 21, and is buried at Rue-Du-Bacquerot No. 1 Military Cemetery, Laventie, France.
William Williams, Sergeant, 207204, Royal Engineers. William was born at Ponthenri in 1876, the son of John and Ruth Williams. The family later lived at Mardy, before moving to Narberth. William had enlisted at Mardy into the Royal Field Artillery, before being transferred into the 174th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. The Tunnelling Companies carried out secret underground work, constructing mines and bunkers throughout the British sectors of the Western Front. William took ill during operations at Beaumont Hamel, and died on 8 September 1917, aged 41. He is buried at Favreuil British Cemetery, France. William is not commemorated locally.
World War Two, 1939-1945
Daniel Davies, Private, 3963757, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment). Daniel was the son of William and Jane Davies, of Isawel, Cynheidre. He enlisted into the army with his friend Cyril Davies, and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. The battalion joined the 1st Army in Tunisia, and fought in North Africa before taking part in the invasion of Italy. Daniel was killed at Anzio on 3 June 1944, aged 25, and is buried in Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio, Italy.
Frederick Norman Hewitt, Private, 5573221, Wiltshire Regiment. Frederick was the son of John Henry and Sarah Jane Hewitt, of Ponthenri. He served with the 4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, which was attached to 129 Infantry Brigade, 43rd (Wessex) Division. The division landed in France on 24 June 1944 and took part in the break out from the Normandy beach-head. Frederick was killed in Normandy on 5 August 1944 aged 26. He is buried in St. Charles De Percy War Cemetery, France.
Emrys Jones, Private, 3963600, Welch Regiment. Emrys was the son of William and Lily Jones, of Ponthenri, and served with the 4th Battalion, Welch Regiment. The battalion was the local Territorial Infantry battalion and was attached to 158 Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. The division spent most of the war on home service before landing in France at the end of June 1944, taking part in the break-out from Normandy. It then took part in the advance through Northern France into Belgium and Holland. Emrys was killed in action while the battalion was clearing the town of Peel on 27 September 1944, during heavy street fighting. He was 19 years old and is buried in Valkenswaard War Cemetery, Netherlands.
David Thomas Rees, Private, 3952211, Welch Regiment. David was the son of David and Margaret Jane Rees, and the husband of Lily Rees, of Llannon. He served with the local territorial unit, the 4th Battalion, Welch Regiment, which was attached to the 53rd (Welsh) Division. The division spent the early part of the war on home service, and by April 1940 had moved to Northern Ireland, with the 4th Welch moving to positions around Portadown. On 27 April 1940, David was posted to the 108th Overseas PoW camp at Beckenham. He embarked aboard the SS Arandora Star on 1 July 1940, as part of a number of guards escorting Italian and German internees and a number of prisoners to internment camps in Canada. On 2 July 1940 Arandora Star was about 75 miles west of Bloody Foreland when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47, commanded by Günther Prien. The torpedo blew a hole in the side of the ship, and flooded her aft engine room, killing all of the engineering staff and knocking out the ships power. A number of lifeboats were launched, but in the chaos which followed, some 805 people were killed, including the ship’s Captain, 12 of his officers, 42 of his crew and 37 of the military guards. David was 36-years-old when he was killed in the sinking. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, England.
Daniel John Stuart, Fusilier, 4207969, Royal Welch Fusiliers. Daniel was the son of John Archibald and Mary Jane Stuart, of Pontyates. Very little is known of him, but he died on active service on 13 March 1941, aged 28, and is buried in Ponthenri Welsh Baptist Chapelyard. Daniel is not named on the Ponthenri War Memorial.
Albert Glyn Williams. This man cannot presently be identified.
Celt Williams, Flight Sergeant (Navigator), 1316112, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Celt was the son of Griff and Betty Williams, of Ponthenri. He enlisted into the Royal Air Force, and served in 218 Squadron, a heavy bomber Squadron which flew the Avro Lancaster III, based at RAF Chedburgh. The night of 31 December 1944 saw several Bomber Command raids on Germany, and Celt was killed on one of these when his Lancaster was shot down that night. He was 23 years old and is buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.