Llanelly Hill is a parish which lies within the historic county of Breconshire, west of Abergavenny, east of Brynmawr and south of Crickhowell. Llanelly Hill occupies the north-west hilltop of the Clydach Gorge and developed as a result of coal mining and limestone quarrying for the nearby ironworks. The men of the village who fell during both World Wars are commemorated on the Crickhowell and District War Memorial, which is situated in Crickhowell, near to the old site of the Crickhowell War Memorial Hospital.

The Great War, 1914-1918

Wilfred Stanley Bosley, Private, 12394, South Wales Borderers. Wilfred was born at Cwmtillery in 1892, the son of William Bosley and Alice Bosley (nee Meek). The family had moved to 34, Partridge Road, Llanhilleth by 1911, then had moved to Penrhiew, Llanelly Hill prior to the war. Wilfred enlisted into the 4th Battalion, South Wales Borderers soon after the outbreak of war. The battalion formed at Brecon, before moving to Park House Camp, near Tidworth to join 40 Brigade, 13th (Western) Division, then moved to billets in Cirencester before moving to Woking in March 1915 for final training. On 29 June 1915 the Division sailed from Avonmouth for Mudros, before landing at Cape Helles, Gallipoli on 15 July 1915. Two weeks later the Division was moved to Anzac, to reinforce the Australian and New Zealand troops there, in readiness for a great assault on the Sari Bair Ridge, in conjunction with fresh Allied landings at Suvla Bay. The assault began on 6 August 1915 and raged over the coming days. The 4th SWB reached the Achyl Dere before assaulting, and seizing Damakjelik Bair, one of the ridges held by the Turks. The Turks counter-attacked on 9 August and terrible fighting raged throughout the day. The Division remained at Gallipoli over the coming months, as the fighting drew to a close, and suffered terribly when winter hit the peninsula, bringing floods and disease. The Division was finally evacuated to Mudros on 8 January 1916 before moving to Egypt, then on 15 February 1916 embarked at Suez, arriving at Basra on 4 March to join the forces being assembled to attempt to relieve the besieged garrison of Kut-al-Amara. The division remained in Mesopotamia until the Turkish surrender in 1918, suffering as many casualties through sickness and disease as through fighting. Wilfred was one of many men whose health was ruined by his service there and upon his return to Britain was discharged from the army as medically unfit on 9 April 1918, suffering from malaria, dysentery, defective vision and bronchial catarrh. He returned to live with his mother at Llanelly Hill, but weakened over the coming years, before dying at the Pensions Hospital at Bath on 15 March 1925. The body of the 32-year-old was brought back to Wales, and he was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard, Llanfihangel Pontymoel. Wilfred is not commemorated by the CWGC as he died after their cut-off date for commemoration. He is not commemorated on the Llanelly Hill war memorial either.

Levi Coleman, Private, 121, Monmouthshire Regiment. Levi was the son of Joseph and Sarah Coleman of Waenlafra, Llanelly Hill, Breconshire. He married Mary Smith at St. Elly’s Church, Llanelly Hill on 2 August 1901 and the couple set up home at 163, New Gladstone Street, Abertillery. Levi worked as a collier for many years prior to the war. He had enlisted at Abergavenny into the 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment in about 1908 and continued to serve over the coming years. The battalion mobilised at Abergavenny attached to the Welsh Border Brigade, Welsh Division, before moving to Pembroke Dock. On 10 August 1914 the Division moved to Oswestry before moving to Northampton, then spent Christmas at Bury St. Edmunds before moving to Cambridge. In February 1915 the 3rd Monmouth’s left the Welsh Division and landed in France on 14 February, before moving to the Ypres Salient. On 3 March 1915 the battalion joined 83 Brigade, 28th Division. On 8 April the 3rd Monmouth’s relieved a French Division in the sector east of the Polygon Wood to begin its first tour in the trenches. The battalion was relieved four days later, and marched to billets in Ypres, then on 17 April relieved the 5th King’s Own in the front line, to begin a spell which would last for 17 days without relief. On 22 April, just to the north, the Germans launched the first gas attack of the war upon French Colonial troops at Gravenstafel, heralding the opening of the Second Battle of Ypres. The fighting remained to the north of Polygon Wood until 3 May, when the Germans widened their attacks and the Polygon Wood sector was evacuated by the 28th Division, which fell back on the G.H.Q. line at Potijze. Over the coming days their new positions were shelled mercilessly, then on 8 May the Germans attacked. Despite heavy losses the Division held firm and later that day three Companies of the 3rd Monmouth’s moved back into billets at Vlamertinghe, leaving B Company in the line. By now casualties had become so severe that on 10 May a Composite Battalion was formed from remnants of 83 Brigade, under Lt Col Gough, and proceeded to the G.H.Q. line at Potijze. Over the coming days their new positions were shelled mercilessly, then on 8 May the Germans attacked. Despite heavy losses the Division held firm and later that day three Companies of the 3rd Monmouth’s moved back into billets at Vlamertinghe, leaving B Company in the line. By now casualties had become so severe that on 10 May a Composite Battalion was formed from remnants of 83 Brigade, under Lt Col Gough, and proceeded to the G.H.Q. line at Potijze. During the coming weeks, all three battalions of the Monmouth’s, which were all at Ypres, suffered such heavy losses that on 27 May they were merged together at Vlamertinghe in 84 Brigade, 28th Division. On 11 August 1915 the individual battalions resumed identity and the 3rd Monmouth’s re-joined 83 Brigade, before becoming the Pioneer Battalion to the 49th (West Riding) Division in September 1915. The 3rd Monmouth’s were carrying out work at Elverdinghe on 29 December 1915 when four 17” British shells fell short into their positions, killing and wounding some 69 men. Levi was killed instantly when one of the shells burst near him. The 39-year-old is buried in Ferme Olivier Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium, in what amounts to a mass grave. Levi is also commemorated on the Abertillery war memorial.

David James Davies, Lance Corporal, 10523, South Wales Borderers. David was born in 1887, the son of Edward Davies and Ann Davies, of Upper Gelly, Llanelly Hill. The family later moved to 60, King Street, Brynmawr. David had left home as a young man to enlist into the army and by 1911 was in South Africa with the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers. The battalion was in Tientsin, China at the outbreak of war and took part in a famous operation with the Japanese against the German held port of Tsingtao on 23 September. On 4 December the battalion embarked at Hong Kong and landed at Plymouth on 12 January 1915, entraining for Rugby to join 87 Brigade, 29th Division. On 17 March 1915 the battalion sailed from Avonmouth with the Division, arriving at Alexandria on 29 March, before moving to Mudros. On 25 April 1915 the Division landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, as part of the original landing force which had been despatched to try and seize the Dardanelles Straits and force Turkey out of the war. The invasion forces failed to break the Turkish defences and the campaign became bogged down, so after an arduous eight months on the Peninsula the 29th Division was evacuated to Egypt on 11 January 1916, before being transferred to the Western Front, landing at Marseilles on 15 March and entraining for the Somme sector, taking up positions near Beaumont Hamel, facing Y-Ravine. The Division had an arduous time here too over the coming months, before taking part in a suicidal assault on 1 July 1916, on the opening day of the Somme offensive. The 2nd SWB alone suffered some 384 casualties on that day alone. Although severely depleted, the Division remained in the line here over the coming weeks, in trying conditions. The Division was then pulled out of the line to rest and rebuild before moving back into the line and taking part in the latter stages of the Somme offensive. The Division wintered on the Somme, taking part in the advance which followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. At the beginning of April, the entire 29th Division moved out of the Somme sector to the Arras sector, and by 9 April took over a section of the line facing Monchy-le-Preux. The Division then began to prepare for the forthcoming Battle of Arras. At dawn on 23 April 1917, the Division launched an assault on Monchy-le-Preux. The 2nd SWB captured the front-line German trench and advanced some 300 yards beyond before consolidating its gains. David was killed in action at some time during the day. The 29-year-old has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France. David is also commemorated on the Brynmawr war memorial.

Henry Jones, Private, 59615, Machine Gun Corps. Henry was born in 1898, the son of Evan Jones and Mary Ann Jones (nee Price), of Mount Pleasant, Llanelly Hill. He left home to work as a coal hewer at Huddersfield prior to the war. Henry enlisted at Halifax into the Durham light Infantry, then trained as a specialist machine-gunner before being transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. Henry was drafted to France in December 1916, then entrained for the southern port of Marseilles, where he boarded the requisitioned ocean liner SS Ivernia, together with some 2,400 troops being sent to Alexandria. On 1 January 1917, Ivernia was steaming some 58 miles south of Cape Matapan, in the Kythira Strait off Greece, when she was hit by a torpedo which had been fired by the German submarine UB-47 and sank quickly, with the loss of 36 crew members and 84 troops. Henry was among those who perished aboard Ivernia as she sank that morning. The 19-year-old has no known grave and is commemorated on the Mikra Memorial, Greece.

James Jones, Private, 12700, South Wales Borderers. James was born in Washington, County Durham in 1896, the son of Joseph jones and Rachel Jones (nee Jeakins). The family had moved to Miner’s Row, Llanelly Hill by 1901. James worked as a coalminer prior to enlisting at Brecon into the 4th Battalion, South Wales Borderers soon after the outbreak of war. The battalion formed at Brecon, before moving to Park House Camp, near Tidworth to join 40 Brigade, 13th (Western) Division, then moved to billets in Cirencester before moving to Woking in March 1915 for final training. On 29 June 1915 the Division sailed from Avonmouth for Mudros, before landing at Cape Helles, Gallipoli on 15 July 1915. Two weeks later the Division was moved to Anzac, to reinforce the Australian and New Zealand troops there, in readiness for a great assault on the Sari Bair Ridge, in conjunction with fresh Allied landings at Suvla Bay. The assault began on 6 August 1915 and raged over the coming days. The 4th SWB reached the Achyl Dere before assaulting, and seizing Damakjelik Bair, one of the ridges held by the Turks. The Turks counter-attacked on 9 August and terrible fighting raged throughout the day. The Division remained at Gallipoli over the coming months, as the fighting drew to a close, and suffered terribly when winter hit the peninsula, bringing floods and disease. James was invalided home from Gallipoli and after recovering was drafted to France, joining the 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, which was at Loos attached to 3 Brigade, 1st Division. The battalion was holding a section of front line in the Les Brebis sector on 2 April 1916 when their lines came under fire from German artillery. James was among eight men killed during the bombardment. The 19-year-old is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Loos, France. James is not commemorated on the Llanelly Hill war memorial but is commemorated at Abergavenny.

John Lewis, Private, 3348, Welsh Regiment. John was born at Llanelly Hill in 1879, the son of Edward Lewis and Margaret Lewis (nee Williams). He married Gladys Ceinwen Jenkins at Llanelly Hill in 1903 and the couple set up home at 12, Lower Rank, Pwlldu, Blaenavon, where John had gained work as a colliery horse keeper. Gladys died in 1911 and the couple’s three young children went to live with relatives at Blaenavon. John enlisted into the 1/5th Battalion, Welsh Regiment at Pontypridd soon after the outbreak of war. The battalion was a Territorial Army unit and mobilised for war in August 1914, as part of South Wales Brigade, Welsh Division. The division moved to Tunbridge Wells until the end of the month, before moving to Scotland to man the Forth and Tay Defences. On 17 April 1915 the battalion moved to Bedford, as part of the now renumbered 158 Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. On 19 July 1915 the entire Division sailed from Devonport for Imbros and on 9 August 1915 landed at Suvla Bay. The infantry moved off the beaches across the Salt Lake, under shellfire, into the scrub covered Chocolate Hill, but due to a lack of maps and no knowledge of the terrain, many of the units became disorientated, and the situation became chaotic. John survived the slaughter of the landings, but the campaign soon bogged down into trench warfare and as autumn came, so did the misery of rain, snow and the inevitable sickness and disease. John took ill at the beginning of November and was evacuated off the Gallipoli peninsula aboard the Hospital Ship Letitia. He died of rheumatism and acute bronchitis whilst at sea, just before the ship docked at Malta. The body of the 36-year-old was brought off the ship and he was buried in Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta. John is also commemorated on the Blaenavon war memorial.

Joseph Lewis, Private, 267490, Monmouthshire Regiment. Joseph was born in Blaenavon in 1892, the son of Thomas Lewis and Elizabeth Lewis (nee Williams). His father died in 1906 and his mother moved to the Racehorse Inn, near Waenavon Station, Llanelly Hill. Joseph worked as a collier prior to enlisting into the 2/1st Brecknockshire Battalion, South Wales Borderers at Brynmawr on 2 November 1914. In April 1915 the battalion moved to Dale, in Pembrokeshire to join the Milford Haven garrison, then at the end of 1915 moved to Bedford to join the 68th (2nd Welsh) Division. On 30 July 1916 he was drafted to France and transferred to the 1/2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment. The battalion was on the Somme and was the Pioneer Battalion to the 29th Division. The Division had suffered terrible casualties at Beaumont Hamel, during its assault on Y-Ravine on 1 July 1916 and, although severely depleted, the Division remained in the line here over the coming weeks, in trying conditions. On 27 July the Division entrained for Flanders, detraining at Proven before relieving the 6th Division at Ypres. The Division held the line here over the coming weeks as it rebuilt its strength and the 2nd Monmouth’s worked hard on improving trenches and digging new communications trenches. The battalion then worked on the Menin Road, erecting elephant shelters, then on 4 October the Division was relieved and entrained south for the Somme once more, moving to Trônes Wood, before joining the latter stages of the Somme offensive. The Division wintered on the Somme, with the 2nd Monmouth’s working on road repairs around Montauban, then at Ginchy, Flers and Morval. The 2nd Monmouth’s moved into reserve at the end of December and moved to Fourdrinoy, where the men trained in infantry assault manoeuvres. On 12 January 1917 the battalion began marching back into the battle area, taking over positions near Morval, and began supplying working parties around Montauban once more. In the Spring of 1917, the Division fought at the Battle of the Scarpe, which was part of the Arras Offensive, seeing heavy fighting around Monchy-le-Preux, and then moved further north to Ypres, initially to hold the line whilst other units had been withdrawn for specialist training, in readiness for the Third Battle of Ypres. The 2nd Monmouth’s began work on the Yser Canal Bank, improving several trenches which had been dug by the 38th (Welsh) Division before it was relieved to begin training for the forthcoming offensive. Joseph was one of four men killed by German artillery fire whilst working on the Canal Bank on 1 July 1917. The 25-year-old was buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery, Belgium. Joseph is not commemorated on the Llanelly Hill war memorial.

William John Watkins, Private, 26244, South Wales Borderers. William was born in 1895, the son of Thomas Watkins and Susannah Watkins (nee Bowen), of Fair View Bungalow, Llanelly Hill. His mother died the following year, so William and his two sisters were raised by their father alone, until he remarried to Harriett Collette in 1902, and three further siblings were born before Harriett sadly died in 1910. William worked as a coalminer prior to the war. He enlisted at Brynmawr into the South Wales Borderers on 10 November 1915 and after completing his training was drafted to France in the summer of 1916, joining the 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, which was attached to 3 Brigade, 1st Division. The division moved from Loos to the Somme sector at the beginning of July 1916 and took part in heavy fighting for Bazentin Ridge. The division saw further heavy fighting on the flank of the Australian Corps during the Battle of Pozieres, then saw further fighting during the Battles of Flers-Courcelette and Morval. After wintering on the Somme, the division followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917, before being briefed for an operation on the Flanders Coast and moved there during the summer of 1917. The operation, Operation Hush, was a planned offensive along the coast if the Passchendaele offensive was successful but was called off when the troops at Passchendaele became bogged down in the mud and the 1st Division was instead transferred to Ypres in October 1917.  William was wounded during the fighting for Passchendaele Ridge at the beginning of November and was evacuated to hospital near the coast at Wimereux, where he died of his wounds on 20 November 1917. The 22-year-old is buried in Wimereux Communal Cemetery, France. William is also commemorated on the Abergavenny war memorial.

David William Whitby, Guardsman, 1403, Welsh Guards. David was born at Clydach, Breconshire in 1889, the son of Frederick William Whitby and Elizabeth Whitby (nee Davies). He married Blodwen Jones in 1913 and the couple set up home at Cwm Nant Gan, Llanelly Hill, where they had two sons, Maldwyn and David William, born over the next two years. David worked as a coalminer prior to the war. He enlisted into the newly formed 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards soon after its formation by Royal Warrant of 26 February 1915, at White City, before landing at Le Havre on 18 August 1915, becoming attached to 3rd Guards Brigade, Guards Division. The Division saw its first major action during the Battle of Loos, which began on 25 September 1915. During the opening day, the Guards Division began moving into position, watching the terrible scenes in front of them, before launching its own attack on the following morning. At around 18.00 that day the Welsh Guards received orders to attack a feature called Hill 70, and as the men slowly made their way forwards, darkness fell. As soon as the battalion reached the top of the Hill, German machine-gunners opened up a murderous fire on them, forcing the men to dig into the many shell holes littering the crest, before retiring to positions just below of the crest, where the survivors dug-in. David appears to have been wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans at some time during the night of 26-27 September. He died of his wounds in the German hospital at St. Clotilde, in Douai on 1 October 1915. The 26-year-old was buried in Douai Communal Cemetery, France.

World War Two, 1939-1945

Henry Hill, Gunner, 1122050, Royal Artillery. Henry was born at Brynmawr on 21 July 1905, the son of Joseph Hill and Margaret Ann Hill (nee Davies). He married Maria May Roberts in 1929 and the couple set up home at Starving Point, Llanelly Hill. Henry worked as a coalminer prior to the war. He enlisted into the Royal Artillery and was posted to the 13th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. The regiment served as the anti-tank regiment of 2nd Infantry Division in France until its evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940. The regiment was sent to India with the division on 15 April 1942, but in July was transferred to Egypt, joining the 5th Indian Division. The regiment then fought in North Africa until being transferred to Syria in May 1943. The regiment then returned to Egypt, before sailing for Italy in March 1944 to join the great Allied offensive in Italy. Henry was killed in Italy on 13 July 1944. The 38-year-old was originally buried on the battlefield, but in April 1945 his grave was exhumed, and Henry was re-interred in Assisi War Cemetery, Italy.

Jack Rogers, Corporal, 567816, Royal Air Force. Jack was born on 5 September 1918, the son of William Rogers and Catherine Rogers (nee Williams), of Waenlapra, Llanelly Hill. He left school to enlist into the Royal Air Force and was posted to 62 Squadron, RAF. The squadron was posted to Singapore in August 1939 and moved to Alor Star in northern Malaya in February 1940. Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya on 8 December 1941 the squadron was evacuated to Butterworth but was virtually destroyed when the base was attacked by Japanese aircraft the following day. The remnants of the squadron then moved to Taiping, Perak, however the Japanese were now on the ascendency, so the squadron moved back to Singapore where it re-equipped with Lockheed Hudson’s, before moving again to Palembang, Sumatra in January 1942. The squadron was evacuated to Semplak, in Java when Sumatra came under attack by the Japanese. Jack was taken prisoner by the Japanese when Java fell on 20 March 1942 and was taken to a POW Camp at Ambon. Over the coming years the Allies began recapturing many of the territories captured by the Japanese, so in October 1944 the Japanese rounded up their prisoners in Ambon and crowded them aboard the Hellship, Maros Maru. The ship set sail for Soerabaya, and the men, most already weak and ill from two brutal years in captivity, were held in terrible conditions crowded below deck. Jack died of beri beri aboard ship on 31 October 1944 and was buried at sea. He was among some 300 men to die in these brutal conditions during the voyage. The 26-year-old has no known grave and is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.

Dennis Albert Williams, Driver, T/14664656, Royal Army Service Corps. Dennis was born in 1924, the son of William Alfred Williams and Kate Victoria Williams (nee Chivers), of Gelli Felen, Llanelly Hill. He enlisted into the army as soon as he left school and was posted to the 633rd General Transport Company, Royal Army Service Corps. The company was a DUKW company and was formed to ferry troops onto the Normandy landing beaches. Dennis probably took part in the Normandy Landings on D-Day, 6 June 1944, where one of the DUKW’s of his company ferried the British commander, Bernard Montgomery ashore, then his company would have taken part in the advance north through Belgium into Holland, towards the Rhine over the coming months. His company took part in Operation Market Garden later that year. Then in the following spring played an important role during Operation Varsity, the Rhine crossings, on 24 March 1945. Dennis died during the advance which followed, near Lueneberg, on 6 May 1945. He was originally buried near the town, but after the war his grave was exhumed and the 21-year-old was re-interred in Hamburg Cemetery, Germany.