St Harmon in the Great War 1914 – 18
In August 1914 St Harmon Parish Council reacted to the outbreak of war by appointing a committee to collect funds towards the National Relief Fund for the County of Radnor. In four days they collected £42.6.6 (when wages were between £1 and £2 per week) and sent it to HRH, the Prince of Wales. In November the Committee decided to continue their work and start a St Harmon War Contribution Fund. Over the next three years they organised a programme of further collections, jumble sales, concerts and lectures that raised a total of £329.2.8.
There were many meetings and much discussion about how to spend the money. Pairs of socks and mittens were knitted and sent to the men at the front: also a shirt and tobacco or cigarettes to the value of one shilling for each man. Postal orders were sent: 15 shillings to those serving abroad and 10 shillings to those in training in the UK (later Postal Orders were raised to 17/6 to those abroad and 15/- to those in the UK). £10 was given to the Young Men’s Christian Association, who provided an extensive support network to the armed forces, and £10 was sent to the Welsh Hospital at Netley in Hampshire. In addition there was a separate ‘Eggs for the Wounded’ scheme organised by the Rhayader and District Fur and Feathers Association. Eggs were collected weekly from all districts around Rhayader for distribution to hospitals.
Initial patriotic surge
Over the duration of the war about 10% of the population of St Harmon joined the armed forces. There was a patriotic surge of volunteers at the beginning of the conflict. Twenty six men volunteered and their names are recorded in the Committee minutes (plus Miss MJ Pugh of Berth, who did service in a munitions factory in Birmingham). The supply of volunteers was not enough to fight the war so the ‘Derby Scheme’ was introduced whereby men aged 18-40 had to register with the Government, with an obligation to join the forces if they were needed. The scheme was reinforced by local recruiting committees, whose aim was to canvas and cajole men into volunteering. When the Parish Council was invited to form such a committee in October 1915 they decided ‘that this Council take no action in the matter of canvassing as requested under the above scheme.’
Compulsory conscription was introduced in January 1916 but there was provision for men in reserved occupations, such as munitions, mining and agriculture, to avoid or postpone their military service. Throughout 1916 and most of 1917, a Military Appeals Tribunal in Rhayader dealt with about 30-40 cases every month. In most instances the appellant would be able to gain a temporary exemption from military service if it was in the national interest that he should remain in his present employment. In agricultural terms this usually meant exemption until after the harvest or until a replacement could be found. Only a small minority of cases received a complete exemption from service: similarly, only a few cases were disallowed.
Medals and memorials
In November 1919, a year after the end of the war, the St Harmon Committee proposed to hold a Tea and Entertainment with a choir, as a welcome home ‘to the boys who have been on “and are able to return” from active service in connection with the Great War.’ Medals were ordered, to be presented to all those who had served at home or abroad and to relatives of the fallen – ninety seven medals in total. There was also a proposal to provide four stone memorial tablets and four bronze memorial plates commemorating those local men who lost their lives, to be erected in St Garmon Church and the three local chapels. For some reason this never came to fruition. £6.5.11 was left in the fund at the end and this was donated to the Llanidloes Motor Ambulance Fund.
In April 1920 the Parish Council, responding to the offer of a German machine gun, resolved that ‘This Council cannot see their way to accept (the gun) and that the clerk write to the Secretary of the War Trophies Committee accordingly.’© PB 2017
Roll of Honour, St Harmon and Bwlch y Sarnau
Nine men with a connection to St Harmon and Bwlch y Sarnau died in service abroad. Three are buried in military cemeteries. The other six, whose bodies were not recovered, are commemorated on military memorials in France, Belgium and Palestine.
Private William Osborne Abel 429513
Born St Harmon 1891, he was the son of Mary Abel of Hendre Fawr Farm, and the late John Evans Abel. Ossie, as he was known, was a waggoner at Cefn Llech in 1911. He emigrated to Canada in 1912 and, in response to the war, he enlisted in the Manitoba Regiment and was shipped to France. He went missing, presumed killed on the 28 September 1916. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais. On the Rhayader War Memorial he is mistakenly recorded as Oswald Abel. In July 1916, just before he died, he wrote a chatty letter to his friend, Emily Mary Lewis of Pant y dwr, which is now with the Powys Archives (Acc 1934)
Private John Charles Bywater 40082
He was born in Disserth in 1887. He enlisted initially in the Monmouthshire Regiment and later transferred to the South Wales Borderers. He was killed in action on 28 May 1918, aged 21, and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial at Aisne. His connection with St Harmon is not clear but the St Harmon Committee minutes ask for steps to be taken to find his wife so that she may receive his St Harmon medal.
Private David Evans 235774
He was born in St Harmon in 1897 and later lived at the family farm in Llangurig. His parents were farmers, Evan and Elizabeth Evans of Craignant, Llangurig. He enlisted in the Herefordshire Regiment at the age of 20. He was killed in action in Egypt on 27 March 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem.
Private Henry Evans 25716
Henry Evans of Alltlwydd was born in 1889, the son of the late John and Margaret Evans of Tyniclos (or Ty Nicholas) in Bwlch y sarnau. He enlisted in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry in Rhayader, saw service in France and Flanders and died of his wounds on 9 October 1917 at the age of 29. He is buried at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery,Pas de Calais
Private Edward Griffiths Hughes 302710
Born in St Harmon in 1894, he was the son of Evan and Elizabeth Hughes of Pencraig and later of Glanrhyd and Cwmgwary. He enlisted initially in the Herefordshire Regiment and transferred to the Gloucestershire Regiment. Before the war he was a waggoner at Llwynbrain. He married Elsie M Pugh in1916, before he embarked to France. He died of wounds at Ypres on 16 August 1917 and is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
Private Evan Ingram 13109
Private Ingram was born in Rhayader in 1888, the son of Richard and Harriet Ingram of Hirfron, Pant y dwr. In 1911 he was working with his brother as a grocer in Ferndale, Glamorganshire. He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment early in the war and and saw action in France and Flanders. He was killed in action on 29 September 1915 and commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais.
Private Octavius Hughes Lewis 17267
He was born in 1889, the son of Thomas and Ann Lewis of Gilfach. He enlisted in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and saw action in France and Flanders. He was killed in action on 25 September 1915, aged 25. He is commemorated on the Ypres, Menin Gate Memorial and also on the family headstone in St Garmon churchyard. He is commemorated twice on the Rhayader Memorial, as ‘Octavius Lewis’ and ‘O H Lewis.’
Gunner Edward Pryse Lloyd 43324
Born c.1895 in St Harmon, he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery and saw action in France and Flanders. He died on 6 May 1917 and is buried in the Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun. He was the son of Price Lloyd, Maesderrin, St Harmon.
Driver John Williams 220511
John Williams born c.1893. In 1916 he married Priscilla May Davies of Cwmdavod, Bwlch y sarnau. He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery and was sent to France. He died on 18 August 1917 and is buried at Canada Farm Cemetery, Belgium
All these names are recorded on the Rhayader War Memorial. On the Llandrindod Hospital War Memorial Henry Evans, Edward Hughes and Evan Ingram are recorded under St Harmon; Octavius Hughes is recorded under Nantmel and John Williams is recorded under Bwlch y Sarnau. A David Evans is recorded on the Llanidloes War Memorial.
Thank you to Lloyd Lewis for making available his extensive research on the Rhayader War Memorial.
Posters courtesy of the National Library Wales.
St Harmon Parish Council Minutes
St Harmon War Fund Committee Minutes
Census 1901, 1911
Brecon and Radnor Express 1915-1919
Brecon and Radnor War Memorial – Roll of Honour of Men Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1919
The Long, Long Trail
Military History of Radnorshire, Radnorshire Society Transactions, Vol. 27 1957