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Remembering Passchendaele and Welsh Poet Hedd Wyn

Wednesday, 05 July 2017

  • Passchendaele Assembly - Welsh National Anthem
  • Passchendaele Assembly
  • Passchendaele Assembly - Hedd Wyn Poem
  • Passchendaele Assembly - Old Boy Fred Carrie

The Girls’ Division remembered the Battle of Passchendaele during morning assembly.

Mrs Hone recalled Fabian Ware, the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission which later became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the decision to bury servicemen in or close to the location where they died in standardised graves to reflect the equality of their sacrifice. She spoke movingly of the rows of headstones, which have no distinguishing marks of rank, creed, religion or status, and mentioned how the planting and architecture of the cemeteries were designed to reflect the homelands of the soldiers buried there.

Moving on to the Third Battle of Ypres, which is also known as Passchendaele, she recalled the 70,000 men who died and the 20,000 more who were wounded in this campaign. In particular, she talked about Lieutenant Fred Carrie, an Old Boy of the School who went on to join the 5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He attended the school from 1909 to 1913, and joined the Army in November 1914. During the Battle of Passchendaele, he and his men were stuck in the mud, their rifles clogged, and the covering fire of shells lost effectiveness due to the mud; therefore they decided to turn back. However, he was hit by a sniper’s bullet and killed instantly on 26 October 1917, at the age of just 21. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, which records the names of 33,600 men who died at Ypres but have no known graves.

The assembly also remembered the life of Welsh poet Hedd Wyn. Ellis Humphrey Evans, who took the bardic name Hedd Wyn, meaning ‘blessed peace’, was a farmer and shepherd with a talent for poetry. His ambition was to win the Bard’s Chair at the National Eisteddfod for his poetry. He won numerous competitions and local Eisteddfods, including coming second in the 1916 National Eisteddfod. However, in 1916, his family was required to send one of their sons to join the army and Hedd Wyn enlisted in place of his younger brother. He composed and sent his entry to the 1917 Eisteddfod poetry competition, Yr Arwr (‘The Hero’), shortly before the Battle of Passchendaele.

At the National Eisteddfod that year, during the ceremony of Chairing of the Bard, the Archdruid called on the winner to stand three times before solemnly announcing that the pseudonym ‘Fleur de Lys’ belonged to Hedd Wyn, and he had been killed in action six weeks earlier. He died on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

His gravestone at Artillery Wood Cemetery bears the additional words Y Prifardd Hedd Wyn (The Chief Bard, Hedd Wyn).

As part of the assembly, Mrs Pritchard read Hedd Wyn’s poem ‘Rhyfer’ (War) in the original Welsh. Year 12 pupil Caroline Blair also gave a moving performance of the Welsh National Anthem, ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (Land of my Fathers), in Welsh.


Click here to listen to Caroline’s performance of the Welsh National Anthem in assembly.

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