Voices from the Past

Welsh Books Council

Voices from the Past - 16 December 2008
Voices from the Past

90 years since the end of the Great War, members of the generation that witnessed its atrocities first hand are now few and far between. The  Lleisiau’r Rhyfel Mawr  series by Cwmni Da, broadcast recently on S4C, portrayed the war through the eyes of young Welsh men of the era in letters, newspaper articles and personal diaries.

The series proved so popular that accomplished director Ifor ap Glyn decided to compile all the material in a book to chronicle the Welsh troops’ experiences - entitled,  Lleisiau’r Rhyfel Mawr  (Voices of the Great War).

Because of the overwhelming response to the appeal for letters and documents, selecting what to include in the television series proved to be a tough challenge. A wealth of clippings from weekly Welsh newspapers like  Y Seren,  private collections and even yellowed scraps of papers found in attics and cellars were sent to the production company. With so much material to hand it was impossible to include everything within four television programmes, and therefore, this book was compiled to complement the series.

"Because of the time constraints on each programme there was a lot of material that couldn’t be included in the original script, but we were all agreed that it would be a pity to leave them out of the book," explains Ifor ap Glyn.

Lleisiau’r Rhyfel Mawr  is an easy to read scrapbook of stories and an array of quotes. History is told by many means, from letters to loved ones to extracts from formal documents, all chronicling the same sorry tale but through the eyes of hundreds of young Welsh men.

"One of the greatest features of a compilation of this kind is the variety of material it contains," says Ifor. "You don’t have to explain why you’ve chosen one particular letter or quote."

The book takes us back to the very beginning with the murder of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria whose assassination precipitated World War I, and takes us step by step through to the end of the war exactly ninety years ago. The story is told through the experiences of young Welsh men who were on the front line - some academics, others manual workers - but all part of the same nightmare.

"There wasn’t a house or a home, cottage or manor that wasn’t affected by deaths in the First World War," said Lyn Ebenezer, who contributed to the book.

The events and circumstances which provide the material for this book are well documented and some of the descriptions touch upon the true horror of war. But amongst the atrocities we get to know the men behind the uniform, their naivety and even their sense of humour faced with such dreadful times. The mass of experiences from this bloodiest of wars is now safely documented for generations to come.

Myrddin ap Dafydd from Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, the book's publishers said, "This mountain of correspondence written during the Great War has never been published like this before. It’s exciting for us to be able to publish such a collection of eye-witness accounts. It’s only now that we truly appreciate the value of these pieces, ninety years on."

Back to News List

News Archive