The First World War and its affect on Llanfechain.

The emergence of a powerful expansionist German nation state precipitated the First World War. Military technological development contributed to a much longer, more costly and deadlier war than had ever been experienced before. Some 8,700,000 servicemen, of whom about 740,000 from Great Britain, lost their lives; others were wounded or suffered emotionally long after the war had ended (as is the case for many of our Armed Forces today).  The number of British servicemen as a proportion of the population was 1 in 7.  Some 500,000 horses and mules were provided from Britain for the Western Front. The financial cost to Britain was about £42 million worth of gold reserves, a financial burden that subsequently precipitated economic crisis and decline.

Llanfechain and the surrounding area sent 78 men to war from a farming population of about 540. It no doubt also sent horses. Such a loss in man and horse power must have been significant.  Those who served in the First World War are listed in St Garmon’s Church. Others who saw service but for some reason were not included on the Church list are also now noted in this history. The local Regiment was the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry and it was into this proud unit that many joined but the regiment was restructured and renamed during the war. The following were killed during that war.

   Oswald Evan Bennion. Kings

   Richard Allen Evans. RA

   David Hughes. RWF

   John H. Humphreys. MY

   Price Llewelyn Jones. RE

   Thomas Oliver. KSLI

   Alan Price. RWF

   William James Shropshire. RWF

   Frederick Watkins. RE

   Robert William Williams. RWF

It was not so much that anyone won this terrible war, more that by 1918, and after such a huge loss in military manpower and national wealth, both sides were exhausted.  Notwithstanding the collapse of Russia, the entry of the United States on the Allied side in 1917 had signalled who would prevail.  And so by the end of November 1918 the Germans, who were suffering internal public dissent, sued for peace.  And at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, a date and time now annually remembered, hostilities ceased.

As a result of the war, the Russian, Austria-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires disappeared with new countries, borders and territories (e.g. Iraq) being created.  The futility of the war and analysis of its causes prompted Woodrow Wilson, the American President, to articulate a new international arrangement that envisaged cooperation rather than competition between the great powers.  But the US congress did not support his idea of US participation in world governance and the League of Nations was established without its involvement.  Although the war had ended with the capitulation rather than the defeat of Germany, the other European nations imposed massive reparations asserting that Germany had been the villain, a view resented by the German people. Notwithstanding the noble aims of the League of Nations the post war world remained divided and competitive; National Socialism took route in a disaffected Germany, Fascism in an agrandist Italy; and a sense of superiority and need for territory inspired Japanese expansion into China and challenged European power and assumed global superiority; a sentiment evident elsewhere in the empires of Europe.  Those who had survived returned home disenchanted.  The 20s saw a resurgence of hope; the 30s a severe depression.  Trade Unionism developed; women sought and got the vote, at first if over 30 and a householder and finally, equal rights with men in 1928.

In Llanfechain a population of 570 returned to farming. In recognition of service, seven smallholdings of about 20 acres were provided for some of those returning from the war. They were: Afron, Caemawr, Plas Nywdd, Caenant and Bodynfoel farm which was divided into three holdings. John Ridge, who had deployed to France early in the war at the age of 16, was shot in the leg and then spent two years in hospital, was given Plas Newydd to farm. Messer’s Breeze, Price and Evans were given the three holdings at Bodynfoel, and Mr. Humphreys got Caenant.