These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Battle of the Somme Image copyright Aled Rhys Hughes Image caption A shell pokes out of the dense undergrowth in the wood which was a battleground in World War One The signs of war are still visible in live ammunition shells being pushed up by the roots of trees.
The Welsh at Mametz Wood, by Christopher Williams, commissioned by David Lloyd George Get Swansea updates directly to your inbox Subscribe Thank you for subscribingSee our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again laterInvalid Email The name of Mametz Wood, perhaps like that of Aberfan or Senghenydd, is embedded deep in the Welsh psyche, immediately conjuring up images of needless loss of life, bravery, chaos and self-sacrifice.
Hundreds of Welshmen died at Mametz, most of them volunteers, and thousands more were casualties. Yet to visit Mametz Wood today, initially it is hard to imagine the violent loss of life that took place in early July when the Somme offensive was at its height and the 38th Welsh Division was tested for the first time in battle.
One sees now the neatly-tended and ploughed fields, the sleepy villages and the well-tended cottages and gardens. Perhaps the most potent reminder of the Great War is the number of military cemeteries appearing around every corner, with row upon row of uniform headstones stretching into the distance.
Following a footpath into the Wood, the atmosphere changes: Shell craters, shallow trenches and other earthworks are still clearly evident, with remnants of rusting barbed wire in amongst the thick undergrowth. It occupies an area of approximately acres and measures about one mile from north to south and three-quarters of a mile from east to west at its widest point.
However the Wood was attacked, it would have involved troops moving down the slope of a valley, then being faced with an uphill advance in open country to reach the enemy. One of the most striking sights is the Welsh Division memorial — a vivid red dragon, tearing at barbed wire, atop a three metre granite plinth — which faces across the open fields to Mametz Wood, passively guarding the memory of the hundreds of Welshmen who died here.
The memorial was made by Welsh sculptor and blacksmith David Petersen and was unveiled on July 1, The 38th Welsh Division, with its distinctive brethyn llwyd uniform, had first assembled in North Wales before embarking for France in December After a quiet introduction to trench warfare in the area around Givenchy, the Division moved to St Pol in preparation for the forthcoming major offensive on the Somme in early July Following seven days of heavy bombardment of the German lines, when a million and a half shells were fired, the objective was to capture the German front along an mile stretch from Maricourt to Serre, then continue eastwards and take the German second line from Pozieres to Grandcourt and beyond.
This would allow the cavalry to push through in to open country behind the German lines. The capture of Mametz Wood was of great strategic importance as it was seen as the key to a successful attack on the German second line in the area. The first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st Julyhas become symbolic of the apparent futility of the First World War and the blatant devaluation of human life.
In a single day, almost 20, British soldiers were killed and a further 40, were casualties. The artillery bombardment had proved totally ineffective against the deeply-embedded German trenches. The gains, such as they were, seemed a paltry reward for the loss of life.
On July 5, the Welsh Division took over a section of the front line immediately south of Mametz Wood, with orders to prepare for its capture. The odds were certainly not in their favour.
The vast majority of the soldiers in the Division were amateurs who had volunteered in the heady, patriotic days of Septemberexpecting the war to be over by Christmas. During their training they had suffered from a dire lack of equipment, most notably rifles. Most men had never fired a round on a range, never mind at the enemy, before they embarked for France.
For drill practice they had been forced to use broomsticks as a substitute for rifles. Confronting the 38th Division was the elite Lehr regiment of Prussian Guards — highly-trained professional soldiers, equipped with mortars and machine guns.
Furthermore they were deeply entrenched on easily defended-ground. The beginning of the attack The attack on Mametz Wood began at on July 7. The advance floundered in chaos yards short of the Wood, and a further attack at met with the same fate.
A third attack was then ordered and an artillery bombardment arranged for The rain had continued to fall, the ground was sodden, telephone wires had been cut and progress was extremely difficult.May 03, · This feature is not available right now.
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The battle for Mametz Wood was the key battle for Welsh troops throughout World War One. It took place between July, the second week of the Battle of the Somme during which the British suff ered heavy casualties.
‘Mametz Wood’ is a deeply slow poem, inspired by Owen Sheers’ trip to Wales, during which a tomb of twenty Allied soldiers were discovered. Sheers was so enamored with the image, that he was to later return and compose ‘Mametz Wood’. Mametz Wood was large, overgrown and defended by experienced German troops.
The first attack, on 7 July , failed to reach the wood. Welsh soldiers, who were expected to make a frontal assault. Founded by Andrew Motion and Julie Blake in , developed by The Poetry Archive with The Full English, and funded by the Department for Education, Poetry by Heart is a national poetry recitation competition open to all pupils and students in England aged between 14 and The Poetry By Heart website is a shared asset of The Poetry .
Mametz Wood. For years afterwards the farmers found them - the wasted young, turning up under their plough blades as they tended the land back into itself. A chit of bone, the china plate of a shoulder blade, the relic of a finger, the blown and broken bird's egg of .