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Commemorating the outbreak of The Great War

LecturesPosted by Communications Officer Wed, August 05, 2015 16:07:24

The outbreak of The Great War 4th August 1914

On 4 August 1914 at 11pm, Britain declared war on Germany. It was a Tuesday. The 2nd Monmouthshire Territorial Regiment mobilised at Pontypool and notices were sent for the men to attend the Drill Hall where they were locked in. Private Charley Heare was coming back from Weston on the train and there was much excitement at the stations and people were on the platforms cheering and waving. Lance-Corporal Cornelius Love of the same regiment thought it was a joke and stayed home, but the next day, Wednesday, he received a reprimand and quickly reported to the Drill Hall. The following day they received a medical inspection and played cards as they waited for orders to entrain for Pembroke Dock. Private Charley Heare looked upon it as a holiday and hoped the war would last at least a month. Lance-Corporal Love of was sent to look after the 45 horses which had been collected in Pontypool Park for the war effort, although he knew nothing about horses. At Newport the 1st Monmouthshires were mobilising and one of those was Percy Scannell who is included in the WW1 Exhibition at Newport Museum. At Abergavenny the 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment were undergoing the same process. Throughout the night of the 4th, the companies from the various towns and villages mustered and caught trains to Abergavenny and the whole battalion gathered outside the Market Hall at dawn on August 5th.

The Capture of the Belgia 4th August 1914

Before war was declared between Britain and Germany on 4th August 1914, but after war had been declared between France and Germany, Newport’s Chief Constable and 13 of his men set off to capture the Belgia which had anchored in the Bristol Channel at about 5.50pm. The Captain probably came willingly into Newport afraid that he would be captured by the French, but also because he wanted to refuel. Once War was declared at 11pm the crew officially became prisoners of war. The ship was coming from Boston with a cargo destined for Hamburg Zoo. The menagerie was purchased by a Mr T Murphy who displayed them at Abergavenny Fair.

Commemorating The Great War 4th August 2015: a lecture and social evening remembering the short life of Private Percy Scannell (1897-1917)

[The pictures below come from the Percy Scannell's archive at Newport Museum and Art Gallery]

Above you can see two photographs of Private Percy Scannell. The first was probably taken before he went to the Western Front as a soldier of the Monmouthshire Regiment. It was probably taken for his family. The second shows him as a member of the 2nd Monmouthshire signals and he is seated on the left. Last evening we met at the Secret Garden Café where Richard Frame our Chairman gave a wonderful talk about Percy Scannell the Newport soldier who is mentioned in Newport Museum's First World War Exhibition. Thanks must be given to the proprietors of the Secret Garden Café who allowed us to meet in the place where Percy’s father had a cobblers shop and where the Scannell family had lived upstairs. The original door and letter box can still be seen and it is through this letter box at 25 Charles Street that Percy’s letters from the Western Front were posted.

Richard Frame and Christabel Hutchings, also a member of Fonmag, had been asked by Curator Oliver Blackmore to transcribe the letters and write an article for publication. It can be read in this year’s volume of 'The Monmouthshire Antiquary'. Richard took us though Percy’s life and placed the letters in context. Percy's letters home were sanitised to protect his family from the horrors of the war and Percy kept telling them he was ‘In the Pink’.

We felt we had come to know him so well via Richard’s talk that his death was felt by all those who listened. On 26 August the Battalion was relieved and Percy was heading for Elverdinghe Station to entrain for Proven. It was then that Percy was wounded. The War Diary of the 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment records that two men from B Company were wounded that day, but only one died of wounds, which must have been Percy. Close to the Elverdinghe station was Bleuet Farm which was used as an Advance Dressing Station from June to December 1917. It was here that Percy was taken and died on 26 August.

The aim of the evening was to allow FoNMAG members to socialise and many of us stayed on to talk, drink and enjoy the delicious food on offer. Percy's family moved to 25 Charles Street after he had left for France and so he never returned to the new family home. However thanks to FoNMAG, the Secret Garden Café has discovered the building's link with Percy Scannell and now has pictures on the wall for customers to view. In a sense Percy has returned home.

See also videos below on the First World War.

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