Penallt War Memorial renovation

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A survey in 2010 showed that the memorial was in a very poor condition and beginning to lean. The base stones were separating, making the structure unstable.

In 2013, Peter Garwood of Trellech, and John O'Brien, from Catbrook, made a successful series of grant applications to the Lottery Heritage Fund, The War Memorials Trust, Monmouthshire County Council and the Trellech Community Council. Other funds were provided by The Royal Naval Association, the Royal British Legion, and villagers of Penallt. This enabled the setting up of Penallt War Memorial Fund at Barclays Bank in Monmouth, thus guaranteeing funds for the restoration of the Memorial and having it rededicated at some future stage.

The stonemason chosen to carry out the work on the Memorial was Scott T. Fisher, of Coleford. He and his crew started on the 15th July 2014, taking great care with every part of the structure. It was hoped that careful archaeological digging might reveal that the story that a bottle being placed in the Memorial prior to being sealed in 1921 was true.

The inside of the Memorial base was accessed when the cross and base and uppermost layer of steps had been removed. The inside was filled with 93-year-old concrete. The team were excited to find that the bottle was clearly visible inside the concrete, proving that the account from the 1921 Beacon was correct.

The bottle did have a piece of paper inside it which had been folded twice and rolled up to fit in the bottle. The paper appeared quite intact after 93 years. Carefully, the bottle was freed and the bottle was sealed and taken to Gwent Archives conservation service in Ebbw Vale.

On the 21st August 2014, the removal of the document took place. The ink was, in many places, quite legible. The Archives preserved the paper to prevent any further deterioration. The original document and the bottle are now part of the archive at Gwent Archives, meaning they will be preserved, maintained and available to a wide audience.

Errors are also found on the document found in the bottle. For some reason not understood, the names of Charles Vaughan and R. England were not recorded on the document prior to it being placed in the bottle. In addition, George Gleed was actually John Gleed.

Work on the Memorial was completed in September 2014. Now in the Memorial are two time capsules containing the original information from 1921, and based on modern research, a detailed archive of the men who made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country and of those from the village who were known to have served and survived.

On Saturday the 20th September 2014, the renovated Great War Memorial at Penallt was unveiled by Penallt Village historian and author, Mr Vernon Kimber, and rededicated by Reverend Sandra Howells. The Great War Memorial was covered in a large Union Jack flag and the Union flag was flown from the adjacent flag post by Mrs P. Evill.

A small crowd of villagers, some of whom were directly related to the men of the village who died in the Great War, gathered just before 11 a.m. along with a contingent from the Royal British Legion and the Royal Naval Association who kindly provided Standard bearers for the ceremony. In addition, a number of serving and ex-service men and women were present, having travelled some considerable distance to honour their comrades from another era.

Mr John O'Brien made the welcome speech and introductions, and Mr Vernon Kimber, author of two books on the history of Penallt, made a speech about the impact of the Great War on the village and its general impact on the country and the villagers.

He then unveiled the Memorial by removing the flag. The Rev. Sandra Howells then movingly and eloquently re-dedicated the Memorial. The Laurence Binyon verse and the names of the fallen were read out by Peter Garwood. The Rev. Sandra Howells carried out the Act of Commitment to which those gathered responded. Ceri Edmonds of Usk Band played the Last Post, and after the two-minute silence she played Reveille. The ceremony concluded by the singing of the National Anthems.

As part of the grants, a small exhibition was held in Penallt on April 16th 2016, and a printed booklet about the Great War Memorial was produced, available in both English and Welsh.

Details of the men who fell