Welsh WWI memorial 'milestone' in Flanders

The memorial to Welsh servicemen who died in World War I will be topped with a dragon

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Five great lumps of Pennant bluestone blasted from a quarry near Pontypridd now sit on a roadside in Flanders in Belgium largely unnoticed by passing traffic.

But in August next year, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, these stones will be dedicated to all those from Wales, men and women, who served in the conflict.

No-one will drive past them without a passing glance.

"We've passed a milestone," said Ian Macloud, a member of the Welsh Memorial in Flanders campaign.

"Simply getting the stones here has involved a major effort."

In what seemed like a giant game of pass the parcel the stones, each weighing between six and eight tonnes, were taken first from the Graig Yr Hesg quarry to a hauliers yard near Llanelli.

The Welsh bluestones in Flanders The Welsh bluestones have finally arrived in Flanders

There they were transferred to a lorry to take them via Dover and Calais to Flanders, escorted on the journey by motorcyclists from the Royal British Legion Riders' branch.

"We just felt we had to be involved," said Ian McLauchlan, a rider whose biker leathers are covered with badges giving evidence of his military service and his support for armed forces' charities.

"Escorting the stones here was the least we could do."

Between now and next year's dedication the campaign's Flanders team will take the lead.

Fashioning them into a circle they'll sit on land donated by the local community.

But the Welsh contribution isn't over.

Start Quote

People here really have taken Wales to their hearts. This memorial is so important to them”

End Quote Erwin Ureel Welsh Memorial in Flanders campaign

People across Wales have already raised £30,000 but the campaign's supporters are hoping to double that in order to pay for a bronze dragon which will sit on top of the monument.

In Flanders the site of the new Welsh monument is resonant with Welsh connections. It will be just metres from the spot where the poet Hedd Wyn died on the 31 July 1917, the first day of the Battle of Paschendale. A day on which three of his Welsh comrades won Victoria Crosses.

"People here really have taken Wales to their hearts. This memorial is so important to them," said Erwin Ureel, who is heading up the Flemish end of the memorial campaign.

"Here the Welsh sacrifice is not forgotten," he said.

The campaigners say they want a place where we can all remember.

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