Remembering the 'Thankful Villages' of World War I

Medwyn Parry presented a plaque to villagers after he and Dougie Bancroft (left) reached Colwinston, Vale of Glamorgan on Saturday

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A pair of motorcyclists have set off to visit every village in Britain where its soldiers all survived World War I.

There are just 51 so-called 'Thankful Villages' that witnessed their servicemen all return safely.

Three of the villages are in Wales, which is where the nine-day tour began on Saturday at Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth.

The 'Thankful Villages Run' hopes to raise £51,000 for the Royal British Legion.

The tour is the brainchild of riders Medwyn Parry and Dougie Bancroft, who have taken eight months to plan their journey after coming up with the idea while at a cafe in Aberystwyth.

Start Quote

The response from the communities has just been brilliant, and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of complete strangers”

End Quote Thanful Villages Run organisers

As each of the villages involved did not lose their men in the war, they do not have a feature present in virtually every other part of the UK - a war memorial.

But on each 45 minute stop by the bike riders, a slate plaque will be presented to commemorate the part each villages played in the conflict.

"The story of the Thankful Villages seems to strike a chord with everyone - a celebration of joy for a few fortunate communities during a time of so much horror," said the two riders.

"If they hadn't gone back and recollected what happened during those times we might have some of that history missing."

The 2,500 mile journey is being completed on motorcycles donated by Triumph, and specially prepared for the trek.

"They have all been painted up ready for the event. They have glorious, glorious poppies all over them," added Mr Bancroft.

The first leg of the journey saw the two riders visiting all three of the Thankful Villages in Wales, taking in Colwinston in the Vale of Glamorgan, and Herbrandston near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire.

The west Wales village is particularly special - as it is the only 'double' Thankful Village in Wales - as it did not lose any men in either World Wars - one of only 14 such places in the UK.

L-R: Medwyn Parry, Dame Vera Lynn, Dougie Bancroft The Thankful Villages Run has won the backing of icons like Dame Vera Lynn

"The response from the communities has just been brilliant, and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of complete strangers," the organisers wrote on their blog.

"Amazing things have happened, like Herbrandston re-scheduling their church fete & carnival so they could accommodate our visit."

The bike run has also won the support of the First Minister Carwyn Jones.

"It is the duty of all of us to remember the wars that defined the 20th Century, conflicts rightly remembered for their deadly toll, both military and civilian," said Mr Jones.

"However, the Thankful Villages Run is unique in that it asks us to remember those who were sent to war, who saw action on the front line but also managed to return home.

"These were communities with no plaques, no cross to mourn the fallen, yet still scarred by the realities of war.

"The Thankful Villages Run is a special way in which we can remember them and reflect on the past, but also help us understand to try and understand conflicts across the world today."

The ride organisers have invited the public to come and join in the commemorations at as many locations as they can on the nine-day route.

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