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South African War Memorial At Froncysyllte

By Emrys Roberts

Throughout our country in cities, towns, villages and even hamlets, we discover War Memorials erected to honour men and women who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country.

Prior to World War 1 it was not general practice to erect such memorials to the memory of the ordinary soldier or sailor. In our great cathedrals and parish churches we may see inscribed tablets, effigies and other memorials to the memory of individual members of high ranking families of the district, who were usually of the officer class in the armed forces or to individual formations of the Armed Services. However, following the huge loss of life sustained in World War 1, it became common practice to erect such memorials to honour all members of the services who perished and therefore we find monuments even in the smallest communities, recording the names of the fallen, mostly those of young people of a community whose early and tragic deaths were a personal loss to a family and also a waste of future potential assets to a locality. The names of those who gave their lives in World War 11 are more often than not inscribed on the original memorials erected following the 1914-18 war or on tablets which are positioned adjacent to the monument.

We have such an arrangement in Froncysyllte, whereby the original memorial unveiled in 1921 is inscribed also with the names of the fallen of the 1939-45 War. Uniquely in Froncysyllte we have a memorial which pre-dates World War 1 and is dedicated to two soldiers who gave their lives in the South African War 1900-1902. I refer to it being rather unique as I am not aware of the existence in this locality of other similar memorials of the pre-1914 era, dedicated to other ranks of the armed forces and which are sited in a public place rather than in a place of worship. The only other Anglo-Boer War Memorials known to exist in this area are to be found in St. Giles’s Parish Church, Wrexham and St. Oswald’s Parish Church, Oswestry. Saturday the 29th October 1910 was a ‘red letter’ day in the history of Froncysyllte, when on the afternoon of that day hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects and witness the unveiling of the memorial fountain.

The first soldier named on the Memorial to make the supreme sacrifice was John Charles James who was born in 1875. He was the elder of the two sons of William and Jane James who at that time resided at Trevor View, Froncysyllte.

The other soldier whose name appears on this Memorial was William Williams son of Edward Williams, the lime burner at the Chirk Castle Lime & Stone Company’s kilns and who lived at Canalside, Froncysyllte.

The Memorial fountain was erected by public subscription and taken over by the former Llangollen Rural District Council in December 1910. The original choice of location for the erection of the Memorial in the large retaining wall in the centre of the village was ideal considering the small volume of slow moving traffic which passed through Fron in the early 1900’s. However, in the ensuing years, with the increased volume and speed of passing vehicles close to the Memorial it began to suffer some damage. Fortunately the Victorian Military Society which was undertaking a project of Anglo-Boer War Memorials throughout the country had its attention drawn to possible serious damage – probably beyond repair – in which the Memorial was placed. Through their efforts, together with assistance from the Local Councils and a generous donation from the Chirk Branch of the Royal British Legion the Memorial has been re-sited to a less exposed position on the lay-by on the A5 highway near St. David’s Church. At an impressive service held at St. David’s Church and the War Memorial on Sunday the 20th October 1996 the Vicar of Chirk led the large assembled congregation in the re-dedication of the Memorial. Taking part in the service were the Standard Bearers representing several local Branches of the Royal British Legion.

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