Letters from the Front from former Denbigh pupils bring home the grim reality of the Great War

Published date: 25 February 2017 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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Denbigh High history students Emily Carruthers, Theo Halton and Phoebe Williams with Dr Paul Evans. 

A stash of letters from soldiers serving the First World War have become an integral part of an exhibition project.

The letters, to go on display at Llangollen Museum from next month, were all written by former Denbigh Grammar School pupils in response to letters from pupils at the time writing to ask the soldiers about their memories of attending the school as well as their experiences on the front line.

Almost 100 letters dating from 1916 to 1918 were found at the school by head of history and assistant headteacher Dr Paul Evans. Four of the letters were found to have been written by soldiers named on a bronze memorial plaque in the school’s library. The plaque lists the names of 35 boys from the former grammar school who lost their lives during the conflict.

During discussions with David Crane, advisor to Llangollen Museum, who Dr Evans has worked with on various projects, Dr Evans mentioned the letters he had found at the school.

Llangollen Museum was in the process of organising a First World War project having secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr Evans said: “Once we started talking about the project, things started to move quite quickly. One of my former students, Tom Roberts, had spent several years researching the stories in the letters and he has played a crucial role in the development of the exhibition. He selected several letters from the collection which highlight different aspects of the soldiers’ experiences and he has written all the material for the display boards. His input has been invaluable and he also set up another team of students at the school to continue researching the letters to find out more about the men who had written them.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the exhibition when it opens and I would like to thank Tom for all his hard work and enthusiasm in bringing the letters to life. We wish him well when he goes to university in Liverpool this September to study history.” 

Among the subjects Tom has selected for the exhibition are stories about trench foot, leisure time, memories of playing football at the former Denbigh Grammar School, and losing friends in the conflict. Many of the soldiers were in the PALS brigade, having enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and colleagues.

Mr Crane said: “We were delighted to obtain the funding to deliver this project, which has two strands. I am working with Denbigh High School to explore how the war affected the lives of those who went off to fight. My colleagues Gill Smith and Peter Alexander have visited Ysgol Dinas Brân and Ysgol Rhiwabon, studying the effects of the war on lives at home.” 

“The fact that these letters from the soldiers, all former Denbigh Grammar School pupils, have survived for a hundred years is unique..” 

“Three-quarters of the soldiers from Llangollen that died in the conflict did so in the last two years, and so the exhibition has been timed to mark this poignant anniversary.” 

The exhibition opens in early March, running until November, and it is free to enter.

n Anyone who would like further information about the letters is invited to contact Dr Evans at Denbigh High School by emailing pevans@denbighhighschool.co.uk

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