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'Now a part of Flanders will BEWELSH forever'.

Byline: Sam Tegeltija Reporter sam.tegeltija@mediawales.co.uk

THE stirring sound of the Last Post filled the silent Belgian air at a ceremony to commemorate fallen Welsh soldiers of the Great War.

The powerful bugle call, sounded at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres last night, was dedicated to the Welsh men who died during battle in Flanders during the First World War, and rounded off a weekend of remembrance events which included the unveiling of a permanent Welsh memorial.

The poignant Menin Gate setting in Ypres marks the spot of one of the main roads that led Allied soldiers to the frontline.

The evening remembrance followed a 500-strong afternoon service at Artillery Wood Cemetery, near Boezinge, which is the burial site of fallen Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who died at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

The powerful voices of the North Wales Rugby Choir, which helped raise money for the Welsh memorial, also warmed the service.

Hedd Wyn was later dedicated a plaque in the community of Hagebos at a separate ceremony. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres, is a moving occasion, as we remember the sacrifices all those from Wales made during the First World War.

"The First World War transformed Wales in many ways, socially, economically and culturally, as our grandparents and great-grandparents strove to build a better society for those who returned.

"Today we honour them all, for their bravery, sacrifice and their gift to us of the opportunity to live in a free democratic nation."

Yesterday's event ended the town's full-weekend itinerary, which started on Saturday with the unveiling of a memorial to the Welsh soldiers killed in the First World War in the village of Langemark.

A cromlech made of four Welsh Blue Pennant stones from the Craig yr Hesg quarry near Pontypridd will stand as a permanent memorial to the Welsh victims of the conflict, topped with a red dragon. It was unveiled by Mr Jones in front of more than 1,000 onlookers and is thanks to several years campaigning and fundraising by the Welsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign Group.

Falklands War veteran, author and charity supporter Simon Weston, who attended the ceremonies in Belgium at the weekend, labelled the events "wonderful" and "emotional".

Speaking about Saturday's ceremony, he said: "It's been a wonderful weekend, a very proud moment for me personally to see this happen.

"It was done so very well - Roy Noble was fantastic in his role as compere, and the choir from North Wales gave an incredibly emotional performance.

"The dragon looks absolutely magnificent.

"It is very special to know that a part of Flanders will be Welsh, now and forever. It gives us a focal point. It gives Welsh schoolchildren who visit Flanders an understanding of the sacrifice Welsh personnel made.

"This is all the result of seven years of hard work by Peter Jones and his committee - a huge team effort. It is his life effort and dedication.

"At times, when there was no money coming in, he still believed and made it happen.

"Erwin Ureel and his committee and Flanders were also extremely dedicated and integral, and the work of Lee Odishow, the North Wales artist who sculpted the dragon memorial, should be recognised." Speaking just before yesterday's ceremony, Mr Weston added: "The people who have greeted us in Flanders over the weekend have been incredible and generous.

"I enjoyed my very, very minor role in Saturday's ceremony, and I will listen and enjoy tonight's."

Peter Carter-Jones, campaign coordinator, said: "As the coordinator of the campaign for four years, I feel extremely proud and gratified that this day has come about.

"I have to thank a wonderful committee, the Welsh Government, and the generosity of the ordinary people of Wales who have made this possible."The Welsh who helped to win the |war: Page 19

CAPTION(S):

A Welsh soldier lays a wreath at the grave of First World War soldier Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, also known as Hedd Wyn, at Artillery Wood Cemetery <Bin Langemark, Belgium Virginia Mayo
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 18, 2014
Words:682
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