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National Library Commemorates Bravery of Welsh Soldiers with Programme of Battle of Mametz Wood Centenary Events

A significant photography exhibition marking the centenary of the Battle of Mametz - one of the major and most bloody battles fought by Welsh soldiers during World War One – opens at The National Library of Wales this weekend.

On 10 July 1916, during the Battle of Mametz, nearly 4,000 soldiers of the 38th Welsh Division were killed, wounded or declared missing.  

Inspired by this important landscape in Welsh history, as well as David Jones’ seminal experimental poem, In Parenthesis, Rhondda-born photographer Aled Rhys Hughes has tried to answer the question: does this landscape have a memory of what happened here one hundred years ago?

In 1937 the forest at Mametz Wood was the focus of David Jones’ In Parenthesis, an account of his own harrowing experiences in the battle, which began in early July 1916 as the Somme offensive was at its height. The fierce fighting that took place similarly inspired artists and poets who were serving at Mametz, including Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, David Jones and Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, to share their experiences with the world.

As well as being an acclaimed poet, David Jones (1895-1974) was an accomplished artist who produced watercolours, illustrations and inscriptions, and the Library is home to a dedicated catalogue to his work, which includes manuscripts; correspondence, material relating to his artistic works, personal belongings, letters to his friends and editors, and much more. This collection was deposited at The National Library of Wales in 1975, and was subsequently bought in 1978.

Items from this archive will be shown alongside Aled Rhys Hughes’ striking images of the scene, which even today, still bear the scars of battle.

Aled Rhys Hughes said: “This exhibition is a visual culmination of the seven years I have experienced being at Mametz Wood.  In the annual July visits I tried to imbue my images with what I saw, felt and heard whilst walking through the dense undergrowth, the open central ride or the angular, shell laden remains of Strip trench.  Some of the images were made as direct responses to words and phrases from In Parenthesis, others to named places. However they all pertain to the notion of landscape and memory, the ever-enduring theme in my work.”

He will also host the discussion, Two Perspectives on David Jones, with Anne Price-Owen, Secretary of the David Jones Society, on September 2nd to discuss David Jones’ life as an artist, soldier, and author of In Parenthesis.

Aled also hosts Welsh and English guided tours of the exhibition on October 19th.

The Welsh National Opera celebrated 70 years this year with a world première of In Parenthesis, young British composer Iain Bell’s adaptation of the epic poem. A recording of this live performance of David Pountney’s period production at Wales Millennium Centre will be shown at the Library on Saturday, July 16th.

The Library’s commemoration programme forms a key part of the Welsh Government’s Cymru’n Cofio – Wales Remembers - 1914-1918 Programme.

Pedr ap Llwyd, Director of Collections and Public Programmes at the National Library, said: “The main focus of our programme at the Library in Aberystwyth and at its community partnership sites are the events of 1914-19 that had a particular Welsh impact. Our aim has been to support the exploration of the documentary heritage of Wales to highlight the often hidden histories of the First World War and develop a better understanding of this period of history.

“This is an important opportunity for community engagement activities aimed at all ages, exploring the multifaceted legacy of the impact of the War: on language, religion, culture, politics, art and music. We invite the widest participation in this programme.”

The Library’s flagship resource for researching the First World War is The Welsh Experience of the First World War 1914-1918.

This is a collection of over 200,000 pages of newspapers, archives, photographs, and manuscripts from the archives and special collections of Wales.

Many pop-up exhibitions focussing on various elements of The Great War have also been held at the library over the last two years, with more planned for the next two years. Wales at War: Education and Outreach Around the War Memorials of Wales is an inclusive activity for schoolchildren in Wales that enables them to develop biographies of the names listed on their local war memorials and to learn more about the impact of the First World War on Wales.

The project aims to discover more about the lives of the men and women from Wales who went to war, with a particular focus on those who are commemorated on war memorials in Wales.  The Wales at War website and app also includes a timeline of the main events of the war and theatres of war reference resources. 

Upcoming events include:

02.07.16 – 03.12.16 Mametz: Aled Rhys Hughes & David Jones - Photographs of Mametz Wood runs from Saturday until December 3rd.

Friday 8 July 7.30pm Film: ‘Battle of the Somme’ Shot and screened in 1916, this film was the first feature length documentary about war and changed the way both cinema and film were perceived by the public. In the year of its release almost 20 million people came to see it, many hoping to see the image of a loved one captured on film. One hundred years later, this unique film from the Imperial War Museum’s collection, is being shown to commemorate the anniversary of The Battle of the Somme. By kind permission of the Imperial War Museum. Music by Laura Rossi. Free admission by ticket. Silent film with musical accompaniment. (72 minutes)

Saturday 16 July 7.00pm Welsh National Opera: David Jones’ In Parenthesis. This is a recording of a live performance of In Parenthesis, young British composer Iain Bell’s adaptation of the epic poem by Welsh poet, writer and artist David Jones. In Parenthesis is to commemorate World War I. Private John Ball and his comrades in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers are posted to the Somme. David Pountney’s period production is both an evocation and a commemoration of the events of the Somme. Admission by ticket £10.00.

Wednesday, September 7th  1.15pm Two Perspectives on David Jones – Aled Rhys Hughes (photographer and curator of the Mametz exhibition) and Anne Price-Owen (Secretary of the David Jones Society) discuss David Jones the artist, soldier, and author of In Parenthesis. Free admission by ticket.

Wednesday, October 19th, 1.15pm and 2.30pm Welsh and English gallery talks in the company of the photographer and curator, Aled Rhys Hughes. Free admission by ticket.

Further Information

Elin-Hâf 01970 632471 or