I have recently finished cataloguing a fascinating collection of letters from World War One soldiers who fought at the Battle of Mametz Wood. An opening move of the Somme offensive, the battle was notorious for its heavy losses. A five day fight for a square mile of land. Over 4,000 members of the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or wounded in the battle.
This collection of letters from Welshmen who fought at Mametz was recently donated to Special Collections and Archives via the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. The letters were written in 1974, in response to a notice placed in local newspapers across Wales by the author Colin Hughes. The little advert implored any survivors of the battle to contact him with their memories, to assist with his research.
Hughes was inundated with responses from across Wales, from privates, gunners, stretcher bearers, sergeant majors, lance corporals and captains. Their letters tell their personal stories of those five days, in their own words. They also enclose diary entries, annotated maps, and photographs.
Hughes’ book was later published as ‘Mametz Wood – Lloyd George’s Welsh Army at the Battle of the Somme’. The archive of letters received by Hughes, and all associated material, is now fully catalogued and available to search and browse on our archives catalogue ArchiveSearch.
Some extracts from the archive: