We were men, of passion and honour, courage and fear. We did what we were told and were derided for it. Yet still, we did what was asked again and more, so much more. We were boys of the valleys and boys of the town, country boys and townies. We didn’t care, we welcomed all without prejudice. For in the end, we were a family. We looked out for each other; it was so natural, so obvious. Watch their back and they watch yours. Protect your own, your brothers.
Many of us were not from this land. Stafford and Manchester, Oxford, the Emerald Isle, they all provided us with their sons and we embraced them like our own, for they were part of us in the end. They sang our songs, they played, they laughed and they stood proud. They never disgraced us, nor we them. We taught them the hwyl and they embraced it like the men they were.
Welsh, they called us and we bathed in the fire of the red dragon. We sang the hymns of our forefathers and listened to the minister, fresh from chapel. We spoke in our tongue, the hiraeth burning in our hearts. The longing for our homeland was strong, but together we were stronger and we had power.
Policemen, we were and farmers. Lawyers and Dockers. Men of rugby, men of books, poets and Pals. We laughed and cried, ate and smoked together. For that was our lot. Thrown into the ruined land and told to make our people proud, that is what we did. We made sure they would never forget us and they will not. They will sing our praises for a hundred years and more. For they will know that we were men and our mettle could never be quenched.
When the call came and we knew it was our time, we did not flinch or turn away. We sang our hymns, we said our prayers and we waited for the time to show our worth. Where we could show all the doubters what we were: good honest men.
As the smoke lay across the valley and the whistles blew, we rose to a man and climbed out of our haven, to walk towards the trees. Nobody flinched and no-one turned, though the path was hard and our way was blocked. We did what we were asked again and again and again. ‘Lloyd George’s Welsh Army’ they sneered, yet we cared not. We kept walking through the hail of metal and mist. We fought until we could fight no more.
Many lived to sing in joy and return to their loved ones in the land of their birth. Many laid down to sleep, their work done. Sons and husbands, fathers and brothers, we all did our best and saw the job through until the end, until the dragon stood proud over that land.
Four thousand of our brothers gave their all in honour and glory to lie down forevermore in those 8 days of July 1916.
At Mametz Wood.