dai-sport journalist Terry Phillips spent time with Bluebirds captain Sean Morrison and striker Danny Ward visiting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Shaping Remembrance exhibition at Cardiff Castle. That will remain open until Saturday, December 15.
Sean Morrison and Danny Ward spent quiet time strolling near the newly-installed headstones which represent more than 30,000 Welsh casualties from the First World War.
They also visited the Shaping Remembrance exhibition in the castle’s Firing Line Museum of The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and The Royal Welsh.
The two Bluebirds were in sombre mood, taking in knowledge about the Great War and the Armistice signed exactly 100 years ago, learning about both their family connections and Cardiff City’s involvement during the First World War.
“We talked about The Great War and remembered how many people lost their lives,” said Ward. “It is moving to see (the headstones). That really brings everything home.
“We’ve learned about the footballers, but almost anyone was taken away from their normal job, and the next minute were on a battlefield. It’s really important that we always remember their lives.”
Sean and Danny heard stories of those who sadly lost their lives in the conflict including Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, after whom Cardiff’s former stadium was named, ex-City goalkeeper Wally Stewart and young reserve defender Tom Witts.
Full-back Witts was killed on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice was signed.
He played for Cardiff in the South Eastern League, comprising mainly of reserve teams, during 1914-15 after manager Fred Stewart returned to his favourite North East of England hunting grounds to search out new players.
Stewart signed a number of players including Witts from Wallsend and he played SE League football against clubs like Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea, Clapton (later Leyton) Orient, Croydon Common, Fulham, Norwich City, Portsmouth, Queen’s Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur, Tunbridge Wells Rangers, West Ham United and Woolwich Arsenal.
Fulham were champions, while Cardiff City finished 10th.
Witts was born in Gateshead around 1894 who was a miner at the Springwell Colliery, Co Durham before joining Cardiff. He served with the Durham Light Infantry and was buried at Caudry British Cemetery in France.
During his time in Cardiff, Witts lived at Eldon Street (Ninian Park Road) and lately 39 Compton St with his wife Beatrice Alice (nee Muir, married 1915).
They had two children, sons James Frederick (born 1914) and Thomas Wilfred, whose third birthday was on the day his father died. Tom’s daughter Ellen was born six months after he died, conceived during his last leave in August.
Beatrice revealed this in a poignant appeal to the ministry for Ellen to be counted in his Army widow’s pension.
The cemetery exhibition at Cardiff Castle is a moving reminder of Welsh sacrifices during the First World War. The headstones represent more than 30,000 Welsh casualties from the First World War and highlight the different divisions which contributed to the war effort.
Morrison and Ward were joined by Dr Glyn Prysor, Chief Historian of the CWGC, who engaged them in conversation about the conflict and its impact on soldiers and the families they left behind.
A brand new @CWGC exhibition titled #ShapingRemembrance has today opened @FiringLine Museum. Alongside the exhibition a replica cemetery has been installed and was yesterday visited by @CardiffCityFC players Sean Morrison & Danny Ward as they learned more about the work of CWGC. pic.twitter.com/BjWri0n2en
— WarGravesCommission (@CWGC) October 24, 2018
A number of Bluebirds served during the First World War, including FA Cup-winning captain Fred Keenor, who was wounded in the Battle of the Somme a decade before City’s 1927 triumph.
“This is an opportunity to reflect on all those who lived through the First World War, and particularly those who lost their lives,” says Prysor.
“I’m always moved to see the insignia of a Welsh regiment on one of our war graves, or to read a family inscription in Welsh on a headstone.
“You can find Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials all over the world, as well as in Wales, and this installation at Cardiff Castle will give visitors a sense of their unique atmosphere.
“Our Shaping Remembrance exhibition tells the story of how the British Empire commemorated its dead and highlights several fascinating Welsh aspects of that long and emotional process. We’re particularly excited to share a letter from Hedd Wyn’s father which has never been on public display before.”
The Shaping Remembrance exhibition sits in the castle’s Firing Line Museum of The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and The Royal Welsh and will be open until Saturday, December 15.
Cardiff City FC joined with over 60 clubs from across the professional game to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
In partnership with the Woodland Trust and National Football Museum’s ‘For Club and Country project’ the Bluebirds have created a legacy to the footballers who served and died 100 years ago in the First World War as part of the national ‘Football Remembers’ campaign.
Cardiff City have planted two trees to remember young defender Tom Witts and former goalkeeper Wally Stewart, who both sadly died during the First World War.
Find out more about the Bluebirds’ history and football’s involvement in the war by visiting: www.forclubandcountry.org.uk/cardiffcity.
Members of Cardiff City FC Foundation’s Veterans’ Project were in attendance, as the trees were planted outside Cardiff City Stadium, with one now standing opposite the Fred Keenor statue.