In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11 November - Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918.
At this time of year, as a Welshman, I always bring to mind the Welsh bard Hedd Wyn or Ellis Humphrey Evans who was born in Trawsfynydd, north Wales on 13 January 1887, the eldest son to Evan and Mary Evans. Having left school aged 14 he then worked as a shepherd on his parents farm, Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd. In his youth he composed many different poems and competed in many local Eisteddfodau under the nom-de-plume ‘Hedd Wyn’, and it is through these that he developed his talent as a poet.
With the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the tone of Hedd Wyn’s works changed to discuss the horror of the war, and he wrote many poems in memory of friends who had died on the battlefields. During October 1916 Hedd Wyn started work on composing his ode ‘Yr Arwr’, before he was forced due to the Military Service Act of 1916 to join the 15th Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and in June 1917 he sailed to France.
On 31 July 1917, Hedd Wyn was killed on the battlefields of Flanders in the
Battle of Pilkem Ridge, near Ieper (Ypres). When the nom- de- pleum ‘Fleur-de-lis’ was called on to accept the award at the Birkenhead National Eisteddfod no one rose and the Archdruid Dyfed had to inform the crowd of the bard’s death on the battlefield.
The chair was covered with a black sheet and from that moment onwards the Birkenhead Eisteddfod would become known as the Eisteddfod of the Black Chair.
This manuscript is one of the final drafts he created of the ode. The original is part of the National Eisteddfod of Wales collection which is held here at the National Library. Hedd Wyn is considered one of Wales’ most prominent bards, and his ode ‘Yr Arwr’ is considered to be his greatest work.