Alun Parry was born in Gwaenysgor in 1893. His parents were John and Prudence Parry whose long marriage produced twelve children. Over the period 1891 – 1911 the family lived in Wesley Place, Gwaenysgor. In common with most of the inhabitants they were Welsh speaking and as Non-conformists attended the Welsh chapel. There were two denominations in the village – Wesleyan Methodist and Independent. The 1891 census shows all members of the family as only speaking Welsh. However by 1911, even though the children were recorded as bilingual, the parents still claimed Welsh as their sole language.
Alun had many brothers, most of them older than him. In 1901, when he was 8 years old, there were 10 children living at home including 2 sisters. The five older brothers were employed in a variety of jobs: quarryman (P S Parry), insurance agent (Joseph), platelayer (John), plasterer (Levi) and labourer on the railway (Oliver). Their father was a miner.
In 1911 George and Alun were farmworkers and their younger brother Emrys Norman was employed on a golf links.
Some of Alun’s service records have survived and can be accessed via Ancestry. They show that on the 18th of March 1916 he enrolled in Flint and was passed ‘Class 1 for General Service’. His occupation was given as ‘bricklayer’s labourer’. He was 5 foot 3 inches in height, 23 years and 9 months old and he had joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Less than 4 months later on the 10th of July he was posted to France, sailing from Southampton and landing in Rouen. However his time with the British Expeditionary Force was to be brief. He presented for duty on the battlefield on the 19th of July. At the same time his battalion became attached to the 1/6th Welsh Regiment. Barely a month later on the 15th of August he lost his life.
This was a second blow for Prudence and her family as her husband had also passed away earlier that year. Oliver seems to have taken on the role of head of the family as, amongst other deeds, it was he who filled in a Record of Service card for Alun.
In 2009 a War Memorial was erected on the village green in Gwaenysgor. Coincidentally this is the site where the cluster of cottages known as Wesley Place had stood prior to being demolished in 1957. An account of the unveiling of the memorial was reported in the Daily Post. According to local historian, Jerry Bone – who raised the funds for the memorial – in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, Alun’s brother George worried that the song he kept singing, ‘O’r Niwl I’r Nef’, ( From Gloom To Glory) was unlucky. Within days 24 year old Alun was killed by machine gun fire during a major offensive. During the unveiling of the commemorative wall verses of the song were sung and they now feature on one of its three slate plaques.
Caterpillar Valley was the name given by the army to the long valley which rises eastwards, past “Caterpillar Wood”, to the high ground at Guillemont. The ground was captured, after very fierce fighting, in the latter part of July 1916. It was lost in the German advance of March 1918 and recovered by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 28 August 1918, when a little cemetery was made (now Plot 1 of this cemetery) containing 25 graves of the 38th Division and the 6th Dragoon Guards. After the Armistice, this cemetery was hugely increased when the graves of more than 5,500 officers and men were brought in from other small cemeteries, and the battlefields of the Somme. The great majority of these soldiers died in the autumn of 1916 and almost all the rest in August or September 1918. (Commonwealth War Graves website)
Alun’s outstanding wages and a War Gratuity were paid to his mother; £5/10/- in all.
He left behind a four year old son and a large family who, no doubt felt the pain of their loss for many years thereafter.