Mr Rufus Adams, Rhyl History Club member, has written about the late Mr David Edwards of Rhyl and it is an honour to share his account on the club’s website.
“Throughout Britain, indeed Europe, there are memorials to commemorate the members of the armed forces who fell in the wars that ravaged the 20th century, in particular, the two world wars, 1914-18 and 1939-45. There is, however, in Rhyl, a memorial which I have not seen anywhere else. It not only commemorates the 11 chapel members who were killed but also names the 31 men who returned safely. It’s on the inside walls of what was Warren Road Welsh Methodist Chapel, Rhyl, and is now a community centre*.
One of the named men I knew well. David Edwards was a member of my WEA Wednesday morning group in the 1970’s. One month we were studying Robert Graves’ classic of the 1914-18 war “Goodbye to all That”. David’s wife phoned to say that he would not return to the group until we were studying another book. Reading Graves, and class discussions, had triggered nightmares of those years. He had been a non-combatant stretcher bearer and for four years had ventured into no-man’s land to collect the wounded and dead. Miraculously, he had survived, hence his name on Warren Road’s tablet.
He was loath to talk of the war but one story says so much. He was at the Battle of the Somme and after 10 days the unit was given 7 days respite. At the nearest Salvation Army rest-room he had free tea and edible biscuits. He wanted to write home to tell his parents – in his words – “I am safe” (“That is all I would say, since I was not o.k. How could anyone be o.k. at the Somme?”). He had no money and was given paper, ink and a stamp by the Salvation Army. In the 1970’s the Salvation Army, Rhyl, were extending their premises in Windsor Street. David’s unmarried sister, Winifred, had died recently and left the family home to him. The house and contents, valued at over £12,000, he gave to the Salvation Army for their care and generosity at the Somme in 1916.
It’s worth mentioning the importance of the chapels in Rhyl, indeed in Wales, in the early 20th century. One Welsh nonconformist chapel, Warren Road, had over 40 members of military age in 1914-18. Add to Warren Road,” Bethel”, Vale Road and Clwyd Street – and all other denominations – the strength of the chapel in Welsh society a century ago is evident.
David Edwards died in 1978 and his widow Barbara invited me to be her executor. At her death in 1989 I sorted the family papers and realised anew how very generous they were. They had donated thousands of pounds to charities, both local and national – and always anonymously.
I also came across a letter David had written to his mother in the late 1940’s.
Yesterday you said that you were preparing your will and dividing everything between Winifred and me. Please leave everything to Winifred. You gave me life, you gave me a wonderful start. All I ask now is for your blessing.
Your loving son, David.”
In 1988, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Bishop William Morgan’s Bible, the WEA published a bi-lingual book of lengthy articles by Professor Glanmor Williams and Mr T. M. Bassett. “Beibl William Morgan 1599-1988. William Morgan’s Bible 1588-1988”. It was with much pleasure that I dedicated it to the “cherished memory of David Edwards, Rhyl, 1896-1978. A gentle and wise friend who enriched the lives of many”.
*Warren Road Chapel/Salem Christian Centre has closed and the plaque is now at Clwyd Street Chapel.