For those who have joined this blog in recent years, I feel it is worth repeating the explanatory and introductory posts from the summer of 2015, posted 100 years since my grandfather was sailing the Mediterranean to the war in the East.
Goronway Cuffin Roberts was a young Welsh soldier of the First World War. His service, after basic training, was entirely conducted in the Middle Eastern theatre of war beginning with Gallipoli campaign, throughout the conquest of Palestine and concluding in Egypt in 1919.
We, his grandson and great grandson, Matthew and Bryn Roberts have, among other memorabilia, all Goronway’s letters home to his family. These range from his first letter from a troopship en route to the East in July 1915 to his last from Egypt in 1919. Most are still in their envelopes and have most likely not been read in nearly 100 years.
Our intention on this site is to publish each of these letters, with commentary as appropriate, 100 years from the day they were written and in so doing perhaps paint a picture of a young man growing up in a world of violence where any day might be his last. They may also shine some light on social aspects of the home front as he passes comment on the news from home in the South Wales valleys. We are yet to read but a few of the first letters so this will be somewhat of a voyage of discovery in itself.
Letters home were heavily self-censored so where we can we will attempt to cross reference dates and events with regimental histories and accounts of the war in other sources. All sources will be explained in full and any comments from readers, if any, relating too their relatives experience will be recognized.
Goronway Cuffin Roberts (GCR) was born on 18th October 1896, the son of John and Margaret Roberts, in Cefn Mawr, Denbighshire in North Wales. It was a God fearing family, his grandfather had reportedly died on his knees at the age of 30, praying on the kitchen floor. His father John had initially worked as a model maker in the clay works in Ruabon but subsequently trained as a Welsh Baptist Minister being ordained at the age of 30 in 1898. Apparently he had a vision which he interpreted as a vision from on high to go and preach to the sinners in the valleys of South Wales. The census of 1911 shows the family living in the Rhymney valley at 15 The Green, Abertysswg, Monmouthshire; the address to which the majority of GCR’s letters are sent.
GCR himself in the census appears as the second of four children (another four had died). His older brother Jonathan was at the time a Colliery Timekeeper (below ground) and part time student, his younger sister Mailys and younger brother Dyfan were at school; GCR himself is at this time recorded as an apprentice draper. According to one story he was not entirely satisfied with this as a career and at 15, presumably in search of adventure, attempted to run away to join the Navy. He was however too young and was sent back home. Two years later he was to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Goronway Roberts enlisted on 15th October 1914 into the 5th Battalion the Welsh Regiment three days before his 18th birthday.