st cynllo's church

 

 

Llangynllo Ceredigion

Acknowlegement

Much of the information contained on this website has been drawn from the excellent guidebook to St Cynllo's written by Rev. Brian Whatmore - this lovingly written and scholarly guide is highly recommended for those who would like to learn more about the history of this beautiful Church.

guide

Copies of the guidebook

are available at the

Church

poppy P1070253a
2020Vision

To end all wars

John Franks

 

Four years. How many dead? No one yet knew for sure, but perhaps as many as two million, and

even more injured. And now an end. But not a defeat, a capitulation! His frustration with the

military leaders and his government knew no bounds. Such sacrifice, such hardship and effort to end

in just this: capitulation, humiliation, poverty, cynicism. All the hope and dignity of  the young

German nation gone. It sickened him.

 

 He sat in a cold, featureless room in Munich, surrounded by fellow soldiers, some former

companions in arms. They were all waiting to be called to the desk to be de-mobbed, surrender

their uniforms, and take up their civilian suits. The other men around him were talking of  wives and

sweethearts, or if  nothing better then a trip to a brothel; much relief  and cheer amongst them

despite the degraded state of  their country. He could feel none of  this: no wife, no sweetheart, no

desire for a paid girl, just a crushing sense of  pain and disappointment. No one tried to catch his eye

as the talk drifted around the room except for Brandmeyer, his friend, who did cast a glance towards

him, concerned, questioning. But almost immediately Brandmeyer was drawn back into the ribald

conversation of  other colleagues.

 

 Unselfconsciously, he smoothed the wings of  his generous mustache with the fingers of  both

hands. Then his right hand dropped to grasp the Iron Cross pinned beneath his throat. He clutched

it with painful intensity, then caressed it with his finger tips. A symbol of  his pride and achievement,

such a contrast with the failure of  his nation. Anger blossomed afresh in his heart, for a moment he

thought the blindness of  mustard gas poisoning had come down upon him once again. But it was

not so. He looked up and across to the men on the benches on the opposite side of  the room. One

of  them got up, called by the Sergeant Major at the desk. He’d worked with the man on dispatch, he

couldn’t remember his name, but knew him to be a chain smoker and a drunk. What would he be

bringing back to his country?

 

 As he waited, fidgeting on the uncomfortable bench, the air redolent with the tobacco smoke he

hated and the stink of  soldiers’ feet and unwashed armpits, he reflected back on his experience of

the war.

 

 His training, with so many other raw recruits. The pain that came with exertion and exercise, the

humiliation in the showers, surrounded by fitter men he could only envy, but the exhilaration of

passing out and being posted to the front. Quiet months when his work as a dispatch rider and

runner gave him much time to sit in relative safety in Fornes. Then the first assault near Ypres, three

of  his five colleagues killed in one day. The shells, the filth and mud, the fear, and the desperate,

grasping acceptance of  the dispatch orders by regimental commanders, who clearly found little

comfort or encouragement in their superiors’ directives.

 

 

 So many died, on that his first day in action. He remembered he wrote in his diary that evening,

‘Life is a constant and horrible struggle’. But while he remembered feeling the pain, he also had felt

the rightness of  fighting on. Their cause was just, the future freedom of  his countrymen worth the

sacrifice.

 

 Everyday the shadow of  death. Yet in truth he had felt little fear after the first few days; inured

perhaps? The dispatch riders were sent out in pairs so that if  one was killed the message or order

would still get through. He had never been the one to die, had seen so many others blown into

obscene joints of  meat, but never him. The day he had left the control bunker at Fromelle and thirty

seconds later it had been destroyed by shells and everyone in it spread like so much offal across the

ground; an ear attached to a fragment of  skull had landed on the path in front of  him. He had

pressed on - what else could he do? Why had he been so fortunate?

 

 And yet not always so fortunate. His terrier Foxl, his best friend. When the men you knew

thought of  nothing but the next time they could fuck a whore, or their next leave from the front, a

faithful dog waiting for him at HQ after a perilous trip had been one of  the few things to sooth his

hardened heart. And someone had stolen Foxl away. He didn’t know who, but it must have been a

man. One evening Foxl wasn’t there to greet him. His companions shrugged it off. He knew there

had been no meat in the camp for two weeks, his heart had burned.

 

 The war had dragged on. He was made corporal, later he was offered a commission, but he

didn’t want it, his role in the conflict suited him well. Then after the relocation to the Somme, the

shell that had damaged his leg so severely, and the two months he had spent in the Beelitz field

hospital, recovering. After that, some brief  leave, when he found the morale of  his friends, in fact

the whole populace at home, so negative, defeatist. It had been hard to return to the front, knowing

there was so little will in the families behind the soldiers, and yet it had also been a relief  to leave

that cynicism behind and re-engage with the fight he knew must be won.

 

 More months in Viny and Ypres. The memories blurred. Mud, shells, disease, madness, courage,

camaraderie; a heady mix, but no clear memories, just a stream of  heightened, frightening,

sometimes exhilarating experience. That battle at Marne in Spring 1918 - only now could he see

that the defeat there was the beginning of  the end, at the time it was just another temporary

setback. But Ypres late in the year was something more. He knew nothing of  success or failure that

day, only the debilitating pain and blindness inflicted by mustard gas. Helped from the trenches by

men he could now barely remember, what he could never forget was the subsequent weeks of

blindness at the Paswalk military hospital.

 

 When he had recovered it was all over. his leaders had given in. He remembered saying to

himself  that it was the greatest villainy of  the century that they should both capitulate and accept

such humiliation at the hands of  their enemies. The pain still rankled. And now here he was back in

Munich. Amongst a proud people, confident of  their quality even in the face of  defeat? No, a

broken people, politically and socially fragmented, worried about the very necessities of  life,

crippled by the death of  so many loved ones, disenchanted with their government. A sorry state, a

painful homecoming after so much strife.

 

  And then the demob Sergeant Major called his name. He got up sharply, if  reluctantly, and

walked towards the desk, back straight and erect, chin forward; if  none other in the room

understood the importance of  formality and dignity at such a moment, he did. ‘Sign and print

here’, the Sergeant Major said. He signed with a confident flourish and then printed his name

below,

 

Adolf  Hitler.