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Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr

Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr

Ninety years after the First World War came to an end, this landmark documentary series will tell the traumatic story of the 'war to end all wars' in the words of the Welsh-speaking soldiers who fought on the bloody fields of Europe.

Lleisiau'r Rhyfel Mawr (Voices of the Great War) is a four-part series chronicling the 1914-1918 conflict through personal letters, diaries and newspaper reports written at the time. The S4C cameras went to key wartime battlefields in Flanders, Belgium, the Somme in France, the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, Jerusalem. The series also features archive film.

A total of 272,000 men and boys listed in the armed forces, 100,000 of whom probably spoke Welsh. Forty thousand Welsh soldiers died, one in seven of those who fought.

Among the letter and diary writers featured are Private R Morris, Flint, who was part of the famous 1914 Christmas truce, Tom Nefyn Williams of the Llŷn Peninsula who fought in Turkey and Gaza, William Jones Edwards, Ffair Rhos, Ceredigion who was in Flanders, John Gwynoro Thomas, Gwyddelwern, near Corwen in Jerusalem and William Thomas Williams of Llanllechid near Bethesda who wrote from France. Many of them didn't survive to see the long-term consequences of the war on Wales and the world.

The series is the product of much research and filming for producer and presenter Ifor ap Glyn and his team at Cwmni Da, who searched archives, libraries and personal papers in Wales and beyond. This Welsh-language material paints a vivid picture of life for a generation that has all but passed away.

Ifor explains, "Much of the material comes from family archives and has never previously been published but material was also sourced from archives and newspapers of the period. There were 25 Welsh weekly newspapers in 1914 and families often sent the letters they received from their sons on the front to newspapers for publication so that other families in the area could share the news.

"Some academics have argued that the Great War didn't produce great literature in the Welsh language, but these letters give us a valuable insight into the lives of the soldiers and their families. Reading them is a highly emotional experience as it shows how fragile life was on the battlefield."

A Welsh-language book is to be published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch to coincide with the series. It is an adaptation of the television scripts and contains original material that couldn't be included in the series. Ifor hopes that both the series and the book will shed new light on the war and lead to further studies.

© 2012 S4C
O Gymru / Made in Wales