1. ITV Report

Why Wales' First World War reluctance did not last long

By Lewis Vaughan Jones: ITV News Correspondent

If Wales was initially reluctant to sign up to the First World War, it didn't last long.

"The Welsh had to be sold the war, they had to be sold the reasons for going to it," says Simon Weston, the former Welsh Guard injured in the Falklands and who now studies Wales' role in the First World War.

Simon Weston talking to Lewis Vaughan Jones. Credit: ITV News

It took speeches from the then Secretary of State for War, David Lloyd George and the endorsement (controversially) of the Church to persuade many in Wales.

By 1915 it had worked. Over the course of the war 273,000 Welshmen signed up to fight and 40,000 never returned.

Brecon Beacons is used by soldiers in their training today. Credit: ITV News

Simon Weston says those huge numbers "tore the heart out" of many parts of this small country.

So many soldiers were, of course, desperate to make it home. One who did was Private Robert Phillips from New Tradegar.

Private Robert Phillips from New Tradegar. Credit: ITV News

He was gassed at Ypres, captured and held by the Germans for 15 months. Beaten, malnourished, he managed to escape.

He navigated by the stars, only travelling at night. He walked mile after mile and eventually crawled across the border. He made it back to Cardiff on Christmas Day 1916.

His granddaughter Lynda Osborne has spent 20 years researching his life.

Lynda Osborne has spent 20 years researching her grandfather's life. Credit: ITV News

She wants his story, along with the memories of all those who suffered, to be kept alive for the next 100 years.

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