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  • David Mathews

War-time stories, 100 years on


Interesting folk, photographers, when you can pin them down. You look at old family photos, and pick out your father’s Auntie Nellie and great grandfather Henry, but who snapped them using their Kodak or, if that someone was keen, with their smart Leica?

Photographers turn up in my stories from time to time. Sometimes it is my friend Ray Williams. I miss Ray.

I have written a war-time story about another real photographer. Thing is, you will have to wait until 7 November to read it. When you do, it will take only a moment, but you will read it again, for sure.

7 November?

From 5 August to 11 November, the Imperial War Museums and 26 Characters Ltd™ are publishing 100 mini stories, one a day, each a mix of fact and fiction inspired by a real person. My story is scheduled for 4 days before the end, the centenary of the Armistice.

If we can raise the money, there will be a book. Visit the crowdfunding site and, at £10 a pop, make it happen.

Hunting for a hero, and liking the idea of a photographer from Wales, I came across images of German PoWs of the First World War, a collection of negatives on glass in the care of the National Library of Wales where they have been since the 1940s. Hundreds of men in their uniforms had stood or sat for individual and group portraits, and posed in costume or evening dress at their camp entertainments, remarkably relaxed, considering.

They were photographed in 1915 or early 1916 at Frongoch Prisoner of War Camp near Bala, North Wales by H W Lloyd. As well as the PoWs, Lloyd photographed local scenes, people and chapel events. I have been able to identify only a few subjects by name; none of the soldiers or sailors yet, but Lloyd’s wife, Kate, her sisters and mother and the Lloyds’ two sons, Hugh Tegid and ‘Llew’ – Stephen Llewellyn.

Hugh William Lloyd was not a professional photographer, but a pharmacist, practicing at 72 High Street, Bala for more than 40 years. He was Bala born, and, as a poet might have it, a Bala man he remains, for he, his wife and their eldest son who died before them are buried in Llanycil churchyard on the shores of Llyn Tegid, Bala Lake.

Read Lloyd’s story on 7 November. And please do buy the book via crowdfunding.

*****

The name Frongoch may be familiar, if you are up on Irish history. In the spring of 1916 the camp was cleared of H W Lloyd’s German PoWs, and turned into an internment camp for rebels and suspected rebels after the Easter Rising in Dublin. By bringing so many men together, including Michael Collins, the government in London managed to create what became known in Ireland as the University of Rebellion.


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