Friday, 31 December 2021

William Cadwaladr Roberts (1892 – 1918) – Welsh WW1 soldier poet – Bardic Name Alaw Alltwen

With thanks to Clive Hughes of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum for finding this information about another hitherto unknown WW1 Welsh soldier poet. Unfortunately we have not been able to find examples of William’s poems.  If anyone can help please get in touch. 

William Cadwaladr Roberts was born in Llanddeiniolen (aka Deiniolen) parish, Caernarfonshire, Wales, circa 1892/3, the eldest of four children. His parents were Cadwaladr Roberts, a slate quarry man, and his wife Annie Roberts (nee Parry). William – known to the family as Willie – had the following siblings: Cadwaladr Roberts, born 1895, Benjamin Roberts, born 1897 and Mary C. Roberts, born 1901.

In the 1901 census the family were living at Allt Ddu, Dinorwic.  In the 1911 census they were living at Bron y Fferam (or Bron Fferam), Dinorwig (i.e. near Llanberis), in the house of William’s maternal grandfather, Benjamin Parry. He was recorded as a Quarryman (slate dresser).  

When war broke out, William enlisted in the Army as a Private – No. 40158 – in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  John Krijnen's roll states: born Dinorwic, Quarryman.  Enlisted 22nd (Reserve) Bn. RWF 2.2.16.   (??Embarked) 28.6.16 and joined 1st RWF 4.8.16 (in France).  He became a Lance Corporal on 4.11.16.  The Unit was sent to Italy in late 1917.  William was promoted to the rank of Corporal on or about 8.5.18.  He was wounded (GSW) in the legs on 3.5.18 during a company raid on Austrian positions at Ambrosini, and was admitted to the 24th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) 11.5.18.  William was sent to the 29th Stationary Hospital on 15.5.18 and posted to a Convalescent Depot on 24.5.18., rejoining the Battallion. 26.6.18.  He contracted Influenza, was admitted to the 22nd Field Ambulance on 10.11.18, sent to 39th CCS on 15.11.18 and died 24.11.18 aged 26.  William Cadwaladr Roberts was buried in Giavera Cemetery, Arcade, Italy, Grave Reference Plot 3. Row B. Grave 4.

William is remembered on the War Memorial, Deiniolen, as William C. Roberts, Bron Fferam. 

William had a bardic name - "Alaw Alltwen" - which is known to his descendants. His bardic name was mentioned in his obituary in a local Welsh language newspaper - “Yr Herald Gymraeg” (The Welsh Herald) - on 24.12.18 p3 : 

The town of Giavera is in the Province of Treviso. It is 12 kilometres east of Montebelluna and 14 kilometres west of Conegliano on the main road between the two places. Giavera British Cemetery is 500 metres north-west of the town close to the church. The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915. Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918.

The Royal Welch Fusiliers (In Welsh: Ffiwsilwyr Brenhinol Cymreig) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army and part of the Prince of Wales' Division, founded in 1689 shortly after the Glorious Revolution. In 1702, it was designated a fusilier regiment and became The Welch Regiment of Fusiliers; the prefix "Royal" was added in 1713, then confirmed in 1714 when George I named it The Prince of Wales's Own Royal Regiment of Welsh Fusiliers. After the 1751 reforms that standardised the naming and numbering of regiments, it became the 23rd Foot (Royal Welsh Fuzileers).

The RWF retained the archaic spelling of Welch, instead of Welsh, and Fuzileers for Fusiliers; these were engraved on swords carried by regimental officers during the Napoleonic Wars. After the 1881 Childers Reforms, its official title was The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but "Welch" continued to be used informally until restored in 1920 by Army Order No.56.

Information sent to me by Clive Hughes.