Lest we forget
Today we’ll stop at 11am to remember those who died in both world wars and all conflicts. In a year that has been challenging and not without loss, the moment will have additionally poignancy, but despite the ups and downs of 2020 what we’ve experienced bears no comparison to the sacrifices of those that have served and lost their lives for our country.
Today I am reminded of my own second cousins, remarkable men who both died in battle in World War Two flying for the RAF. Mervyn and his brother Hywell were farmer’s sons. Their parents farmed Llwynwhilwg Farm, Llanelli, the land where the farmhouse once stood is now the Llwynwhilwg Housing Estate, built in the 1960’s.
Both brothers signed up right at the start of the war, both joined the RAF. By 1940 Mervyn was a sergeant and a qualified navigator within No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, Hywell was a pilot with 517 Squadron, which was a Coastal Command unit. Both brothers were accomplished horsemen and jockeys and in early 1940 they were given leave to ride in the greatest steeplechase on earth. Mervyn specifically was told to “go navigate yourself round Aintree.”
Remarkable at odds of 25/1 Mervyn’s horse Bogskar won The 1940 Grand National by 4 lengths. His brother’s horse National Night unseated Hywell at the 14th. National Night came in ahead of Bogskar but without a rider Mervyn was of course the winner. You can see the original Pathé footage of the race here.
Mervyn lost his life on 3rd April 1942, he flew for a reconnaissance unit photographing areas for military intelligence. The Supermarine Spitfires they flew in had no guns, these were replaced by cameras and larger fuel tanks. Mervyn was shot down over Trondheim Fjord and it is believed to this day his plane is still at the bottom of the Fjord.
Hywell also had a distinguished fly career, and was mentioned several times in dispatches for his bravery in defending the coastline of the United Kingdom, he was awarded the distinguished flying cross. On 14 November 1944 his plane crashed at sea killing all 8 crew members on-board.
Both Mervyn and Hywell are remembered on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede as well as on a plaque at the Camarthan Gremlin Club.
So as we pause today to remember all those who fought and lost in both wars and all subsequent conflicts I’ll be thinking of my two second cousins, farmer’s sons from Wales, who made the ultimate sacrifice.