‘Myth, Memory and Military encounters – National Rememberings of First World War Battles’

Canadian Studies in Wales Group in association with Living Legacies

05/04/2017 9:30am - 05/04/2017 4:30pm

Talk Lecture

Court Room
National Museum of Wales
Cathays Park
CF10 3NP

Website: http://

‘Myth, Memory and Military encounters – National Rememberings of First World War Battles’
A free conference, kindly sponsored by the Canadian Studies in Wales Group, in association with Living Legacies

In April 1917 the Canadian Army on the Western Front successfully attacked the German positions on the strategic Vimy Ridge. This action has become part of the Canadian ‘national myth’, and the essential element of any Canadian re-telling of the First World War. Ninety years later, the then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, stood on the spot and declared that “we know the name of Vimy best of all, because it was here for the first time that our entire army fought together on the battlefield and the result was a spectacular victory.” Five years on, he stated the Canadian soldiers “showed the world the strength and fortitude of our young country as well as our unwavering commitment to defending peace and freedom.”

There are clear parallels here with the Australian re-telling of the Gallipoli campaign, which is always portrayed as a story of national coming-of-age. It is also valuable to compare these examples with the commemoration in Wales of the Battle of Mametz Wood, which is presented as a Welsh battle and a Welsh victory against the odds. There are, of course, contrasts here – when the First Minister of Wales spoke at the centenary event, he did not do so as leader of an independent nation.

This day-conference will focus upon some of the questions and issues that arise as we consider how individual battles have become national myths. When did these battles become part of the national psyche; who was driving the process; how does this shape the national memory of WW1?

Meilyr Powel (Swansea University) – “A Fine British Victory”: The Cambria Daily Leader and the Battle of the Somme

Laura Brandon (Canadian War Museum) – Art and War: The Iconography of the Vimy Memorial

Jennifer Wellington – ‘Creating the myth of Vimy in wartime propaganda’

Gethin Matthews (Swansea University) – Canadians and Australians on Welsh war memorials

Jenny MacLeod (University of Hull) – ‘Commemorating the Gallipoli campaign in transnational perspective’.

Ifor ap Glyn (Independent scholar) – ‘A regular puzzle’: Hughie Griffiths – a Welsh American in the Canadian army

Hanna Smyth (Oxford University) – ‘The heart-strings of Canada will reach through all time’: The material culture of identity and memory at Vimy

James McConnel (Northumbria University) – ‘Irish Nationalist Soldiers and the Myth of Battlefield Singing during the First World War’

Donna Coates (University of Calgary) – ‘Puncturing the Vimy myth’

For more information, and to confirm your attendance, please contact Dr Gethin Matthews –