A Tonypandy student has visited the Belgium battlefields of World War I to lay a wreath at the grave of his heroic great-grandfather who fell a century ago.


Fourteen-year-old Joshua Loxton-Smart from Charles Street, Clydach Vale, joined classmates at Tonypandy Community College for their tour of Ypres and Mametz Wood as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded project.

Joshua is the first member of his family to pay their respects at the grave of Tonypandy-born George Charles Edward Humphries of the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment who was killed in September 1918.

Pvt Humphries died only a few weeks before the end of World War I and is laid to rest alongside 200 fellow servicemen at the Neuville-Bourjonval British Ceremony.

“It was a very poignant moment for me to remember my great-grandfather and honour a man who gave his life for his country a century ago,” said Joshua.

“Visiting the war cemeteries of Belgium and northern France was something I will never forget and although we learn so much about it in the classroom, the experience of being there was unforgettable.”

Tonypandy Community College students are working on a major research project that remembers those local servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I.

“Rap to App” is a new digital learning resource for ipads and Android tablets telling the “Rhondda story” through its communities, schools, memorials, industry and health care.

Students have investigated archive resources and historical documents before spending two days visiting war cemeteries and battlefields where they paid their respects at the graves of a number of Rhondda soldiers whose lives they explored.

On their visit to Ypres they visited the Welsh Memorial Park, the Langermark German Cemetery, Railway Wood and the Hooge Crater and Flanders Fields Museums.

The 24 students also visited the resting place of iconic Welsh bard Hedd Wyn in Essex Farm and the place where Canadian officer John McCrea wrote the immortal words of “In Flanders Fields”.

Students laid wreaths in the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres and also visited the Mametz Wood Memorial marking the first battle of the Somme in 1916 which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 members of the 38th (Welsh) Division, which included two battalions from the Rhondda.

Headteacher Helen O’Sullivan said: “This has been a remarkable opportunity for our students to visit the battlefields and war cemeteries of World War I to remember many of those men who came from this locality.

“This invaluable insight has helped them fully understand the impact of war and their continued research will truly honour those who fought and provide a lasting legacy for the future.”