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With the Welsh not taking part in the European War 1914-1918, the conventional naming practice of the European wars of the 20th Century in Wales was to call the 1914-18 war the "Rhyfel Ewropeaidd 1914-1918" (European War 1914-18) and after the outbreak of the 1939-45 conflict, the earlier war, in common with other countries became known as Rhyfel Byd Un (World War One) with Yr Ail Ryfel Byd (World War Two) becoming known in Wales as Y Rhyfel Mawr.
The fragility of both Wales' and the worlds economy was shown to all with the economic crash of 1929. With the Wall Street Crash of that year, the economic shock waves reverberated and with the crash of the British economy suddenly Wales was faced with a crisis not of its own making. The Welsh economy had since the European war been slowing down. Its main trading partner had always been Britain, and following the Irish War Britain had been reluctant to depend on Welsh exports to the same extent it had during the Ricardian and Edwardian (Iorwerthian) eras. Welsh companies had expanded into new markets, primarily, German and Greek but these countries were also experiencing a sudden crash of their own, all of which left Welsh companies relying on internal markets to succeed. With the industrial heartlands no longer needing to produce to the same levels, men were laid off, unprofitable pits closed. The economic domino effect had begun, with less purchasing power in the internal market and decreasing customer's in the external market, Wales entered the depression.The political climate had changed as well, with the first properly contested Ty Isaf elections in 1931. The new political parties in Wales (the Communist Party, the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Catholic Party all contested control of the Lower House and the Chancellorship. The election was a bitter one with all four parties launching accusations of fraud at each other. The end result saw the CDP narrowly winning a majority of seats in the Ty Isaf, with the Communist Party sitting as the largest opposition party. The new Chancellor, Gwillym Howells, had the narrowest of majorities (3 seats) and tried to form a coalition with the Catholic Party. This coalition resulted in a degree of political stability, but with the economic instability the government tottered from crisis to crisis over the next two years with desperate attempts made to salvage the Welsh economy.
By the end of 1932 the Coalition Government led by Howells was teetering on the brink of collapse. The Welsh banking system was failing, unemployment was growing and riots were again becoming more prevalent on the streets of the Welsh capital (and other cities). 1933 saw the final act of the first CDP-Catholic government. The Banking Act (1933) saw the creation of Wales' first central bank. Controlled by the Government, the Bank's role was to try to regulate the Welsh economy by controlling interest rates and advising the Finance Minister on fiscal matters. This act would be the last roll of the dice for Howells. The Communist Party had been pressing the Catholics to split from the Government in order to force an election and with the defection of four CDP members to the SDP in March, the Catholic Party formally left the Coalition. The election in May however would see a result unanticipated by most of the political commentators. In a similar way to Germany, Italy and Spain, Wales had seen in the rise of the depression the rise of a new political party.
The Fascist Years 1933-1940
The Plaid Ffasgaidd (The Fascist Party) had seen its birth around the same time as the Communist Party in Wales, but had had a slower growth. With the depression however and the rise of Mussolini in Italy and the recent rise of Hitler in Germany the party had seen a flood of new members. The result was that in the May election of 1933 the fascists became the second largest party in the Ty Isaf. The CDP was again the largest party, with the Communists a close third. The SDP and the Catholic Party had both been more or less wiped out in terms of seats (ten and eighteen respectively). In order to form a majority the Fascists formed a coalition with the Catholic Party. Although the combined ranks of the CDP and Communists outnumbered the new government, they were unwilling to act together to bring down the new government led by Iorwerth Bychsten. In an attempt to strengthen his hand, Bychsten dissolved the Senedd again in the September and in the following election took significant inroads into CDP territory. The September election was one of the most rigged in Welsh election history, with the Fascist Party making full use of its access to influence the result. The results when they came in gave the Fascists 48% of the popular vote and as a result they held 76 of the 172 seats, leaving them only 10 seats of an outright majority. The Fascist Party retained the support of the Catholics in a coalition but their support was no longer the necessary brake on the Fascists as the remaining parties were not in a position to outnumber the Fascists in the Ty Isaf.
With his control of the Ty Isaf now more secure, Bychsten astounded his political rivals with the signing of a treaty with the Nazis. The Treaty of Berlin, signed in December 1933 aligned Wales with Nazi Germany. This was an unusual step as Wales' natural allies had long been Spain and France, with alliances to the Anglo-Scot's a treaty obligation from the Treaty of Shrewsbury.
Since 1796, Wales had been of necesity, aligned with the Anglo-Scottish kingdom and with Spain, with a renewed close relationship with France coming in the post Napoleonic era. Both Rhisiart III and IV had been aware of the danger of alienating the English giant on the Welsh borders and Iorwerth had been known as far more of an Anglophile than his son. The treaty of Berlin smashed this preconception amongst the diplomatic corp. The German alliance brought with it special advisors to Wales. The military advisors were principally interested in the Welsh Air force (though there was also interest in the formation of a Welsh Submarine Force as well). The civilian advisors were interested in economic and policing matters. The semi moribund UDC was given a renewed lease of life during the 1930's. The old Ricardian secret police had under Iorwerth lost both power and influence. Under Iago and the German security advisor (Helmuth Von Klinkerhoffen) the UDC sees a renewed sense of strength and purpose in its role as Wales' principal security service (the 30's also saw the first formal creation of an external intelligence service called "Y Gwasanaeth Cudd-wybodaeth" or The Intelligence Service shortened to YGC).The civilian advisors also helped to formulate plans to stimulate the Welsh economy in similar ways to Germany. The first such project was the huge construction of the Traffordd (Motorway) system. The first such road, the T1 connected the major port of Abergwaun (Fishguard) with Penfro via Hwlffordd & Aberdaugleddyf (Haverfordwest and Milford Haven). The T2 ran from Hwlffordd to Caerfyrddin, where it became the T3 and ran via Abertawe and Caerdydd towards Casnewydd. At Casnewydd the T4 then ran north towards Amwythig by way of Trefynwy (Monmouth), Henffordd and Llwydlo with a branch towards Caerwrangon Cymraeg (Welsh Worcester). At Amwythig, the T5 ran up towards Croesoswallt (Oswestry) to Wrecsam. There the T6 ran up to the coast and along the northern coast towards Caernarfon. The military implications of this network did not go unnoticed by observers.
This new infrastructure coupled with the widening and improvement of many other key roads (such as the A5 from Wrecsam to Bangor and the road from Amwythig to Machynlleth and Aberystwyth all had key military value. In 1935, on the advice of the Germans, Bychsten ordered the general rearmament of the Welsh military, ordering new equipment from tanks to aircraft (both home produced and bought from Germany). New air bases started to spring up, with LAFG Sylfaen (RWAF Base) Llandwrog outside Caernarfon, LAFG Sylfaen Penrhos in Llyn, to the expansion of LAFG Sylfaen Llanilltyd Fawr in the south. The Navy saw its fleet expand with the creation of the Submarine Force (Llong Danfor Llu) and the laying down of the Cyfseriadau (Constellation) class light aircraft carriers. All these events caused a rise in tensions with the British state, but buoyed by the German alliance, both Senedd and Monarch for the time being were blind to downsides. The military itself was split with several senior officers in favour of the German alliance with others more skeptical of Hitler's motives.
The political tensions within Wales continued to build during the 1930's. The government of Bychsten was not universally popular, with the both the Communists and the CDP rallying against it. In 1938 though, these tensions spilled over into rioting. The riots were so severe in Caerdydd, that Iago was forced to retire to the Army Headquarters in Caerfilli. The aim of the rioters was to remove Bychsten from office, but gradually sentiment turned against Iago, who was perceived (rightly) as being highly influential behind the scenes. The rioters turned their attention to the King, suddenly demanding his abdication in favour of the highly popular Edling, the 17 year old Prince Owain.
The King, using the newly invigorated UDC quickly crushed the riots, though both he and Bychsten were shaken by the violence and the spread of the riots. Not only Caerdydd, but Caerodor, Abertawe, Caernarfon, Harlech, Llwydlo, Amwythig, Penfro, Aberystwyth. All had seen significant numbers of protesters on the streets. One upshot of the protests however was the movement of German troops into Wales. During the two months of rioting and protesting, German soldiers slowly took over all of the civilian airports and took up key positions in all the military air bases. This movement had not gone unnoticed by the Army High Command, but they were not in a position to act yet, although the head of the army, Maeslywydd Thomas argues strongly against further nazification of the Welsh services. The remainder of 1938 would see the Germans establish depots at Penfro and Llwydlo and move elements of their air force into Wales.
Relationship with the British State
At the start of Iago's reign the Anglo-Welsh relationship was strained. Under Iorwerth, Wales had failed to honour its treaty obligations during the European War of 1914-18 and Iorwerth had encouraged the Irish nationalists. Under Iago however, such support had led to active Welsh involvement in the Irish Wars. Although Wales was also instrumental in ending the war she had lead to the reduction of Anglo-Scotish territory. Iago himself nurtured a deep seated hatred of the English, an ironic twist given his wifes English heritage. Such hatred however coloured his political leanings and with the advent of Bychsten he had found his political soulmate.
The British watched on in horror as the Fascist Party under Bychsten established its grip on Welsh politics. The German alliance had come as a severe shock to the British with their military now having to plan for possible military action on the Anglo-Welsh border, something that although always present in British war plans had not seen serious attention since the Welsh civil war. The British under the Third National Government tried to deal with Bychsten, but were generally unsuccessful, despite attempts at economic bribery to divorce Wales from Nazi Germany. The personal relationship between Baldwin and Bychsten itself did not lend itself to smooth dealings and with Iago actively political via the Privy Council and himself anti-English the relationship between Wales and England-Scotland sank to its lowest level since the reign of Dafydd V.
With the rise of Neville Chamberlain and the change in focus in the Anglo-Scottish government towards appeasing Nazi Germany whilst at the same time commencing rapid re-armament, the Westminster government continued to view a fascist Wales with deep suspicion. The Treaty of Berlin was a calculated slap in the face of the anglophiles both in court and in the Senedd. The long history of the Welsh military following the Anglo-Scottish leads was broken with the increasing influence of the German advisors. The final break came with the German invasion of Poland and the British declaration of war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Shrewsbury, Wales was to side with the British, but, just as in 1914, Wales refused to honour its obligations. This time however Wales was host to men and material from Germany and represented a direct threat to the UKES's security especially in light of the rapid advance of the Germans. By the Fall of France in May 1940, Wales now not only represented a clear danger to England's safety but was acting in such a way as to highlight it. The professional head of the army had been dismissed, the Senedd moved to a secure location in Machynlleth and in March 1940, Hitler had been declared Welsh Chancellor thus firmly allying Wales to Nazi Germany.
With the British Army poised to invade, an internal military coup led by the deposed head of the army removed Iago from political power and allied Wales to the Anglo-Scottish state, but Churchill did not trust the Welsh and both he and the Americans spent the entire war making sure that there was no danger of a Welsh knife in the Allies back.
Prelude to war - 1939 & 1940The greatest challenge of Iago's reign occurred in September 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland, leading the British and French to declare war. With the Treaty of Berlin, Wales was now firmly allied to the Axis Powers, Iago had no hesitation in declaring war on the Anglo-Scottish state. Iago's next actions were to purge the top levels of the Army by dismissing the head of the Armed Forces, Maeslywyd Thomas (along with other top level generals and admirals) and the removal of the Senedd from Caerdydd back to Machynlleth where the senators were placed under close protection (with German officers commanding the Welsh troops).
The Chancellor (Bychsten) by now is struggling to control events within Wales. The UDC is now exercising more power than before and Iago is exercising increasing control via the Secretariat. Bychsten's government quickly fails (helped by intriguing from the English and a lack of support from Iago) and with the failure of the government the German military in Wales seizes all key air bases and border control points. As in the 1920's Iago is again an autocrat ruling Wales, but his hand is less sure than before. Thomas is still free, Iago lacking the steel for mass political executions, and as a result Iago grows to depend more on the Germans to maintain his power.
The need to shore up his power base led Iago to an inevitable conclusion, Wales must enter the Reich! To that end on the 1st January 1940, Hitler (in absentia) was declared Chancellor of Wales, with Helmuth Von Klinkerhoffen acting as his proxy Deputy Chancellor within Wales. A stand off now occurred with Von Klinkerhoffen not yet strong enough to deal with the potential rebels, Thomas had gone to ground in his native county of Gwlad yr Haf where the garrison of Caerodor proved hugely loyal to their former commander, and the potential political rebels were still playing the loyal "kings men" for the most part. This phoney war continued until March 1940 when Iago panics. With the war seemingly in a hiatus on the continent and with the British moving army units close to the town of English Worcester (sitting across from Welsh Worcester and one of the main river Severn crossings) Iago declares that Wales is joining "the German union of Nations". The news causes rioting throughout all the major cities in Wales and Thomas takes his chance. Taking control of the broadcasting tower in Caerodor, Thomas broadcasts a message throughout Wales declaring a state of emergency and calling for all army units "loyal to the Welsh Nation and the Crown" to join him in saving Iago from the evils of the German advisors who had so obviously coerced him into betraying Wales.
Gweithrediad Wawr Euraidd - Operation Golden DawnThomas had been building towards this since late 1939 and early 1940 with the formation of the Gwrthwynebaid Gymraeg (Welsh Resistance) and from his base in Caerodor had been well placed for secret talks with the Anglo-Scottish government. With the English 4th Army now advancing on the two Worcesters, Thomas moved from Caerodor to Penfro to gauge the support of the navy. He was not disappointed. The navy (unlike the army and air force) had seen the least German interference and Thomas encountered no problems with his request that the navy find ways to frustrate the Germans. Beginning with a quiet blockade of all major Welsh ports, sunken ships, refits of warships blocking access to harbour berths, a period of quiet obstruction now began to occur across Welsh harbours. Iago and Von Klinkerhoffen began to move troops loyal to Iago and German troops towards the key ports, seeking to take control in the same way they had taken over the air bases.
It was at this time that Iago feared he had lost control of the Senedd. The Fascist government of Bychsten had been paralysed since the October of 1939 when he had lost control and then replaced by Von Klinkerhoffen. In turn Von Klinkerhoffen did not have complete control of the Fascist Party. Defections from the ruling party to others (mainly the centre right CDP) and the effective usurpation of executive power by Iago and the Secretariat had left the Senedd with little to do. As such Thomas was able to recruit within its members men who would be willing to help him.
Events on the continent now took a more urgent turn. May 1940 saw Nazi Germany launch its invasion of the Low Countries and France and Hitler saw this as a chance to move more troops into Wales. Increasingly, the Iagoist officers in the army were more and more outnumbered by those willing to side with Thomas. The Air force still remained largely loyal to Iago and the regime, but there were enough elements there to ensure its neutrality should Thomas make any moves.
With the end of May and the fall of France the UK-ES formally declared war against Wales and continues to build up its concentration of troops across the banks of the Severn. In desperation Iago orders the mobilisation of the army under the command of Von Klinkerhoffen who moves with the army to Llwydlo. Officers loyal to Thomas by now have taken over control of the garrisons in both Caerdydd and Machynlleth and as June progress' fears in Wales that another invasion by the English is about to happen grows. In July Thomas makes his move. The army elements loyal to Von Klinkerhoffen are on the border facing the English and on the morning of the 7th July 1940 Thomas issues his gwawr aur (golden dawn) order.
Gwawr Aur - 7th July 1940
Throughout Wales, the army and naval infantry units loyal to Maeslywydd Thomas strike. The first actions take place in Penfro and Milford Haven. The 1st Company (Naval Infantry) took on the their German naval counterparts the 22nd Marine-Schützen (Marine Riflemen) company. The gwawr aur order was issued at 4am on the 7th, by 8am following four hours of bloody fighting, both ports were firmly under Thomas' control. Next in Machynlleth men from the Grey's seized both the old Senedd buildings and all the senators. Throughout Wales, army and naval units engaged German troops. Then at 10am the second order (nythu eryr - eagles nest) was given. Llu Awyr Cadlywydd Panerian (Vaughan's successor) was arrested in Air force House, Caerdydd. With his arrest men from the newly formed No 2 Ground Defence unit (made up from men from both the Navy Infantry and men from the Gower Light Infantry) stormed the air bases throughout Wales, killing or capturing the German troops stationed there. The final battle of the day took place in Rhoose where the Grey Regiment engaged the men from the German Infantry Regiment No 9 (Potsdam). In a long and bloody battle which would see over 300 casualties across both side, the Germans surrendered late on the 8th July.
8th July 1940During this time Caerdydd was silent. Phone lines were cut leaving Iago in the Palas Cwm Hydref isolated and unaware of the coup spreading across Wales. The first that Iago realised was when the palace commander, Milwraid Is-Gapten Bedyddiwr tried and failed to contact Von Klinkerhoffen in Llwydlo barracks. Thomas had led the men representing all three of the services into the palace at noon on the 7th. Whilst Thomas entered the palace, army units from the Devils Offspring and the Border's were storming the UDC headquarters in Y Tyllgoed (Fairwater, Cardiff) in Caerdydd. The Palace guard under Bedyddiwr made a stand in the palace gardens whilst Iago attempted to escape. The palace guard were men from the Black Lion regiment, the same regiment which betrayed Cystennin at the start of the Welsh Civil War and Bedyddiwr was determined that the unit would not suffer that indignity twice. 30 men died before Thomas persuaded the commander to stand down in honour. Iago was quickly found trying to escape across country towards Abertawe.
Thomas orders Iago taken to Castell Coch under armed guard. Once Iago is out from Caerdydd Thomas orders the army units which had been pulled from Llwydlo to return and surround Von Klinkerhoffen who surrendered on the 10th July. With his hands firmly on the levers of power, Thomas contacted the British on the 11th July and informed them that Wales was no longer allied to Germany and would be honouring its treaty obligations. Churchill's response was to leave the Anglo-Scottish 4th army firmly camped on the Welsh border.
Iago was now placed under house arrest and confined to Castell Coch. On the 12th July, Thomas declared a military government and martial law throughout Wales. The Senedd was reconvened in Caerdydd without the Fascist Party senators, but with Thomas preventing any vote for chancellor. The Navy steams from port with its ships taking place alongside the UKES navy in the Atlantic. On the 1st August Thomas was declared Chancellor of Wales.
The biggest failure of the the operation was the escape of what would become the Lleng Cymreig (Welsh Legion - in German Der Walisische Legion). Almost 2000 men loyal to both Iago and the Nazi ideals, escaped capture fleeing to Germany where they were reconstituted as Der Walisische Legion, a unit in the Wehrmacht.
The Great War 1939-1945
On the 1st August 1940, Wales formally declares war on Germany with Thomas taking the post of Chancellor. Iago is placed under armed guard and a proclamation is issued in his name stating that he acted under duress when declaring war on the Allies.
With the declaration of war, Thomas was now faced with the prospect of getting the army into action. The 1930's had been kind to the army, with new equipment, training and money directed at it by the nationalistic, paranoid monarch. However, the first action of the war, was a border war in Africa with the Vichy Controlled French colonies bordering Welsh West Africa. The colonial troops there fought bravely and with the reluctance of French troops to press the advantage the brief struggle for the Welsh colony passed but as the war progressed the Welsh troops based there were able to move north to aid in the fight for North Africa.
The remainder of 1940 were quiet in terms of army action. Troop training intensified and the army saw its levels of readiness rise to new heights, but with little outlet for its preparedness.
The Welsh army in 1940 numbered around 200,000 officers and men. The large numbers relative to the Welsh population being due to Iago's actions during the 1930's. The army itself was structured around two main corps. The I Gorfflu and III Gorfflu (with II Gorfflu being an 'administrative' corps')
The Cymraeg III Gorfflu (Welsh III Corps) was tasked with being the Welsh contingent to the North African Campaign. The fleet sailed in late 1940 landing in Africa in November 1940, joining up with the UK-ES and Australian forces in Egypt. The Corp, under the command of Cadfridog Is-Gapten (Lt General) Pritchard took part in Operation Compass (the first Allied attempt to conquer Cyreniacia) under the overall command of English General Archibald Wavell. Losses amongst the Welsh troops was not high, but the attrition rate due to desert conditions was a factor in later losses.
Cadfridog Is-Gapten Pritchard would continue to command Welsh forces in North Africa until the end of war, with the Cymraeg III Gorfflu continuing to form part of the Allied North African Army. Although some units were despatched along with English units to aid the Greeks during the German invasion. By 1941 Rommel has forced the Allied army back deep into Egypt and Pritchard's forces have thinned considerably. Re-inforcements consist of men from the Welsh West Africa Colony who have traveled through UK-ES controlled Africa to join up with Pritchard in Egypt. On the 25th April 1941 the Cymraeg III Gorfflu suffers huge losses during the defence of Halfaya Pass as Rommel presses on in North Africa. Pritchard himself suffering the loss of one eye during the action. Pritchard would again lead his men from the front in the June Operation Battleaxe with the failure to lift the siege of Tobruk, then later in November 1941 Operation Crusader would see the Cymraeg III cut down to almost a quarter of its initial size, with the highest losses occurring on the 22nd during Rommels counter offensive. However, the Welsh Army also had men with the Indian forces at Sidi Omar, and on the 25th November were part of a successful defence that saw the 5th Panzer Division destroyed.
On the 24th December with the Allied capture of Benghazi, Welsh re-inforcements under Cadfridog Brigad Durman, former colonel the 2nd (Princess Olivia's) Dragoon Guards and now the Cadlywydd 20fed Frigâd (Commander of 20th Brigade), the North African Relief Column arrived. Made up of re-inforcements armed with the latest six-lb Crusader Tank, Brigadier Durman acted as Lt General Pritchards deputy for the remainder of the North African Campaign.
The first half of 1942 saw the Welsh forces beaten back along with the other Allied forces by Rommel. Welsh forces were present in both battles of Gazala and Bir Hakiem in May 1942, with the men from 1st Royal Dehubarth Dragoon Guards and 4th (Prince Cystennin's) Lancers taking heavy loses there. The 13th June 1942 (Black Sunday) saw more heavy losses in the face of German action, with 1st Sqn Ynys Mon Yeomanry and 4th Sqn Gwent Cavalry (both Territorial units) taking very heavy losses. The 4th Sqn Gwent Cavalry losing almost three-fourths of its fighting force in one day. During the 1st Battle of El Alamein Welsh forces took part on the right flank.
In August the overal command of the Allied Forces in Egypt passed to Montgomery, and preparations began for Operation Lightfoot (which included the 2nd Battle of El Alamein). Lt General Pritchard and Brigadier Durman again led the Welsh forces this time arrayed on the Eighth Army's left flank during this campaign.
In November, the American's landed in Morocco as part of Operation Torch and with them also landed the Is-Adran 1af Cymreig (Welsh 1st Division) under the command of Cadfridog Uchgapten (Major General) Diamond. As the Cymraeg III Gorfflu advanced westwards, the Is-Adran1af (1st Division) advanced eastwards under the general command of Eisenhower. During the late December push on Tebourba, Cadfridog Uchgapten Diamond suffered severe lacarations to the thigh from scrapnel, already demonstrating an urge to lead from the front position. By 1943 the North African Campaign was winding down, the 1st saw action during the Battle of Kesserine in February '43 and the 3rd saw action during Operation Pugilist and continuing during actions Supercharge II and the Battle of Tebaga Gap. After April '43 the two Allied Forces combined and the 1st came under the command of Lt General Pritchard, and Welsh forces took part in Operations Vulcan and Strike. On the 7th May, Welsh forces under Major General Diamond entered Bizerte along with the Americans. The aftermath of the Axis surrender on the 13th May saw Lt General Pritchard transferred to command of Welsh Forces in West Africa, whilst Brigadier Durman returned to Wales and from there to England as part of the planning team for Overlord. Major General Diamond, however, took command of the newly formed Cymraeg II Gorfflu (Welsh 2nd Corps) which was transferred to the Italian Campaign.
Welsh forces did not take part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, but did take part in the invasion of Italy, acting with the Anglo-Scottish troops of the 8th Army took part in Operation Baytown, landing at Reggio di Calabria. The landings were totally unopposed by the Italians, whose Government had asked for an armistice the day previous to the invasion. With the Germans seizing control of the Italian government, however, there would soon be fighting. The Italian Front would go on to be the bloodiest of all the Western Fronts, claiming more lives and more casualties than any other. The newly frocked Lt General Diamond would continue to serve as Welsh local Commander within the Allied Chain of Command until his death in Operation Avenger (1944).
Welsh forces proceeded up the "toe" of Italy along with the 8th Army, applying pressure on the German forces, helping to dilute their ability to throw back the American invasion (Operation Avalanche). On the 3rd October 1943, men from the 1st Batt, The Queens Own (Alexandra's) Fusiliers entered Naples, just two days after men from the English Kings Dragoons Guard had taken the city. From Naples onwards, the Italian campaign was soon to bog down and start to take a high toil of Allied lives.
By January 1944, Allied Forces had begun their advance on Rome via "Highway 6", a route that took them through the town of Cassino, a name that would live in history.
Welsh troops from The Cardinal's Guard Regiment, the Prince of Powys Light Infantry, 7th Gower Rifles Regiment and the Earl of Brycheiniog's Grenadiers took part in the first battle during January 1944. This first assault was deadly in terms of allied losses. With 2400 men dying on three days of action (500 of which were Welsh)
In February 1944, the second battle of Monte Cassino (Operation Avenger) took place. By now Lt Gen Diamond had arrived on the scene along with men from 1st (The King's) Royal Pembrokeshire Lancers and Lt Gen Diamonds own regiment, the Regiment of the March (2nd, 3rd and 7th Batt). On the 17th Feb the main assault took place, with the three battalions of Marchers along with the Cardinal's Guard regiment working with the English 4/6th Rajputana Rifles and the 1/2nd and 1/9th Gurkha Rifles assaulting the monastery hill. The attack proved fruitless in terms of victory and deadly in terms of casualties. The most important, from a Welsh perspective was Lt Gen Diamond who had been at the front at the commencement of the battle. In all, over 50 officers and 200 men were lost between the 17th and 18th with objectives still in German hands.
Cadfridog Brigad Hebgofal took command of the Welsh forces with the death of Cadfridog Is-Gapten Diamond (who received posthumous awards including the Pendragon Star as well as having Central Command Barracks named after him)
Under Cadfridog Brigad Hebgofal, Welsh troops continued to advance northwards and troops from the 4th Battalion Cardinal's Guard Regiment entered both Rome and then the Vatican following the American capture of the city on June 4th 1944. Brigadier Hebgofal, on behalf of the Lord Cardinal Archbishop of St Davids, met with both the Pope on the 10th June where the Pope blessed a regimental banner brought with the unit on its long journey from Wales, via North Africa and Italy.
The Cymraeg II Gorfflu now fought with the Polish II Corp in the march north from Rome, and together advanced on the city of Ancona, which was taken on the 18th July. Troops were also tasked into Operation Olive where the Gothic Line was breached, from there the Italian campaign largely ground to a hard slog with the German defenders. Welsh losses in Italy were high. In total over 10,000 men lost their lives or were injured in battle.
The Western Front
The 13th May 1943 saw Cadfridog Brigad Durman transfered from North Africa to London, England, where he was to be the senior Welsh officer involved in what would become the planning group for Operation Overlord and the invasion of Europe. The planning group would eventually decide on an invasion of Normandy, and Cadfridog Brigad Durman would push for the inclusion of Welsh troops in the invasion plan. During the build up III Gorfflu was disbanded with troops allocated to either I Gorfflu or II Gorfflu.
Welsh troops, part of the Cymraeg I Gorfflu (Welsh I Corps) were tasked with landing on Juno Beach in support of the II Canadian Corps and Cadfridog Pritchard was brought back from West Africa and given command of Cymraeg I Gorfflu (in addition to promotion to full General). Also with Cymraeg I Gorfflu were two Princes of the Royal Blood. The Crown Prince (Edling), Owain and Prince Iolo I of Gwynedd. Iolo would die on the second day of the invasion, with Owain dying later in the campaign, on the 18th July.
Units involved with the landing included the Cartref Gard (Household Guard), Troedfilwyr Ysgafn Gwyr (the Gower Light Infantry), Troedfilwyr Trwm Gwynedd (the Gwynedd Heavy Infantry, Prince Iolo's regiment), Breninesau Hun Ffiwsilwyr (Queens Own Fusiliers), Llewod Du (the Black Lions), all four light Cavalry regiments, as well as many of the Militia units. Loses on the day were about 100 dead, and another 220 injured from the Welsh forces. By noon of D Day, Welsh and Canadian forces had captured the town of Saint Aubin sur Mer and had advanced into French territory. With Normandy secure the Allied Forces pushed on Paris.
Welsh forces were involved in Operation Goodwood, with all seven Welsh cavalry regiments represented in the battle with infantry support from the Militia Regiments (mainly the Morgannwg Fusiliers, the Deheubarth Regiment and the Penfro Grenadiers). It was during this battle that the Edling, Owain died.
During the war itself and following the conclusion of hostilities the Welsh government instituted the following campaign medals for both civilians and military personal
- 1940 Seren Amddiffyn (The 1940 Defence Star) - Awarded to participants in Operation Golden Dawn
- 1940-1945 Seren (The 1940-45 Star) - Awarded to all participants during the Great War
- Y Seren Iwerydd (The Atlantic Star) - Naval & Air force versions - Battle of the Atlantic Clasp
- Awyr Cydforwyr Ewrop Seren (Air Crew Europe Star) - Atlantic or France & Germany
- Y Affrica Seren (The Africa Star)
- Y Tawel Seren (The Pacific Star)
- Y Eidal Seren (The Italy Star)
- Y Norddmandi Seren (The Normandy Star)
- Ffrainc a'r Almaen Seren (France & Germany Star)
- Bathedig Rhyfel y Fyddin (Army War Medal)
- Seren Gwasanaeth Llyngesol (Naval Service Star)
- Seren Gwasanaeth Llu Awyr (Air Force Service Star)
- Bathedig Amddiffyn (Defence Medal)