Private Robert Evans
Killed in action 22nd July 1916

Griffith J Evans    Back to War Memorial    John Jones         

Robert was born in 1864 in Llangynog to Robert and Jane Evans. In 1871, at the age of seven, he was living with his parents and younger brothers John and Humphrey and one year old sister Eleanor, at Pencraig, off the Bala Road. At this time his father was working as a slate miner. In the 1881 census, Robert was still living with his parents, but at Berwyn Street. Also, there is no mention of his siblings, John, Humphrey or Eleanor. John and Humphrey, although still very young, had gone away to work as farm servants, but we can only assume Eleanor had sadly died during the intervening years. However, there is mention of a further four siblings (all boys), born since the last census. Robert, now aged 17, is recorded as working as a slater.

At the time of the next census in 1891, ten years on, Robert was married and working as a collier. He was living at number 17 Thomas Street, Merthyr Tydfil as head of the household, with his father, his uncle and his two brothers as well as his mother-in-law and two boarders. When the census was taken, however, his wife and baby son were away visiting Robert’s mother and further two brothers, born since the last census, in Ty Newydd in Llangynog.

In 1901, when Robert was 37 he was still living in Thomas Street, but now at number 4, with his wife, Hannah Maria, and their four children and three boarders (all coal hewers). But then by 1911, he and his wife had moved yet again, to Aberfan with their now six children. We can only surmise he was forced to move around to find work to support his growing family. Robert must have been at least 50 years old when he enlisted, well past the normal age for enlistment. It was just possible he was conscripted. As the war progressed, the age for conscription was eventually raised to 51.

Robert enlisted in Caerphilly, joining the 2nd battalion of the Welsh Regiment. The first half of 1916 saw Robert’s battalion encamped and fighting in the predominantly mining area of Loos, France. A lot of the landscape they operated in was covered in slagheaps, similiar in that respect to the landscape he left behind in South Wales. In July they marched and travelled by train to the Somme area, marching for at least six days. They then fought at Bazentin Le Petite Wood from the 16th - 18th July, before falling back to camp in front of Becourt Wood.

Although it seems there wasn’t a great battle raging at Becourt Wood at the time, soldiers were under the constant threat of being killed by snipers or shells. Sadly, on 22nd July, Robert was one of the many to lose their lives at the Somme in this way. What was unusual, however, was his age, 52 years.

Private Robert Evans is buried and commemorated at the Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, France. He is also commemorated on the Aberfan, Merthyr Tydfil war memorial.