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New exhibition remembers World War One heroes of Neath Port Talbot

30 Oct 2022 3 minute read
Elizabeth Thomas image from Jonathan Skidmore from his book Neath & Briton Ferry in the First World War

A poignant new exhibition will remember and pay tribute to people of Neath Port Talbot and the roles they played in the first World War.

The Heroes Gallery, created by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Culture and Heritage Service, is about those from the area, both on the battlefield and the home front, who were involved in the conflict which became known as ‘The Great War’, during which 9 million people died in combat.

Among those featured are Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Thomas, a fearless young military nurse from Seven Sisters rescued from the water after her transport ship was torpedoed went on to win the Royal Red Cross for her work in treated wounded soldiers.

But sadly, not long after the end of World War One, she died from tuberculosis, thought to have been caused by the time she spent clinging to life in the sea.

Rupert Price Hallowes was an Assistant Works Manager at Port Talbot’s Mansel Tinplate Works and a local scout leader. After winning the Military Cross for bravery, he was fatally wounded in battle at Hooge in 1915. He was posthumously awarded the prized Victoria Cross.

Allan Leonard Lewis who lived at Creswell Rd, Neath, was also awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross – the UK’s highest award for courage – after he was killed in action at Ronssoy in September 1918 at 23 years of age where he showed ‘disregard for danger’ and ‘conspicuous bravery’.


Dramatic pictures of mainly female workers (munitionettes) at Taylor’s Foundry in Briton Ferry where artillery shells were made, showed how Neath Port Talbot played its part on the home front.

Britain alone produced nearly four million rifles, a quarter of a million machine guns, 52,000 aeroplanes, 25,000 artillery pieces and more than 170 million rounds of artillery shells by the end of the war.

The coal, steel and tinplate industries in the Neath Port Talbot area supported the war effort enormously by producing materials, munitions and coal to fuel the ships.

Local hospitals such as the Third Military Hospital in Penrhiwtyn, Neath, were backed by many auxilliary hospitals set in sizeable buildings such as The Laurels in Neath, Baglan Hall and Glanrhyd, Pontardawe.

The Heroes Gallery opened at Port Talbot’s Aberafan Shopping Centre on Saturday 29 October as part of the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot’s Armed Forces Festival and will run until Remembrance Sunday.

For more information about the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot’s Armed Forces Festival can be found here

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