War Hero Unveils Weeping wall of Poppies in Wrexham

A 93-year old World War Two hero unveiled a weeping wall of poppies created by care home residents to honour the fallen.

Pendine residents at Penybryn in Summerhill have created a Poppy Wall and hung it from one of their windows close to the entrance where the garden is also decorated. Pictured: WW2 veteran and resident Bill Evans takes a moment to look at the poppy display pictured with Activities Co-ordinator Elaine Lee

The 1,500 poppies have gone on display at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham ahead of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

The work of art now hangs from an upper window of their Penybryn home, stretching down to the ground. The garden has also been decorated with poppies.

Bill Evans, who helped liberate Brussels in 1944, officially opened the display and gave it his seal of approval.

The VIP treatment is a far cry from the haunting sights Bill witnessed during the war.

He recalled: “I was still a very young man barely out of my teens but saw some terrible, terrible sights, things that still haunt me today.

“We went through Belgium, we helped liberate Brussels and went back after the war for a parade and were given the freedom of the city. That was marvellous.

“I lost so many friends, good young men, I was one of the lucky ones.

“It was a case of kill or be killed, I never thought too much about it when I was younger but I think about it a lot now. It is very difficult and I get very upset sometimes when the memories come back.”

“I’d just ask people to support the Poppy Appeal it means a lot to people who need help and the Royal British Legion does help a lot of people.”

The weeping wall of poppies was the brainchild of Elaine Lee, the enrichment and activities coordinator at Penybryn, which is a care home for younger people with neurological problems caused by acquired brain injury and conditions such as multiple sclerosis and stroke.

According to Elaine, she was inspired by The Weeping Window display of poppies at the Tower of London created in 2014 to remember those who died on the battlefield.

She said: “We began by making poppies from paper which we cut out and laminated so they would be weather proof. It was a long painstaking process but we eventually made the 1,500 poppies we needed.

“It’s important we honour those that gave their lives for us all in the two world wars and all the other conflicts since. I was delighted Bill Evans, who fought in the Second World War, came along to officially give our display his seal of approval. That means a great deal.

“The arts are a part of everyday life here at Pendine Park where we aim to enrich lives across the generations and the weeping wall project is a perfect example.

“It’s been a good way to stimulate residents and we discussed what our armed forces did during the two world wars and places like Iraq, the Falklands and Afghanistan while we worked.

“I was thrilled when Bill agreed to come over to officially open the weeping wall. It meant a great deal to me and everybody else here at Penybryn.”

Bill, who was invited to attend a Buckingham palace garden party in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 90 birthday in 2016, was deeply touched.

He said: “It’s wonderful. They have all done an amazing job. It’s so important we remember all those that gave their lives for our freedom. They have put so much effort into the display and I think it looks fantastic.”

“The Poppy Appeal is not just about World War II but all the conflicts since that have left soldiers, airmen and sailors in need of support and that’s why the it is so vital.

Bill, a native of Kerry, near Newtown, in Powys, moved into Pendine Park’s Gwern Alyn Care Home nearly three years ago.

He joined the army in 1943 and fought across Europe seeing action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

He was sent to Southampton just after D Day and was shipped over the Channel to Normandy.

He said: “I ended up at Caen and places like that. We fought our way through to the Faliese Gap where the Germans had us pinned down for three weeks.

“We went through Belgium, we helped liberate Brussels and went back after the war for a parade and were given the freedom of the city. That was marvellous.

“We went through Holland, places like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, on our way to Bremen. When the war ended in Europe we were told we were going to America to join up with the Americans to invade Japan.

“However, they dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that was the end of it.”

After the war and his military service ended Bill returned to mid Wales before working on a farm at Eardiston, Shropshire where he brought up his two sons.

His second wife, Violet, to whom he was married for 30 years, died six years ago.

Oliver Hall, 25, who has been a Penybryn resident for five years after suffering a brain injury in a car accident, was delighted to meet Bill.

He said: “It’s important to support the veterans who fought for us and to let them know we are thankful. I’m glad Bill likes what we have done.”

Fellow resident Tony Ithell, 59, added: “It looks great. Everyone who sees the display is impressed and that makes me proud.

“I’ve enjoyed talking to Bill Evans and hearing some of the things he had to do in the war. He must have gone through a lot.”

Senior manager Gill Hughes said: “Here in Wales, there is an added resonance to the Poppy Appeal this year because we are marking the centenary of the  Battle of Passchendaele during World War I.

“Among those who perished on the first day of the battle was the iconic Welsh poet Ellis Evans who was better known by his bardic name, Hedd Wyn.

“We are still relying on the armed forces to keep us safe today and it is important that we honour those who make the ultimate sacrifice and look after those who have been injured and their families.”

 

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