Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Yn dilyn ymlaen o flog Elen am Wersyll Carcharorion Frongoch, dw i am dynnu eich sylw at y gwrthrychau sydd gennym yn ein casgliadau sy’n gysylltiedig â charcharorion rhyfel neu gwersylloedd rhyfel yn ystod y ddau ryfel byd.

Am gyfod byr bu’r peilot Arthur Wellesley Rees Evans yn garcharor rhyfel pan saethwyd ei awyren i lawr tra ar ei ffordd i fomio Cologne yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Mae ei gasgliad gennym yn yr archif yn Sain Ffagan ac yn cynnwys dogfennau megis canllawiau am gyfathrebu â charcharorion rhyfel sydd wedi'u caethiwo dramor, canllawiau'r Pwyllgor Canolog Carcharorion Rhyfel ynghylch anfon parseli bwyd i garcharorion rhyfel yn yr Almaen, yn ogystal â cherdyn post o Wersyll Carcharorion Rhyfel Limburg yn hysbysu ei deulu ei fod yn garcharor rhyfel.

Mae enghreifftiau gennym hefyd o wrthrychau a wnaed gan garcharorion rhyfel Almaeneg a Thwrcaidd yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Mae'r rhain yn cynnwys set ysmygu a wnaed gan garcharor Almaeneg mewn gwersyll carcharorion rhyfel ym Mhenarth, a model gleinwaith o neidr gyda chameleon yn ei geg gyda'r geiriau 'TURKISH PRISONER 1917'.

Mae pawb yn gyfarwydd â’r ddelwedd o garcharorion rhyfel Prydeinig yn brwydro ac yn dianc o wersylloedd y gelyn yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd mewn storïau anhygoel megis ‘The Great Escape’ neu ‘Pum Cynnig i Gymro’.

Mae stori Cecil Rees yn debyg iawn i’r storïau hyn. Bu’n aelod o’r RAF, a chymrodd rhan mewn nifer o chyrchfaoedd bomio yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd. Saethwyd ei awyren i lawr yn Mai 1943, a chafodd ei ddal gan yr Almaenwyr tra’n lloches gyda theulu Ffleminaidd. Danfonwyd Cecil i wersyll carcharorion rhyfel Almaeneg, Stalag Luft 3, ond nid oedd yn bwriadu treulio gweddill y rhyfel y tu ôl i’r weiren bigog. Felly, dihangodd o’r gwersyll ym Mawrth 1944 cyn cael ei ddal eto gan yr Almaenwyr a’i ddanfon yn ôl i’r gwersyll. Rhoddwyd ei gasgliad o ddogfennau i’r Amgueddfa ddwy flynedd yn ôl, ac mae’n gasgliad hynod ddiddorol. Mae’n cynnwys cynlluniau i ddianc , mapiau hancesi papur , trwyddedau ffug gyda’r stamp Natsïaidd , a hyd yn oed ambell i Reichsmarks!

‘Drown’d in drowsy sleep, of nothing he takes keep’. These were the words that William Goscombe John chose to accompany his sculpture Morpheus when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891.

The caption was taken from the 16th century poem The Fairie Queene by Edmund Spenser, although it is not a direct quotation. This epic allegorical poem follows the journey of several Arthurian knights as they battle their way through a mythical fairyland.

Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, plays a small role in The Fairie Queene. He is called upon to help the black sorcerer Archimago trap Redcrosse, one of the Christian knights. He does this by conjuring up a false dream of love and lust to fool Redcrosse into believing that his lover Una has been ‘sporting’ with another knight. This leads to Redcrosse abandoning her and continuing his quest alone.

In this sculpture Morpheus is shown asleep - or perhaps softly stirring from sleep, his arms stretched languidly above his head. Apart from this, John makes no other reference to the narrative of The Fairie Queene and it is not clear why he would have chosen to depict a figure who plays a relatively small role in the story, and in Greek mythology.

We might say that the mythological theme was a pretext for depicting a nubile male nude. Alternatively, we might see it as a statement about the role of the figurative sculptor. In mythology, Morpheus had one great power: he could mimic the human form, and trick people into seeing physical bodies that are not really there.


Stephanie Roberts and Penelope Hines 

Why are we concerned with boxes whose lids don’t close properly?

This is not just curators and conservators being pernickety; we really do have very good reasons to make sure that every closed box stays shut.

Museum collections contain a lot of valuable things that are easily perishable. Swords are made to be tough, but - believe it or not - even swords are not indestructible.

Iron rusts when it gets wet. Iron also rusts because of moisture in the atmosphere. Other metals can corrode in much the same way. If we are not careful we would end up with merely a bag of rust!

Therefore, we store all manner of sensitive objects (including cannonballs!) in what we call “micro-environments”. While many of our stores and galleries are air-conditioned, the humidity in the air is often too high to prevent these delicate objects from rusting.

Micro-environments are boxes or plastic pouches that contain one or several objects, plus a chemical that regulates the humidity within the box or pouch. This chemical is silica gel – if you have ever bought an electrical item the packaging probably contained a little sachet saying “Do not eat!”. The little granules in this sachet are silica gel. It is very widely used to keep things dry. Including in museums.

Once we have packaged our objects with silica gel we do not want moisture from the atmosphere to get into the box; that’s why we make sure the box closes properly. Only then will the objects be safe and dry, and ready for display or study.

To read more about our collections care work, go to our Preventive Conservation blog.

A hundred years ago today, on 7 May 1915, the British ocean liner the Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo off the Irish coast, on her homeward voyage across the Atlantic from New York to Liverpool. She sank within twenty minutes. 1,198 of the 1,959 passengers aboard, including children and crew, perished. This was seen as a ‘German crime against humanity’, and a verdict of ‘wilful and wholesale murder’ was pronounced against Kaiser Wilhelm II and his government. In Germany, a medal was struck to commemorate the event, a copy of which we have in the collection.

Among those lost was a Welshman named Owen Ladd. He was born in 1882, the son of William and Phoebe Ladd, of Eglwyswrw in north Pembrokeshire. Owen had been educated at Llantood Board School and later became an apprentice watchmaker in Cardigan. He had also managed a shop in Pentre, Rhondda, for nine years.

In 1911, he left Wales to join his older brother, David, who was an accountant in Winnipeg, Canada. Owen quickly became a prominent figure within the Welsh community there, serving as secretary of the St David’s Society as well as being a leading member of the Nassau Street Baptist Church. He also occasionally acted as adjudicator at local eisteddfodau.

In 1915, Owen decided to return to Wales to visit his ageing parents and possibly enlist in the military. However, tragically, he lost his life on that fateful voyage aboard the Lusitania.

On 12 May 1915, The Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph reported on ‘The Sinking of the Lusitania’ and mentioned Owen Ladd as missing. An eyewitness account of Owen’s final harrowing moments appeared in the north Pembrokeshire’s weekly –  The County Echo on 20 May 1915.

In 1977 the Museum acquired some diaries and papers from Owen’s relatives, including two letters written by Owen from Winnipeg, dated 8 March 1915 and 15 April 1915.

“The reason of my delay in replying to your enquiry was that I've been contemplating paying a visit to the old land when I would call & see you & settle all matters. Now I've definitly [sic] decided & shall be sailing by the Lusitania from New York May 1st. therefore I hope to call & see about the end of May. of course if we encounter any German torpedoes you'll have to claim on the German Emperor.”

(Extract from letter sent by Owen Ladd to Mr Francis, 15 April 1915)

The collection also includes a telegram, which was despatched by his brother David in Winnipeg on 8 May 1915 enquiring as to Owen’s safety; a non-committal reply was received from Cunard’s in Liverpool later the same day. And a letter received by another of Owen’s brothers, Hugh Ladd of Eglwyswrw, from ‘The Cunard Steam Ship Company Limited, Queenstown’ dated 14 May 1915.

The Owen Ladd collection is available to view online on the First World War Collections catalogue.

Our expedition has now drawn to a successful close. Our collections of several thousand specimens have (mostly) been successfully exported from Ecuador and initial analysis of them has started. Entomological expeditions to remote areas are great fun of course. However the less glamorous but harder work comes later, involving months or years of detailed study during which new species are described, evolutionary trees constructed, and ecological or biogeographic conclusions etc. are developed.

In the field there may be great excitement about finding a particular insect but to a scientist, the level of excitement can only grow as the real significance of the finding is revealed subsequently through painstaking study and reference to our already extensive collections. Already we have glimpses of results that might tell us more about how the insect fauna of the upper Amazon Basin came about. For example the unexpected presence of Cladodromia (a classic ‘Gondwanan’ genus) suggests there has been immigration from Patagonia whereas the high diversity of Neoplasta (which is essentially North American) hints at a south-bound migration along the Andes. On the other hand, an almost complete absence of Hemerodromia puzzles us as it is widespread in the lower Amazon so why didn’t we find it higher up? We suspect that the answer may be that it has only recently arrived in South America and is still spreading to Ecuador. Then again the unseasonal rains (due to a strong El Niño this year) may be a factor. Investigations continue.

In the field, our successes were often hard-won; difficult slogging through trying terrain, inclement weather, frustrating officialdom and many other factors sometimes worked against us it seemed, and intermittent access to the internet made writing these blogs challenging at times. We have been very fortunate in that our expedition was entirely and well-funded by the Brazilian Government as a part of their noble and ambitious efforts to understand the biodiversity of the Amazon. Our own exertions will plug one significant hole in knowledge and contribute to greater appreciation of Amazon biodiversity.

To read all of Adrian's entries, go to our Natural History Blog