If you’re in Llanfyllin on Wednesday March 11th, shortly after 6 pm, you might like to stop and listen for a few minutes.
This is what you’ll hear from the belfry at St Myllin’s church. First there will be nine strikes of the great tenor bell – the heaviest bell in the tower – the traditional way of telling that a man has died. Then there will be a short pause. Then you will hear 21 slow strikes which tell you that the man who died was 21 years old.
The man for whom the bell will toll is Harold Wharton, born in Llanfyllin. His home was in Green Square, just next to the church, and he was the first man from the town to die in the First World War. He will be the first of 34 men to be commemorated in this way by St Myllin’s Bell Ringers over the next four years – on the centenary of each man’s death.
Harold Wharton was a sailor on HMS Bayano, a 6000 ton merchant ship taken over by the navy in 1914, armed with 2 fairly small guns and used to transport men and equipment. On March 11th 2015, HMS Bayano was on her way from Glasgow to Liverpool when she was torpedoed and sunk by U-27, a German submarine, off the coast of Dumfries and Galloway. It was 5.15 am and she sank in less than 3 minutes. 26 men were saved but 197 men died – most of them probably below decks. Harold Wharton’s body was not recovered.
We will remember them.
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