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Services remember Mametz Wood and Wales' soldiers

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media captionFirst Minister Carwyn Jones was among those who attended the service in northern France

A service of commemoration and reconciliation has been held at a memorial to Welsh soldiers killed during the battle of Mametz Wood in northern France 100 years ago.

The service was led by Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan and included an address by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Treorchy Male Choir and members of the Royal British Legion have been taking part.

Other services have been taking place in Wales on Thursday.

The 38th (Welsh) Division attacked Mametz Wood between 7 and 14 July 1916, with more than 4,000 of them killed or injured.

The battalions were drawn from all over Wales and represented north, south, rural and industrial areas, as well as men from the London Welsh.

The main act of commemoration and remembrance took place at the site of the Welsh dragon memorial, facing the wood, at 11:00 BST.

Lt Gen Jonathon Riley, speaking at the ceremony, said: "We lost as many of our people in 15 minutes here as we lost in 15 years in Afghanistan.

"It was a victory, we must not forget that, but at a high price."

First Minister Mr Jones said the ceremony was "to remember but also to thank".

media captionRoger Pinney revisits Mametz Wood to recount the battle 100 years on

Speaking of French people also present, he said: "Today our two nations are united in peace, not war.

"It's hard to imagine today, looking at this peaceful place, the horror of war. Today we honour them for their bravery and their courage."

A large number of descendants of those who fought and died are thought to have travelled to France to take part in the services.

image captionSoldiers from 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh, who cycled from Caernarfon

Concerts are also being held in the village of Mametz on Thursday.

The band of the Royal Welsh Regiment will perform on the village green at Mametz and the Treorchy Male Voice Choir will give a concert in the Basilica of Albert.

Chorister Arthur Miles, from Ton Pentre, Rhondda Cynon Taff, said he would be paying his own private tribute as his father, Isaac, fought in the battle.

image captionIsaac Miles (l) and his son, Arthur Miles (r)

"He died in 1970 and never forgot the carnage and horrors experienced during the days of that battle," Mr Miles said.

"I think it's only fitting that we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom."

Phil Davies, secretary of the south Wales branch of the Western Front Association, said: "We hope that it will be a memorable and worthy event to remember those who gave their lives in this battle, those who survived and were injured, and all those who served in this place."

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