Moel Famau is a popular walking destination – the highest point in the Clwydian Range and situated on the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail. I’ve previously discussed the early 19th-century neo-Egyptian significance of the Jubilee Tower, commemorating the reign of George III here. This royal and (in the context of Wales unquestionably) colonial monument has endured as a ruin far longer than it was an intact huge obelisk. In that same post, I also discussed the commemoration of the ruin and the commemoration of its restoration too: with plaques and information boards framing its rehabilitation as a fragment. In this regard, it is very much akin to the Pillar of Eliseg. Yet its scale and prominence have no comparison: situated on the National Trail and other walking paths, with vistas over England and Wales, Moel Famau’s Jubilee Tower is the focus of many contemporary memorial benches one encounters in sequence as one walks towards and away from it. This is a landscape of recreation and great beauty, but also a landscape of memory with multiple registers from prehistory to the present day.
I relatively frequently walk up Moel Famau and occasionally, I witnessed how the summit is not only a ruin that commemorates George III and itself is commemorated through plaques and signs. In addition, people walking here conduct their own memorial practices, including acts of deposition. Ash scattering and floral deposits occasionally leave traces around the Jubilee Tower.
Yet on my most recent walk, set within the neo-Egyptian false portal on the eastern side, I spied another form of remembrance. I noticed a modest pair of small wooden crosses. Situated as they are, they treat the Georgian ruin as a relic of a war memorial as well as the end point of a personal and/or group pilgrimage to a place away from habitation, closer to Heaven.
Looking more closely at these crosses, it now dawns on me that these are not memorials to those who died in conflicts long ago, but in recent warfare. The right-hand cross commemorates members of C Company of 40 Commando, the Royal Marines. Specifically, the operation Herrick 12 refers to the 2010 British armed forces deployment in Helmand, Afghanistan. The first names are those of all of Charlie Company who died that the summer of 2010 in Helmand province. Taken in the order in which they appear on the stem of the small wooden cross, perhaps ‘Matt’ refers to Marine Matthew Harrison (d. 13 July 2010), ‘Crooksy’ is presumably Marine Jonathan Crookes (d. 16 July 2010), ‘Paul’ could be Marine Paul Warren (d. 21 June 2010), and ‘Dave’ might be Marine David Charles Hurt (d. 8 July 2010). There is a fifth name that’s illegible in the photograph I took. The second cross commemorates a sergeant, but the name is now faded and impossible to discern.
In this sheltered, private niche and yet still prominent location visited by hundreds daily, these crosses are clearly respected undisturbed for weeks, perhaps months, by visitors. These modest crosses remember deaths which took place on the other side of the globe. Their names are also to be found on prominent national war memorials too: commemorated on the Afghanistan war memorial which was translated from Camp Bastion, and also upon the Armed Forces Memorial, both situated within the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire. Yet here, the marines are honoured in an ephemeral fashion within the shadow of a neo-Egyptian ruin at the highest point in North East Wales, unquestionably a personal act of mourning to fallen comrades.