OUTSIDE of Powys, you won’t find too many people who are familiar with the village of Erwood.

And unless you live right beneath it, many people even in Powys have probably never heard of or seen the Garth Gun – which for the record is a First World War German field howitzer that sits atop a hill opposite Erwood, known as Twyn y Garth.

But one man who definitely has heard about both is a poet inspired by the Mid Wales monument to write a Remembrance Day poem about it.

Garth Ukrainetz lives on the opposite side of the world but boasts a weirdly wonderful affinity with the tiny Powys village and the war monument that watches over it.

After the First World War, the howitzer was purchased by a local lady Nessa Williams-Vaughan, daughter of Mr and Mrs John Williams-Vaughan, from nearby Llandeilo Graban. Nessa acquired the gun to commemorate the end of the war.

She also wanted to honour the memory of her older brother John, an officer in the South Wales Borderers who was killed in action at the Somme in July 1916, and to honour other local men who died.

Garth grew up in rural Erwood and has wonderful and vivid memories of spending his childhood there playing with his cousins and being absorbed by stories from his grandfather.

The Erwood Garth remembers, however, is the tiny little hamlet of Erwood in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, huddled on the banks of the Red Deer River – almost 4,000 miles away from its idyllic Mid Wales counterpart, huddled on the banks of the River Wye, between Builth Wells and Llyswen.

County Times:  Garth Ukrainetz, the Canadian poet who has fallen in love with a tiny part of Powys Garth Ukrainetz, the Canadian poet who has fallen in love with a tiny part of Powys

Garth is a huge history and war buff and it was while researching his Remembrance Day poem that he eventually stumbled upon the Garth Gun and Erwood.

“I recently came across an article that appeared in your Powys County Times newspaper,” Garth told us earlier this year.

“Because of the nature of my style of poetry I do quite a bit of research on things involving World War I and II and eventually I read about the Garth Gun situated on a hill that points over a little village called Erwood in Wales.

“I knew immediately that there was going to be some poems to write about that region, and this is why I contacted the newspaper.”

However he found out about the Garth Gun, the 55-year-old poet’s interest ended up sparking a serious case of nostalgia and unearthing some striking Welsh-Canadian parallels.

Garth’s own name has Welsh connotations – being derived from the Welsh name ‘Gareth’, while the village of Garth is situated near Builth, lying on the side of the A483 to Llanwrtyd Wells. Garth Hill is a popular and picturesque landmark that overlooks Builth, while Garthmyl Hall is a notable Grade II listed house between Newtown and Welshpool popular with weddings and other functions.

Garth’s little brother is called Owen, another name with Welsh roots, and of course there is even an area called Garthowen, in Newtown.

Garth’s mother is of Welsh descent, as well as Irish and German, while his father’s side of the family emigrated to Canada from Belarus. His first wife was even Welsh, her maiden name being Jones.

Although he now lives in the Alberta capital city of Edmonton, Garth fondly remembers spending his childhood years about 525 miles east, in Erwood, and can recall going to Sunday school there. His teacher was a lady by the name of Mrs Trafford – amazingly Nessa, the lady responsible for the arrival of the Garth Gun on the Powys hilltop, later married and became Mrs Lionel Trafford.

County Times:  The Garth Gun, one of Britain’s last surviving German trophy guns from the First World War, sits atop Twyn y Garth, overlooking the village of Erwood The Garth Gun, one of Britain’s last surviving German trophy guns from the First World War, sits atop Twyn y Garth, overlooking the village of Erwood

Maybe it’s the writer in him, but Garth’s deep connection to this sleepy part of Mid Wales is somewhat poetic.

“In 1928 my grandpa bought a plot of land from the Canadian government and he was required to clear the land of trees and then farm the land,” said Garth, known back home as the poet laureate of the Blackmud Creek.

“His farm was located beside the village of Erwood. My grandpa has since passed way, but I will always remember him as a man full of love.

“Grandpa Ukrainetz had eight children who then got married and had their own children, and eventually the Erwood area was full of Ukrainetz kids. That is why I have such fond memories of Erwood.

“I had many cousins that were my age and we loved to swim in the river that flows beside Erwood and we played all over the place. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, but my family always went back to Erwood for holidays and visits. Erwood was so much fun and it felt like home.

“To this day I still remember how emotional I felt whenever we left Erwood to go back to Saskatoon. I would cry all the way. I don't know why I was always so intensely emotional when leaving Erwood.

“My mom met my dad in Erwood. They got married and moved to Saskatoon where I was born along with my brothers.”

When he was in elementary (primary) school, Garth vividly remembers a project where pupils were asked to a report on any city or place in the world. And while his classmates concentrated their efforts on glamorous and famous places like New York, London, Paris or Los Angeles, young Garth wrote a report on the tiny village by the river.

“I loved the place so much and wanted to tell people about it,” he added.

Garth and his family spent a year living in the UK in the 1970s, when he was six-years-old, as his father, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Saskatchewan, took a year off to conduct some research with the University of Birmingham.

The family lived in the Bromsgrove area and Garth distinctly remembers making a trip to Powys, including visiting Powis Castle, near Welshpool. Among other things he also remembers a trip to the Lake District, the “land of Wordsworth”, with his mum being a huge poetry fan, and he recalls the Beatles being “really big” at the time and seeing their posters “all over the place”.

It’s as if putting those roots down all those decades ago have kept him tethered to the UK, and Wales and the west Midlands especially. Garth is even a West Bromwich Albion fan.

“On my 55th birthday I wrote a poem in tribute of West Brom in my hometown Edmonton Sun newspaper,” added Garth.

“That was the first time in Canadian history that a poem about a British Football club was published in a major Canadian newspaper. I'm sure 99 per cent of people living in Edmonton had no clue what the poem was about.”


The Garth Gun – by Garth Ukrainetz

There’s a hilltop in Powys

Where the river Wye wanders

Sleepy village of Erwood

You’re the aim of a gun


Solemn prayer for the homeland

Pouring tears, crying sister

Dearest brother, sweet Christopher

In the mud of the Somme


Through the barrel a vision

Barren garden awakens

But the soil remains hardened

Planting seed cannot start


O, the cannon long waiting

For thee Wales, righteous wailing

Turn this sword into plowshare

With the force of thy heart