Archive for August, 2014

The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war

August 20, 2014

I recently received the following email from Craig Smith:

“I was doing some research on a story about German POWs (written for Wikipedia) and was trawling local newspapers for information about the first German bomber to be brought down in the UK (in Newport no less) during WW2. Anyway, whilst searching I came across this request in the South Wales Argus from last year.

I’ve heard about the black GIs stationed in the Pontypool area but haven’t seen anything more definitive written about it. Wonder if it’s something you could blog about and see if it generates any interest.”

I followed the live link to the Argus article and read the following:”

 

“AN American journalist, is seeking help from people in Pontypool to build up a picture of the forgotten black American soldiers based in Torfaen in the 1940s.

Linda Hervieux, a journalist based in Paris, is writing a book about a forgotten unit of black American soldiers.
This unit spent a several months in Pontypool and the surrounding area in late 1943 and early 1944.
She began her search after one member of the unit received the Legion d’Honneur medal in France in 2009.
After this, the journalist began trying to find survivors and tracking their journey from the United States to Britain and then on to France.

She explained that these men were heavily involved in the D-Day landings, raising the barrage balloons in a protective curtain over Omaha and Utah beaches, while their medics saved scores of dying men.
But before they boarded ships and headed off to war, they spent a few happy months in and around the Pontypool area.

She said: ‘Local people welcomed them with open arms, often inviting the men to their homes.
‘Girls danced with them at the Palais de Danse on Main Street, [this should read “Crane Street”] and the GIs raised pints in the pubs alongside local men.

‘Many of the Welshmen sympathised with the black soldiers, who were treated as second-class citizens by the white American soldiers, who often abused them.

To the black soldiers, the warm welcome they received from the people of Pontypool, Abersychan, New Camp Inn, Griffithstown and other towns and villages was a revelation. . .

. . . They arrived in Wales not knowing what to expect, and to their surprise and delight they got a memorably warm reception.”

They did indeed receive a very warm reception and their colour made no difference to the people of Pontypool and they were welcomed into people’s homes.

I remember these soldiers very well indeed. As I walked along Wainfelin Road to West Mon twice a day I saw them visiting some small houses almost opposite St Alban’s church and hall, especially in the evening when I believe dances were held in the hall. There was a large yard area just in front of the houses. On one occasion when I was coming home from Boys’ Brigade with Captain Hamer, who lived in Wainfelin Avenue, quite near to School Lane, there were a dozen or so black American soldiers sitting on the wall in front of the houses chatting to some young women who were joining in the chat with some enthusiasm and giggling. Captain Hamer remarked in a very confidential tone: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some black babies around here in the near future; and he was absolutely right. However, this is not to detract from the genuine warm reception given to all ranks and colours in the American Army by both the men and women of Pontypool.

If any visitor remembers these American soldiers in Pontypool, please feel free to make a comment.

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Photographs of Tirpentwys Colliery

August 16, 2014

A number of visitors have expressed an interest in Tirpentwys Colliery. I’ve received from Dot Jones some photographs of it which are published below.

The first coal extracted from Tirpentwys Colliery was in 1894. A tragic accident occurred there in 1902 when eight men and boys were killed when a winding rope broke and the cage plunged to the bottom of the shaft.

When I lived in School Lane our next door neighbour worked at the colliery. His name was George Bright and he had a wife named Clarice. Some visitors might remember him.

TirpentwysColliery

TirpentwysColliery3

TirpentwysColliery2

 

 

Photograph of original pre-war Folly Tower and visit by King Edward VII to Penygarn

August 12, 2014

Some younger visitors might not have seen a photograph of the original Folly Tower. Dot Jones sent in this shot of the tower with Dot and her friend Doreen standing just outside the doorway.

Dot&Doreen The Folly118

You can clearly see some serious cracks in the stonework above the door.

When the flower Show was held in Pontypool Market there were other competitions apart from the flowers. One was a drawing competition depicting the Folly. My brother, Garth, who was very good at art, entered a very good pencil drawing and won first prize in that section of the show.

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Dot has also sent in a photograph of King Edward taken when he visited Pontypool in 1937. The lady waving her arms is Lyn’s mother and the man in the trilby is his father.

King Edward065

Elsewhere on this blog I have described the day when I was in Town School Infants and we all marched to the bottom of Penygarn Hill to wave our flags at the King.

Famous Pontypool people/ Robin Hood pub

August 7, 2014

I recently received an interesting email from Dot Jones who has a lot of memories of Pontypool, its places and its people. She has no objection to my using parts of her letter for a posting on this blog so here goes:

“I’ve only just stumbled across your web site and oh, what a find. My husband and I have only sampled a few of the items but look forward to reading them all in due course.  I don’t want to bore you with the following but just want to give you some background information regarding us and maybe you can use some of the comments.

I am 82 and my husband (Lyn Jones) is 85.  I (Dorothy Dobbs)  was born in Goytre and he was born in King Street, Pontypool.  At the age of 17 he joined the RAFfor 10 years,  after attending Abersychan Tech and working at Winsor’s Garage.  His father died in 1989 at the age of 92 and his mother the same year aged 89.  My mother (Sarah Webb) was born in Cwmffrwdoer and was a Maid to Jeremiah’s who kept the “Horseshoe” Pub in Pontnewynydd.  When they retired to Goytre they took my Mother with them and that is when she met my father.

Famous Persons from Pontypool – We can remember  Lyn’s parents talking about the film star, Ray Milland.  They used to go dancing at a place called “The Duck” and Reg Jones (as he was known then) would also be there. His nickname was “The Rajah”.  This place was situated at the top of Trosnant somewhere behind the Clarence Hotel. Although he was born in Neath he came to live in Pontypool and   worked in the Steel Works.  His house is no longer there but it was on the left hand side at Pontymoile.  He  joined the Household Cavalry and in later years when he was a film star he regularly visited his Aunt who lived in Prince Street. Apparently he took the surname Milland,  which referred to him working in the Mill.

Dame Gwyneth Jones (Opera Singer) who I believe now lives in Switzerland.

Robin Hood Pub – I have a photograph taken I think in the 60’s, outside the “Robin Hood” Pub which I will attach to this email. From left to right – my husband (Lyn Jones) myself (Dot Jones), ?  ?  (don’t know who these were) , Landlord (I believe), Jean Collins, Landlady (I believe), Val Cross and Betty Thomas.

RobinHoodPub060

 
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs – My husband remembers his cousin was one of the Seven Dwarfs (Peter Davies from Newport) but can’t pick his cousin out from the photograph but remembers him saying at the time – “I’m going to be a drawf”.  He lost touch with his cousin some years ago.

The “Palais” – We used to go there occasionally in the 40’s when the big bands like Ted Heath, Ray Ellington, Cyril Stapleton etc. visited but we “Goytre girls” used to go to St. Alban’s every Saturday night and that is where 4 of us met our husbands, all from Pontypool.  Myself married Lyn Jones, my sister Joan Dobbs married Ben Wilding (ex West Mon), Thea Merrick married Bill Richards (ex West Mon.) and Brenda Merrick married Mac Harris (ex West Mon.).  At the time Joan worked in Chalmer’s Chemist on the Clarence and Brenda worked in the Millinery Department in Fowler’s.

Cafes – Two of the Cafe’s we used to frequent were Gus Pelopida’s on the Clarence and Fulgoni’s in the main street.”

I expect a number of regular visitors will remember some of the people and places mentioned by Dot. Please make any relevant comments you have or email me with extra details.