Archive for the ‘Wartime’ Category

Do you remember the Fullards of Forge Row?

April 13, 2016

I’ve recently received an email from Neil Roberts – published below – whose mother remembers a trip to Pontypool during WWII. If you are able to help him with any information, please make a comment.

Last week we had a glorious short break in Newcastle near Monmouth which reminded my mum of a trip to Pontypool during WWII to stay with the grandparents. All she can remember was that she had a wonderful time and that the row of cottages were built into the hill/mountain and to get to the back garden she had to go up one floor and then out the back door. The toilets and the wash rooms were in a separate block along from the row of cottages and there was a river or canal in the front of the cottages.
Her Grandad’s name was Fullard and he worked in the steel works. She believes it was called Forge Row or something similar. It would be great to get some feedback on this if possible so I could take my mum back there and hopefully show her roughly where it was.
Hoping you or your readers can help us?
Neil Roberts

Pontypool people. Do you recognise any relatives?

May 10, 2015

I’ve recently received some emails from Julia Jones who is the daughter of my wartime schoolfriend, John Paine who is mentioned in some of my posts. Julia has been sorting through some family photographs and has sent some to me for this blog.

One school photo contains a photograph of her uncle Frank Paine when he was in school, probably in Town School, but possibly George Street School. Julia says:

“I have been looking through some old family photos and have come across the following which may be of interest to some of your followers. 
The photo of the school children is I think of George Street School sometime in the latter half of the 1930’s.I have tried to attach the names to some of the faces but the only ones I can be certain of is that of my uncle, Frank Paine, and Margaret Booth Frost.”

Julia says in a second email about the same photo:

“Frank’s date of birth was May 1925, this seems to date the photo more towards the early thirties. I think they started school about four or five years of age. The sign in front says Babes 2. I expect this was the infant class.”

School photo

This could be George St School or Town School.
The names might be too small to read, but from left to right they are:
Frank Paine, Les Haines, Malcolm Durham, Charlie Phillips,
Billy Jones, L.F.Vaisey, Ivor Morgan, Doug Smith, Harold Gardener.
Betty Griffiths, Thelma Haddock, Margaret Booth Frost, Edna Young.
Hazel Jones, Flossie Edwards. Holding sign “Babes 2”.

 Frank 1

Frank Paine as army despatch rider

Mr Pearson & 3 friends

Mr T.B.Pearson (in dark clothes) with three friends and car.
Mrs Paine was Mr Pearson’s housekeeper at “Trosnant” in School Lane.

If you recognise anyone in any of the photos please either email me or make a comment. A lot of visitors to this blog are researching their families so some useful information might arise.

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.

Possible solution to the West Mon sports mystery

July 28, 2014

Thanks to those who have commented on my previous post about the mystery of how the sports teams were selected. I realise that there were first teams and colts. That was also the position when I attended West Mon and it offered a natural progression of talent. My query was about the selection procedure for ANY team; there didn’t seem to be one. In my five years at the school there was not a single announcement about any trials which were to be held and I certainly saw no printed notice to this effect either.

Because of your comments I now think it must have been due to wartime conditions. By the time I arrived at the school the war was well underway and all the younger staff had been called up into the forces. These were replaced by mistresses who would have had no interest in boys’ rugby or cricket teams. The demobilisation of the masters would have started some time towards the end of 1945 and continued through 1946. I remember the return of both Whitty and Mosely who were keen cricketers, both of whom played for the Trevethin Cricket Team.

According to your comments it would have been in the later forties and early fifties that trials for sports teams were held, probably reverting to the process in being in pre-war years.

“We will remember them”

June 6, 2014

I’m writing this on 6th June, the 70th anniversary of D-day. You will, doubtless, have seen on TV the great remembrance events organised on the French coast today. Visitors to this blog who are about my age will not have regarded the events as “history” because we lived through them and remember them so well.

In my memories of Pontypool from 1929 to 1947 I have dealt in some detail with things I remember about the war. I stated when I started this blog that I don’t want it to be my memories only but the memories also of visitors; if you have any memories about the war which you’d like to share please make a comment.

Once again today we heard the verse from Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen”:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

The words are quoted every year at the Armistice Sunday remembrance services all over the country. What you might not know is that they are also quoted at every Toc H branch meeting during the ceremony of “Light”. I have been a member of Toc H for the last 66 years so I must have quoted them many hundreds of times.

But have you read the complete poem? If not you might like to do so now. I’m sure they will remind you of the remembrance events you might have witnessed on TV today.

“For the Fallen

By Laurence Binyon
WITH proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.”

Pontypool woman doctor killed in London bombing

May 17, 2014

I publish below the press report of one of the many bombings in London because one of the victims hailed from Pontypool. It’s possible that some visitors to this blog might have known her or might even be a relative of hers. If so please email me or make a comment with any further details you might have.

London Bomb Victim

“Dr Lesley Maude Campbell Probyn, the woman doctor who was killed in a London air raid shelter in which many other people died, was a native of Pontypool, and daughter of Mrs Probyn, of Camden House, Park Terrace, Pontypool, and of the late Mr Campbell Probyn.

She was also distantly related to Mr E.S.Probyn, the Pontypool magistrate.

A single woman, aged 40, Dr Probyn was educated at the Convent School, Pontypool and at a school in Belgium. She continued her studies at Pontypool College, at London University and at Charing Cross Hospital, London.

She qualified in 1926 and held the degrees M.R.C.S. and L.R.C.P. For some time she held positions at Bermondsey.

She had been engaged on shelter work. It is reported that a heavy bomb hit the shelter and that her body was recovered from the wreckage.”

More news about Panteg Hospital as workhouse and military hospital in WW 1

December 4, 2013

I recently received an email from Liz Randall who lives in Somerset. She had come across the blog post about Panteg Hospital at Panteg Hospital, Pontypool and “Retlas” revealed.

She also told me that she had some photographs of the hospital so I asked permission to use them as another blog post. I publish both email and photographs below.


” My grandparents were Percy and Agnes Randall, Master and Matron of the Pontypool Union Workhouse at Coedrig House, Griffithstown from 1910 to 1925, including the period during the first world war when it was turned over to an auxilliary military hospital for the war wounded. My grandfather committed suicide while in the job at New Year 1925/6, probably the reason my father never talked about the workhouse or his father. Actually, he was hardly there after he reached school-age, having been sent to Warwick to live with his grandfather.

All I know about my grandparents’ time running the workhouse has been gleaned at the county records office, from newspapers which published regular reports of the Board of Guardians’ meetings. 

I would very much like to know more about the time when the institution was an auxiliary military hospital in WW1. I was told the official records no longer exist, so am reliant on other sources.  Do you know of any, please?

 I have a few photos of Griffithstown workhouse which I found in my grandmother’s document box:



1. Pontypool Union Workhouse_Griffithstown_1

1. The kitchen; no date. I guess sometime between 1914-17 because
my father, the dark-suited boy, looks about 8 (he was born in 1907).
My grandmother, Matron, on the left.

2. Pontypool Union Workhouse_Griffithstown_2

2. My aunt Edith Randall aged 4 with ‘Nanny Chamberlain’ in 1923

3. Pontypool Union Workhouse_Griffithstown_3

3. General view of the workhouse with the river in the foreground;
no date, though sometime between 1910 and 1925.

4. Pontypool Union Workhouse_Griffithstown_4

4. Master and Matron, seated, with men dressed for, I guess,
a pierrot show; no date, though sometime between 1910 and 1925.

5. Pontypool Union Workhouse_Griffithstown_5

5. Either dining room or chapel, decorated for Christmas 1912.

 My own guess about picture 5 is that it might have served a dual purpose as both a dining room and a chapel as there is an organ, front left, and a piano, front right. Notice also the poster, bottom centre, “Glory to God in the highest”. The small white notice on the top point of the star says “Menu, Christmas 1912”.

As you will see above, Liz is keen to find out more information about the hospital. If you recognise anyone in the photographs or have any relevant information please make a comment and share it with all the visitors to this blog.

If, for some personal reason, you would prefer to share your information with Liz instead of making a comment then please email me and I will ask permission to give you her email.

West Mon personalities

October 22, 2013

I was recently reminiscing with my friend Eric Smith about some of the personalities who taught us at West Mon in the early 1940s. Two of them we spoke about at length:

Professor Alfred J. Thompson of Bristol was blind from birth and came to teach at West Mon about 1943. He was always accompanied by his wife who had to guide him everywhere. As the piano was on the hall stage, that’s where we had our music lessons with him. I remember being totally amazed the first time I saw him play the piano. I was learning the instrument at that time. He just placed his hands on the keyboard to find the keys and then he just played effortlessly and, of course, from memory. Later he wrote the school song which is featured elsewhere on this blog. Music lessons with “Toot” Steven had always been rather irregular and perfunctory but with Professor Thompson we really got down to it.

He lived just a few doors down from Park Terrace Methodist Church and held music appreciation classes at his home. Eric attended these and Professor Thompson gave him 40 records and a walnut record cabinet.


Miss Orella Jones was the glamour mistress at West Mon. As teenage boys we had an eye for this sort of thing and frequently talked about our mistresses’ qualities in a way which had little relation to their teaching abilities. Gilbert Garnett was frequently seen talking and laughing with Orella. I also remember Jehoida Brown – a prefect when I started at the school – when he visited the school in his army uniform earnestly chatting to her in the school hall. I suppose he would have only been about six years younger than Orella. She was leaning against the wall and Jehoida stood a couple of feet to the side with his hand leaning on the wall about a foot from the side of her head. I remember wondering what this cosy little tête-à-tête might have been about.

Orella was engaged to Tom Churchill who took me for French in Six Arts (written about earlier in this blog). Unfortunately he died quite young and Orella transferred to the Girls’ County School. Eric told me that she never married which I found quite surprising.


If any visitor has any recollections or photographs of either of these two members of West Mon’s staff I should be pleased to hear from them.

Pontypool personalities – the Pearce brothers

January 20, 2013


I’ve had a number of emails from visitors to this blog who have discovered information and pictures about their family. A lot of people these days are scouring the internet looking for such information and many have discovered this blog quite by accident when engaged in this activity.

The Pearce brothers were well known and active in the Pontypool area over 70 years ago so I am publishing below an article about them which appeared in the Weekly Argus of 26th July 1941.


 5 bros enhanced

“Five Pontypool brothers known in South Wales athletic circles as “The Pearce Brothers”, are serving in the Home Guard. They stick by each other in all they do.

“They were all educated at the same school, work in the same colliery and live within a radius of half a mile of Upper Race, Pontypool. They are seldom separated by any great distance, go about together and find brotherly tolerance second nature to them.

“Known to many as “The Inseparables”, John, Will, James, George and Bert Pearce are the sons of Mr and Mrs R. Pearce of Race House, Pontypool. Their ages range from 24 to 36. Before they went to work underground at Glyntillery Colliery they were educated at Pontymoel School.

“James, the third brother, who ran for Wales in the 1938 cross country championship in Ireland, told a South Wales Argus reporter other interesting facts. The brothers all work the day shift in the colliery where they are employed as miners, and when they hew the coal out of the mine they are never separated by more than three-quarters of a mile.

“‘We all decided to join the Home Guard soon after it was formed,’ he said. ‘We are in the same company. Until recently we performed our duties together and did our training at the same time as each other.’


“‘Before the war we started running to train for football. Then we formed the Upper Race Athletic Club and the five of us with Reg (another brother serving in the RASC and reported missing from April 28th) competed at many athletic meetings. Two years ago Bert won the Argus Road Walk. Last year he won the mile in the Pontypool Hospital Carnival Sports. We are always together. Christmas mornings we celebrate in each other’s company.’

“Eldest brother is John aged 36. He was 31 before he took up running. At Newport he won two non-harriers events. He is also a pigeon fancier.

“Will, aged 34, is secretary of the Upper Race Pigeon Club. James, 32 lives with his parents. George 28 likes to be known as ‘just one of the crowd’. Bert is 24 and has won many racing events in the Eastern Valley.

“Mrs Pearce is proud of her sons. ‘They never have a cross word’, she says.



Pontypool pets during wartime

October 18, 2012


A.R.P. or Air Raid Precautions was a term known to everybody during the war. I remember an issue of  Wills’s cigarette cards which dealt with the subject. There were also a number of small booklets which dealt with various aspects of A.R.P. such as how to operate a strirrup pump to deal with small fires and so on.

Air Raid Precautions cigarette cards

But there is one little booklet that is not so well known and that was the one telling us what we should do with our pets and other animals during an emergency. It advised that dogs should be muzzled when they were in a domestic shelter as they might become frenzied at the noise of bombs exploding and the sound of anti-aircraft gunfire. It was made clear that neither dogs nor cats would be allowed in a public shelter. I was reminded of the effect of explosions on dogs some years ago when we had a collie bitch. During the evening of Guy Fawkes night she would try to get up on our laps; she hated the noise.

We were surprisingly informed in the booklet that horses and cows would not be affected by tear gas because their eyes are less sensitive that ours.

If you were driving a horse at the time of an air raid – and horses were in common use during that time as I have mentioned in previous blog posts – you were advised to unharness the horse and tie him to a post in an open space.

Sir John Anderson and his assistants were responsible for the compilation of this booklet and they were thanked for their careful consideration of domestic animals. British people then, as now, loved their animals which were considered an indispensable part of society. Sir John was best known for his services in the Cabinet during World War II where he was known as “The Home Front Prime Minister”. The famous Anderson Shelters were named after him.

An Anderson Shelter

Approximately one quarter of the population were supplied with the necessary corrugated iron sheets to build an Anderson Shelter, usually in their back gardens. Places which were considered reasonably safe from German bombs, such as Pontypool, were not supplied with such shelters whereas places like Newport, were.