An old road with pot holes. As numerous as the shell holes on the Somme. Often filled with water. Dockers and coal trimmers Riding Bicycles with a big shovel balancing on their shoulder. Load oaths and grunts With shallow water splashing would some times be heard. Blending in with the grunts of live stock and pigs in the many pig cots. When under influence and the worse for a drop of amber nectar. Often failed to ride and balance a safe path. After a first stop drink session at the Waterloo hotel. One of the first available water holes near the docks. A splashing and tangled of man and machine in puddle. Now this lone Bridge still stands in defiant idleness of use as other new road takes its place. Comet Stores and speeding traffic. Once in use many soldier men trod its back. Off to France a few came home. Many not. Our war weary returned and soon forgot. Only a bridge.
A picture of life in the late thirties.
A bath in front of a living room fire on a Saturday night. The tin bath carried in to the living room brought in to use form its hanging place of a nail on the wall outside or in the coal house.
Bathrooms had been introduced into confines of the main house. These houses built in the early thirties started to give the comfort so desired of the working class. But alas no added luxury of central heating those times. bathrooms were more like being in an ice house than a sauna. In wintertime it was pure luxury of the added pleasure of warm coal fire blazing in the back ground.
On tin Bath Night
The simple addition of more boiling water to prolong the ecstasy. A fire made up with small coal from the river Ebbw. washed down from the valley mining washeries. Which was made up into small round balls. Which hissed when placed on the fire. But What a fire it made. One would listen to the radio. “In Town tonight” The famous catch words of the playing radio program. Once again we stop London’s Traffic to be in Town Tonight.
A scene of times past.
The old corner shop of Morgan’s at Fearing street Newport Gwent. It depicts a scene from time past. Romany knife sharpener did his service round. Kids played at swinging on the lamp post. Maw went to the corner shop to have a yap. The Community spirit of those days revolved around the local Club and Shop. On the book” A popular saying having credit for goods. The knife sharpener. A local man came from local Romany stock. Mr. Vaughan resides somewhere in Caerleon area. The bicycle adapted to drive a grinding wheel on the rear of the bike when peddled. Raised on a stand the rear wheel linked to the abrasive wheel enabling the operator to sharpen the knives on the revolving stone. er. Made from his own idea and inventive mind. And assembled with his own constructive talent. An ability so often found in the Romany people.
The time when every household had a last or was it a lass. And it did not have a skirt on. Father would mend the family shoes. Buy from Woolworth’s the 3d and sixpenny store. A piece of leather
Sprigs to nail on the leather. Sometimes the poorer of families would mend with car tyre rubber. A fine old job it was to cut it. Often one would hear load oaths when the old fellow failed to hit the small nails and hit his protruding thumb. The Nails being held in the lips being hastily discharged in the speed of a spiting cobra. The Mother would make herself absent with out leave departing to the kitchen. Preparing and frying up a bit of bacon and chitterlings to keep him happy. When the job was finished the kids often would be walking like a load of clog dancers with pepper in their drawers. ten foot talk and tap dancing on rubber.
If your old man supped is ale at the Muffler Club. You had your mark and. All the kids went to Barry Island in a Charabanc. A bucket and spade to play with the sand. Mam would go up to buy Barry rock and some chips. We all sat on the sand and thought what a wonderful trip. We made sandcastles galore and had a dip in the sea. Its time to go home when the sun went to sleep. Forever the memory of this wonderful day will remain in our minds it’s memory we keep.
A Glance back to the wash day of past. Laborious boiling, bluing, and then mangle. But not before using the scrubbing board and brush. And slabs of Puritan soap. how different from today flick a switch. Slap a ready a meal in the Microwave oven. Far cry from the stew or scratch meal the woman had to prepare. To feed the old man home from work along with the kids from school. This came after a day of black boiler to stoke. Soap suds and steam. And another thing – Also over her life time. Child bear eight to ten kids. The old man never had a lot out of life and to keep him happy. Bed time meant action on the back.
Arthur Machen was born in Caerleon in a house just opposite the Old Bull Inn. His house is next door to the Priory Hotel from the back he would have seen the great amphitheatre at Caerleon. I’ve walked past his house many times on my way to the Hanbury where another literary giant Tennyson whiled away many a pleasant hour scratching out poems on the back of a beer map – and where there is a window where you can also pass the time over a nice pint. I must also confess to a spent too much time in the Old Bull where from a window you can see directly towards his house. The landscape around Caerleon, the old Roman ruins and its long mediaeval history had a profound impact on him – and appears in many of his works.
He was born on 3 March 1863 so this year is 150th anniversary of his birth which will be celebrated by the Caerleon Arts Society (see link below). I painted this picture many years ago and tried to include many of the aspects of this complex and fascinating man.
Here is a link to the Caerleon Arts Society: Caerleon Arts Society
and to the friends of Arthur Machen : Friends of Machen
Enlisting in the British army after the fruitless attempts to join the merchant navy at Cardiff turned down not of choice but fancy of going to Gravesend sea school not for me. I was at the time full of the spirit of adventure in one’s body or plain bloody stupid as my father said when I signed up.
A day out in town on the pop I was with a friend Bernard Danaher who also worked at the same place of employment as I did. The Arrow fuel works adjacent to the transporter bridge in Newport. I at that time of war earned good pay for my age of seventeen years Basics pay £4.15 plus the bonus.
I worked on the small coal which came ladened in big twenty ton iron monsters – At half penny a ton bonus Both Jim and I an older man. We unloaded by shovel but first would open the catches of the side doors of the wagon and coal and dust descended down into an open grill. To be mixed with the tipped up other coal that came in on two other train track roads Moved into position by the capstan by rope around in coil form of energy. Making it easy to tip this way chain around wheel central underneath axles and hoist up to discharge through the front truck big end door.
Ours hard on the Shovel we both worked to get to the bottom of the smooth floor of steel truck to make an easy slide into small coal.
The day of joining slightly pissed. I had my identity card so easy in for join up Bernard did not have his – lucky him. The office was near the old Argus office in High street Newport near the Doebells pub also near where one day the love of my life worked Lovell’s Cafe and dining rooms. Fate had decreed that one day when in the RA army service we would meet at the Labour Hall. Passing the medical at Cardiff of a day with the colours swear an oath witnessed then all was set for the March the third ‘45 to join the colours at Lanark to undergo the six weeks training.
Night train to Carstairs the day or evening arrived we were on the cold draughty station of our town on a journey that changed our lives for ever. Fate had made its turn again and mates who followed my crazed action to join up with the armed service for king and country one local friend Billy Richards seen off by his father also other parents waved their sons departure off on a cold dark second of March night on that god forsaken lonely platform Newport railway station, blacked out lights of war time. I was alone no one saw me off. We settled in our carriage compartment with overhead dim light bulbs and netting luggage racks and leather straps on windows pictures of seaside towns on each sidewall excitedly we wrote our names on the compartment ceiling. The steam engine puffed its way
Out of that cold drafts swept station that had chilled our young poorly clad bodies. Later on as the year went and leave came and many wind swept blown hair of ye dam loving female of the good bye dolly I must leave you good looking kiss me goodbye tears in eyes and wave as train sped out puff whistle a last sight of a well-dressed costumed girl of a soldiers dream . And every girl a good attractive bird of the female of the species. The path to stars heaven and the future being laid in this attraction. Made for the trot or itchy feet as the tears – goodbyes came harder to endure to leave on time at end of leave pass, anyway it was exciting!
But now the heat of the steam heater under the seats wafted to out cold bodies we felt warm and so excited our new adventure the night was long on the packed train a mixture of service personal Matloes on way to bases up in the cold Scottish north most navy bases of that command/ colour of khaki and blue seemed to dominate the packed train girls and boys kipping in corridors on their feet half stewed with the call of that elusive beauty thing called sleep, onward towards our mystery trip of a life time change for ever “ Castairs Scottish village station” : Night train to Castairs: Steam engine locomotive, puffing steam and smoke that certain aroma of smoke cinder smuts a warming mix with carriage under seat cast iron ribbed steam heater, blending in harmony with clank of carriage wheels against each rail joint of all wheels of each turn this winding towed snake like monster twelve carriage laden dim lit ghost train of our past destiny.
Those days or nights of wartime journeys were in itself an adventure, to observe the numerable and various uniforms of service men of those war time days uniformed packed station. Directed by RTO offices manned by red caps, police of the army. Over the bridge to Crew an iron bridge over the railway tracks, for one had to break ones journeys at Crewe.
Go to the welcomed Sally Ann for a cup of tea or one of the many volunteer tea refreshment water holes so thankful were service personnel for any refreshment, as rationing of foodstuff was in full cry Our youth stood out as I expect we young men about to join up looked bewildered and many offers of cigarettes and directions I myself amazed at sailors with of cigarettes stuffed in their breast pockets gifted us looked after us we were young among these so seasoned men of war time Merchmans convoys who had been through hell. Hardships it brings out the best in one fellow men woman who see us young about to endue war time for the first lime.
The memory and the further train journey of a dark cold night maybe the words of mother rang out in mind as bod froze “you won’t like getting out of bed and soldiering on a frosty morning” full of fear rang out in more ways than one when the frost lay on the ground shouting sergeants scream” pick up your kits line up snarl shout spit an swear” Why did I not listen to Dad and mother stay home and worry the girls of Maesglas. Mother regretted her loss too for I worked and three pounds ten out of her earnings made for harder cash flow. Gordon’s highlands training here we come Day trip to castle martin from Norton barracks Worcester over the wall. Saw Joan then came trotting back with excitement.
Razmak 7.156 feet British Fort 80 miles from Bannu into Tribal territory.
Gun layer “Lofty”
Taken by Victor with Kodak six twenty Brownie. Shutter open. camera on arms shell box.
A sudden flash and loud report Our American Long Tom 7″. 2 heavy gun with a discharge of a 200 lbs. shell of steel to the target of Pathan Tribal village. With its flash Lighting up the dark night Sky. Sniper Pathan Tribesmen returned fire to whence the flash of our firing heavy gun betrayed our position to them. Razmak 7.156 feet above sea level a British out post high up in hostile territory of the North West Frontier. Ralwapindy saw the last of so called civilisation by our standards but even here craftsmen made guns in the Bazaar with a file and their feet. It was then a further journey of some eighty miles from Bannu to Razmak.[The time at Bannu it was to my mind very hot you could fry an egg on the side of the reused air craft crates we were housed in at Bannu].The road having to be opened once a fortnight by the use of infantry going out like a telescopic two columns of heavily armed seasoned troops protecting each side of the road.We journeyed in our transport trucks gasping at the sight of the winding road, the incline and drop to the valleys below.We were soon to learn about Fakir of Ipy and holy wars – The old Fakir moved his gun around the mountains. And we played at snow balling in winter when outside of Razmak clearing a part of the road with our snow plow contraption. Not a day went by without some skirmish be it by patrols of the Gurkers or our gun sometimes shelling on the dusk evening tide.
I had taken many photo shots with my cherished six twenty box brownie which I had bought in Bombay for six chips.(one rupee a chip about 18 old pence).It was not all doom and gloom Christmas day was fun I seem always to have a bottle in view.The meals were a constant repetition of American dried eggs and after six months we all felt the char walla saved our gut with his Char and a wad. Football matches were played often. Len Hancock, who had played for Wolverhampton, being one of the good players.If you were a good snooker player you could be in for long stint on the one of the tables in the canteen.
We listened to the radio one time or someone tuned in to which was radio S.E.A.C.(broadcasting far away in Ceylon. South East Asian Command) Some friend of Josh Spinks(radio commentator) was in our Battery and request was put in for our leader. (Battery Commander): ” The pessimistic character With the crab apple face”The humour of which regrettably sometimes went to the wire!
Salutations was expressed to all our Battery personnel. In those famous words, let us all hope to be home soon. The foot and palm prints of Betty Grable ? and I believe Dorothy Lamour ? were permanently set in recessed image on a slab concrete. We very Young lads who often drooled over anything associated with female scent.
There being no women in Razmak apart from tribal kind on the outside of the wire.
This is above is updated by Auster Pilot George Cox now living in Alberta.
“It is so authentic it is a joy to read and brings back so many memories.’ From July to Sept 1947 I was the Auster pilot in Razmak. I had been sent on a REST! from being General Rees’s pilot in the Punjab,trying to stop some of the ugly mayhem there. Incidentally it wasn’t Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe,Razmak was far too rough for Americans,it was 2 English showgirls visiting with an ENSA company.
Anyhow it gave us a bit of sexual excitement in an otherwise all male environment. Probably the pilot in your time was Donald Murray, poor devil he had been a POW most of the war and ended up behind wire again in Razmak, Talking of Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe,two famous members of 56 Heavy Regt,It was in Beja,Tunisia,in summer 1943 that they first were involved in a very successful 2AGRA pantomime. I was also in 2AGRA but not involved in the pantomime. Spike was of course the instigator of all the riotous happenings,and I have always thought that this was the beginning of such a successful career. If you haven’t read his book “Hitler’s downfall and my part in it” you must. Unfortunately I am now living in Alberta or it would be great to get together,There can’t be many people left who did a stint in Razmak.
Regards George Cox”.
If you fell into tribal hands one would be minus breeding male copulatory organ parts. The bottom toilet block was never used after night fall. The old soldier’s bloodthirsty tales of balls being cut off from the back of the latrine block. Where the cleaning ‘walla’ of the toilets placed behind the toilet an oblong cut out of gallon oil tin container. Into which one discharged one’s body waste. Fear did not exist only the desire to serve out our time and carefully watch ones scrotum breeding male organ parts, when resting ones backside in the toilet block.
And above all you protected your rifle by sleeping on it or cuddling it up at night. Or if out on column chained to your wrist. Indian sepoys lined the wall every ten-foot at night to guard against the infiltration of a very able Pathan warrior. British artillery men, our guard stint done, outside the barbed wire and walled parameter guarding on the Auster spotter plane. And we would also use the position outside the parameter to shell the tribes. The Fort principle was comparable to a Roman type of fort
Tribal fighters often came into our Razmak fort leaving their guns at the gate post. On going back out into their own domain they would Often fire a few rounds at us if the chance presented itself. A sniper round once just missed me and hit the wall nearby. I kept the dented round for many years. With time I wondered if it was aimed at me or just a dream. I also kept a souvenir of a treasured badge of the 1st Gurker rifles. We had a haunted billet and only two of us stayed the course in it. A Sergeant, who shall be nameless, woke up screaming next bed to mine after a brave go at trying to ridicule the whole thing.
There was a bazaar and a little cinema and I did attempt a little part in one of the shows but chickened out. I was too be an Indian squaw and had to whine out “oh! big face Indian Chief?. Please come into my wigwam’.This was wailed out three or four times, getting higher and higher each time.The last high whine sounded like when you’ve had your balls caught in a mangle.Stage set up for the sketch, centre stage is a wigwam and cloak. Then a big thunderous voice of the Sergeant major type boomed out “Don’t be a bloody fool go into her bloody wigwam.” The show or Christmas pantomime was arranged by one talented officer who also used the music of the Eton Boating Song a different lyric. The catchy words we sang out and pranced about the small stage.
I can remember to this day the words: “da de dah– we’re clerks as you can see, — busily engaged on work to help the nation”. While our superiors we never get a cup of tea”. But I was redeployed for being unable to control my laughter.
Gnr Milligan, not Ole Spike, took the part to a tee and remarked listen to Taffy singing. We were not infantry but ‘gentlemen’ of the heavy regiment of Artillery. Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and the older generations who also served in the Heavy regiments would understand about the laugh that we had from this adventure. It is now like a dream for at that time I was only a young squaddie, so much protected by the older, seasoned lads. The only casualties we had were two of our mates being circumcised. And a piece of glass I had taken out from my forehead, from way back when I had blown myself up from making bombs of with carbide. All in all we were probably the last of the British in this fort. I saw Pandit Neru land at Razmak and I have a photo of the event the Indian Artillery had to shell the hills to curtail the sniper fire.
Finally we left for the plains and went through the Kohat Pass on our journey. Those pre-war times were a contraction of various Regiments with eventual them disbanded for ever Many old comrades and I were posted to other Artillery Regiments. I now ended back with 25 pounders Field Artillery The 123 field Regt. Training to perfection on the twenty five pound Gun. On which on taking my gun layers test I passed. With very helpful coaching by Sergeant Crocket and my Northern Friend George Limer. If my memory serves me right we were based at and around Rawapindy or Bannu again. Brothel creeping the area at leisure for amusement. Then the day of impending the anticipated move came the sound shots echoing with the shooting of all camp dogs and packing before our move south.
We dug in our twenty five pound into a sandy soil at some part of Sind Desert more in an exercise in cementing or preparing our new crew together, we were in turmoiled times of those days. Were always ready for action in case of mass uprising. Bound on our journey south was an interesting experience and one stop over was at a place named Jellum. Washed fed and refreshed after our days travel then comes the lovely cool of sunset light. Come the prowl or hunt to a village what seemed to be a wild west type a innocent rectangular compound of veranda buildings. Sitting outside on each was an array of beautiful women dressed in colourful sari’s. Among our path finder group usually there is always one lad who picks up opportunities quick. Its an ore shanty we’ll have um all! But we did not get past the first couple of shanties of beautiful women. Soon exhaustion came the daylight went and the night closed in Deployment in our last action led to the Punjab and the Riots and Gujanwalla patrols with death and destruction Religious hate or cultural difference’s led to Fire bombing and knifing old men. Left dying on a charpoi (bed).
My troop which was Dog troop often being in the thick of it. Being another sad chapter forgotten. We finally handed over to our comrades of the Indian Army who took over our camp. Along with its always hot water showers its water heated by constant sun and only were turned on at sundown supposed to be cold to cool our prickly heat raged bodies after our patrol. You can compare our withdraw from this land like so many before a part of history similar to the Roman great past. Once again I snapped the six twenty brownie camera has I had done on our way through the Kohat pass. I have an album of those photographs still with me. The years of the British involvement went on for two hundred years plus and if one would want further information I suggest reading operations in Warrizstan.
Gunner Victor Morgan. Lance Bombardier Gardener. Guard anon. Gunners Ernie Yates. George Limer. Razmak. N.W.F. [Camera Kodak six twenty box brownie]
In Background 7.2 howitzer. 56 Heavy Regiment
Three Sisters. Outside the wire. goal post. Hanger and strip.
The cold bedroom of those far off times of the roaring thirties. The 1930 house had little or no central heating installed in any houses of the working class of that period. Council dwellings far from it maybe had the added luxury of even an inside bath and toilet. In winter one had to brave the conditions of the comparable Icelandic weather to even bath or sit on throne. And Even the coal fired bedroom grate was only used in time of illness of one of the family. The price of coal to the poorer families being rationed by cost. The one living room fire maintained to heat the hot water for washing and bathing. And on a chilly night overcoat be it railway or army became that extra blanket.