Army Days – Vic Joins the Army in ’45

Army days

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.

Gasmask being fitted

Getting your gas mask fitted

Gas mask on the kids and grown ups fitting went on in schools and church halls until we all had these square cases with a smell of rubber and funny little nozzle on the front to let out the air. We all took it in good humour and little did we imagine at that period in time although many of us young children so innocent of war. A time would come for us to be old enough too march away. The change of the world we knew would be gone forever, Similar to the falling leaves of each summer. And fading light of each days end. Come the dawn of a new era. Priced for many with the sacrifice of life and one’s youth. It made men from boys in very short time. Freed girls to women and changed their lives to be equal among men to take a valued part in wartime Britain.

A wind swept day and dull overcast skies.

A wind swept day and dull overcast skies.

Barrage Balloon Caught Up

The Elements of weather become an extra enemy in the expectation of impending air attack on near by Newport docks. In desperate futile effort to control the ever Jonah and the whale similarity defence barrage balloon. High tension power lines act in unison with high wind and destroys the effort of men and women of the air force balloon defence regiment. The depicted scene above is now altered. Road and buildings now grace this sky line of past scenic view. Long gone are the Pill Loco sheds and the spider web of railway lines that went over the bridge depicted carrying a train load of American Tobacco in their round crates. This bridge was a vital transport exit from the ships bringing in supplies to our country at war.

Unloaded from the berthed ships at the south quay and transported by tank engines puffin clouds of steam in unison and effort with a struggling country at war. Over the swing bridge and up the fourth road. Past the work place of NUMBER THREE CROSS OVER. A tall four story building The work place where the author worked when a boy on the telephone system and would dial signal box depicted which was FOUR TWO. message train now coming up the fourth road. Puffing like hell and tooting loaded with weapons of war. The Author his father often would drive his engine and train with loaded goods past and toot the hooter in carnival merriment. These were the days of troubled times of war news and men were cheerful at work never the less. We stood together united. Only one span is now remaining of its three spans of this bridge of sighs heavily guarded in war time by both our own troops and American. Vital rails link and target no doubt. And beneath the bridge in minds of courting young couples a memory will remain of days or nights that used to be. That maybe many of you were conceived.

A Day on the way to work place via he old road Maesglas. circa 1940

Heinkel Air Craft Crash Newport

A German Luftwaffe Heinkel Taken part in a attack on this Country.

Heinkel Air Craft Crash

This is a moment in time of a German aircraft of the Second World War. Returning to its base after a raid on a Liverpool.and damaged in the action struggling to reach its base. The Crew has moments to live along with the two Children in the house it would crash upon. The plane hit the Barrage balloon cable. The balloon site at Tredegar Park Newport. These sites were a vital part of the defence system to protect industry and Principal Town’s. The Heinkel struck the cable of the balloon and it catapulted the one-crew member through the front of the damaged fuselage window.

He parachuted to safety and came down near the British Legion off Cardiff Road. A local constable took him in to custody. Less fortunate were the other members of the crew they perished in the crash. Crashing onto an house in Stow Park Avenue Newport. Sadly sharing the appointment with death with brave young 18 year old Robin Phillips. Who screamed at his parents to get out quick and saw his parents to safety? Then went to look for his 15-year-old sister Myrtle.Robin fell into what had become a raging inferno at the rear of the house and died instantly. Perishing with his young sister. Later after the darkness had gone and the morning light the author went with friends to the site of the crash – Smoking smouldering wreckage of the plane. Rescue units were carrying mangled parts and pieces of the wrecked aircraft and dumping in a pile on the road outside the house. Mog a young lad aged thirteen innocent of the tragedy. Eager for souvenir tore off a piece of the German aircraft. Some person offered half a crown for the piece of plane. It was Rejected mog went to look at a parachute wet and burnt in the pile. Lifting up the white silk. Mog Saw what may have been a hand or just water soaked leather glove among the debris. Shocked and awakened by this gruesome sight. Turned and went away from the crash scene.
Workmen bringing further debris.

Moved every sight seeing young and old onlookers away from area of tragic burning wreckage. The airman Harry Wappler who survived the crash later escaped and lived to see the end of the war. Harry Wappler.died 1985 aged 76. His wife Son and daughter visit the town and crash site.

Frau Wappler

The 60th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated from Normandy to Newport on June 6th. In Newport the day brought back memories for war veteran Harry Polloway. The war was brought brutally home to him on September 13th 1940. When a German plane crash-landed on his friend’s house in Stow Park Avenue Newport Monmouthshire. Killing his friend and friends Sister.

Recounted that he had arrived on the scene of the plane crash not long after and Robin had brought out to safety his parents also the dog. The house already in a blaze of a fierce fire. Brave Robin went back into the house to rescue his sister followed by the dog both were killed in the blaze. Harry had a wall fall on him and was injured unable to help afterwards.

Fire Bomb Hit

Home of Mar Davies – Incendiary Bombed.

Fire Bomb Hit at Ma Davies

Direct hit on house at 110 Maesglas Avenue Newport Mon. Mrs Davies. Depicted in painting was rescued from the flames. Brought out from the house by volunteer local Men in the A.R.P. Many Men from the Maesglas Area trained to become fire fighters and rescue workers in those war time years. This night in Question of the attack on what was a residential area. Maesglas=”[Greenfield]”Nick Name “MOSCOW” for its left views of red flag flying high. The incendiary bombs were scattered over a this area of the estate. Though we were just children at the age of thirteen and fourteen. In an eagerness to take part and be considered an help – Would accompany the neighbour on duty patrol of fire watching in the area.

The night in Question of the incendiary attack.The men of the A.R.P. had done a good and effective job at containment of the bright burning incendiaries by swiftly dab a bag of sand on the offending bright light that would know doubt be a possible guiding light for the droning aircraft above. Possibly we were more of an hindrance in our innocence of youth and inquisitiveness to see the bombs burning brightly when one lifted a sandbag. This inquisitiveness not only took the young Often elder people would flock to observe bomb damaged buildings and would go out watching the planes caught in the searchlight and the shell bursts and shrapnel flying and whining every where.

This attack by the German Luftwaffe was their part in effort to demoralise the British spirit before the final attack of the German forces on this Country. Far from it even though short of food and night attacks with lack of sleep. One often would hear of some town in the country having a harder time. We were so cemented together in our unity of the defeat of our then foe. A nation of British we stood together.

Rosey Entertains the Terriers

Rosey Entertains the Troops

Rosy entertains the Terriers off to France. Many thousands of these men would never return our Island shores again. A story of the Second World War seen through the eyes of the artist and author of this page. The outbreak of the second world war. Men and Machines day and night went down this Avenue of this depicted scene of times past. Our young men of that generation of this County. A united Country so rich past Sacrifice to help other people in all parts of this world. Those Men who became Service men who originated from the various regions of this country. Serving with the various regiments of the British Army Famous names as the Oxford and Bucks the Royal Engineers. Royal Artillery and many more numerous named Regiments.

The shining brass cap and shoulder badges. Soon became a new collecting craze of the school boy youngsters. Eventually these men ended up on the Beaches of Dunkirk in one of the biggest evacuation feat of the war. Snatching from the German forces a victory. Which could have been nearly a total defeat for our forces.In a patient ever ending line of patient waiting men in a wave swept beaches wading to the limits of a mans height in salt water.Boarding the awaiting small ships the withdraw to this island to live and fight again. Many small boats from the Usk made the trip to bring back the soldiers.

One small boat that had made the rescue mission was moored for many years in the river, Not far from the St Julian hotel. Its owner and skipper lived in one of the adjacent houses on the riverbank.
We now owe so much to these generations.

The depicted scene.

Mrs Rosy Cueto who entertained the Troops. Dressed in the attire of a Scottish Islander. Only the Sporran was a rampant humming stinking salt fish.Smelling like a fish market on a Monday morning after a hot week end or something that had crawled up a rats backside and died. With a pair of old shoes.Welsh Humour at its best in time of war. Free gifts of Cigarettes and chocolate etc were given to the marching men. All from the proceeds by the collection of pennies from the Maesglas area neighbours of Avenue. These local part time soldiers were at summer training Camp with the Territorial Army. Wives and girl friends of many of these men were surprised by the sudden appearance or a shock of seeing their Husband or boy friend in the ranks of the marching soldiers. Who were thought to be safe at annual training Summer Camp. Now in full FSMO Marching away down to the Docks then transported off to France by the waiting ships. Many men had been lived in the local area.

A gasp of surprise of many a young wife or girl friend could be heard. Elements of our Younger generation among the crowd did not understand the tears and anguish of those with their loved ones that were among the ranks of soldiers we could see marching away. Little did we realise our lives would be changed forever as these events unfolded. Soon would come the time for many of the now staring youngsters to be marched away in the not too distant future of this Second World War. The Cousin of the author is among those who marched away. Fought in the rear Guard action By the Royal Engineers. Demolition to delay the advance of the German Army was then taken Prisoner of war. Spending the rest of the Four war years in Stalag luft 3. Bert Palfrey later married Miss Hathaway of the Avenue who waited is return Home. Believed the that the Muffler Club could add a sequel to this as a lot of time was spent being Chairman I believe. Never will generations ever return to those days of pre war innocence we enjoyed in our lives. Those simple street games of engagement like mob or kick the tin. Or the skipping rope with mums having a skip with skirts a flying high. Laughing While randy men look on!

A Simple War Hero

One of those many men who marched away through Maesglas.

OT Jones in Camp
Cutting South Wales Argus
Cutting South Wales Argus
Cutting South Wales Argus

We had been sent up into Belgium But were rushed back down into the Cambria to blow up bridges so as to slow the Germans down. The Germans found me and some others in a ditch but they had taken so many prisoners they couldn’t look after us all the minute their backs where turned we absconded.

O.T. JONES Of old Raglan Street. who led the Germans quite a dance

Cutting South Wales Argus
OT Jones

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