- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Gordon Denis
- Location of story:
- Gowerton, Swansea
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 June 2004
573 Squadren Air Training Corps 1943-44
As members of the Boys’ Grammar School Air Training Corps in Gowerton, we members of Flight 573 gathered in the Talbot Street building for our weekly training sessions on a Wednesday. We usually assembled (or got ‘fell in’) in three ranks on the east-side playground facing the caretaker’s house, and till about 7 pm. we performed various marching manoeuvres, or ‘square bashing’; to the command of various Home Guard old soldiers such as Sergeant Tom Peebles (local butcher). Watching over these activities from time to time would be the 573C, officer Flight Lieutenant T.J. James and his second in command Pilot Officer G. Mekin Cope member of the school teaching staff. We would be dismissed almost in darkness and we then went indoors for various instruction classes, namely Morse Code and Semaphore Signalling under the direction of Jack Bevan of Cecil Road; dismantling and reassembling a Lewis machine gun, Aircraft recognition, Wireless instruction, and some air navigation techniques. With frequent change-overs these classes usually went on till 9 pm.
At about 8 pm on that February evening with its full moon the order came from the Commanding Officer that a police warning had been received warning the Swan sea area of an impending air-raid of some magnitude. To the accompaniment of the wailing Air Raid Warning Sirens we ran out of the school grounds; about 40 Cadets going in different directions. My friend Bernard and
I went down Talbot Street, Church Sstreet and Mill Street towards the Baldwin’s Bridge and Gowerton Common, Victoria Road to Gorseinon. As we jogged towards Kingsbridge we became more aware of sweeping search lights and the noise of enemy bombers above us. These aeroplanes had tracks from Loughor River, over Loughor, Kingsbridge and Waunarlwydd with Cocket to bomb the built up area of the Town Centre and Swansea Docks.
I remember vividly the yellowy full moon over what is today the Penlan area, undeveloped then; large flares floating over the Fforestfach area a garden of twinkling incendiary bombs. Behind these I could discern a back cloth of reddish haze as buildings began to blaze. And to this day in 2003, whenever I see an evening full moon the 1941 scenario comes back.
When I had run as far as the Kingsbridge end of Victoria Road, where we have had Neylands post-war garages, the sweeping searchlights caught, momentarily, an enemy plane in its beam, and seemed to lose it quickly. That was my first sighting of the enemy and it unnerved me for a few minutes.
There were many people out along West Street, having been sent out from the Lido Cinema early. We were all gazing at Townhill and Fforestfach as though the Borough Council had organised a Fireworks Display.
The ‘all-clear’ siren sounded soon after midnight on the Thursday.
The moon, seemingly smaller, but higher over Swansea shone on -only to reappear on the Thursday night and Friday night to await the German bombers to complete the Three Nights Blitz which reduced most of the shopping centre around Ben Evans Stores and St. Mary’s Church to a mass of bricks, stones, slates and hidden unexploded High Explosive Bombs.
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