- Contributed by
- Bournemouth Libraries
- People in story:
- Walsh family of Cyncoed
- Location of story:
- Cardiff, S. Wales
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 May 2004
In July, 1939 my father's work meant our leaving London to go and live in South Wales. So with friends we piled into two cars and drove up the Western Avenue to the highest mining town in the Welsh valleys - Brynmawr - and looked for lodgings while my father went in search of an unfurnished house to rent in Cardiff. On the day war was declared I was with my mother and younger brother in a policeman's house in Tredegar. as my mother wept when she heard Neville Chamberlain's famous speech. (Lily had been a child in the 1st World War and knew only to well what was in store.) After various other lodgings which included a few week's at the village school in Crickhowell, our furniture arrived from London and we were able, some time in October, 1939, to move in. The big problem was putting up the blackout and as my father was out at work all day it meant taking advantage of the remaining evening daylight to get the work done after the necessary materials had been purchased. He made roller blinds out of black laminated material and it was always a race to complete them before our earnest Air Raid Warden (a Norwegian manager of a Cardiff shipping company) came along to complain that light was filtering out from one of the windows. As an 11 yr. old girl I was haunted by visions of my father being taken off to jail for letting a chink of light help the German bombers who were already flying over the Cardiff docks.
The residents of our rather smart street (we had ended up in a new 4-bedroom semi detached house in a Cardiff suburb next to the entrance of the Cardiff Golf Club) decided to build their own communal underground shelter in the car park of the Club and we spent many nights in the shelter when the air raid sirens went off. There were benches but I do not remember any bunks but there was a chemical lavatory. Presumably on most nights we were carried the few hundred yards back to our home and bed as I do not remember ever returning from the shelter. As with other families our beds were removed from the first floor rooms and my little brother had the safest one under the stairs adjacent to the sand-bagged porch and front door and my father rigged up a wall folding bed in the inner halll next to the grandmother clock for me. I have always found it hard to sleep next to a ticking and striking clock ever since.
The next event I remember was brought back to me two years ago when the Red Arrows did their aerobatics display on the sea-front. Standing near my present residence at Branksome Chine their near misses reminded me of the time a trainee pilot dive bombed -either by good fortune or design - on the golf course and perished in a deep crater. After the aircraft remains and body had been taken away we children rushed out to see the crater and on the edge I discovered part of the pilot's gogggle and his blue eyeball attached to it. The awful discovery had been buried in my memory until I saw the Red Arrows performing and most of the crowd totally unaware of the riks and imminence of such accidents.
On another occasion when we had abandoned the communal shelter and the rest of the family remained at night downstairs. A land-mine exploded on the golf course and blew out our windows furthest away from it. Because of the blackout we dared not revue the damage. I had already abandoned my hall bed and went back to my upstairs bedroom unable to put on any lights because we knew the blackout would be ineffective. In the morning I woke up in a dust covered bed as the inner bedroom ceiling had collapsed.
My last war-time memory was of VE Day and our neighbours walking arm-in-arm along our street (Sherborne Avenue) singing the Zeigfreid Line and mistakenly thinking that the hardships and terrible stories coming out of Western Europe were over. But at last the dreaded blackout was lifted and we
could go out at night in the still dimly lit streets without being afraid to be arresteed when we shone a torch.
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