- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Harry, Isobel, Bruce, Eric, Audrey, Ann, Marjorie and Lizzie Griffin.
- Location of story:
- Cwmbran, Monmouthshire/Stonehouse, Gloucestershire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 May 2005
I was born in 1937, at 11 Ventnor Road, Cwmbran, Monmouthshire. The youngest of five children. My two brothers Bruce and Eric were on active service, but thankfully not abroad, my eldest sister Audrey worked at Saunders Valve during the day time and did auxillary nursing of troops at St Woolos Hospital in the evening. My father Harry Griffin, too old for active service, and a lifetime employee of the Great Western Railway, worked in the stone building (now demolished) adjacent to the foyer of Newport’s Railway Station. I remember, to visit, you entered a dark doorway to the left of the building and climbed curving stone steps to his office floor. The office was one huge room, with rows of high desks each accommodating four or five clerks. The walls were lined with pigeonholes, stuffed full of files.
His duties covered all railway transport in and out of Newport Docks. I can remember him saying that the Germans always tried to bomb the docks, but did not succeed because Newport was in a basin, and the bomber planes could not position themselves accurately enough to effectively bomb the docks. They tried on numerous occasions, but as far as I know, never succeeded.
Such was the pressure in those days that he slept in a camp bed at the end of his desk, coming home one weekend a fortnight. The other weekend, my mother and I caught the train from Cwmbran, and visited him. He always kissed us on arrival, then took us to the Great Western Railway Restaurant situated on the central platforms, where he bought us a drink: my mother a sherry, but I cannot remember what he bought me.
Very few homes had telephones in those days, and the only way families communicated was to either write a letter or pay a visit. My father was very fond of a maiden aunt, Auntie Lizzie, who lived in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. Of course he was anxious for her welfare, and decided on one of his free weekends that he, my mother, my sister Ann and I should visit. We travelled by train through Severn Tunnel. He had obviously written as she was expecting us, and had managed somehow from a single persons rations to provide tea for us.
On our return journey, the lights suddenly dimmed and the guard travelled down the plane shouting instructions to lower the blinds, everyone fell silent and looked extremely worried. The German planes were bombing Bristol, and our route through the Severn Tunnel took us near the action. The engine was straining, and the wheels racing over the tracks trying to reach the safety of the tunnel, suddenly we stopped, I could hear the hiss of steam expelling from the engine, and my father told me we were within the safety of the tunnel. It was only two months ago whilst at a family gathering, that my sister Ann could tell me that we did not reach the tunnel, and they had all been extremely anxious that the glow from fire in the engine would attract the bombers.
We were lucky, the bombers had larger targets that night, and we arrived safely back in Cwmbran very late, very tired, but still alive.
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