- Contributed by
- Chepstow Drill Hall
- People in story:
- Cedric Tilley-Chepstow Memories
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by volunteer from The Chepstow Society on behalf of Cedric Tilley and has been added to the site with his permission. Cedric Tilley fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
(Brought up with Grandparents)
Joined Fairfield Ship Yard as an Apprentice, aged 14, in 1939.
Land Girls were billeted in hostels at Llanishen and Mount Ballan. They worked at most farms in and around Chepstow.
Chepstow Cricket Ground at High Beech was ploughed up to plant potatoes as part of “Dig for Victory”. It was never replaced.
The Cattle market was held each Tuesday. Drinking hours were extended on that day.
Chepstow Agricultural show was held at the Wyelands.
St Lawrence Hospital was built as a Military Hospital to accommodate Prisoners of War. Prisoners of War were housed at Bulwark and Sedbury in the old huts.
The Race Course was used as Army Training Camps for the British Army; London Scottish, Welsh Regiment, R.E.M and later the American Black and White Infantry.
Piercefield House was bombarded with grenades, etc. by the American Army.
A.R.P. Officers and Messengers were stationed at the Police Station. Two Messengers slept at the Station. When the Sirens sounded the Messengers rode their bikes to the Police Station and then rode out to alert other volunteers. Two motor bikes were available for the Messengers. Instruction was given on rough riding courses at Grey Hill and Pontypool Farm. The motorbikes were useful at weekends. They were used for trips up to The Travellers Rest at Sling for a pint and a chat. Three people were ferried up two at a time on each bike in daylight. For the return journey home it meant three riding on the one motorbike!
Boys and girls were evacuated from a school at West Ham in London and were billeted with families in Garden City. They attended Larkfield School. Being good dancers they taught the Garden City children to dance.
The Public hall was the main place for entertainment. Dances were held on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. There were Concerts, Amateur Dramatics and Boxing Tournaments.
Fairfield Ship Yard was used to assemble Tank Landing Craft. Prefabricated sectioned were received from Yards in the North of the Country. The first Craft built was launched on November 11th in 1942 or 1943. A large poppy was attached to the mast. Launching time arrived but the craft was unable to be launched due to frozen tallow (grease) on the slipway although men and a crane tried. The following day the tallow was defrosted, the angle of the slipway was increased and the Craft was launched. The target was to launch one Craft every two weeks and overtime was frequently employed to meet this target. The workmen worked a seven day week with time off on Saturday afternoon if you were picked to play for the Fairfield football team. The working day was from 7am to 5pm but 7pm was the norm and sometimes later. Also made at the Yard were lock gates, pontoons, floating cranes and under-table steel shelters.
Boys camping in Bighams field near the present Dell School had a near miss when a bomb fell at Ditch Wood just below the camp. Fortunately the boys were at the Police Station for A.R.P. duties. Following the All Clear they returned to find the tent intact but surrounded by debris.
Chepstow Football Ground (St Mary’s) was fenced off and taken over by Dinham factory for the storage of T.N.T? The Fairfield Football team home ground was at Aylburton. They played in the Forest of Dean League.
Dances at the Public Hall were attended by the locals and the Americans. Many fights took place but the Military Police were on duty with a jeep and machine gun situated in Welsh Street to control the soldiers. During the fights the girls collected at the raised end of the hall away from the action!
Heats for dancing competitions were held at the local village halls. The final was held at the Public Hall during the annual Hospital Ball. A marquee was erected outside to include a Bar and Refreshments, etc.
A notorious cafe owned by Ma Vaughan was in Bank Street. No entry was allowed after 10pm and the cafe was open until 12 midnight. American forces and civilians were always fighting with many an upturned table thrown. The cafe served good-value food.
The river bank was the location for Studd’s fair which included Scarrot’s Boxing Booth and the usual fun fair attractions. Contestant in the boxing ring could win a money prize if they survived for three rounds. There were not many winners.
A Welfare Centre at Caerwent housed the Irish labourers who built Dinham. The Centre had a Dance Hall, Billiard table, Table Tennis, Bar and Refreshments . Buses were provided to transport workers from Chepstow to Dinham to manufacture munitions.
Chepstow Tennis Club was at St Maur’s in Welsh Street. The British Legion at Garden City had three tennis courts, two grass and one hard court, and a bowling green. It was an excellent complex.
Home Guard Headquarters were at the Drill Hall, Fairfield and High Street. The Fairfield Group guarded the foot bridge and the tubular bridge. Ack Ack and shooting was at Caldicot Rifle Range. The Home Guard was preceded by the Local Defence Volunteers (L.D.V.) who wore an arm band for identification.
St Lawrence Hospital housed Italian Prisoners of War. Emmi and Don worked on Jimmy Jones’s farm at Kingsmark. Both stayed in Chepstow after the war and married local girls. British troops, R.E.M.C, tended the sick while the Pioneer Corps looked after the prisoners. Fairfield Soccer Team played a team from the St Lawrence Hospital Staff.
Sedbury Park was a Golf Course.
Fairfield Soccer Team were transported to matches in a blue-and-white bus. Eight boys went to Monmouth after the match. They went drinking and dancing and then had a taxi back to Chepstow each paying 2s/6p. This happened on many occasions.
Choir boys were paid every 3 months. After being paid they went into Scarrot’s Fish and Chip shop where the First Hurdle is now. The first boys in loosened the tops of the salt and vinegar pots so customers received rather a lot of salt and vinegar!
Dendix was founded by Dennis Dixon who bought the property at the bottom of St Mary’s Street and Nelson Street, until recently the Lydney and Chepstow Trading Co. premises, and started trading from there.
The Gaumont cinema used to show three films a week with a children’s programme on a Saturday morning
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