- Contributed by
- Location of story:
- South West Wales
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 August 2004
In august 1943, I was a mere 8 months old, so I remember nothing of WW2. However, my half brother who was about 40 years older was at the time the licensee of the Wiseman’s Bridge Inn, Permbrokeshire. In his old age, he used to tell me of his wartime memories and particularly about the day that Winston Churchill called in for a pt of tea.
The preparation for D-Day landings were well underway, and the beaches of Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot were considered to be comparable to those in Northern France. Hence OPERATION JANTZEN was put into practice here n August 1943. A full scale invasion landing practice took place, involving up to 100,000 men, DUKW’s, other landing craft, and troopships disgorging their loads onto the sands of the Saundersfoot bay.
The publican, John Henry Mathias, or ‘Jack the Bridge’ as he was affectionately known, was appointed a Coastguard because of his local knowledge, and although the whole area had been sealed off for security reasons and a 10pm curfew imposed, Jack was exempt from this and wandered at will. Officially, the troops were not allowed to drink, but for 1s 6d they had all they could eat – home killed ham, eggs, fried bread and apple tart. Jack entertained them with tales of a ghostly monk who roamed the tunnels between Saundersfoot and Wiseman’s Bridge.
One day, several large staff cars swept down the narrow lane to the pub. It was about 3pm, but in those days the pub was open all hours. A blonde woman in ATS uniform carried out ‘a plain Welsh tea’ to the party of about 15 high ranking officers – later it was learned that she was Sarah Churchill; Winston Churchill surveyed the troops on the beaches together with Admiral Viscount Mountbatten. It was rumoured that Eisenhower was also present.
For several years after the War, the letter signed by Churchill, thanking the licensee for his hospitality hung on the wall in the pub premises.
Does anyone remember being involved in this month-long exercise on the beaches of South West Wales, codenamed OPERATION JANTZEN?
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.