- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Kath Howes
- Location of story:
- Aberystwyth, Lampeter
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 November 2005
The story has been submitted on the Peoples’ War by Vicki Workman of Powys County Council Library and Archives, on the behalf of Kath Howes and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the terms and conditions.
Love and Duty in Wartime Wales
In July 1941 my probationer nurse mother met her RAF cadet future husband in Bronglais Hospital Aberystwyth. Family history says that following volunteering at Norwich in Lincolnshire in 1940 at the age of 18 years and 2 weeks, he was sent to Penrhos in Cardiganshire. He arrived at the hospital burned and unconscious having survived a plane crash into Tregaron bog. He also had an operation for appendicitis in July 1941. Mum was the cadet nurse detailed to observe him, as he gained consciousness he said he thought he had died and was in heaven and Mum was as angel sent to look after him. A good chat up line.
He was nearly 19 years old and she was 7 months older. They fell in love during his convalescence and certainty broke hospital rules by meeting in the linen cupboard. Ammapolia their favourite song and the Proms, Constitution Hill and Llanbadarn, Aberystwyth their favourite walk. Within 4 weeks they had upset both sets of parents by getting engaged. Cousins remember her giggling and wearing gloves under which she wore an engagement ring!
He left Aberystwyth on September 29th 1941 and on October 29th he was selected to continue training under the Empire Air Training Scheme E.A.R.S: this was designed to give pilots and air crew the opportunity to be trained in skies that were clear of the war zone. There was no shortage of volunteer pilots but there was a shortage of aircraft.
In an agreement signed December 17th 1933, 333 Flight Training Schools across the World in Canada, Australia, Rhodesia, South Africa, India and New Zealand trained thousands of crew. Included were 5 training schools in the States (although the States did not entered the War, until after Pearl Harbour was attacked by the Japanese in December 1941).
Both parents realised that too much opposition would only strengthen their resolve to marry and so they were allowed to be officially engaged in December 1941. Perhaps they were relieved to find that he was to spend the next 20 months in North America, though Mum and Pops did not expect that they would be parted that long. Mum continued her nurse training filling in time; expecting to be married in 6 months, then 18 months. She moved to Llandough Hospital. Nurses at that time were expected to remain single and she had not intention of postponing marriage to complete her 4 year training. The months passed and Pops was unable to leave America, retained as an Instructor and promoted to Flying Officer. Then the Rushcliffe Report allowed Mum to continue nursing after marriage, do plans were hatched for them to get married as soon as he returned and for her to continue nursing in case anything happened to him.
2 years from their first meeting Pops returned to the UK on the Queen Elizabeth via the North Atlantic Route and was billeted in temporary luxury in the Queen’s Hotel, Harrogate. Once back in the UK he says, "Our time is running out we must take every minute of happiness we can". A telegram confirms, "All OK for Wedding, Get License." He expected to get 10 days leave. Mum had to persuade the Matron at Llandough Hospital to allow her leave at short notice. They hadn’t seen each other for 20 months, but had wrote nearly every day, some letters never arrived, some censored and some returned to sender as posting changed.
Married at last
On July 16th 1943, Pop’s 21st birthday, they were married in Lampeter, Mum’s home town. Sheep shearing at the family farms in the hills above Tregaron was postponed for uncles and aunts to attend. Cakes were made using glycerin instead of fat because of rationing.
The honey-moon was spent partly St Devil’s Bridge Hotel, where 1 week cost 9s 6p. They were never able to plan a home together because of the RAF movements: posting could send him anywhere in the world. Hence they met up whenever he had leave and she could get time off from nursing. Once she was on holiday at Natstalwyn, farmers saw a tall fair young man walking in RAF uniform with his kit bag on his shoulder, Pops had unexpected leave and had travelled from his unit in Ashboure Derbyshire by train and the walked the 6 or 7 miles uphill along the Gamallt Ridge from Tregaron Station to be with her for a day or two. In August 1944 Mum completed RGN Nurse Training and left Llandough Hospital with the Gold Medal for nursing. Being pregnant she did not have to contribute any more to the war effort.
29.03.45 Fatal Flying Accident. 14:55 hours Thorney, Northants.
Pops and 7 crew were all killed when a trainee pilot flew into them. Most were buried in Peterborough, except Pops who was buried in Lampeter, where he had married Mum 20 months before. They had been married 617 days and had spent 140 of those days together. Their last meeting was his leave after I was born. I was 6 weeks old when he was killed and the war in Europe ended 5 weeks later.
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