The War Years

War time memories...

Merfyn Williams recalls his childhood during the war...

I was 7 years old when the war started. There was a lot of mobilisation going
on to get organised at the beginning, after all it was only  21 years since the
Great War had ended and in that time there had been a big advance in aircraft
capabilities.
     We lived on Llewellyn Road and our house was one of a small number with
cellars. There were regular siren alerts from the siren  situated at the police
station and people were told to go to our cellar until the all clear. A blast
wall of sandbags was placed in front of the cellar entrance, later replaced by
a brick wall. I really enjoyed playing in the ensuing sand pit. At a stage a
brick air raid shelter was built on Cae Moss between Waen Rd. and Llewellyn Rd.
It had  thick walls and a concrete reinforced roof and no windows. Others were
built around the village including the school playground and we used to
practise transferring from classrooms to the shelters carrying the ever present
gas masks in their cardboard boxes.As a result of this activity we all knew one
another well  and it made the neighbourhood   friendly so that we helped one
another and shared what we had fairly.
     At this time the coalmines wee working to maximum capacity and there were three
shifts, starting at 6 a.m., 2p.m. and 10p.m.Old fashioned buses ran all day and
night transporting the miners to the various coal mines, mostly to Llay Main,
Gresford and Bersham. There was also Hafod that was for Rhos miners as I
recall. Some of these buses were really grotty and had come from other regions,
but they gave a rhythm to the day and night. It was a common sight to see the
miners sitting on the pavements at the bus stops with their round snapping tins
and drinks. Extra rations of cheese were allowed for their stamina.
     Sometime after 1940 it was decided to build a runway at Borras outside Wrexham.
Huge amounts of foundation materials were needed. In the late 30s the Vron
Colliery had closed. In Talwrn was a massive bank of slag which we called The
Bonc. It was an exciting play area and we used to slide down the slopes on tin
trays or sheeting and get filthy black in the process. Then dozens of lorries
appeared from who knows where and there was a continuous stream going backwards
and forwards having been loaded by huge cranes the like of which we had never
seen before. The bonc was considerably reduced in size by the end. During this
time a German plane flew over the bonc to investigate and frightened my father
greatly as he was there on his A. R. P. patrol.
     From our house on Llewelyn Road we could see for a long distance across the
Cheshire plane. We used to watch dog fight between Spitfires and German raiders
which were quite exciting and there was usually a cheer when we saw the
explosion when the enemy was brought down.
     About this time too a reservoir was built in the park opposite the library so
that there would be a ready supply of water for putting out fires. The site
later became a tennis court. I think  the water storage must have been built
after the big fire at the drill hall situated along side The Shade which was
burnt to the ground after a Saturday night dance. The hall was used by the Home
Guard for practises and it had an armoury where bullets and hand grenades and
other arms were stored,  There was absolute chaos when the fire took hold with
bullets and shrapnel whizzing about the place and every one had to keep well
away and let the whole thing burn itself out. There was nothing left, just the
ground.

M. Williams


Phil Jones recalls his childhood during the war...

I was in the same class as Merfyn Williams and remember the war well.

I lived at Penygelli Hall and remember the night of 2nd September, 1940. 
German bombers bombed Minera Mountain. We were sheltering under a farmhouse 
kitchen table and could hear the bombs whistling down. My Auntie Gladys was 
getting married next day, and she was more worried about the wedding presents 
which were on display in the drawing room, rather than her personal safety. We 
had just had six weeks summer holiday and now a stray, unexploded bomb had 
landed near Penygelli Junior School and we had another six weeks off school 
before they could come and deal with that bomb!

My father was in the Rescue Party - which seemed to mean being on duty in 
the Police Station some nights and getting free fry-ups. Coventry was badly 
bombed and he was called away once to deal with that.

Penygelli Hall was surrounded by trees and two Air Raid Wardens called once 
because they thought they had heard a bomb come crashing through the trees. We
had heard nothing and seen nothing. Next day I found a hole. The police and 
others were informed and ' experts ' came to examine my discovery next day.
It  was only a rabbit hole. What a disappointment!

I can remember exactly where I was at 11.am on Sunday, 3rd September,  1939
when war broke out. My father was a carpenter and joiner and he was  repairing
a gate at Penygelli Hall when a neighbour ran to tell us the  news. I also
remember the VJ celebrations vividly. £25 had been spent  on a village fireworks
display.
The first rocket or Catherine wheel  was lit and then a stray spark  set-off
the lot. We ran like mad with rockets whizzing along the floor in all 
directions!

All in all, we had a great time during those war years because we were too 
young to really worry. My father had built an air-raid shelter in the orchard 
covered with clods of turf. This became our den. We even built
shortunderground  tunnels in our childish innocence, which is quite dangerous when
you come
to  think of it.
Regards,
Phil Jones.


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