Wartime memories saved for posterity

Reporter:

Rob Bellis

YOUNG people from the region have been working to compile the memories of an older generation – those who served in or were evacuated during the Second World War.

Pupils from Ysgol Maes Garmon and Mold Alun schools, along with three students from Wrexham’s Glyndwr University, have been interviewing veterans and those who were brought to the region during the conflict.

The project is part of a programme of events being organised by Mold Salutes, a group of history enthusiasts set up to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain this year.

The project aims to bridge the generational gap between our older and youngest generation, teaching the latter what life was like during the war.

The veterans’ and evacuees’ memories will be recorded on film so that they can also be heard by future generations.

Four year 10 pupils from Ysgol Maes Garmon recently visited 91-year-old Cyril Roberts to record his memories.

Mr Roberts, originally from Ewloe but now living in Mold, was called up as a militia man in 1939 when he was 21.

“On June 3, 1939, I had to sign up at the Labour Exchange in Shotton,” he recalled.

“Then, on June 10, I had to go to Wrexham Barracks for a medical examination which I passed A1.”

War had not yet started and Mr Roberts believed he would be serving in the army for six months. Then, on September 3, 1939, following Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

“On that fateful day, I arrived at Wrexham Barracks at 11am. By 12 noon I was in battle dress. The first few weeks were terrible as the army life took some getting used to.

“The first two months were spent in training - marching, PT, route marches with full pack carried on the back. The road back to the barracks - from a route march of three to four hours - was all uphill and, with blistered feet and fatigue, was quite a strain.”

In 1940 Mr Roberts’ battalion was stationed in Marlborough.

“The battalion was in need of shoe repairers for each company and, as I had been shoe repairing from the age of 14, I applied for the position.

“I was accepted and issued with a bag of tools and a last on a stem. I did this work throughout my army days as well as soldiering.”

On April 23, 1940 it was time for Mr Roberts’ company to ship out. Leaving Marlborough at noon, they arrived at Southampton at 4pm and, as part of the 42nd division, embarked on the ship Ulster Prince, sailing for France at 10pm in a convoy of troop ships.

The convoy arrived at Cherbourg the following morning and the troops travelled from there by rail, in cattle trucks, bound for Fye near La-Manse and on to Rouen and Arras, arriving at Halluim at 10.30am on April 29.

“This was the Belgian frontier,” said Mr Roberts. “The regiment was on ‘stand to’ in case the enemy advanced over the frontier. I continued to repair boots.”

Mr Roberts’ company left the region just 36 hours before a devastating German attack. They were bound for Gibraltar and on to the island of Malta.

Mr Roberts’ recollections, like those of the other veterans and evacuees whose memories will be recorded over the coming months, are fascinating and unique.

Robin Powell, 14, one of the pupils interviewing Mr Roberts, said: “I’m very interested in the history of the Second World War and the Battle of Britain.

“We’ve been learning about it in school and I heard that the commemorations were happening and thought it would be good to volunteer. It’s hard to imagine what it was like.”

Excerpts from the Mold Salutes DVD will be on show on the Mold Salutes stand at an event being staged by Flintshire Local Voluntary Council, which has been assisting with the 70th anniversary commemoration preparations.

The event takes place today St Mary’s Church Hall in Mold.

See full story in the Leader

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Most Read