Catrin Edwards Jones

No Bombs On 'Cei Newydd'
(‘New Quay’ Cardiganshire)

Extract from a memoir in the third person

Catrin had just passed her eleven plus entrance into Aberayron County School just as the War was declared.
  It was the beginning of the new autumn term; the school bus departed from New Quay at 8.30am each morning carrying the noisy excited pupils along the seven mile distance to the Aberayron’s town square where they all disembarked; trudged up the steep gradient to their school overlooking the town. Many a day the biting autumn winds cut right across the unprotected path and they all clutched their red, white and navy school blazers to their young agile bodies for warmth.
  The new pupil’s trauma in their new strange school was overshadowed by the beginning on World War II.
  The whole population of our Island was thrust into great economies – Rationing had begun and home life had to change. Ration books were issued to every household.
  ‘Dig for Victory’ was the new slogan and all flower beds were replaced with rows of potatoes, carrots and cabbages. The food rationing was eked out in various ways; one being the constant use of a glass butter churn the size of a large sweet jar, fitted with an internal whisk. Cream had to be skimmed off the fresh delivery of milk each day and deposited into the glass butter churn, to sour up, then churned into a small amount of extra butter each week for the family.
  All the local men – not fit enough, or too old to join up - were issued with a Home Guard uniform; they all met at regular intervals outside the Memorial Hall for drill practice in readiness for any invasion.

Remembered Highlights

The Liverpool Docks were initially targeted and were heavily bombed by the German aircraft. Many of the young children were soon evacuated out of the city and sent to safe rural areas throughout the country.
  Boys and girls of around the ages of eight and twelve arrived in New Quay and were allocated to many of the local families. On the day of their arrival each child was collected from the Memorial Hall around mid-afternoon.
  Catrin’s family at the Bank House in Church Street were allocated a twelve year old William Manning. Her Mother collected William and accompanied him home for a light tea before her children – Iorwerth, Catrin and Gwilym returned from school.
  William had never been to the seaside before; after a quick tea he ran down Church Street’s steep hill and onto the old stone pier that enclosed New Quay’ lovely sandy beach. He excitedly climbed onto the back of the pier, settled down on a protruding stone on the slippery rear slope and soon became mesmerized by the undulating choppy surface while the sea rippled all around him.

Captain Jim

Captain Jim (then retired from a life at sea in the old sailing clippers) was taking his daily stroll along the length of the old pier of his youth – when he spotted a body in the water drifting in the swift current running behind the pier.
  The Captain threw off his shoes and jacket and dived into the angry swell below; he swam to the man in distress just in time before he was going under. Uncle Jim (as he was known to the village) held the head high and brought the victim safely to shore.
  Catrin’s Mother opened her front door to a bedraggled evacuee - her newly acquainted William had been delivered to his new home. She put him straight to bed with a hot water bottle and a stiff brandy in hot milk. He was now safely in the hands of a retired Liverpool Royal Infirmary Queen’s nurse.
  The following day, luckily William had fully recovered and shyly accounted for what had occurred on his eventful first day away from home!

After a period of around twelve months, the Liverpool Bombing had eased quite considerably consequently their children returned back home to their own homes.
  They were soon replaced by a London Nautical School of Boy Cadets who came, once more to the safer Welsh Coastline in order to getaway from the London Blitz..

The Nautical Boys

On a fine day a hike over Pen Craig along the coastal path, with its steep ragged drops to the choppy sea below and the constant sound of seagulls flying around their nests scattered in the rocky crags, was an enjoyable day out during the school holidays.
  The dedicated youngsters hiked as far as ‘Cwm Tidy’, a small hamlet quietly tucked away and protected from the sea on both sides by high cliffs. Once there, after a good rest overlooking the beach below, the packed sandwiches consumed, a long trudge home had to be faced.
  During this time, it was reported that a German U Boat had surfaced near the tiny inlet of ‘CwmTidy’, within view of some of the small cottages.
  Four sailors alighted from a rowing boat moored on the small beach.
  The crew had run out of water. Their men found what they needed somewhere nearby and with great urgency were seen rowing back out to their U boat; the large torpedo shaped vessel was seen to quickly submerged and they were gone...
  The Nautical Boys had arrived, the school immediately made its presence heard on the very first day, a penetrating shrill sound made by a single bugle call from the direction of ‘Pen Craig’ echoed throughout the small town.
  Thereafter the nightly bugle salutes, constantly cut through the town’s dusky evening skies during their occupation.
  To keep the cadets active and to integrate with the local community; their nautical school teachers organised a small hop for them each Friday evening between the hours of six and nine in the memorial hall - much to all the local youngsters delight.
  Handing over their sixpenny pieces to a chap at the door each week – the happy swirling teenagers spent their early Friday evenings gliding harmoniously over the newly chalked bare floor boards. The two hours ‘flew by’ to the strains of
  ‘I’ll Be Loving You’ and many more romantic Hollywood songs of the time. All the songs enthusiastically thrummed out on the old battered piano by their school bus driver and the beat emphasised by his brother on the drums.
  All the youngsters became very good ballroom dancers thanks to the nautical school and their cadets.
  Six miles north of New Quay overlooking the bay that led down to Aberayron town was a Royal Marine Training Camp.
  Throughout the war years - Canadian, Australian, American and Polish Troops undertook part of their wartime training there.
  The Yanks had great fun bulldozing their Jeeps down some of the very steep unmade roads interlocking the New Quay terraces n and the local children always shouted out to the passing jeeps “Any gum chum”?
  The jeeps would always screech to a halt, the men jumped out of their vehicles and dished out masses of chewing gum to the ‘sweet rationed’ children.
  Many very polite Polish soldiers arrived towards the end of the war.
Whenever individually invited into some local homes to share a meal or two; much to the amazement of the younger members of a family - on departure a soldier would always click his heels with a bow as a thank you.
  At the end of the War – rather than return to their native Poland many of the Polish soldiers decided to stay and settled in the vicinity after the war.

Under Cei Newydd - Dylan Thomas in Town

For a year between 1944 and 1945 – the Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas resided in New Quay; engaged in reading his poems on the BBC and involved in some filming during his stay.
  The families arrived - his Irish wife Caitlin and family with some old friends and they all moved into two rickety bungalows overlooking a very long stretch of golden sand in ‘Cwm Tidy’. The inspirational locality must have been perfect for Dylan’s creativity.
  However, much of their time was spent at the town’s Black Lyon Hotel and the Dolau Inn as they were all rather too fond of a tipple or two. Dylan would stagger up Church Street, with his touselled hair falling over his round face while steadying himself along the high white-washed wall of the Dolau Inn leading up the hill. Always scruffily attired in an oversized wollen sweater full of holes, making him look a little shorter in height than he really was.
  During Dylan’s short time in New Quay he collated and used many local characters in his forthcoming famous work ‘Under Milk Wood’.
  Dylan often called into the Bank in Church Street managed by Catrin’s father, his middle name was ‘Pritchard’ (mostly used in North Wales). Where as, the father of one of her school friends was a draper in the town and had the unusual first name of ‘Ogmore’.
  Dylan decided to use both names as characters in his forthcoming ‘Under Milk Wood.’ Carrying his characters even further, he inferred that Mrs Ogmore Pritchard “was very house proud and a retired Queen’s Nurse”.
  (An identical resemblance to Catrin’s mother who was a retired Queen’s Nurse; constantly cleaning and dusting. Her children recalled - that whenever their mother opened their front door on their return from school - she always sidled a mat under their feet so as not to bring in any dirt into her hall from the road beyond).
  In the July of 1945 an accidental shooting occurred in the Thomas’s bungalow following an evening out at the Black Lyon Hotel - afterwards they soon departed from New Quay leaving behind a trail of debts.
  They returned to Laugharne near Carmarthen in 1949 where Dylan had resided, off and on, during the previous decade,
   Many of his daily observances of Laugharne, the individual characters and the surrounding countryside interchanged with memories of New Quay became the foundation of his new play ‘Under Milk Wood’.
Finally, his many very successful but disastrous poetry reading tours in the U.S.A resulted in his death at the age of thirty nine (from exhaustion and alcoholism).
  Dylan Thomas’s booming articulate resounding voice (that resembled the old Methodist Preachers and so appreciated by his audiences in the United States) was never heard again on the BBC.
  The completed work of ‘Under Milk Wood’ was consequently narrated by another Welshman and good friend of his - Richard Burton.

Drones and Doodlebugs

Between New Quay and Cardigan town was a Royal Aircraft Establishment at Aberporth (a Rocket Station); where they worked out the characteristics of the then GermanV2 rocket form; the unmanned German Doodle Bug that was constantly bombing London and other cities at the time.
  At the establishment, the decontrolled and adapted D H 82 Tiger Moth aircraft - known as Drones, were used to collect reconnance data and act as targets for training during the war.
  ‘Park Aberporth’ as the Establishment is known today, now gives advice on all matters relating to the development of Unmanned Arial Vehicles – U.A.V.
  Another incident was to take place during the war. A German aircraft crash landed on the ‘Cei Bach’ beach much to everyone’s surprise, it had run out of fuel and was unable to return to base after one of the air raids over Britain. The unfortunate pilot was soon arrested and became another of our German Prisoners of War.
  World War II came to an end in 1945 and the Nautical School that had carried out their training in Cei Newydd (New Quay) for a considerable time, returned back home to their base in a safer London.
Two of their cadets married Catrin’s school friends and both men became Master Mariners.
  They have today followed the tradition of the past ( just as the sea Captains of the grand old sailing ships of yesterday had done), they’ve retired and returned to the New Quay that they grew to love as cadets.
  Having spent the prime of their lives riding the world’s oceans, they now relax in their tranquil cottages overlooking Cei Newydd’s old curved stone pier that has stood the tide of time...

Catrin Edwards Jones © 2009