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Some remembrances of a schoolboy evacuee; regarding the first year of the war of 1939 to 1945.
Written By William L. Dean, August 31st 2006
Penmaenmawr, North Wales 1939
I was born in the city of Liverpool, and when I reached the age of six years our father aged thirty seven was accidentally killed. Our mother was left with three little sons. A baby of two years old, me a boy of six and my brother named Neville (after Mr. Neville Chamberlain) was nine years old. Our mother was a great provider and we were a most happy family. During 1938 we as children all over the British Isles, were told of the build up of the German nation’s military power. The British general public considered that due to Germany taking over so many European countries, that war may be ahead of our country.
During 1938 and 1939 all residents of the British Isles were measured for the issuance of government furnished gas masks. There were three sizes of masks; small, medium and large. I well remember being at elementary school when the local government officials arrived to measure all students and teachers for the issuance of gas masks. I worked after school as an order delivery boy for a local greengrocer. This was in the district of Stoneycroft, a residential area of Liverpool. It was during the summer of 1939 when the public was informed that the schoolchildren that resided within the city of Liverpool’s ring road named “Queens Drive” would be evacuated from the city.
My eldest brother Neville had left elementary school in 1937; when he was fourteen years old. He was sixteen in 1939 and worked forty eight hours per week as a laundry delivery boy, boys his age would not be evacuated from the cities. I was at and still attending elementary school and was aged thirteen. My younger baby brother was now nine years old. During part of August 1939 the headmaster of my elementary school informed the teaching staff and the parents of the children that the school was to be evacuated to North Wales. We were told that all were scheduled to leave Liverpool from Stanley railway station (the nearest station to the school) departure was to be at 9:00am Sunday September 3rd 1939.
My mother asked me what I thought of being evacuated and to be responsible for the brotherly care of my nine year old brother John. I told her that I thought that it was only a war scare, and that in a few weeks we would be returned home to Liverpool. In the meantime it would be a nice short holiday for all who were going the lady manager of the greengrocery and her assistants with whom I worked after school, also asked why I had decided to go on this evacuation. I made the same responses, that it was merely a war scare and we would not be away too long.
During late August 1939; the total population of Britain was all issued with gas masks. Delivery vehicles came to every home, and gave each resident a government furnished gas mask, each gas mask was contained in a cardboard box. This box container had a string attached so that it could be carried on the shoulder. Everyone was instructed to carry their gas mask with them at all times.
On the Sunday morning September 3” 1939 1 stood with my younger brother and our mother on the pavement adjacent to Stanley railway station in Liverpool We had our travel cases which contained our clothes and toothbrushes etc. After our arrival at the station the children at our school were each provided with an orange coloured luggage label which was to be attached to our coat lapels. The labels were for identification. It was a fair day without rain, and all the evacuees were lined up ready to get onto the train. Our school was a parochial Church of England elementary school under the regulations of the City of Liverpool Education Committee. We were all of the protestant religion and I thought it unusual that we would be wearing orange identification tags which was the colours of the Orange Lodges of Northern Ireland which was very anti Roman Catholic.
At the railway station was another local school called St. Edwards, a Roman Catholic elementary school. All the people from St. Edwards were given a green tag to wear on their jackets. So we had the orange and the green. This surely indicated who was a protestant and who was a Roman catholic. Why I thought, were these young children made aware that there was a difference in their adults faith at so early a stage in forming their lives?
At nine o’clock that morning we said goodbye to our parents, and families, then the steam train hooted, and off we travelled to the town of Penmaenmawr. It is known as “the principality of North Wales”. The carriages were the central corridor type of
accommodations, and the children were able to easily visit each other as the journey progressed. It was as I previously mentioned a fine day. We enjoyed the trip, looking out at the sea and the Welsh countryside until our arrival.
The train arrived prompt at 1 1:00am at the Penmaenmawr railway station; we all exited the train to be taken by all walking to a recreational hail in this small town. It is worthy of note that the British Government had at 9:00 am that day September 3’l939 when we evacuees left Stanley station for our visit to Penmaenmawr, given Germany, Britain’s final ultimatum regarding Germany’s recent invasion of Poland. At 11:15am that morning, Mr. Neville Chamberlain the British prime minister told the world that a state of war existed between Great Britain and Germany. Whether we were Protestants or Roman Catholics tagged orange or green we were all in this together.
Now, the continuing story of the evacuees, We arrived in Penmaenmawr, a seaside resort and a quarry town. This was an Urban District Council town located in Caernarvonshire, located five miles from Conway and eleven miles from Bangor. The town was well known for its rock quarries and its name was common to all road contractors. A company known as The Penmaenmawr and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company, it furnished road making materials to all parts of the British Isles. The majority of the residents of Penmaenmawr were either associated with, or worked in the hillside quarries for this company.
On this historic Sunday morning September 3 1939, evacuees all gathered together in the local community hail just after war had been declared. Each schoolchild was then assigned to a local resident’s home to be billeted during their stay in this evacuation town. My brother John and 1 were sent to a family which operated a holiday type boarding house. This family took in several evacuees. That night I listened to the BBC radio and heard Mr. Chamberlain our Prime Minister announce that a state of war existed between Great Britain and Germany. The grown’ up women around us, were crying and the men were resigned to the fact that Germany had to be stopped. Later we heard the dreadful news that an outward bound liner to the United States, the Athenia of 13500 tons had been torpedoed by a German U- boat. It reported a loss of one hundred and twelve lives, (twenty eight of them American citizens). I went to bed that night thinking that the Germans had wasted no time and further- more that this evacuation was not to be a short holiday I realized that we the British were in it to the finish. Also I would now be in North Wales until I was fourteen and ready to enter the labour market in Liverpool.
The home that my young brother and I were first accommodated in Penmaenmawr was proven to be unsatisfactory to the local officials, and we were then moved to and accommodated with a Mr. and Mrs. George Roberts who resided on David Street in Penmaenmawr. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts had a young daughter named Shiela. At the Roberts residence were two other brothers who attended our school. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts with their young daughter, were a most caring and loving family.
Mr. Roberts rented a piece of land in the hills just a short walk from his home. It was a generous piece of property on which he raised poultry. He was a well experienced poultryman. He had constructed various poultry buildings and built six foot high wire mesh fencing all around the rented area. Mr. Roberts held a full time job at the local quarry.
Mr Roberts had all types of chickens and turkeys on his poultry farm. They included Rhode Island Reds, Black Minorca, Leghorns, Bantams and others. Not having a father and with only memory glimpses of my deceased father, also that my young brother John had no memory whatsoever of his father, Mr. Roberts was a man to look up to and respect. He and Mrs. Roberts invited all the boys to call them Pop and Ma.
He was a man that all boys who had a desire to learn would enjoy being with. He was a very proud Welshman, Mrs. Roberts first name was Rose, she was born in England Mr. Roberts and his young daughter were both fluent in the Welsh language. Mrs. Roberts had through the years learnt some welsh, but not knowing the language thoroughly, it did not seem to bother her. Rose Roberts was a great cook, she seemed to enjoy feeding the now five males in her home. The government immediately announced that due to the war, the British people would be deprived of bananas, spanish onions, oranges and many other imported foods. We the inhabitants of Britain all lived on an island, and out in the ocean lurked the German U- boats, ready with their deadly torpedoes awaiting and lurking to sink our the unarmed supply ships. The Battle of the Atlantic was just beginning, and the people of Liverpool who made their living by the manning of merchant ships, they would be well represented in Britain’s fight to keep the sea lanes open. The safety of our merchant sea going fleet was desperately required in order to feed the people of Britain. A few days after the declaration of war with Germany, we were told that more and more of our shipping fleet were being sunk.
It was a gloom that was felt every time we were told another shipping vessel was lost at sea, no survivors. Little did I know at that time that our then sixteen year old elder brother within less than a year he would be sailing the Atlantic Ocean, as a crew member on a lone unescorted tanker ship. This ship transported high octane fuel from the United States for use by the Royal Air Force. This fuel was required to supply our country’s fighter aircraft in the Battle for Britain that was yet to come. A truly momentous time in our country’s history, and here I was evacuated to the hills and coastline of North Wales.
School classes commenced soon after our arrival in our new accommodations. We shared the regular Penmaenmawr elementary school with the local students. The classes were initially halftime until various areas of the existing school were made to accommodate the evacuees. We had our regular teachers and our education seemed to progress as normal. Our school was a segregated school wherein the girls were separated from the boys. Our classes consisted of all boys however the local Welsh school classes were integrated or mixed with boys and girls.
It was early September and we evacuees were eager to try the swimming in the bay of Conway waters. We young boys went to the beaches as often as we were allowed, the area was a holiday resort, but due to the commencement of the war few visitors remained. We the Liverpool children made friends with the local children and played competitive games such as football (soccer ).Our school nearly always lost to the Penmaenmawr home teams, we realized that the boys in Penmaenmawr had experienced more soccer than we had. During my stay with Mr. Roberts he offered to teach me how to assist him in the running of his poultry farm.
Soon after my arrival in Penmaenmawr, I applied to one of the local newsagents W. H. Smith & Sons for a newspaper delivery job. Each morning I was at the newsagents shop to obtain the hand cart which other boys and we all took it down the bill from the main street to the railway station. We then waited for the train to stop in Penmaenmawr when the train unloaded the national newspapers. Then heave ho we the delivery boys pushed the hand cart back up the hill to the main town thoroughfare, and the store. I was given the use of the shop bicycle and I delivered papers to the “Old Village” called Dwygyfylchi. As I delivered the newspapers I was able to read the headlines relating to the war.
At the start of the war I read about the U-boat attacks, the Soviet attack on eastern Poland, the sinking of one of our famous ships the Royal Oak. The Soviet attack on the country of Finland happened at the end of November 1939. The battle of the River Plate and the scuttling of the German battleship the Graf Spee took place in December 1939. As a mere newsboy I was in touch with the news of the war, and it was disheartening. Norway was invaded together with the Netherlands and Denmark
Life for the evacuees in Penmaenmawr was peaceful, and as children we were well taken care of by our Welsh hosts. Many local young Penmaenmawr men and women joined the armed services. We enjoyed the beauty of this Welsh principality. The hillsides and the mountains, the streams (Fairy Glen was one of many places to visit there were many wild flowers in the countryside. Mr. Roberts our host took me to various places in the Conway Valley such places as Eglwysbach were he had relatives who owned farms and land. We went hunting. Mr. Roberts had two ferrets also two good hunting dogs. Mr. Roberts was an outdoors man. He taught me how to pluck and dress poultry, also how to skin wild rabbits and hares. I also assisted Mr. Roberts in feeding the hens and cockerels in his poultry farm. We would carry big sacks of day or two day old bread from the local bakery located in town, all the way to the hillside poultry farm. We stored the bread and each day we soaked portions in an amount in water to soften the hard bread. After sufficient soaking this softened bread was hand pressed to remove the soaked up water .This procedure left a soft mass of moist bread. We then crumbled the bread and added poultry feed to the crumbled mass. This food was then placed in the poultry feeding troughs, wherein hundreds of his birds would swoop upon us, sometimes preventing you from distributing the food. This was a great training adventure for a young boy thirteen years of age. I became a close companion of Mr. Roberts. He found other ways for me to earn extra pocket money. Mr. Roberts brother looked after an aged widow lady’s allotment, in his spare time maintained the vegetable and flower garden within the allotment. The lady offered to give me one penny for each sack of leaves that I would deliver to her compost heap on the allotment. I would go up the hillsides to the tree growing areas and collect the old fallen leaves, pushing them hard into the bag to ensure that this good and kindly Welsh lady received her monies worth. It was a part time venture, limited to the autumn season, when the leaves were falling. It was a great life and I enjoyed being useful. When I had accumulated my first ten shillings I rolled the ten shilling note into a cylinder then and placed an elastic rubber band around it. I remember going to sleep that night with a thought of great accomplishment, my first ownership of paper money.
In the New Year I changed my newspaper delivery work to a newspaper and tobacconist shop owned by the Gillespie family. This store was in the centre of town and was located in a colonnade. My paper deliveries were in the area in which stood the Grand Hotel. This hotel was the largest hotel in Penmaenmawr. It was located within its own extensive grounds, and the rooms had views of the sea. This particular hotel had been leased to an insurance company whose headquarters were in London. The London staff of this company had also been evacuated to Penmaenmawr (just like our school). When I delivered the newspapers and magazines to this Grand Hotel I was impressed with the size of the hotel structure, and imagined its seemingly superior service and rich accommodations. As the delivery boy I used the trade delivery entrance of this hotel and left the papers and magazines at the gate. I often wondered if I would ever have an opportunity to enter the grounds and see the hotel proper. I decided to make a visit to this hotel when I grew up, and became successful enough to afford to stay few nights. Years later, when I was just twenty two years of age, I booked two nights at the Grand Hotel. However this unique experience was interrupted by Mr. George Roberts. After my first night at the hotel he persuaded me to be his family’s guest for the second night. Mr. Roberts saved me from a lonely expensive experience.
Being brought up to attend the Church of England Christian faith, I like many of my school friends attended St. Seiriol’s Church. The local people called it “the church”. This church was situated along the road that led to the Penmaenmawr elementary school. The minister or vicar of this parish during 1939-40 and periods prior and after was the Reverend R. Gynfelin Jones. I attended the Sunday school and the morning and sometimes evening services. The evening services conducted by the Anglican Church were my favourite services. In Liverpool my brothers and I attended church regularly and my eldest brother and I had been members of the choir at St. Paul’s Church Stone croft.
The Reverend Gonfalon-Jones entered my name in his confirmation class, and I diligently attended each session. Reverend Jones was a most dedicated minister to whom everyone gave the greatest respect. The youth who attended this confirmation class were all confirmed at St. Seiriol’ s Church by The Most Reverend Archbishop of Wales. This ceremony took place on Sunday February 11th 1940.
The Archbishop came all the way from Aberystwyth, in central Wales. The boys in the confirmation class were told by the Reverend Gynfelin-Jones that the Archbishop will place his hands on their heads, and that no boy being confirmed will be allowed to wear hair cream fixatives (Brylcream or similar). The vicar said that the hair will be oily and that the Archbishop did not like oil on the palm of his hands. Every boy attended the confirmation with naturally flowing recently washed hair, including me.
The vicar also instructed all the class members that when the Archbishop gives his sermon, we must look at the Archbishop intently, to show our interest in his presentation He went on to say that if any of the class looked as though they were not listening to the sermon, the Archbishop will stop his talk, and point to the confirmation candidate, and say “are you listening boy”. Nobody wanted that to happen. The Archbishop received my and others full attention.
Due to not having a formal suit, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts my hosts, were concerned that I should look my best to attend this confirmation. Mrs. Roberts asked her husband to lend me one of his suit jackets. It was too big for me, but both Mr. and Mrs. Roberts insisted that I wear it for this momentous occasion.
So on that Sunday morning I left David Street wearing a coat with its sleeves over my hands, including unmatched trousers; also with my washed fair hair blowing in the February breezes. I prayed that I would not encounter anyone who knew me. However a friendly young attractive Welsh girl had decided to walk from Penmaenan which was South of Penmaenmawr to see me in this embarrassing state. I did not know her very well, but one of her friends who resided in David Street, told me that this girl had said that she liked me! I found out later that she attended a Welsh Christian Tabernacle and sung in its choir. Unknown to me at that time I was to meet her later in my life’s journey. After the confirmation service together with my young brother John, we quickly left the church, and I hurried home to David Street, to return to Mr. Roberts, his best Sunday suit coat.
The evacuees life in North Wales was a most pleasant and healthy one. We went on numerous hikes, enjoyed the wonderful scenery of the Welsh coastline. The cinema in town was opened once again and one of Mr. Robert’s brothers who had recently came back from active war duty, became the cinema manager. So from the outbreak of war, life in Penmaenmawr seemed to have accepted the Liverpool evacuees. We went to the local mountain range and one could walk for miles along pathways enjoying the beauty of the area. As boys we went out sometimes all day to collect wild bilberries on the mountain slopes. We would collect them in glass containers. In many cases we would sell them to a local Penmaenmawr greengrocer named Mrs. Parsons who maintained her shop in the village. The people of this Welsh area certainly provided an idyllic atmosphere in a country engaged in war.
It was truly an ideal life for energetic boys, many of whom as they grew into manhood later fought in the British armed services. However not all was tranquil during our stay; there were fights between the local welsh boys and the evacuee boys. I had met a young Penmaenmawr boy on the first day of my arrival in the town. That first day when war was declared, I went investigating the area and inevitably ended up at the entrance tunnel to the beach. This tunnel allowed access under the railway along the coast line. There was a bowling green and a sweet shop located near this tunnel entrance. I met a group of local boys; one of these boys befriended me. He had a hare lip, a cleft palate, also clubbed hands and feet. One I got to know him, I never noticed these features. He was basically a handsome boy, he spoke welsh most fluently. During the time we were friends he was kind enough to interpret the welsh to the English language for me. He lived with his mother in the local council owned houses in the town. He took me to his home many times to meet his mother. I remember her as very warm and most friendly welsh lady. His personal friendship to me was the catalyst that made me well accepted by the local welsh boys in town. He would always let me know what people were saying when they spoke around me the welsh language. He became a true friend. His name was Harold. He told me that he had great respect for his father who unfortunately live4a4way from him and his mother.
One day a group of young evacuee boys together with my younger brother John, informed me that they were being harassed by a group of local boys. I suppose that I being thirteen years of age and a member in the senior class our school, wherein my next step would be that of a working teenage boy. This younger group of evacuee boys came to ask for my help. I went with these younger evacuee boys to the normal youth gathering areas in the town, and asked the local boys to lay off threatening these young members of our school. They immediately sent for their older friends which resulted in a boyish type fighting mood confrontation, consisting of harsh words and threats to harm to each other.
After a time with each other, the once seemingly friendships nearly disappeared. I decided with the consensus of my fellow thirteen year old evacuee classmates that a challenge must be made to the local boy leaders in Penmaenmawr for a bare knuckle fist fight between the self appointed leaders of each group. This we felt was required in order to settle the antagonism that had now occurred between us. Wow! I was that reluctant chosen leader for the evacuees. The local welsh boys I suppose picked their best fist fighter. The date and time was set, we were to meet at the local youth community hall on a set night.
Every boy in town English) Welsh, protestant and catholic knew of this event. The evacuees all told me that they would be there in force to support me in my fight. What a wait! I kept being told by my Liverpool friends that they were all behind me to a boy. On the night of this fight I left David Street with my young brother John to the Youth Hall in town. When we arrived we were disappointed to find that my young brother was to be my only supporter. There were no evacuees around. A circle of youths was formed in the main hail. The welsh boy his name was Evans and he worked part time for a milk delivery man, we both entered the circle and stated to hit each other. I remember that I felt that he was a much better fighter than I, but I was the challenger and I did my best. The fight ended by an adult who was in attendance. He told us that we had both had enough of a fight. The night ended with nearly every local boy being friendly. I was glad to see my new friend Harold who was there to silently support this English boy. I went to bed that night with pains all over me, and went to sleep hoping that the Evans boy felt some pain too.
On May 10th 1940 the world was told that our Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain had resigned. Mr. Lloyd George the popular Welshman had called for a change in the country’s leadership. I remember the local adults in Penmaenmawr stating their preferences for a new leader. Many said that Lloyd George of Criccieth should lead the country once again. The country was in a state of wild confusion. However Mr. Winston Churchill was sent for by the King and requested to form a new government.
During the end of May 1940 I was to read in the papers that the Germans had routed the French army and invaded Belgium. The British were holding their line but due, to the surrender of the Belgian army and the collapse of the French, all our fighting men must be withdrawn. The British decided to leave several battalions of our men to hold off the mighty German Army to allow as many of our soldiers to escape to the British Isles via the port of Dunkirk. This great effort happened from May 27tht0 June 4th 1940. We were told that over 33 8.000 British fighting men were brought back from France by the aid of our Navy and the many private boat and yacht owners. Many of these brave men were brought and billeted in the now empty hotels in Penmaenmawr. I was informed by my mother that her sisters husband, our uncle Bill was missing in action. His wife was later informed that he had died holding back the elite German army to allow his fellow countrymen to escape in order to carry on the fight against Hitler’s armed forces. William Price was a reservist and first of the British to go to France. He left a widow Jean, my Auntie and her new born son Joseph Price.
The rescued soldiers were in Penmaenmawr for rehabilitation and training. Each day as we boys tudged unwillingly to school (to quote Shakespeare) we met the soldiers marching to the beach area to do their drilling, and learn once again the newest hand to hand fighting techniques. Their uniforms were ragged and they did not possess any rifles. We were told that all their arms had been abandoned in France. On the 17th June 1940, we in Britain were told of the fall of France to the Germans. Britain was now alone in the war with Germany. Mr. Churchill then informed our nation that the Battle for Britain was about to begin. He went on to tell us that the whole fury and might of the enemy must be very soon turned against us.
On June 9th 1940 prior to the eventual fall of France, Italy declared war on Britain and also falling France. Mr. Churchill called Italy’s actions “The rush for the spoils”. As I read the newspapers each day, Mussolini and his army started to take advantage of the routed French in the Alpine areas which divided these two countries.
The British Government then decided to mobilize every man, women and teenage child; wherever possible, in order to assist in the defence of our Island. At first they initiated a group to be known as the “Local Defence Volunteers”. Our host Mr. George Roberts was one of the first to volunteer. Mr. Roberts had volunteered for the army at the outbreak of the war. He had, years previously, injured his arm and hand in a severe industrial accident. This was caused whilst performing his work at the local quarry. His fingers were permanently twisted and he had limited use of his arm. After his medical examination he was denied entrance to the armed services. However he was a great marksman using a sporting gun, he was also most knowledgeable in the correct and safe handling of weapons. He, like all the other local volunteers, was provided with an official armband which read LDV. He told me when he first received it that it really meant “Look, Duck & Vanish” not local defence volunteer. Mr. Roberts was a man’s man and never shirked his responsibilities
He and his fellow LDV’ s were out in their makeshift mountain posts at nights waiting for the German Paratroopers to invade North Wales. Later these Local defence volunteers became the nation’s Home Guard.
The soldiers stationed in Penmaenmawr would I now suppose were being trained not only to defend our Island, but to be sent to Egypt to hold back the threats from the Italian armies in Libya, North Africa. The schoolteachers of our school had performed in seaside shows at English holiday resorts during their previous long summer five week holidays. Mr. Caldwell my teacher was a most talented entertainer. He was an accomplished pianist and enjoyed show business.
He, with the approval of the headmaster formed a group of boys to learn songs and small skits to entertain the tired troops. He called the entertainment group “The Evacuees” We were taught such songs as “Were going to hang Out the washing on the Seigfried Line”” Sing as we Go” “Run Rabbit Run” “There will always be and England “ and many more. Mr Caidwell showed us how to make outfits to wear in the show. The girl’s teachers collaborated with Mr. Caldwell, to have presentations by the girl’s school. We were similar to the Perriot shows popular in Britain in the thirty’s and now the forty’s The shows were put on for the troops, and the people of Penmaenmawr arranged the venues and refreshments for our servicemen. I still have snapshots of the performers taken by Mr. Caidwell who was a very happy man a gave the school a good boost on every occasion.
As in all elementary schools we had certain students who were chosen by their teachers to be class monitors. The task at our Penmaenmawr School was to send a group of boys (monitors) to the town centre to carry the milk for the students to the school. This was a looked forward to break in our studies. The milk was contained in individual glass bottles and all bottles were in wood crates. There was not any plastic those days. We used to take the empty crates and empty washed bottles to the pickup place in town. We would then with boys strong muscles carry the loaded crates up the hills to the school. I would say that the distance was one mile at least. On many occasions we would be carrying the milk loads when the soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk would be marching up the hill and overtake us. Every time this happened the sergeant would call “Halt” to the troops and ask certain men to step aside and carry our loaded crates as far as the soldiers group went towards our school. I shall never forget those kind British soldiers who only a few weeks before were fighting the Germans. These stalwart young men certainly helped us mere boys in hauling the daily milk for the evacuated schoolchildren.
Soon after June my now ten year old brother and I were billeted with a Mrs. Williams who also resided in a terraced type house. Mrs. Williams had a son who also lived with her, he was a full time baker’s delivery boy. Her elder son was married but was away serving in the army. Mrs. William’s daughter in law resided in the Old Village. During our stay with Mrs. Williams the new headmaster of my school St. Anne’s Stanley Church of England school sent for me one school day. I went to his study and he told me that he thought that I had the potential for a better education. He went on to explain to me that the Liverpool Education Committee invited schools to enter its students in a citywide competitive examination for eleven year old students each school year. He explained that the recently retired headmaster of this school had not in past years encouraged boys or girls to enter for an educational scholarship. It was a great tragedy he said, because he the new head of the school felt that there were many students whom he thought would have qualified, and then said to me “I know that you would have been one of them.”
This new headmaster was a Mr. Yates a robust and seemingly very happy man. He asked if I would allow him to recommend me to the Liverpool Board of Education to sit for a Citywide examination for admittance to a Junior Technical Institute. He went on to inform me that he had also asked other boys my age and said that this offer of continued education is your last chance to receive further education. I accepted his recommendation. Three boys were to take this citywide examination. Mr. Yates offered to provide some additional tutoring for this small group. We all sat for this day long examination, held by the Liverpool Education Committee representatives in Penmaenmawr. After several weeks elapsed and the three boys had entirely forgotten the teaching and the taking of this examination, we were all informed that we had passed and were offered places in one of Liverpool’s three Junior Technical Institutes. I was scheduled to report to Old Swan Technical Institute in September 1940. One year after the commencement of the war with Germany.
I always thought that being a newspaper delivery boy it enabled me to read the front page news of the war each day. The examination for entrance to the technical school require that each candidate write an essay. The essay list contained about four subjects, the one I chose to write about was just titled “Finland.” What did the average young boy of my young age know about this Scandinavian country. I had read that the Finnish people had built a fortified zone across what was known as the Karelian Isthmus, it was about twenty miles in depth. It was called the “Mannerheim Line” in honour of a former Finnish Commander in Chief, he was instrumental in the prevention of Finland’s subjugation by Russia in 1917.
In November 1939 the Russians attacked Finland along Finland’s thousand mile frontier divide with Russia.
This was an unprovoked attack on a small country. During the early weeks of the fighting it was all in Finland’s favour. It seems that the Soviets had thought that fighting a small country like Finland would be a walk over. Like many people in Britain I rejoiced seeing the Finnish soldiers racing on their skis to hold the front in the deep snows and forests. At the end of the 1939 year the fighting died down and we in Britain thought that the Finns were victorious.
The Finnish army we were later informed had hoped that the winter snows would thaw early, giving them an advantage Unfortunately the winter of 1940 was one of the longest on record and the thaw came six weeks to late to assist The Russians then brought their heavy forces to defeat the Finns. Due to the Finnish armed forces being short of arms and ammunition, the Finnish nation was forced to seek an armistice with the Russians.
The British attempted to send arms to this small country but the Germans had moved in on Norway and Denmark which prevented safe passage of British ships to Helsinki.
I had followed this saga of Finland’s gallant fight against this bully nation. With knowing a little of the above story during my newspaper round, I was able to write my examination essay about the bravery of the Finnish nation.
Later during the summer of 1940 Mrs. Williams our host, advised us that due to her age she had informed the evacuee authorities that she could no longer have the responsibility of looking after so many children My now ten year old brother John and I were then billeted with Mr. and Mrs. Thai-me.
Mr. Thai-me was a carpenter tradesman and was employed in the maintenance of the Penmaenmawr quarries. Mr. and Mrs. Thai-me had three children two of whom were teenage boys. Mr. Thermo was a good and kind man, full of good humour.. When I met people on the town they would say” We hear that you now reside with cacky bewk”.
One evening during dinner with Mr. Tharme and his family, I tactfully asked him, “Mr Tharme why is it that people in this area call you cacky bewk”? . He replied” I was born in England, and therefore do not speak the welsh language, I fell in love with Mrs. Tharme and chose to live here in Penmaenmawr. When I am at my work in the quarries, my fellow worker’s speak to each other in the welsh language, even when I am sitting having lunch with them. When this occurs I say to them “CACKY BEWK” which in welsh means “BULL MANURE” or similar. So you see William that’s how an English carpenter can exist in the welsh environment. Ever since I have lived here, I am known as cacky bewk, and my welsh speaking family do not mind it a bit.” “So now you know how the local people identify me” I knew how he felt, and I thought how lucky I was to have my welsh friend Harold, to fill me in on the welsh conversations, during the times that I was with him and his welsh speaking friends.
The first week of September 1940 I left Penmaenmawr on a Crossville bus for my home town of Liverpool. I had spent one whole year of my life in the beautiful country of North Wales. I had taken care of my young bothers needs; due to earning money through newspaper deliveries and the many odd jobs that I could find. This small income paid our pocket money, shoe repairs, incidentals such as gifts, postage and other sundry items to keep two boys going away from home.
John my ten year old brother stayed with the Tharme family until after the German blitz on the city of Liverpool, The bombing of Liverpool by the German Luftwaffe commenced a few days after I had returned to Liverpool. in September 1940.