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Spade and the hoe must befriend rifle and bayonet' Rationing remained a daily hardship in January 1918, with wrongdoers facing tough punishments. Among the stories from the homefront a century ago this month, Ceri Joseph recounts how a baker was fined after a drunken accident...

WITH the end of the war in sight, food shortages and rationing were still the main concern on the British homefront during January 1918. Things became desperate early in the month due to extreme cold, ice and drifting snow. Food Control Committees had been established in every town in south Wales, including Porthcawl, whose purpose became even more vital in January - as did their role as administrators of the law.

Schemes were instigated to ensure food was not wasted and that, in some cases, substituted foodstuffs could help relieve shortages.

Potatoes became a main staple and were mixed into flour at the mills, ensuring local bakeries would all use the same amount of ingredients, including potato-enhanced butter and margarine.

In 1917, Glamorgan County had produced 20,500 tons of potatoes but had consumed 111,700 tons. The reliance on locally imported potatoes led Lord Rhondda, National Food Controller, to make a public appeal to "every man who has a farm, a garden or an allotment to plant more potatoes and make the country self-supporting".

People in south Wales knew that victory depended on food production as well as food saving. On January 10 the Porthcawl News declared: "The spade and the hoe must befriend the rifle and the bayonet."

Work continued on the town's allotments on Newton Nottage Road, The Mercies, New Road, Nottage and Newton, and new areas were also cultivated, including land near the Wilderness and opposite Hwtchwns Terrace.

On January 12, Wilfred Christian, of Poplar Road, Porthcawl, was summoned by William Chorley, executive officer to Porthcawl Food Control Committee. On December 27, while employed by Dare's Bakery on John Street, Christian had allowed 37 loaves to be burnt to a crisp. Sergeant Jenkins had been called to the bakehouse and found Christian in a drunken stupor surrounded by two empty whisky bottles and an empty beer flagon. Despite his protestations that he had been ill, the committee ordered him to pay a fine of PS3 or spend a month in prison.

Meanwhile, despite no major conflicts on the Western Front in January, there were still numerous casualties.

Rifleman Ivor Thomas Rees Williams died from his wounds at No 7 General Base Hospital, St Omer, France, on January 15, 1918. He had probably been wounded at either Passchendaele or Cambrai, as his battalion had served in both campaigns. Ivor was 19. He had been born in Porth in 1898 to Rees and Dora Williams. By 1901 the family had moved to Plastirion, The Esplanade, Porthcawl. In 1910, following the death of his father in March 1906, his mother married the family doctor Herbert Sidney Fosdike. In the 1911 census, both Ivor and his older sister Ada are found in boarding schools. Ivor attended Bradfield College, Berkshire, until 1915, where he possibly forged the links that would eventually take him to London to enlist in the London Rifle Brigade.

Rifleman ITR Williams is buried at Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, St Omer, and is remembered on the family grave in St John's Churchyard, Newton.

On January 31 at Cambrai, Corporal Arthur Cecil Avenell, Sixth Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, was shot in the leg, resulting in the limb being amputated eight inches above the knee. Cecil was born on August 16, 1891, one of five children to Stephen and Eliza Avenell. A plumber by trade, on March 28, 1912, he enlisted in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry as a reservist. In March 1914, he joined the Great Western Railway, but with the onset of war he received his call-up papers on August 5, 1914.

His regiment landed at Le Harve on December 4, 1915, where their main duties as a cavalry regiment were policing, despatch riding and moving equipment. In March 1917 the regiment played its only cavalry combat role in the war, pursuing the Germans as they retreated to the Hindenburg Line.

During this 11-day period, Private Avenell was not only promoted to corporal in the field but was awarded the Military Medal. However, it was soon realised that there was no longer a place for cavalry on the Western Front. On September 22, 1917, the regiment became the Sixth Wiltshire Infantry Regiment, seeing action at Passchendaele and Cambrai.

The amputation of Corporal Avenell's leg initiated a long recovery.

Unfortunately, the wound often became infected. In March 1919 surgeons removed more bone and Cecil was transferred to St John's Auxiliary Hospital, Porthcawl, in May 1919 to recover. Unfortunately, his stump did not heal correctly so on April 29, 1919, the rest of his leg had to be amputated.

He was fitted with an artificial limb on September 6, 1919, at the Queen Mary's Convalescent Hospital in Roehampton, London.

During the war, his widowed mother had moved from Wiltshire to Suffolk Place and then to Porthcawl, where Cecil returned on his discharge from the Army. In 1920, Cecil rejoined the Great Western Railway as a clerk at Porthcawl Station, married Stella Hartery and had five sons. He died in Berkshire on December 31, 1969.

| Ceri Joseph is secretary of Porthcawl Museum and author of Porthcawl And The Great War: Part 2 - Mud and Men, available from the museum office for PS10. Find out more


Ivor Thomas Rees Williams

Dare's Bakery and Hotel where a drunken Wilfred Christian let 37 loaves of bread burn to a cinder
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 12, 2018
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