The day war was declared; Views of Wales.
SIR - I'm glad Malcolm Cowper (Letters, September 4), reminded us that September 3 marked the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. As head choirboy at St Hilda's Parish Church in Griffithstown near Pontypool, I have a clear recollection of the church service on that historic day.
The church was packed on the Sunday morning as the inevitability of war gripped the nation. On Church Parade were the local Panteg Battery, part of the 1st Monmouthshire Artillery Volunteer Corps. The Battery had a distinguished military record. My grandfather was Regimental Bandmaster when the Battery volunteered for service in the Boer War. They were serving when General Allenby's victorious army entered Jerusalem in 1917, thus ending Turkish rule in Palestine.
In the front pew, wearing his World War One medals was the local GP, Dr J P Jenkins. He had helped me into the world during a difficult birth and in 1938, as honorary surgeon at Pontypool and District hospital, saved my leg from amputation. He was on the Army Medical Reserve in 1939 and therefore eligible for War service again and in 1945 he ended the war as a full Colonel and Commandant of a British Military Hospital before returning to Griffithstown and general practice.
The Rev T Powell Davies broke off from his address to read out the message that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had just announced on radio that we were at war with Germany. The Vicar immediately dismissed the congregation who quietly left the church.
The Panteg Battery marched down the steep hill to Griffithstown Drill Hall to await orders. I remember walking home with my parents.
My mother was wiping away tears. My father said nothing. He had left Griffithstown in August 1914 to volunteer for the Royal Artillery, serving with Kitchener's 10th Irish Division in the Gallipoli and Mesopotamia campaigns and, in 1919. the Indian North-West Frontier.
Everyone's life was about to change.
Idris Berry, West Park Drive, Porthcawl
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Sep 16, 2014|
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