My Aunt, Myfanwy James, nee Roberts, recalls her early days in Dolgarrog.
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MYFANWY JAMES nee ROBERTS


 

BLAENAU FFESTINIOG, MERIONETHSHIRE

I was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Merionethshire.


I'm pictured here on my mother's knee, sister Betty on the left.

Some of my memories of those days
include the following items;

The town's men would walk to the slate quarries, with others joining them on route. They would blast the slate from the rock, but had to purchase their own dynamite to undertake the task. 

I remember my Aunty Annie dying of throat cancer. There was little treatment available in those days and people could not afford to pay for radium treatment.

A local tragedy involved a friend of mine, Elizabeth, or Betty James and her mother, who were murdered by Betty's father.



DOLGARROG


We moved to live at 26 Gwydr Road, Dolgarrog, and I recall sitting around the fire listening to my parents, Owen John and Sarah Michell Roberts talking about their early days, particularly my father, about Cae Merddyn, Penmon. 

His brother Joseph had married a Boer lady after the Boer War, and returned to live in Penmon.

 
Joseph with his wife Georgina Hoff

They both died in their thirties, and their children Joseph and Madge, were raised by my grandparents at Cae Merddyn. Madge died of cancer on her 25th birthday.


Madge and Joseph with their grandparents at Cae Merddyn 

Another brother, Charles Goodman Roberts, emigrated to America, and we were told that he had died of pneumonia over there. The truth however, was more sinister. He committed suicide at his Aunt Lizzie's home.

Charles' sister Aunty Kate who lived at Park Terrace. Llangoed suffered badly with depression, probably trying to cope with the reality of her brother Charles' death.

My father's eldest sister Maggie, was visited by a Revivalist minister when she had tuberculosis and her health improved slightly. She sadly had a relapse and died aged 20. Chapels were full. Meetings and services were held in fields to accommodate people to hear 'the Revivalist message'. People were healed, drunkards became sober, and sober people became drunkards! The Revival seemed to leave Wales as quickly as it came. 



NEWS ITEMS

My mother told us about the days of her youth and read items or told us about events from papers such as the News Chronicle. There was not much radio then. We were told about the discovery of Tutenkhamun's tomb by Lord Caernarfon, and the curse of the tomb which resulted in a lot of untimely deaths of those invovled in the discovery.

I remember the story of the Titanic sinking having collided with an iceberg. A ship saw them in distress but thought they were having a party, and did not go their aid.

The Battle of the Somme was in my mothers lifetime.

CHILDHOOD

As a child, I read a lot, and my mother used to urge me to  go out into the sunshine to play. Games we played included a bat and ball in our porch, rounders in the old road, and later tennis in the courts, not far from our home.


I'm on the right with Jean, Betty and Eric.

I was a member of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, (Welsh League of Youth) and we met at the Neuadd Coffa, Talybont (Memorial Hall). 

As a member of Dolgarrog Sunday School and Chapel in Tal y Bont, we went to the Gymanfa Ganu at Seion Chapel, Llanrwst. There would be a big parade walking through Llanrwst with banners being paraded in the streets. We had tea in Gwydr Cafe and then back to  Seion for the evening service.

Dad taught us verses from the Bible to read in Chapel on Sundays, which was very well attended. I understand that only about half a dozen or so go to Chapel in Talybont now. We enjoyed going on Sunday School trips to Rhyl, Dad having once again cleaned our shoes the night before.   


My sister Jean is on the swing with Betty on the left.


Form III B Llanrwst Grammar School c 1941
I'm 4th from the right, in the 2nd row from the top
.

I attended Llanrwst Grammar School from 1938, taking a bus from Dolgarrog every day. I got on well with a policeman's son, David Jones who later conducted the Llandudno choir. I understand he died at a young age.

We walked to Llyn Cowlyd and Llyn Eigiau above Dolgarrog. The approach to them was better from nearby Trefriw.

We went to Anglesey by bus for our holidays, changing in Bangor. Dad worked additional hours at the Aluminium Works during their fortnight's holiday period, cleaning the dirty machinery and equipment, and get paid double for us to go on holiday and to buy winter clothes. 

Taid, Charles Goodman Roberts, would go fishing and we had fresh fish to  eat. He would recite poems by Robert Burns although Taid didn't speak a lot of English


SECOND WORLD WAR

Dolgarrog was described as an English village in the Heart of Wales, due to the influx of workers from different areas. During the Second World War, Aluminium works' Head Office staff came to  the area, increasing the English population there.

We had air raid practices and we all had designated houses to attend for shelter.   We listened to Lord Haw Haw and his propaganda messages on the radio. Dad built an air raid shelter just outside our kitchen.

Evacuees arrived in Dolgarrog from Liverpool and our Aunty Annie read Old Testament stories to them.


Evacuees

 


LATER YEARS


Jean on the left, with Betty. I'm standing.

Myfanwy standing right with sister Jean left, Betty seated with father Owen John mother Sarah Michell and brother Eric.

In 1948, my sister Betty married Canadian Air Force Pilot Alvin Gaetz, and I recall going with her to the ship Letitia, as she was about to set sail to Canada. While I was on board with Betty, a message came over the tannoy. "We have 20 girls going to Canada, but we have 21 on board. Will the one person please leave!" So I left! 

Finally, I recall a singer being introduced as 'Myfanwy Roberts of the Conway Valley'. I had great pleasure in going up to her later and introduce myself also, as 'Myfanwy Roberts of the Conway Valley'

 WEDDING DAY
MARRIED
FREDERICK GEORGE JAMES D.F.C.

TALYBONT CHAPEL

 



Myfanwy passed away on the
30th January 2014 

And finally.........
MYFANWY

Dr Joseph Parry

Composer of some of Wales' most well-known hymn tunes, such as Myfanwy and Aberystwyth.

 Click here to hear MYFANWY by Joseph Parry

 
 
 Flight Lieutenant
Frederick George James
D.F.C.

Frederick George James is the fifth child of Ernest and Mary Ellen James (nee Thompson). Their family consisted of Mary, Cyril, Audrey, Ernest Frederick and Alfred.
Their childhood address was Hill Close, Ashford-in-the-Water, Bakewell.

Ashford-in-the-Water

Fred was born in Ashford in 1920. He might have been destined to work on the railway like his father, a signalman based variously at Hazelgrove, Buxton and Bakewell.
 
Hazel Grove Signalbox

Buxton Signalbox

Bakewell Signalbox
Fate had a very different plan in store for Fred and it seemed to lay an unsuspected marker when he was only about eight years old.

 A Flying Circus had come to Bakewell, taking off and landing from the present Lady Manners School site and it was Fred who a competition in the High Peak News for a free flight in a biplane.   
Flying was still a rare experience, a mix of thrill and trepidation for a small boy sitting behind the pilot in an open cockpit. Fred would later become a pupil at Lady Manners School which he left aged 14.

                

Barely out of his teenage years, he received his call up papers and managed to get into the RAF, entering service life in 1941. 
 
The Primary Air Crew Receiving Centre was at Lords Cricket Ground and Fred has his medical in the famous Long Room there.


.After three weeks at Lords as a Pilot Under Training, he moved on to the Initial Training Wing at Babbacombe, Torquay for courses including mathematics and navigation.

 
RAF Training Wing, Babbacombe
Picture taken from Ken Fenton's War - click here to see his brilliant webpage.
A fantastic account of the life of an RAF trainee.

His studies barely behind him, he next found himself at Liverpool on board the Highland Princess, a liner which had been taken over as a troop ship, bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia.


The Battle of The Atlantic was under way but in the event, it was the weather which made for a dreadfully rough crossing.  

Fred's destination was the (then) neutral U.S.A. and a place under the Arnold Scheme - an aircrew training scheme, established to overcome both uncertain weather and German aircraft in the skies over Britain.

RAF personnel who were sent to Florida to be trained as pilots under a scheme made possible by the passage of the U.S. Lend-Lease Act in 1941. Although the Arnold Scheme (named after Henry H. Arnold, the Commander General of the U.S. Army Air Corps) enabled thousands of RAF pilots to be trained in the U.S.A., it is an almost unknown corner of the Second World War.  

Arnold Scheme
1941 - 1943 
Between 1941 and 1943, some 7,885 cadets entered the scheme and of the 4493 who survived training, most were returned to the UK as Sergeant Pilots, with many being posted to Bomber Command. 

Primary training was undertaken in the Boeing Stearman, the U.S. Army Air Corps PT-17, which was first constructed in 1934. It had a span of 9.8 metres, a length of 7.54 metres and its 200 h.p. motor gave it a maximum speed of 300 km/hour. It was therefore more powerful than the De Havilland Tiger Moth with its 130 h.p. engine maximum speed of 167 km/hour used by the R.A.F. for pilot training.

The fine weather of the south-eastern states of America allowed flying almost every day and Fred soon made his first solo flight over Albany, Georgia in a Stearman.
 
Boeing Stearman PT-17

All the British airmen had gone over as civilians, and in their civvy suits, but were immediately ordered back into uniform with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941.

 PEARL HARBOR
7th December 1941

Click here to visit The Pearl Harbor History Website

 R.A.F. Wings

On a never to be forgotten day in May 1942 at Montgomery, Alabama, Fred graduated as a fully-fledged pilot and was presented with his much coveted wings, aged 22.

Returning to Britain, he was posted to fly an Oxford, his first twin-engined plane. Then came the Operation Training Units (OTUs) and the experience of flying Wellington Bombers from Castle Donington, now Nottingham and East Midlands Airport.

Oxford Twin-engine

Wellington Bomber
 
It was the outcome of a Wellington flight in December 1942 that almost claimed Fred's life when, in bad weather, conditions forced a crash landing, killing one of the crew and 'putting half of Nottingham out of lights'.

Fred was thrown clear of the cockpit but remembered nothing of the next ten days as he lay unconscious in hospital. He awoke to see a figure in a white gown arranging Christmas decorations and thought that he'd gone to Heaven.

Many years later, Fred and his wife Myfanwy returned to the crash scene and were put in touch with the doctor who had turned out to help that night in 1942. He told them of looking at the pilot and declaring "There's no hope for him!".

After his convalescence, Fred returned to operational flying. His first operation flight in March 1944 was leaflet raid over Argentan, France.
 BOMBER COMMAND
WAR DIARIES
ENTRY

22nd/23rd March 1944
20 O.T.U. Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France without loss.

Argentan-Sur-Creuse
where Fred and crew dropped leaflets

He progressed to the four engined Halifax bombers but '...didn't care very much for them, they were big and heavy'.

                 
                                        Halifax Bomber

Then came the Lancaster Finishing School, flying 'wonderful, marvellous Lancasters'. Fred told himself 'I've arrived at last, this is IT - the cream of the R.A.F.' He was posted to 101 Squadron Bomber Command at Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire. 

 
Avro Lancaster
 
Flight Lieutenant
Insignia
Between June and November 1944, Fred flew numerous raids over enemy territory with the purpose of distrupting supply lines. He streSsed that the targets always had a military aspect including oil refineries, railway marshalling yards and submarine bases. This meant attacking areas such as Keil, Cologne, Stuttgart and Essen- where his Lancaster was over target when its windscreen was shot out by anti-aircraft shell.

One memorable dawn raid played a role in the massive carpet bombing of Caen, thereby freeing up the advance of the allied army. Success also followed in an air offensive over Walcheren Island off the Dutch coast: here a protective sea wall was massively breached, creating a deluge that engulfed a heavy German artillery emplacement. 

During a raid over Germany itself, Fred came under attack from a Messerchmitt but escaped with only a punctured fuel tank.

                    
                                             Messerchmitt
 

His closest shave came during the D-Day operations over Rhiems.

The following is an article entitled
Running The Gauntlet 
by
Eric Swain


             
             
Fred, second from right with 5 of his crew members 

 




     




Fred finished his tour of operations on the 2nd November 1944. The group photograph, taken the next morning, shows him standing 2nd from the right amongst the Lancaster crew.

He subsequently flew with the Coastal Command Development Unit based at Thorney, helping to identify the most effective bomb sight for moving targets at sea. It was at Thorney that he learned he had awarded the highly esteemed Distinguished Flying Cross.



Off duty one day, and beachcoming at Thorney Island, he came across a Lancaster escape hatch - to this day he wonders whether it was the one he lost.

Flying Dakotas for a short time in 1945, Fred remained fully operational until the end of the war. He had survived the dangers of life as a bomber pilot, completing almost 40 raids over Germany and enemy occupied territory

It should be noted though, that throughout his wartime recollections, his emphasis has been on 'we' not 'I'.

 After the war

Back in civilian life, Fred returned to Ashford for a time and went into teaching. He held posts at Rowsley, Bonsall, Matlock and Bakewell Senior Boy's School, then spent 10 years at Lady Manners teaching mainly maths.

Roberts - James
 

Fred married Myfanwy Roberts on the 6th August 1949 at Talybont Chapel.

Officiating was the Rev. Eric Jones. Mrs Meredith Jones was the organist.

Given away by her father, the bride was gowned in white silk tafetta with a matching lace veil. She carried a bouquet of dark red carnations.

The bridesmaids were her sister, Miss Jean Roberts, attired in a pink tafetta gown with matching head-dress, and the misses Sheila and Shirley Smith, the bridegroom's nieces, in blue crepe silk gowns. All had matching accessories and carried bouquets of pink carnations.



Mr Alfred James, the bridegroom's brother, was best man, and the groomsmen were Mr Eric Roberts, the bride's brother and Messers W.O. Davies and D.R. Roberts.

Following a reception at the Gwydr Cafe,Llanrwst, the couple left for Port Erin, Isle of Man, the bride travelling in a navy coat and powder-blue accessories.
The bride was a staff nurse at the Whitworth Hospital, Matlock, Derbyshire, and the bridegroom is on the teaching staff of Bonsall Endowed Boys School.
He served as a flight lieutenant (pilot) with the R.A.F. during the war.
 

Many readers of the Peak Advertiser will remember the day of his retirement in 1982, when a Vulcan bomber made three breathtaking flypasts over Lady Manners School as a tribute to their war time hero.

Ex pupils still recall that memorable day.

Also in recognition of his DFC, the people of Ashford presented Flight Lieutenant Frederick George James with a cigar box carved from Chatsworth Oak, by Hunstones of Tideswell.
 
 
Fred held a part time retirement post
as a warden at Chatsworth House,
home of the Duke and Duchess
of Devonshire.

On the 11th September 2006, 1001 Squadron Bomber Command held its annual reunion at Ludford Magna.

The only Lancaster still flying in Britain was expected to make a flypast, but was sadly prevented from doing so by poor weather conditions. 

 
Fred died on the
5th April 2011