Supporting the War Effort

As the First World War continued, local authorities across the country co-ordinated attempts to support the war effort.

At the start of the war one option many authorities discussed was using elementary schools as makeshift field hospitals for those who had been wounded in combat. Voluntary Aid Detachments were set up to help assist professional nurses both at the front (although this was initially discouraged) and at the hospitals at home. There was also the issue of where new recruits would stay prior to being posted abroad or elsewhere in the UK. In Cardiff it was decided that in emergency situations public buildings be used as accommodation (RD/C/1/9).

Many employees who continued to work for the local authorities were offered War Bonuses. These were incentives to encourage them to work overtime, often compensating for holidays lost and for the rising cost of living essentials. Those who did not serve in the armed forces either abroad or at home were encouraged to work in factories that produced munitions and other materials for aircraft, ships and tanks. Those men who had joined the colours would be replaced by older men or women.

Once the possibility of air raids by German bombers and zeppelins had emerged, the local authorities were instructed to dim or extinguish street lights and arrange for the sounding of alert sirens.

Charities were set up to support those who served in the armed forces and their relatives and loved ones. In Aberdare, the National Fund for Comforts of Troops suggested that St David’s Day should be marked as a Flag Day, and that street collections be made for the benefit of the Fund (UDAB/C/1/9).

Aberdare UD flag day

In addition to charities, local authorities encouraged some facilities such as schools to put money towards a War Savings account. Towards the end of the war tanks that had already seen service were sent around the UK, where the public could see and sometimes ride a tank provided that they pledged money towards War Savings. At the same time the national government was offering War Loans, encouraging people to invest money towards the war effort.

During the later years of the war some materials were rationed, either because it became harder to obtain them, or because they were needed for military purposes. In Barry the authorities decided not to use crude tar for the purpose of road maintenance as some of its by-products were to be used in the production of explosives (BB/C/1/20). As it became more difficult to import or manufacture food, the authorities encouraged residents and landowners to grow food in allotments. As well as people and buildings, the armed forces also took civilian vehicles and used them, mostly in transport roles. In Caerphilly the South Wales Transport Company informed the local authorities that their vehicles had been commandeered by the War Office, but were still hoping to commence services in the Caerphilly area (UDCAE/C/1/18). In Gelligaer the hire of a steam roller was discussed (UDG/C/1/11), although it would appear no action was taken.

The local authority minutes held at Glamorgan Archives reveal the breadth of involvement by local councils in support of the war from the home front.

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant

St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors

As the Great War progressed South Wales received increasing numbers of wounded servicemen, primarily from France and Belgium but, in some instances, from fighting as far away as the Dardanelles. The most urgent and serious cases were dealt with at the large military hospitals set up in centres such as Cardiff. In addition, the Red Cross established over 40 hospitals across Glamorgan, often in country houses and used primarily as centres for rest and recuperation before troops were ready to return to active service.

Schools across Glamorgan set up links with their local hospitals and helped in very practical ways, for example, through collections of fruit and vegetables to supplement the hospital food. The ties with local hospitals also brought many young children in contact with wounded servicemen and, therefore, with the grim reality of the carnage reaped by modern warfare in France and elsewhere:

This afternoon four wounded soldiers from Caerphilly Hospital visited the school from 3.20 to 4pm. They visited the various classes in pairs and showed much interest in a Welsh school. The pupils were equally delighted with the visitors who hailed from Liverpool, Norfolk, Cornwall and London respectively.  The soldiers were the guests of the Red Cross Nurses for the afternoon [Cwmaber Girls School, 27 Jul 1918, ECG18/2 p.133]

Permission has been granted by the Local Managers to take the Scholars to the Palace Theatre, this afternoon, when an interesting programme has been prepared to celebrate Empire Day. An invitation has been tendered to the wounded soldiers, now at Caerphilly Red Cross Hospital [Caerphilly Girls School, 24 May 1917, ECG13/3 p.99]

The use of mustard gas in trench warfare from 1916 onwards resulted in thousands of young men losing their sight temporarily and in many cases permanently. The school log books record the visits made by blind servicemen to local schools and also the efforts made by the schools to help provide rehabilitation facilities for the servicemen. This entry in the Cwmaber Girls’ School records for July 1917 was typical of many in the period:

Two visitors came here this afternoon to hear the girls singing – two blind soldiers who were on a visit to Abertridwr – one from London and one from Australia. They expressed great pleasure at the singing, especially the Welsh songs. The children keenly felt the presence of the visitors and their sacrifice appealed to them greatly.  Needless to say they received a very hearty welcome [Cwmaber Girls School, 27 Jul 1917, ECG18/2, p.118]

The visits made a very deep impression on staff and pupils. As a result, schools gave particular attention to charities that worked with those that had lost their sight. The best known was St Dunstan’s Hostel established at Regents Park Lodge, London. St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors was a charity supported by the National Institute for the Blind, The Red Cross Society and Order of St John of Jerusalem. The leading figure behind the hostel was Arthur Pearson the newspaper proprietor who, on losing his sight, threw himself into work for the National Institute for the Blind.  Recognising the need for specialist care for the large numbers of servicemen blinded in the war, he set up St Dunstan’s Hostel in February 1915 as a centre where men could be taught a trade and helped with making a return to everyday life. The skills taught included typing, telephony, joinery and market gardening. Very little was considered to be out of bounds and St Dunstan’s encouraged the men to take up a range of sports and also to learn to play a musical instrument.

St Dunstan’s was a symbol of the tragedy of war but also of what could be done to help servicemen to rebuild their lives. It was, therefore, a very popular and well supported charity and the South Wales schools, with others across the country, made a special effort to support its work.

One of the key sources of income for St Dunstan’s was provided by the musical concerts put on by the ‘The Blind Musicians’ as part of national tours. In June 1917 the Blind Musicians visited South Wales. From newspaper reports we know that concerts were held at Bridgend Town Hall where £50 was raised. The Blind Musicians were also the guests of the Rhymney Male Voice Party at St David’s Parish Hall, Rhymney in the same month.  On 15 June 1917 the local newspaper reported:

The true patriotism of the public of Rhymney and its readiness to appreciate first class music were again strikingly demonstrated on Wednesday evening when a grand concert was given at St David’s Parish Hall… by the Blind Musicians of the National Institute for the Blind, London, the proceeds being devoted to the St Dunstan’s Hostel for our Blinded Soldiers and Sailors, Regents Park, London.

The artistic efforts of the performers revealed the fact that there are amongst the blind some splendid musicians and encores were quite numerous during the evening.

During the interval Mr Avalon Collard the representative of the National Institute for the Blind delivered a most interesting address on the splendid work of our Blinded Soldiers and Sailors at St Dunstan’s.

St Dunstan’s could be described as a workshop of darkness, a training ground for those who living in a world entirely different from ours must get their living in competition with us for whom the sun still shines and night is a visible beauty [Bargoed and Caerphilly Observer, 15 Jun 1917]

By June 1917 the hostel had helped over 200 men, with a further 380 receiving training and support. However, the object of the tour was to raise money for the 110 men in military hospitals waiting to be admitted to St Dunstan’s. The mark of just how popular St Dunstan’s was with schools can be seen in the decision, on 7 June, to close the schools in Caerphilly so that pupils could play a full part in supporting the concerts to be given by The Blind Musicians at Caerphilly Castle:

ECG12_3 p51

Received instruction to close school this afternoon as there is a great function in the Castle on behalf of the Blinded Soldiers from St. Dunstan’s. The Blind men will give two Concerts [Caerphilly Boys’ School, 7 Jun 1917, ECG12/3 p.51]

Schools also organised their own events to raise money for St Dunstan’s. In the same month the Head Teacher of Mardy Boys School noted in the school log book:

ER23_5 p125

A charity concert, organised chiefly by the teachers, was held on the 9th June at the Workmen’s Hall, Ferndale, the proceeds being devoted to the St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. Mardy’s contribution towards this was £28.11.0 [Mardy Boys School, 20 Jun 1917, ER23/5 p.125]

It was also recognised that the families of service men who had lost their sight faced very real financial difficulties. In 1917 the education authority in the Rhondda area decided to support a national appeal to raise money for the Blinded Soldiers’ Children Fund. In November 1917 the Head teacher of Trealaw Boys’ School received the following circular from the Education Authority:

I write to ask for the benefit of your co-operation in my Xmas appeal to the British Isles on behalf of the children of our Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. Briefly the aim is to collect a sum of not less than £250,000 to provide a weekly payment of 5/- for each child of every blind soldier and sailor until such child reaches the age of 16. At present the married men and children receive from the Government a weekly allowance for each child they may have and for every child born nine months after their discharge, but there is no allowance for children born after the blinded man has left the army nor any allowance for the children of men who marry after their disablement. Christmas envelopes containing an appeal will be given to each child and these will be collected after the vacation [Trealaw Boys School, 9 Nov 1917, ER41/2 pp.294-5]

Although with the introduction of rationing it was a difficult time for families across South Wales, the appeal struck a particular chord with the children. In January Trealaw reported that £12 5s had been raised and other schools in the area made similar contributions. For example, Penygraig Infants School raised £3 8s 6d [Trealaw Boys School, 4 Jan 1918, ER41/2 p.298 and Penygraig Infants School, 23 Jan 1918, ER28/2 p.157].  In recognition of their contribution the Trealaw School received a letter of thanks from Arthur Pearson:

ER41_2 p307

Will you please convey to your scholars my sincere thanks for their subscription to the Blinded Soldiers’ Children Fund – £12 5s. 1d. I need not tell you how keenly I appreciate this evidence of their sympathy and interest and in the effort to make as happy as possible the home lives of the men who have made so great a sacrifice for their country and whose bravery has been shown not only while they were serving in the Army, but in a most remarkable manner since. In thanking in my own name all who have so kindly assisted in this collection, I am thanking them on behalf of those blinded soldiers for whom the fund is being raised [Trealaw Boys School, 11 Mar 1918, ER41/2 p.307]

By the signing of the Armistice in November 1918 St Dunstan’s had helped over 600 veterans, but its work was far from over. There were still 900 men learning new skills at Regent’s Park and other centres opened around the country. To their credit, four months later, schools were still collecting money for St Dunstan’s.

ECG13_3 p131

Celebrations of St David’s Day. Programme – A Welsh drama composed by Mrs John CA now a member on the staff and previously Head Mistress of Senghenydd Infants’ School – ‘Plant y Pentre’. As usual the entertainment will be held in the Palace kindly lent for the occasion. A nominal charge will be made for adults, the proceeds to be handed over to St Dunstan’s Institute for our blinded heroes of the war [Caerphilly Girls School, 28 Feb 1919, ECG13/3 p.131]

Although Arthur Pearson died in 1921, St Dunstan’s continued to provide support for blind veterans after the war and during the Second World War. Known today as Blind Veterans UK, the charity is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. Its original vision is still very much the same as that which inspired the school children of South Wales and across Britain in 1915 – that no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Great War Commemorative Mug

On 18th July 1919, 455 pupils from the Caerphilly Girls’ School were presented with commemorative mugs to mark the end of the Great War with the signing at Versailles of the Peace Treaty.  The mugs were also a reward for the sterling work undertaken by staff and pupils at the school over the preceding 5 years to support the war effort.

In the first weeks of the First World War schools across Wales looked for ways and means of supporting the war effort. The initial response often came from the girls’ schools with very practical proposals to provide additional clothing for the troops in France. Caerphilly Girls’ school was one of the first to recognise how it could help. Just four weeks after the beginning of the war the Headmistress, Miss Morgan, reported in the school log book:

ECG13_3 p35

ECG13_3 p35 part 2

In consequence of a great European War in which our country is engaged as Protector of Belgium, a Neutral State, & eventually to carry out her obligations to France, as per agreement against Prussian Militarism, the girls in the three upper classes have been anxious to do something for our gallant soldiers. In order to minister somewhat to their comfort, they have decided each, to knit a pair of socks or comforter. They have therefore undertaken to collect the money to pay for the wool, and as a result of their efforts, the sum realised is £7-14-0 [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 4 Sep 1914, ECG13/3 p.35]

In October the first batch of woollen socks and mufflers was ready and on its way to London:

ECG13_3 p38

The first parcel of socks and mufflers knitted by the girls, viz:- 32 pairs of socks and 23 mufflers were sent to-day to the Lady-in- Waiting to the Queen, Devonshire House. They had been washed and pressed, gratis, at the local laundries [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 29 Oct 1914, ECG13/3 p.38]

It was a small but very welcome contribution to the welfare of the troops. Three years later with the war entering its fourth year, the Caerphilly girls were still receiving and responding to requests for extra clothing for soldiers and sailors:

ECG13_3 p106

We have been asked to begin work afresh for the soldiers & sailors again. The Hon. Sec. of the Cardiff Branch, Women’s Advisory Com. War Work Mrs J. Price Williams has sent on 24lbs of wool to make up, & the senior class has commenced in earnest this afternoon [Caerphilly Girls School, 21 Sep 1917, ECG13/3 p.106]

It may well be that the donation of wool in 1917 recognised that, as the war progressed, local families were hard pressed to spare money for the numerous appeals made for the soldiers, sailors and their dependants. Miss Morgan’s log book highlighted the difficulties faced by local people in Caerphilly as the war led to shortages of food and fuel and forced up the price of many basic commodities. In December 1916 the Headmistress noted:

ECG13_3 p89_90

The weather is still very miserable and there is much sickness, many girls being very badly shod owing to the great increase in the price of boots, and other commodities which are the dire results of disastrous war which has raged during the past twenty –nine months [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 15 Dec 1916, ECG13/3 pp.89-90]

Twelve months later the story was very similar:

ECG13_3 p108

The attendance is still going down, sickness the chief reason. Owing to the strenuous circumstances arising out of the war, many are unable to attend owing to bad boots etc. [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 16 Nov 1917, ECG13/3 p.108]

ECG13_3 p109

Owing to the shortage of butter etc. a large number of girls are kept at home for the purpose of taking their turns at the local grocers [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 13 Dec 1917, ECG13/3 p.109]

ECG13_3 p110

The attendance for the week is exceptionally poor, bad weather, sickness, together with the difficulty to procure the bare necessaries; consequence on the war conditions is responsible for this…. [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 21 Dec 1917, ECG13/3 p.110]

Yet despite the difficulties the school never missed an opportunity to help the war effort. For example, every St David’s Day an ‘entertainment’ was provided by the staff and pupils at the Castle Cinema, with the premises provided free of charge by the proprietor, Mr Gibbon. Parents and family were invited to attend and a collection was taken. In 1916 Miss Morgan recorded:

In addition to a short address on the Patron Saint, Welsh Airs and Recitations, short playlets illustrative of early periods in the history of our people have been got up in character by the various standards a) A Pageant of Welsh heroes, 2) A Legend of the Leek, 3) A Scene from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt, 4) The opening Episode of the Welsh National Pageant.

The school will line up at 9.30 and they will march in procession to the above named hall. Mr Barker ex schoolmaster and famous harpist has promised to be present to give some selections on the harp and the members of the 2nd and 3rd Std on their own request are presenting him with a bouquet of spring flowers this being his birthday [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 1 Mar 1916, ECG13/3 pp.71-72]

ECG13_3 p72

A silver collection was taken from the balcony which amounted to 26s which is to be sent on to Brigadier General Owen Thomas in aid of the Welsh Fund for Disabled Soldiers after the War [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 2 Mar 1916, ECG13/3 p.72]

The following year Miss Morgan noted:

ECG13_3 p93

St. David’s Day celebration at Castle Cinema. A collection, which amounted to 13/2d was made in the audience, and this will be duly handed over to Hon. Mrs Lloyd George, wife of the Prime Minister, towards the National Fund for Welsh Troops [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 1 Mar 1917, ECG13/3 p.93]

It seems that no opportunity was lost to raise money. In the week before the Christmas holidays Miss Morgan again noted in her log book:

ECG13_3 p89_90 part 2

An entertainment has been arranged….Each class contributes one or more items for the programme and the senior girls are ready with a small play -The Sleeping Beauty. It has been suggested that where possible the scholars will bring a copper, and the full amount expended on wool, that the senior girls can be set on comforts for our brave soldiers and sailors, upon the opening of school after the recess [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 15 Dec 1916, ECG13/3 pp.89-90]

ECG13_3 p90

The entertainment mentioned above was carried out and was heartily enjoyed by the scholars and staff. Sum Collected £3-2-7.The wool will be purchased and the record of work handed in to the Education Committee [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 22 Dec 1916, ECG13/3 p.90]

It may well have been that the girls were inspired by one of their own teachers, Miss Hughes, who in 1915 trained and volunteered for service overseas as a nurse:

Miss Hughes has taken the St. John’s Nursing course as a preparation for hospital work, and has got her certificate. The Education Committee has sanctioned her application, that of allowing her to take the month’s probation course on the understanding that the War Office appoint her afterwards for the duration of the “War” or at least for 12 months [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 2 Jun 1915, ECG13/3 p.53]

The school log records that she embarked at Gravesend in September 1915 for Egypt. There is no record of Miss Hughes returning to visit Caerphilly Girls’ School but she must have created quite a sensation when she left for war service overseas. In addition, with the decision to allow married women teachers to remain in post until the end of the war, several teachers at the school had husbands serving at the front. At least one of the Caerphilly teachers, Mrs Foxall, received the sad news that her husband had …fallen in action In France… [Caerphilly Girls’ School, ECG13/3 p.123].

By 1917 the Government had recognised the potential to raise money for the war effort by harnessing the enthusiasm and resources of schools. All schools were asked to set up systems to sell War Bonds:

ECG13_3 p97_98

Received notification from the Chief Education Official that the Caerphilly Group of schools will be closed on Tuesday 22nd inst, in order that head teachers and their staff may attend a meeting, convened by the Secretary of the National War Savings Committee, Salisbury Square EC4…

The dire need of enlisting the full sympathy of the parents through the scholars in straining to the uttermost, the means of saving methodically & taking the advantage of the facilities now offered by the Government for small investors, & thereby helping to bring this gruesome war to an honourable end, is the object of calling the teachers together [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 15 May 1917, ECG13/3 pp.97-98]

When the tanks visited Caerphilly and other towns in South Wales, in June 1918, as part of a national campaign to promote the sale of War Savings Certificates the school once again rose to the challenge:

ECG13_3 p117

Visit of the tank Egbert to Caerphilly with the object of raising £100,000 for the purposes of the Great World War. The schools of the town were closed yesterday afternoon to celebrate the event [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 22 Jun 1918, ECG13/3 p.117]

ECG13_3 p117 part 2

…As a result of special effort mentioned above 104 War Savings Certificates 15/6 each were purchased at the Tank on Saturday 22nd in connection with this department [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 26 Jun 1918, ECG13/3 p.117]

The signing of the Armistice in November 1918 did not bring the school’s work to an end. The school log records that the pupils continued to sell War Bonds and put on entertainments to raise money for war charities well into the following year. The souvenir mugs presented to all pupils on 18 July 1919 were, therefore, well earned. From the record in the Headmistress’ log there is no doubt that the pupils of Caerphilly Girls’ School – all 455 girls – were determined to celebrate both the formal ending of the war and their contribution during the war:

ECG13_3 p141 cropped

Children of school age are entertained today to tea at their respective school and when this is over the three departments of the school will march in procession through the town to the several fields kindly lent for their occasion where an interesting programme of events – sportive, will take place. The school that is, the class rooms are very tastefully decorated and all is now ready to make the happy event, forever remembered by the scholars. Number catered for 455 [Caerphilly Girls’ School, 18 Jul 1919, ECG13/3 p.141]

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

“A brave and cheerful soldier”: The first Glamorgan school teacher to die on active service in France

Over fifteen thousand teachers joined the armed forces and fought in the First World War. Head teachers were required to keep a log of activity at the school and the log books for the Caerphilly schools, held at the Glamorgan Archives, tell the stories of many teachers who fought in the war. The log book for Cwmaber Boys’ School has a particularly poignant story in that it records the death of the first teacher from the Glamorgan area to die on active service, William Clifford Harris.

Cwmaber Boys’ School, with their motto ‘Better brains than brawn’, opened in 1909 and provided education for up to 250 boys from the Abertridwr and Senghenydd areas. From the autumn of 1914 onwards the school log book, kept by the Head Teacher, George Davies, made frequent reference to staff leaving to join the Forces.

ECG18_1 p94

During the holidays Mr W C Harris (U.T) joined the New Army and the staff is therefore short of one teacher [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 4 Jan 1915, ECG18/1 p.94]

Mr John A Roberts terminated his duties as Certificated Assistant here today. He has enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and proceeds to Farnborough tomorrow [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 27 Sep 1915, ECG18/1 p.109]

Mr W S Trigg left school today. He has been granted a Commission in the 23rd Pioneer Batt’ and will commence his new duties tomorrow [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 31 Oct 1915, ECG18/1 p.111]

Mr Jno Ellis Williams returned to school today. He terminates his engagement at this school today and enters an O.T.C on 16th inst, after which he is taking a Commission offered him in the Welsh Guards [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 14 Dec 1915, ECG18/1 p.112]

Mr Haydn P Williams terminated his duties as Student Teacher at this school having been today called up for military service [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 14 Jan 1916, ECG18/1 p.130]

Mr Herbert H Beddow (Student teacher) left on Military Service this morning [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 5 March 1917, ECG18/1 p.133]

From the log book and other records at the Glamorgan Archives we can build up a picture of William Clifford Harris. In addition to the Cwmaber school log, he had been a pupil at Lewis School for Boys, Pengam and the Glamorgan Archives also holds detailed records for the school for this period.

William Clifford Harris was a local boy born at Rudry in January 1895. His father was William Harris and, therefore, to distinguish the two, William junior was referred to by his middle name Clifford. He lived for most of his life at the Post Office, 16 Garth Place, Rudry. His father was a grocer, born in Rudry and his mother, Ida, was from Stoke St Mary in Somerset. He had a brother, Harold, and 4 sisters and was educated, initially, at Rudry Council School. In October 1907 he applied to and was accepted at Lewis School for Boys. He finished his education at the school before moving to take up a post as a student teacher at Rudry Council School in October 1912, aged 17. He subsequently moved to Cwmaber Boys’ School as an Uncertified Assistant Teacher on 17 September 1913.

Four months after the outbreak of war, on 31 December 1914, he enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Caerphilly. Conscription was not introduced until 1916 so Clifford, aged 19 at the time, was one of the many young men from South Wales who volunteered for active service. Along with other recruits to the 16th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Clifford completed his initial training in North Wales, probably at Llandudno, and then moved with the Battalion to Winchester in September 1915 to complete his training before embarking for France. The school log book records that before leaving for Winchester he returned on leave to South Wales and called at the school to catch up with colleagues and pupils [Cwmaber Boys School, 26 Jul 1915, ECG18/1 p.107].

ECG18_1 p107

Sadly six months later and just days after Clifford’s 21st birthday, George Davies recorded in the school log book:

ECG18_1 p114

News reached the school today that one of our staff, Pte W C Harris, 16th Batt’ Royal Welsh Fusiliers, had been killed in action on Sunday, Jan 30th 1916.  He was shot by a German sniper in the chest, but continued firing until he was again shot in the head [Cwmaber Boys School, 7 Feb 1916, ECG18/1 p.114]

The 16th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, part of Kitchener’s New Army, had landed in France in December 1915 and moved into the frontline near Neuve Chapelle on 6 January. The Battalion then moved to the St Vaast area on 27 January and Clifford died 3 days later. On 16 February the following press cutting was pasted into the log book:

 ECG18_1 p115

Caerphilly Teacher Killed

At a meeting of the Caerphilly school managers yesterday (Councillor Joseph Howells presiding) a letter was read from Dr J. James, Chief Education official, stating that he had been informed that a teacher in the Caerphilly group – Mr W C Harris – had been killed in action. He was attached to the 16th Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  The Headmaster of the school had sought permission to affix a brass tablet to the wall in the school, on which would be engraved the names of any old scholars and teachers who gave their lives for their country.  The letter also stated that Mr Harris was the first teacher under the Glamorgan Authority who had made the great sacrifice in defence of his country. Votes of sympathy were passed with the relatives of both families, and it was decided to recommend that permission be given for the tablet to be placed in the school as requested [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 16 Feb 1916, ECG18/1 p.115]

There is no further reference to the brass tablet in the Cwmaber School log book and it is possible that it was lost when the school closed in 1973. Clifford Harris was not the only teacher from the Cwmaber School to lose his life in the war. On June 4 1917 an entry in the school log recorded:

News has been received that L Corp JJ Wibley (a former teacher at this school) has died from the effect of wounds received in action in France [Cwmaber Boys’ School, 4 Jun 1917, ECG18/1 p.136]

However, Clifford’s death, the first of many young teachers from the Glamorgan area in the First World War, must have been particularly poignant and he is remembered, along with 12 other local men, on the parish memorial at St James’ Church, Rudry. There is also a memorial at the Ebenezer Congregational Chapel.

Sacred to the memory of Pte W Clifford Harris (16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers). Aged 21 years who was killed in action at St Vaast, France, January 30 1916. He died as he had lived. A brave and cheerful soldier.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Caerphilly War Memorials

In the years following the end of hostilities in the First World large sections of the population had the painful experience of dealing with the loss of loved ones killed in action. This grief was particularly acute when we consider that the majority of the causalities were young men in the prime of their lives. Due to the enormous number of soldiers killed, in Great Britain approaching one million, the government and military authorities deemed that the repatriation of bodies was impractical. The casualties of war were therefore remembered across on war memorials across the country.

War memorials took many forms; national, such as those in Whitehall in London and in Cathays Park in Cardiff; and local memorials dedicated to those lost from cities, towns, and villages across the country.  There were also memorials to particular groups, including individual sporting teams, church congregations, former pupils at individual schools and many other groupings.

At Glamorgan Archives we have in the collection records relating to the erection of a number of memorials in the county. This short piece will discuss the memorial at Caerphilly, and also make reference to those less than three miles away at Senghenydd and Llanbradach.

As was the case with the erecting of many memorials, the organising committee reflected the structure of the local society, namely local political parties, church groups, trade unions, ex-servicemen and dependent widows. In the case of Caerphilly, the diversity of the interested parties did leave potential for controversy, which to some extent did occur. Civil organisations tended to favour a memorial which provided a facility for the greater community, with such proposals in various Welsh towns including public memorial halls, libraries, and a swimming pool.  In Senghenydd, the memorial took the form of clock tower located on the main square.

In contrast to the proposals of civil organisations, military bodies argued that the memorials’ should reflect the sacrifices made by solders and be either a comrades club for ex servicemen to meet, or a permanent memorial such as was finally erected in Caerphilly.

An indication of the debate surrounding the form of the memorial in Caerphilly can be found within local authority minutes and collected newscuttings (ref.: D163/U/4).

John Arnold, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Rhymney Valley Water Board Records

The 75th deposit received by Glamorgan Archives in 1976 was the Rhymney Valley Water Board Records.  The Board was established in 1921, after many years of campaigning leading to the passing of the Rhymney Valley Water Board Bill.

The Board was comprised of councillors from Gelligaer, Bedwellty, Bedwas and Machen, Mynyddislwyn, Rhymney and Caerphilly.  It had the power to acquire certain water undertakings and works and to construct new works, as well as to supply water. The water itself came from the Taf Fechan Water Supply Board, whose records we also hold at Glamorgan Archives.

Minutes of the Rhymney Valley Water Board

Minutes of the Rhymney Valley Water Board

Although the Board was established in 1921 the records date from 1916; these early items comprise newspaper cuttings tracking reports on the campaign for the creation of the Board.  The records continue until 1966.  

The Rhymney Valley Water Board Records comprise 45 volumes of minute books, accounts, engineers’ reports and newspaper cuttings.

The records of municipal boards like the Rhymney Valley Water Board are a rich source of information for anyone studying the evolution of local government and local politics in Wales.