The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, 1934: Reflections on Armistice Day

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The year 1934 marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and for the November 1934 edition of The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, a large section was devoted to thoughts on that war and on the prospect of war in the future.

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The magazine opens with a guest editorial by Lord Davies of Llandinam, the patron of the magazine (Davies normally only wrote editorials at Christmas).  This piece starts with Davies’ recollections of how the War was dealt with at the time. Lord Davies likens the idea of going to war to a time when disputes in civilian life were solved by fighting, either in a duel or a battle. He then points out that in civilian life these had been replaced by the principles of law and order, but that there appeared to be no such system for disputes between nations, until the creation after the War of the League of Nations. However, not even that organisation was immune from criticism from Lord Davies, who claimed that …we have helped to turn it into a debating society.  He predicted that there would be another war in Europe, which would come with no warning, and could only be stopped by both a Tribunal and a police force.

Photo 6-Bombs were dropped and no damage was done

Over the next few pages, employees of the collieries owned by Ocean and National gave their recollections of the War, all with the intent of persuading the readers that peace was a better option than war. Some photographs are also printed, two of them showing buildings in London that had been bombed. One poignant photograph shows a collection of dead soldiers under the heading ‘Crisis Over!’ In addition to the photographs a pair of newspaper articles, reprinted from the Daily Express and Le Matin, refer to the horrific events that took place during the War.

Photo 7-War Fever Crisis Over

The final section of this dedication to the War begins with a cartoon depicting a giant man labelled ‘War’ being zapped by aircraft belonging to the International Police Force. The cartoon is titled ‘A Direct Hit!’ with the cartoonist, Mr Dick Rees, commenting, Sooner the better!

The final article of the anti-war feature is titled ‘The Oldest Racket’, subtitled ‘Wanted! – A New Police Force’, where the case was made for the formation of an International Police Force, either as a replacement for the League of Nations …or its effective reinforcement by the addition of the power which enables the Council to enforce its decisions. This proposed Police Force would be discussed in detail in the December 1934 edition.

Cartoon 4-A Direct Hit

From this point until the final issue in the collection at the end of 1936, the magazine adopted an anti-war rhetoric. Although the Second World War had not happened by then, 1936 had seen the start of the Spanish Civil War and before that the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and the Japanese invasion of the Manchurian region of China in 1931.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

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‘These men died for their country’: The Penarth War Memorial, November 1924

Amongst the records held at Glamorgan Archives is a programme printed for a ceremony held on 11 November 1924 to unveil the War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, Penarth.

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The memorial can be seen on the front page of the programme with the inscription, ‘In grateful memory of the men of Penarth who died for their country in the Great War 1914-18’. The date chosen for the ceremony was symbolic in that it marked the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that had ended the fighting in the Great War – the First World War.

For recent generations, Remembrance Day, on 11 November, has become a feature of life in just about every village and town across the country. It commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended the Great War in 1918 and those who died in two World Wars and subsequent campaigns. In 1924, however, it was, to some extent, a new development being marked for only the sixth time. Over 700,000 British service men and women had lost their lives in the Great War and the majority were buried overseas, from Flanders to Gallipoli to Palestine. In comparison to previous wars, the losses were immense and led to a demand for a national day of Remembrance. Such was the strength of feeling that in 1924, six years after the end of the fighting, newspapers reported that individuals in several towns and cities had been arrested and taken into protective custody for not observing the two minutes silence on November 11th.

While previous campaigns, including the Crimean and Boer Wars, had been commemorated through the erection of a small number of memorials, the Great War differed in that it had touched just about every community across the land. Each community, therefore, wanted to find an appropriate way to mark the contributions made by local men and women. If you look at the sketch on the front page of the programme you will see, in the background, a military tank. In the years following the Armistice many towns and cities had acquired items of military equipment, often tanks or field guns. They were displayed in public places to both celebrate the victory and as a reminder of those that had died in the conflict.  However, the construction of the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London was symbolic of a campaign to provide a more permanent memorial to the dead. The events in Penarth in November 1924 were, therefore, part of a movement to remember and commemorate the dead that swept across the country. In the Cardiff area alone that day, two new memorials were being unveiled, at the Cardiff Barracks and the Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

It would have been a very emotional day. Two men from Penarth, Richard Wain and Samuel Pearse, had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Wain was born in Penarth and educated at Llandaff Cathedral School and Penarth Grammar. He was a 20 year old acting captain in the Tank Corps when he died in 1917 at the Battle of Cambrai, one of the first engagements where the British Army unleashed its potentially devastating new weapon. Samuel Pearse had left Penarth and emigrated to Australia at the age of 14. He fought with the Australian forces at Gallipoli and later in Egypt and France. After the signing of the Armistice he married in Durham and delayed returning home while his wife was pregnant. He chose to enlist with a number of Australians in the British Army forces being sent to support the White Armies in Russia, and was killed in action, in north Russia, in August 1919.

The scale of the losses was underlined by the number of names inscribed on the Penarth Memorial, some 307. They demonstrated that no section of society was left untouched. Archer Windsor-Clive was the third son of the Earl of Plymouth and had played cricket for Glamorgan and Cambridge. As an officer in the Coldstream Guards, he was one of the first local men to be sent to France and also one of the first to die. He was just 23 years of age when he was killed during the battle of Mons in August 1914, the first month of the War.

The Penarth memorial includes the name of a woman, Emily Ada Pickford. Emily was a local music teacher from Penarth and the conductor of the Penarth Ladies Choir. She was related by marriage to the Pickford family who were local printers and producers of the Penarth Times.  In February 1919 she was in France with a concert party providing entertainment for the troops. She died when, traveling back to Abbeville after an evening concert, her car skidded off the road into the River Somme. By 1924 the Penarth Urban District Council was chaired by Constance Maillard, the first woman to be elected to the Council and the Council’s first woman chair. As the first Secretary of the Penarth Suffragist Society it just possible that Constance was instrumental in ensuring that Emily’s name was included on the Memorial.

While the programme at Glamorgan Archives sets out the details of the unveiling ceremony in 1924, the records of the Penarth Urban District Council tell the story of the decision to commission and erect the monument. The planning for the memorial has been in hand for some time, with the establishment of a sub-committee of the Council in 1923. As a result, the Council had invited Sir William Goscombe John to submit a design for a suitable memorial. Originally from Canton in Cardiff, William Goscombe John was a well-known sculptor who had completed many public monuments across the country, including the John Cory statue in front of City Hall. His skills were in particular demand for the design of War Memorials and, in the same year as the Penarth Memorial was unveiled, he also designed memorials for Llandaff, Carmarthen and the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Wrexham. It was an indication of how important the memorial was that a fee of £2,000 was agreed by the Council which, at current prices, would equate to over £80,000. This was double the initial budget earmarked for the memorial. The original plan was to position the memorial on land opposite Penarth House, but it was eventually agreed that a site in Alexandra Park, overlooking the sea, would be more suitable. The only modification to Sir William’s original design was to add, at the base of the monument, the words ‘These men died for their country. Do ye live for it’.

The unveiling ceremony was no easy matter to arrange. It was originally planned for September 1924 but later revised to 11 November.  It has to be remembered that similar ceremonies were taking place across the country and hopes that prominent figures, including Admiral Earl Beatty, would attend were soon dashed. In the event troops from the Welch Regiment, based at the Cardiff Barracks, provided the guard of honour. The ceremony was led by the local MP, Capt Arthur Evans, and the Rev Hassal Hanmer, both of whom had served in the war, supported by the Penarth Ex Servicemen’s’ Choir.

The task of unveiling the memorial was given to Mrs F Bartlett, Mrs P Fitzgerald and Mr G Hoult. Standing amongst the MPs and ranking soldiers there was one factor that bound the three together. They had each lost three sons in War. The memorial was of white granite with a bronze winged figure of victory, holding a wreath and a sword, standing in the prow of a boat. The programme for the ceremony on 11 November 1924 can be seen at Glamorgan Archives, ref. DXOV3/11. It was retained by Constance Maillard and passed with her papers to the Archives. If you are wondering what happened to Constance, she lived to celebrate her 100th birthday and an invitation to her birthday party is also held at the Archives (ref.: DXFX/8).  The records of the Penarth Urban District Council can also be accessed at Glamorgan Archives, ref. UDPE/C/1/5, with the papers of the Memorial Sub-committee at UDPE/C/1/21. Silent black and white footage of the ceremony has recently been made available by British Film Foundation.

As a postscript, significant restoration work was completed on the Penarth War Memorial as part of the centenary events. It can be seen in Alexandra Gardens, Penarth.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Celebrating the Peace in ‘a right worthy fashion’, 11 November 1918

As we commemorate Armistice Day and the centenary of the end of the Great War, records held at Glamorgan Archives throw light on celebrations in South Wales in November 1918 and, in particular, the joy and relief that marked the end of a bloody and brutal war. Headteachers in schools across Wales were required to keep a regular record of events. Summaries of the school log books for 1914-18 can be accessed on the Glamorgan Archives website. They provide an insight into the tumultuous celebrations that erupted across South Wales on 11 November 1918, none more so than as recorded by Mr W S Jones at Whitchurch Boys’ School. William Jones had been Headmaster at the school for over 4 years. On 11 November he made the following entry in the school log book:

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Log book 2

Great excitement prevailed at school this morning. The Church bells chimed and the boys soon came to the conclusion that the Armistice had been signed by the German representatives. As we had been misled by a false report of the signature of the Armistice on Thursday evening – 7th I sent a message to the local postmaster who confirmed the signing of the Armistice as official.  

The boys were informed of the good news which brings the actual fighting of the Great European War to a close and great enthusiasm was shown. We did not try to restrain their energies for the last half hour and about 5 minutes to 12 the whole school was assembled in the yard when the Doxology and the National Anthem were sung. Cheer after cheer was given for such glorious news and the boys dispersed.

School reassembled after dinner. The Chief Education Official was telephoned to, but no holiday could be granted. The matter would be referred to the Education Committee which was expected to meet on the morrow (Tuesday). The boys were reassembled on the yard in the afternoon and led by a scout with a small drum marched around the yard waving flags and singing various popular songs. The significance of the act of the signature of the Armistice was explained to the boys [Whitchurch Boys’ School, log book, ESE64/1/4]

The log book draws a veil over what happened next but no doubt many of the boys, with their families, joined the crowds that flooded into central Cardiff. The signing of the Armistice was announced across the city by the sounding of the ‘Western Mail’ siren soon followed by hooters and horns from factories across the city and ships in the docks. A ‘wildly enthusiastic’ crowd gathered in Cathays Park with the newspapers reporting that:

Everybody felt that the hour had come for the abandonment of restraint and for the expression of a long pent up enthusiasm….others arrived with the announcement that the Docks was on stop. Everyone there had downed tools, and there was not a murmur of dissent. All the workshops and yards, schools and business premises let loose their jubilant occupants and after a riot of abandonment they gradually gravitated to the City Hall, where the flags of the Allies proudly fly.

Many dock workers marched directly into City Hall and could be seen waving to the crowds from the windows on the upper floor. By midday a semblance of order had been restored with the Lord Mayor, standing on the roof of the porte cochere over the doorway to the City Hall, reading a message from the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, confirming the signing of the Armistice. This was met with ‘thunderous applause’ and was followed by a march past by the Welsh Regiment and the singing of the national anthems of the allied nations including the Marseillaise and the Star Spangled Banner. Sensing the mood of the crowd the Lord Mayor …appealed to the citizens to celebrate the day with joy and thanks but also with restraint and dignity. It was a plea echoed by Sir William Seager – In this hour of victory let us be sober. Perhaps it is not surprising that this was met …with loud cries of no, no and laughter.

By early afternoon the city centre was awash with cheering crowds including St Mary Street and High Street, where people were crammed at windows in the buildings along the street to gain a view of the crowds and join in the celebrations. Whenever they were spotted there was a special cheer for members of the Armed Forces including a number of American servicemen. The cheers, however, were not just for the ‘boys back from the Front’. Recognising that the war had seen major changes in roles and responsibilities the newspapers reported that:

A brewery wagon carried not supplies of Government beer but something incredibly livelier a bevy of land girls in uniform who sang all the popular ditties with great gusto.

In addition, during the war years the male conductors on the city’s tram service had been replaced by women and the newspapers reported that:

The tramway girls got off the cars, they must, they said, join in the processions.

The following day the Western Mail concluded:

South Wales came perilously near the Mafficking type of jubilation. In most places there was an absolute stoppage of work. Shortly after the dinner-hour shops were closed – the staffs would not brook restraint and the employers readily relaxed the rules and regulations [Western Mail, 12 November 1918].

Many schools, including Gabalfa, Hawthorne and Maindy, had been closed for all or part of October and the first week of November as a result of the influenza epidemic that had swept south Wales. Whitchurch Boys’ School, however, had escaped relatively lightly with 15-20 cases of influenza at any one time out of a school complement of just over 200 pupils. The Whitchurch boys were very likely to have been amongst the bevy of small boys reported as adding to the clamour in Cathays Park with improvised ‘tom-toms’ made from old kettles, pans and sheets of tin. They would also have cheered the Lord Mayor’s announcement of a seven day holiday for all schools.

The war years had been a difficult time for schools with shortages of basic supplies and food. In addition, shortages of coal had meant that schools had found it difficult to heat the classrooms during the winter months. The school had ‘done its bit’ with the establishment of a garden of some 20 perches cultivated by the boys two days a week to grow vegetables as part of the national campaign to increase food production. The school had also been in the forefront of campaigns to raise money for the War Savings Association and with some success, being rewarded with an extra day of holiday for their efforts.

Like many schools Whitchurch had seen several of its teachers enlist in the armed forces. Of the three male staff at Whitchurch who had joined up, two came though unscathed but sadly one, Ivor Drinkwater, had been killed on active service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in France, in the last week of November 1917.  As in many other areas of employment women had come forward to fill the gaps and a school staffed by male teachers in 1914 had, by November 1918, three female teachers. In many instances male teachers leaving the armed forces returned to their posts. However, the barriers to women working in boys’ schools had been broken down and the Whitchurch school log book confirms that, from that point onwards, the school always had a number of women teachers.

Monday 11 November 1918 was, however, a day to celebrate and the following day the Western Mail reported:

It was great day of rejoicing and abandon, and most people went to sleep at a late hour, satisfied that they had done the celebration of peace in a right worthy fashion.

It must have been an unpleasant surprise for the Whitchurch boys the next morning to find that the holiday only applied to schools in the Cardiff Education authority area. Whitchurch Boy’s school was open on Tuesday 12 November and on the morning of Wednesday 13th before it was announced that the rest of the week could be taken as a holiday.

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The Headmaster, William Jones, simply noted in the school log that …the school was dismissed after assembling on yard. Perhaps diplomatically, he made no comment on the attendance.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

‘Humorous Entertainment of Artistic Magic’: Cardiff Naturalists’ Society Supporting the War Effort

One of the more usual items in the records of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society held at the Glamorgan Archives is a poster (28cm by 43cm) with accompanying postcard size flyers advertising an afternoon of ‘Humorous Entertainment of Artistic Magic including Sleight of Hand, Novel Magical Effects and Oriental Magic’. To be held at the Cory Hall in Cardiff, on January 6 1919 at 2pm, the show was to be provided by Mr Douglas Dexter, ‘The well-known entertainer of London’. In addition, ‘musical items’ were to be provided by Mr Shapland Dobbs’ Party.

Poster

While the subject matter covered by the lectures provided by the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society was wide and varied, this was, without a doubt, a new departure for a Society created for the study of the natural sciences. The explanation was provided on the back of the flyers.

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Ticket reverse

This invitation is issued by the members of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society who desire to give a pleasant afternoon to members of the Forces who happen to be in Cardiff.

Although the war had ended with the Armistice of 11 November 1918, there were thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces waiting to be demobilised. In January 1919 Cardiff was a major hub for troops returning to south Wales. There were also a number of military hospitals in the town and the surrounding area. The Cardiff Naturalists’ Society was clearly looking to play its part in helping to provide entertainment for the armed forces. The concert may also have been a contribution to ‘Gratitude Fortnight’, a series of events organised by the Mayor of Cardiff, in January 1919, to reward the troops and raise money for charities including the King’s Fund for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. The entertainment was provided free of charge for ‘Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen (whether British, Colonial or Allied). On leave or in Hospital’. The Society was anticipating a large turn-out for the Cory Hall was a much bigger venue than that used for most of its public lectures. Even so, the flyers warned that:

It is regretted that the accommodation will not permit the admission of others than men in uniform.

Dexter was indeed well known. Born Arthur Marks in Eastbourne in 1878 and a teacher by profession, Douglas Dexter made his mark as both an accomplished magician and as an international class swordsman who was selected for the British team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. On the afternoon of 6 January those present would have witnessed the skills of a leading figure in the Magic Circle. Dexter’s repertoire included tricks, such as the Triple Stab, that he guarded jealously, so much so that he sued a fellow magician for allegedly stealing his ideas. The reference to artistic magic was probably to a trick that Dexter was developing at that time that involved white silk scarves being placed in an empty bowl and mysteriously emerging coloured as if they had been dipped in dye.

In the Transactions for 1919 it was reported:

… an entertainment was held at the Cory Hall under the auspices of the Society, to which all of the wounded sailors and soldiers in the Military Hospitals were invited. Over 700 attended and had a thoroughly enjoyable time [Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, Vol LII, 1919, Cardiff, 1922].

No doubt Douglas Dexter was well received by the service men and women. Dexter went on to perform in a number of Royal Variety Performances and for King George V at Windsor Castle in 1928. He was awarded the Gold Medal by the Magic Circle in 1926. For the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, however, it was back to business later in the month with a lecture by Dr A E Trueman, on 23 January 1919, ‘A Geographical Study of the Cardiff Area’.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Escape from Russia: Percy Blackburn’s story

One of the many and varied materials held at the Glamorgan Archives in the Hughesovka Research Archive is an employment reference for John Percy Blackburn, dated 26/8 April 1918, on the headed notepaper of the New Russia Company Limited.

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To All Whom This may Concern

We beg to certify that the bearer Mr John Percy Blackburn has served the Company since 1894. From that date till 1903 he acted as assistant to the engineer in charge of the maintenance of our railway and its buildings, and was then promoted to the position of responsible chief of that department. In his capacity he also did survey work and built several branch lines of railroad. Subsequently Mr Blackburn took charge of our entire railway service, a position he has filled with ability.

Mr Blackburn is leaving us on account of the troublesome state of affairs in this country and the advice of the British Consul General, and we lose in him a thoroughly efficient railway manager, reliable in every respect. He leaves us with our best wishes and we can strongly recommend him for a similar position.  [HRA/D431]

The ‘troublesome state of affairs’ referred to in the letter were a product of the war raging across Russia between the Red and White Armies following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.  As with many foreign nationals in Russia at this time, Percy Blackburn had been advised to leave the country. However, while most headed for Petrograd and the border with Finland, as the most immediate escape route, Percy headed north to join the British Forces at Murmansk. His story is told through the family records of the Blackburn family held in the Hughesovka Research Archive (HRA/D431) and also though Percy’s military records held at the National Archives in Kew (WO374/6847).

John Percy Blackburn (known as Percy) was born in Blackburn in July 1878 but was brought up in Russia at Hughesovka (now Donetsk). His father, Joseph Blackburn, was a foundry moulder and one of the many men who, attracted by the wages and, no doubt, the prospect of adventure, joined John Hughes’ New Russia Company.  Hughes, an iron master and engineer from South Wales, had been commissioned by the Russian Government, in 1869, to build an iron foundry in the Donbass region of southern Russia (now the Donetsk area of the Ukraine). Joseph Blackburn and most of his family returned to Britain after the Russian revolution of 1905 and set up home in Chorlton on Medlock near Manchester. Percy, however, had married Mary Steel the year before, on 2 April 1904, at the English Church in Hughesovka. Like Percy, Mary came from family that had settled and worked at Hughesovka for decades. As with most of the foreign workforce at Hughesovka, Percy was a skilled man and a valued employee. By and large, the New Russia Company bought in its skilled men, often from South Wales. Percy, however, was part of the first generation to be raised in Hughesovka. He served his apprenticeship as a land surveyor in Russia and by the age of 22 years he was a surveyor working on the development and maintenance of the railway system that played a key role in providing the New Russia Company with raw materials and exporting the iron and steel made in its furnaces. It must have been a difficult decision to stay on in 1905, but Mary came from a large family and most of the Steels had also opted to stay. Many years later, Mary told her family that Percy was convinced that Russia was a land of opportunity and that the New Russia Company would continue to play its part in building a new modern economy.

Bertie, the first of Percy and Mary’s five sons and two daughters, was born in Hughesovka in 1905. Many years later one of Percy’s sons, William, described the affluent lifestyle that the family enjoyed:

The house we lived in was fairly large with extensive grounds. It had separate quarters for coachman, yardman and female help, stables for three horses and loft above to store the horse carriages or sledges whatever the season was. A huge garden with endless rose trees for my mother because she used to make a special jam from the rose leaves. There were two kitchens one attached to the house for winter use and the other across the yard for summer.

Big double gates gave the only entry from the road which, turning left, took us to the works and/or the town. …. And facing our gates just endless open space. I am near certain that the football ground was not far from this area…. 

I and my brothers went to the English School and I remember going with my father to see the foundations for a new school the year we left.

All of this was to change in 1917 when, with the war going badly and the economy on the verge of collapse, the Tsar abdicated and the reins of government were passed to the Liberal Government led by Alexander Kerensky. If those in Hughesovka thought that this might bring an element of stability, Kerensky’s decision to continue the war led to further upheavals. By the summer of 1917 there was a very real prospect of revolution, with the Government’s control of the capital challenged by the Petrograd Soviet and Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917. Faced with the prospect of a break down in law and order many of the British families in Hughesovka took the decision to leave Russia.

Percy’s two eldest boys were at school in England, but it must have been a daunting task for Mary, with the help of her mother Tabitha, to plan and make the journey back to Britain. They left Hughesovka, on 19 Sept with the three boys, Harold aged 8, William aged 7 and Joey who was only 3 months old. The journey to England, via Riga, would normally have taken about a week but, due to the war, the only route open was through St Petersburg, Finland, Sweden and Norway. They eventually arrived in Aberdeen on the 2nd of November. It was a journey of over 6 weeks and during the first leg to Petrograd they would have had to thread their way through a war torn transport network, short of food and money and in constant danger of arrest or robbery.

The story of their journey, as told by Mary Steel and her son William to Mary’s granddaughter, is set out in the records of the Hughesovka Research Archive (HRA/D431). As William noted, his grandmother, Tabitha Steel, regretted that they had left Hughesovka in such a hurry.

I always remember her complaining ‘til she died that she should have brought a bag of gold sovereigns that in the haste of departure she left behind. My mother, in later years, told me that she had to use a great many of them to oil the wheels of our departure. I still possess one sovereign and a silver rouble. Father lost almost everything; his faith in the future of Russia caused him to invest heavily but I suppose the revolution caught his too quickly.

The family set up home in Corn Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, next door to Mary’s brother in law. Percy, however, had elected to stay behind, as William later recalled:

…in the vain hope of saving something of his future and possessions and in the end had to flee to save his own life. It was two years before we saw him again.

Percy’s granddaughter takes up the story drawing on his diaries. Although their families were safe in Britain, it was clear that life in Hughesovka was becoming increasing difficult for Percy and the remaining foreign employees of the New Russia Company. Following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the New Russia Company’s days were limited as the state increasingly took control of industry. While there was still a need for the skills that the British workforce possessed, there was also a growing suspicion of foreigners fuelled by the news of British backed armed intervention attempting to topple the Bolshevik government.

After handing to the authorities his rifles and other weapons kept for his own safety and hunting he finally, on 8 March 1918, handed in to the police his Smith and Wesson revolver, No 87033, and commenced to prepare for his move from Hughesovka. He had money in various companies, but the Bolshevik Government were now in supreme power in Russia and everything fully controlled by them and careful watch being kept on foreigners, their business and assets.

The result was that when grandad attempted to realise on his assets they just closed in and he was able to draw 10,000 roubles at the time the currency was 10 roubles to the pound.

40,000 roubles was held back for investigation, as they put it, also property, land and personal holdings. Notes in his diary show covering expenses for the journey. He had decided to make his way to Murmansk.

He left Hughesovka 10 April 1918 and made his way to Moscow to see the British Consulate General to make his claim on assets left behind and obtain passport coverage and he stayed there for six days whilst all was clarified.

The list below sets out the preparations that Percy made in April for 1918 for his journey to Moscow. It is likely that the large sum earmarked for ‘tips and small debts’ included a significant sum to buy ‘the goodwill’ of local officials.

Passport stamps – 4 roubles

Passport photo – 22 roubles

1 pair of braces – 18 roubles

1 portmanter (sic) – 18 roubles

1 Handbag – 20 roubles

Photo with friend – 20 roubles

Tobacco for road (quarter pound) – 9 roubles

Shirts and collars – 45 roubles

2 pairs Gloves (size 6) – 9 roubles

Bread – 20 roubles

Eggs – 10 roubles

Tips and small debts paid – 103 roubles

Percy’s is an unusual story. While the vast majority of the foreign workforce in Hughesovka elected to return home, Percy was clearly intent on joining the British Armed Forces with the North Russia Expeditionary Force based at the northern port of Murmansk. This may have been prompted by a determination to ‘do his bit’ given that his brother in Manchester had joined the Army. It is more likely, however, that he had still not given up on Russia and planned to stay for as long as possible to see how the situation unfolded.

The North Russia Expeditionary Force had been established by the Allies initially to protect the Russian ports used to supply the Russian army fighting on the Eastern Front. When the Bolsheviks, following the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, withdrew Russia from the war the Expeditionary Force was bolstered with British and American troops, ostensibly, to protect the munitions and supplies at Archangel and Murmansk.  However, while its remit appeared primarily defensive, the Force was used, increasingly, to support the White Armies in Northern Russia in their campaigns against the Red Army.

Percy’s story can be pieced together not only from the Hughesovka Research Archive but also from his military records held at the National Archives in Kew. It is not clear how Percy, at that time 40 years old and with no military experience, was first received by the British Forces at Murmansk on arrival in May 1918. His family think that, initially, he was employed as an interpreter and this fits with his rank of Acting Sergeant in the Middlesex Regiment. By July 1918, however, it was clear that his skills in the management of railway networks had been recognised. In a letter to the War Office, dated 17 July 1918, Major General Maynard, Commanding the Allied Land Forces, Murmansk asked that Percy be given a commission as an officer:

I have the honour to inform you that Mr J Blackburn who is an experienced railway engineer having many years experience in Russia is staying out here to supervise the Russian Railway Service.

General Poole has recommended Mr Blackburn to have a Temporary Commission as a Second Lieutenant and I beg to request that covering authority may be given for this appointment with effect from 1 July 1918, which is essential for the fulfilment of his duty. [WO374/6847]

However, there were clearly concerns that Percy had not undergone military training and it took 2 months for the War Office to agree, reluctantly, to this arrangement with Percy receiving a temporary commission as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Railway Operating Division, Allied Forces Murman, Russia:

It is no doubt irregular but the circumstances are so peculiar that you may be inclined to agree that covering authority might be granted in this case [WO374/6847]

Given the reliance in a fast moving war on transporting troops and supplies large distances, Percy’s knowledge and skills would have been invaluable. Within months he had become known to others and the War Office received a request from the Russo-Asiatic Company, in December 1918, that Percy be released from the Army to work for the company on the railway network in Siberia. Unfortunately it was evident by then that the work and the conditions had taken a toll on Percy’s health. By October 1918 he was back in Britain in hospital, initially at Manchester 2nd Military Hospital and later at John Leigh’s Hospital in Altrincham recovering from scurvy and ‘neurasthenia’ – a condition usually associated with chronic fatigue brought on by physical and mental exhaustion. Although the Blackburn family believe that he did return to Russia for a short period, his military records contain details of a series of medical boards held in Manchester in the first half of 1919 at which he was assessed as unfit for active service. With the North Russia Expeditionary Force already being wound down, Percy was discharged from the Army in the second half of 1919.

On leaving the Army Percy rejoined his family in Chorlton on Medlock. Despite his impressive references from the New Russia Company, like many who returned from Hughesovka, he found it difficult to find work in the immediate post war period with the downturn in the economy. In addition, it would have been increasingly obvious that there was little or no prospect of retuning to Russia. His granddaughter recalled:

Grandad Blackburn was not able to get work in England. Eventually, and sadly, he did work as a checker on the docks. It must have been awfully hard for him to do this type of work after the life he enjoyed in Russia and the work he did over there.

Although Mary Blackburn lived until 1961, Percy died on 16th November 1926 at the age of 48. Perhaps a fitting testimony to his achievements lies in a reference provided by his Commanding Officer in North Russia:

Mr J P Blackburn joined the North Russia expeditionary Force in Murmansk in May 1918 actuated by a desire to help his country. He was employed in the railways and did not most excellent work for 6 months until invalided home. I saw much of his work and was impressed not only with his technical knowledge but also with the zeal and energy with which he carried out his duties. He is full of initiative and works with considerable tact. He has gained the esteem and respect of the members of the NREF.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

A Fine Romance

Hail! genial season of the year

To faithful lovers ever dear

Devoted be this day to praise

My Anna’s charms in rustic lays

Now billing sparrows, cooing doves

Remind each youth of her he loves

My heart and head are both on flame

Whene’er I breath my Anna’s name

These lines were penned by a Captain Bennett in a Valentine poem written in 1818 to Mrs Wyndham, also named as ‘Anna’.  The poem can be found in our Fonmon Castle collection (ref. DF/V/133) and runs to 78 lines of rhyming couplets, far weightier than the snappy valentine messages found in cards today.  In the poem Captain Bennett gives full vent to his romantic side, evoking images of Cinderella and her Prince, praising Anna, including her ‘fairy feet’, as well as casting doubt on the suitability of her other suitors, one of whom he names as ‘Tredegar’s Lord’.  He also describes writing Anna’s initials or ‘cypher’ in the sand with a walking stick, which although the waves may wash away ‘the darling name’ could not ‘blot that cypher from my heart!’

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So who were Captain Bennett and Anna, and did their story have a happy ending?  Although the poem is part of the Fonmon Castle collection it also has references to Dunraven, an estate near Southerndown owned by the Wyndham family.  A little detective work has revealed that Anna was the daughter of Thomas Ashby of Isleworth, London and Charlotte, daughter of Robert Jones of Fonmon (hence the Fonmon connection).

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Anna was first married to Thomas Wyndham of Dunraven and Clearwell Court in the Forest of Dean (MP for Glamorgan), but he died in 1814.  However, Anna remarried in July 1818, only months after the poem was written.  Her new husband was a John Wick Bennett of Laleston, presumably ‘Captain Bennett’ the sender of her Valentine.  It appears his poetic efforts had not been in vain and perhaps helped sway her towards accepting his proposal!

Finding references to ‘love’ and ‘romance’ in the archives can be a difficult task as they are not terms usually found in catalogue descriptions!  However, there are many stories of romance to be found, whether hidden in private diaries or in letters, especially those written when lovers were parted and they were the only means of contact between them. Wartime, especially, led to the separation of many and we have several stories of romance which blossomed during difficult times.

Sister Isabel Robinson found love when she worked at the Red Cross Hospital in Cardiff in 1916.

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Whilst she was nursing there she met and married Daniel James Dwyer of the Australian army. He was recovering in the hospital from a head wound he suffered in action in France.

 

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The couple later settled in Australia at St. Kilda, Victoria but returned to England where Isabel died in 1965.  Isabel’s photograph album is held at the Archives and includes photographs of staff and patients at military hospitals in Bridgend and Cardiff (ref. D501).

One of our most important collections relating to the Second World War are the many letters written by Pat Cox of Cardiff to her fiancé, Jack Leversuch, who was serving overseas in the forces (ref. DXGC263/2-32). Throughout the war Pat sent regular letters to Jack giving him her news.  Jack kept all the letters he received from Pat and brought them home with him when he finished serving overseas.

 

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The letters give personal details of the couple’s courtship as well as describing how Cardiff was dealing with air raids, the black out, evacuation and rationing.

Valentine cards also appear in our collections.  Many nineteenth century cards were handmade and beautifully coloured, sometimes decorated with intricate cut outs.  During the latter part of the century commercially printed cards appeared, although to our modern eyes these are also beautifully decorative.  Here are two examples of Victorian valentines (ref. DX554/18/3,9), both edged with feathers.

 

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Do you have any old documents, photographs or valentine cards?  Please let us know as we would love to add them to our collection.

 

 

‘I’ll sing a song of heroes true’: A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary by PS Caleb Morris

 

 

The Glamorgan Archives holds a large number of items that tell the story of the Glamorgan Constabulary from its creation in 1841. One of the more unusual items is a poem penned by Police Sergeant Caleb Morris (PS 175) in 1918 entitled, ‘A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’. At the time, Morris was 48 years old and past the maximum age for military service. Originally from Pembrokeshire, he had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary at the age of 24 in 1894. He was a well-known figure in the Abernant area and was promoted to Sergeant in 1915. He figured regularly in the pages of the local press, giving evidence in criminal cases heard in the local courts. Morris, however, was also known in the community for his talent in writing verse. There are several newspapers reports in this period of events where the audience was entertained by ‘topical verse’ and ‘verses of welcome’ delivered by Caleb Morris. This was a talent that he used in good effect when, in 1918, he produced his ‘Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’.  His aim was to celebrate the men of the Constabulary who had joined the armed forces to fight in the Great War. Several hundred men from the Constabulary left their posts to join the forces and 92 lost their lives.

The poem is reproduced in full at the end of this article. It tells the story of specific events, including the desperate attempt to hold back the German advance in the early months of the war. By and large, however, it majors on the deeds of specific men. For example, Fred Smith, who was a Police Inspector at Bridgend at the outbreak of the war, and also known for his exploits on the rugby field playing for Cardiff and Bridgend. Fred had extensive military experience, having fought in the Boer War as a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Glamorgan Yeomanry, and was awarded the DCM. During the Great War, as Lieutenant Colonel Smith, he commanded the 16th (Cardiff City) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment and was awarded the DSO. After the war he returned to the police force with his appointment as Chief Superintendent at Gowerton.

The verse also tells the story of one of the legendary figures of the Glamorgan Constabulary, Company Sergeant Major, Dick Thomas. Dick Thomas had joined the force in 1904 and was promoted to Sergeant and stationed at Bridgend in 1913. He was widely admired as an exceptional rugby player for Bridgend, Mountain Ash and Wales. In particular, he had the distinction of playing in the first Welsh side to win the Grand Slam in 1908. He is remembered as one of the heroes of the assault by the Welsh Regiment on the heavily defended German positions at Mametz Wood on 7 July 1916.

One of the most poignant stories is that of James Angus, originally from Brecon. Angus had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1893 and was stationed at Barry and Abercynon. Like Fred Smith, he had military experience. His father had fought with the South Wales Borderers in the Crimea and James Angus had served with the Grenadier Guards in the Boer War. In 1914 he joined the 16th Cardiff City Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he was Acting Commander of the 11th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers when he died, tragically, in a swimming accident in September 1917.

The verse also deals with events on the home front, commending the men, like Morris, who had to stay in Wales but, nevertheless, were doing ‘their bit’ to win the war. In addition, there is a lengthy tribute to the Chief Constable, Capt Lionel Lindsay, for his leadership during the war years. Lindsay had first joined the Constabulary as a Superintendent in Merthyr in 1889. He succeeded his father, Henry Gore Lindsay, as Chief Constable in 1891 and held the post until 1937.

The poem ends on a fairly sombre note, telling the story of the thousands of women who dreaded the arrival of the post each day in case it brought news of the death of a loved one. Delivery of such letters and telegrams would have been a familiar occurrence in local communities across Wales. No doubt Caleb Morris would have feared for the life of his only son, David, who was in the Merchant Navy. David was an officer on ships owned by W J Tatem and Co of Cardiff.  As far as we know, he survived the war but not without a number of scares. In May 1918 the Aberdare Leader carried details of his return from India on the SS Madras. The convoy had been attacked on both the outward and return journeys by German submarines and had lost six ships. It was reported that … one torpedo missed the bow of Sec Officer Morris’ ship by only a yard or two and struck the next ship which was alongside.… [Aberdare Leader, 18 May 1918].

Copies of Caleb Morris’ tribute were printed by the Western Mail and sold at 3d a copy. They were enormously popular and, in June 1918, it was reported that £67 11s had been raised, suggesting that over 5400 copies had been sold. The proceeds were passed to the Welsh Prisoners of War Fund. Caleb Morris served in the Glamorgan Constabulary for 26 years and retired in March 1920 aged 50.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

 

A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary

Respectfully dedicated to Captain Lionel Lindsay, MVO, Chief Constable

I’ll sing a song of heroes true,

Known to you as ‘Men in blue’.

The gallant members of the Force

Are never wanting in resource;

When Britain’s sword flashed in the light

For Belgium’s liberty and right,

The brave Glamorgans honour bound

Exchanged their beats for battle ground.

Four hundred men as true as steel

Knew how to march with toe and heel;

They knew their rifle and their drill,

A dauntless band with iron will.

These men that would not break or yield

Could now command upon the field.

A smarter lot of army men

Was never known to human ken.

They hailed from Porth and Mountain Ash,

That ‘Scrap of Paper’ made them rash.

They left Bridgend and Aberdare,

Took up their guns and did their share;

From Briton Ferry jovial Ben

Rejoined his unit there and then:

And now a captive with the Hun,

May God be with him when alone.

From Port Talbot, Pentre, Barry,

On their journey did not tarry.

Every Hamlet, Town and Village

Were responsive to the Message.

Men from all the Shire’s divisions

Joined the battle of the Nations.

A spirit moved within each breast

That hurried them to do their best.

With solemn vow and eager heart,

Determined all to play their part.

Never yet had they been thwarted

In a venture once ‘twas started.

Ere the middle of September

Many crossed the Straits of Dover;

Forward march through France and Flanders,

Till they met the Goosestep dancers,

‘Got in Himmel Donner Wetter’,

Blood was running there like water.

The BEF with wounded arm

Gave Kaiser William the alarm,

His dreams of Paris and Calais

Evaporated on that day.

 

The soldiers said, and still repeat,

That Angels fought in that retreat.

Like lightening flash or human thought

A modern miracle was wrought;

The British caused a German rout;

Attila’s millions turned about.

The Huns retreated to the Aisne,

A sorry plight for men so vain.

Many a policeman’s blood was shed,

And some were numbered with the dead.

Among the men who crossed the foam

To fight for Country, King and Home,

Was Colonel Smith of football fame,

To-day he plays the sterner game:

Fred was mentioned in despatches,

How he fought the cruel Bosches;

His clever tactics foiled the foe,

His merit won the DSO

May further honour be in store

‘Till Smith commands the Army Corps.

 

Another star looms on the view,

A credit to the Men in Blue;

Brave Colonel Angus made a stand

That brought distinction and command;

A Grenadier to the core,

He won his spurs against the Boer.

As true a man as wore a sword

Or stood before the German Horde,

But sad to me ‘tis to relate

How Angus met his mournful fate;

For when he was with honour crowned

A message came that he was drowned.

For acumen and gallantry

His name will long remembered be.

 

Another hero, strong and tall,

A master with the gloves and ball,

A football player lithe and bold,

An International of old.

He won his cap for strength and dash-

I mean Dick Thomas, Mountain Ash;

As Sergeant Major at the Front

Was in the van, as e’er his wont.

Poor Dick is numbered with the slain,

And buried on a foreign plain;

He met his death with smiling face,

‘Twas worthy of a gallant race.

 

And Corporal Jones of Cynon Town,

Who joined the Guards and won renown;

A man of truly valiant worth,

A giant he, in length and girth;

He won a medal for his pluck,

But lost a limb, what bitter luck.

Poor Jim will never march again

To music of a martial strain.

 

Could I but weave as Poets can,

I’d sing a song to very man.

All deserve their names to glitter

On a shield in gold and silver;

One and all without exception

Are worthy of the British Nation.

Many a gallant deed was done,

The twentieth part will ne’er be sung.

Behind the lines the crosses tell

How brave Glamorgans nobly fell.

Many are to-day for valour

Numbered on the Scroll of Honour;

For ‘Robert’s’ always in the van,

A soldier, constable and man.

 

Three hundred men were left at home,

They could not sail across the foam.

The DSO and DCM

Will ne’er be won by one of them.

They too deserve a word of praise

For arduous work in anxious days,

Willing service to the Country

Yet may win a star or bounty.

Their patience, tact and courtesy

Disclose inherent chivalry.

 

Our gallant Chief, and friend in need,

To all of us a friend indeed;

The martial mien his Giants bear,

A triumph to his special care.

Every man a Drill Instructor-

Aye, and ready for the Sector.

There’s not a Force throughout the Realm

With better Captain at the helm.

His ancient lineage, gentle birth,

Add lustre to intrinsic worth.

A Chieftain he whose loyalty

Was honoured by our Royalty.

The deeds he’s done since war began

Are worthy of the Lindsay Clan.

A valiant Chief of noble heart,

To King and Country plays his part;

And when his men return again

They will not seek his aid in vain.

His name will ever revered be

For honour and fidelity.

 

Another Gentleman we know,

Brave Colonel Williams, DSO.

A man respected in the Shire,

Descendent of a noble sire;

Grandson and a worthy scion

To ‘Alaw Goch’ of Ynyscynon.

He early won his King’s reward

As Captain of the Celtic Guard;

Before this War the Welshmen had

To wear Grenade of Gaelic pla’d,

His love of Wales and his Nation

Brought to pass the Welch Battalion.

(Ye Giant Welshman, service seek,

‘Cymru am Byth’, go! Don the leek;

When a Teuton you encounter

Make him eat the leek for dinner;

Treat him as the bold Glendower

Treated Pistil for his bluster.)

When War is o’er and Peace shall reign

May he come back to Wales again,

For Wales can ill afford to lose

The man that won that Cross at Loos.

 

I’d love to touch a finer chord,

If but the Muse with my accord,

For now I tread on holy ground

Where the bereaved are to be found.

Ye women brave, whose hearts have bled

For husbands, sons and lovers dead;

Yon brave Soldier-sons of Gwalia

Sleepeth in that Grand Valhalla.

My inmost soul with pain is strung,

I can’t express with human tongue,

The pain and sorrow that is wrought:

Though glory won, ‘tis dearly bought.

There’s not a herb, however good,

That ever has or ever could,

Or great physician’s healing art,

Can heal the wounds of broken heart;

There’s only One, the Lord above,

That knows the depth of woman’s love.

All through the watches of the night

They never sleep till morning light.

They watch the postman from afar,

The door is left upon the jar.

The mother peeps behind the blind

And prays that fate at last is kind.

The Postman passes with a will,

The Mother’s heart is standing still.

Sometimes the truth is grim and hard:

Her boy lay buried  in the sward.

O what is sorrow? Who can tell?

‘Tis only them that love too well.

The anguish, pain and poignant grief

Beyond the conception and belief.

God of Mercy, stretch forth Thy palm

And give Thy children healing balm.

Caleb Morris, PS 175. Abernant, Aberdare