Roath Women and the War: Part 6

Roath Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was situated on the corner of City Road and Newport Road . Built around 1860 it was a substantial building reputedly able to seat 1000. The Roath Road Magazine was originally established as the magazine of the Roath Road Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School (DX320/3/2/i-iii). From November 1914 it was published monthly as the ‘Roath Road Roamer’ (RRR) to provide news on the war and, in particular, the fortunes of service men and women associated with the Roath Road Wesleyan Church, School and Congregation serving in the armed forces (DAWES6). It was distributed throughout the area and sent overseas to provide soldiers, families and friends with news from home and updates on colleagues serving in the forces. In particular, it featured photographs and letters from soldiers serving overseas.

From the outset the intention was that the magazine should feature the contribution made by the women of the parish and, in particular, those ‘in uniform’. Altogether, the magazine included details of 19 women from the Roath area. Many were sisters of serving soldiers, sailors and airmen and the magazine included photographs of 17 of the 19 and several letters. Referred to in the magazine as ‘our Lady Roamers’ the short pen pictures featured over the coming weeks provide an insight into how the war resulted in women moving into roles and occupations previously dominated by men.

At the outset of the war possibly the most obvious route for women looking to contribute to the war effort was to take up the call for volunteers made by both local charities and national bodies such as the Red Cross. Seven of the women featured in the magazine took this route. However, later in the War, as a result of the shortage of manpower following the introduction of conscription in 1916, opportunities opened up for women in many new areas of work. By 1918 Lady Roamers were also to be found in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Royal Air Force, the Land Army and local services including the railways and the post. Furthermore, from their letters we know that several served overseas.

Public services in Cardiff. Lizzie Veal and Annie Sanders and Girl Guide Edith Carbis

Two of the most interesting photographs were of Lizzie Veal and Annie Sanders wearing the uniforms of the Great Western Railway and the Postal Service respectively. By the end of the war such sightings would have been commonplace in Cardiff as women stepped increasingly into roles previously monopolised by men.

Lizzie Veal

We cannot be sure but this could be Elizabeth Jane Veal from Adamstown. If so, there was a family link with the railway in that her brother, George, was a railway wagon builder. Although women had been employed by the GWR before 1914, the numbers increased rapidly from 1914 onwards to fill the gaps left by men called up for the armed forces. The picture of Lizzie Veal was featured in ‘The Roamer’ in April 1919 (Vol.54, p.2). At that time she would have been one of over 1000 women employed by the GWR as porters and ticket collectors.

Annie Sanders

Unfortunately, ‘The Roamer’ also tells us very little about Annie Sanders (Vol.51, p.5). She may well have been Annie Sanders of Treharris Street. If so, Annie’s husband George was a tailor and she would have been 29 at the outbreak of war. She was photographed, complete with sack of letters, in the blue serge skirt and coat and blue hat of the postal service, introduced for women in 1914.

Finally, mention should be made of the first and youngest woman to feature in ‘The Roamer’, Edith Carbis.

Edith Carbis

Edith’s photograph appeared in the January 1915 edition with the following commentary:

‘We do not want the RRR to develop into merely a Men’s Magazine and hope to vary our pictures at any rate, so far as the kindness of our friends will permit. This month it is our pleasure to present this photo of Miss Edith Carbis, who is a member of the 1st Roath, Cardiff, Patrol of Girl Guides. She is one of our scholars of course, although unfortunately the Patrol is not connected with Roath Road. Guide Carbis has been on ‘active service’ since the War began and has been in daily attendance on the Lady Mayoress at the City Hall. The remainder of her day’s routine has been devoted to making clothes for the Belgians’ (Vol.3, p.7).

Despite the good intentions, other than the references to Nurse Alice Williams later in 1915, it was not until March 1918 that ‘The Roamer’ began to feature, on a regular basis, the photographs and details of women from Roath. It had taken some time to accept that women could steps into roles previously dominated by men. Although for many the new opportunities were short lived, no one could doubt that attitudes to work and male and female roles would never again be the same as a result of the wartime experience.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer