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Memories of World War Two

Account sent in by Muriel Edwards about her experience of the War Years in Wales:

I lived in Denbigh, North Wales, when the War broke out, having recently moved from Pontypridd where I was born. By this time I was nearly 8 when the War began. The same month, September in fact!

The word "WAR" to me, meant immediate fighting with guns and swords so I was SO relieved when my mother said "Now don't worry if you hear that War has broken out". She was a wise lady, and a very loving mother.

After only 18 months we moved to Ruthin, 7 miles away, and I attended the grammar school there throughout the War. Living there we did not experience the horrors metered out to city dwellers and only one bomb was dropped in the area, at Rhewl, a nearby village. However, we saw the glow of the fires in Liverpool, over the Clwydian mountains and even spent a night in the air raid shelter, dug out by out neighbours ready for the first wail of the siren. As a child it was exciting, and held no fear at all. When a young boy visited the Rhewl bomb crater, he collected some of the residue oil to use on his bike. I know this to be true as this lad later became my late husband!

All pupils at school accepted carrying a gas mask case as normal, as was gas mask drill to acquaint us with what to do in the event of an attack. it was regarded as a break in lessons and a good laugh as we looked at each other in our gas masks! Our attitudes were formed by the calmness shown by our stoic parents, many of whom had taken part in World War 1. I can remember buying a gas mask case as my mother's birthday present. How exciting!

Rationing of food was accepted and the only bread was the "National Loaf", grey in colour, but nutritious nevertheless. Eggs were rationed but we had egg powder which we mixed with milk and used it to make eggy bread which was great. An allocation of chocolate powder came to school which we sucked up in straws. Great fun! Sweet rationing was a pain but we found a way round it by buying malted milk tablets and cough sweets from the chemist. Bananas were a thing of the past and the slogan " Yes we have no bananas" was usually the answer in most shops. I can remember having dried bananas once and they were super and tasted like toffee!

One task I hated. When asked by my mother to go to Mrs Roberts the grocers to pay the monthly bill. I went because Mrs Roberts would give me a shilling for myself when I was given the change. The snag was that I was told to whisper this: "Have you got any extras please Mrs Roberts?" (Meaning a little extra butter or anything!)

I remember the evacuees arriving at Ruthin station, and we went down to see them alight from the train. They came mostly from the Liverpool and Manchester areas and were allocated to many local families and attended our school. I was fascinated by the unfamiliar surnames such as Moleneaux, Webster, Charlesworth and Barford. So different from Jones, Roberts, Edwards and Evans so prevalent throughout Wales. How "posh" we thought with conversations littered with ballet terms and names of "stars" like Anton Dolin, Margot Fonteyn etc. No doubt they had never heard of words like Eisteddfod, Noson Lawen, Cymanfa Ganu either! In many ways we, in our ignorant teenage years envied the attention given to the evacuees by the teachers who were only trying to make them feel at home, and possibly feeling homesick. Two sisters were finally adopted by the Mayor of Ruthin.

When E-DAY arrived, everyone was ecstatic, and there was dancing on Ruthin Square to celebrate. Despite the absence of TV, we read of the atrocities of Belsen and Auschwitz and saw pictures at the cinemas. At the age of 15, I was unaware that human beings could be capable of such cruelty.

By living in a country area as we were in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd, we were cushioned from the horrors of the bombing experienced by city dwellers, but we shall always remember those years of World War 2.


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