Go to 1930s and Second World War

Post-war 1950s and schools memories

Sport and Transport and the history of Grange Gardens

Churches and schools and also Pubs and clubs and the history Of Grange Farm.

Grangetown industry - from iron, rope, gas to cigars

Streets and Census (in progress)

Photos of Grangetown then and now

Here is Grangetown history covering the Second World War and a little beyond. There are more stories here too.

Thanks to Jack and Ken Payne, Bob Jones, Zena Mabbs, Ken Harris, Tony Hicks, Peter Ranson, Rita Spinola, Dennis Courtney, Graham Ayres, Dai's son, John Williams, Ken Lloyd and the Grangetown Local History Society for their help.

JANUARY 2 1941 - A DARK DAY OF WAR

The memorial plaque

Let's start with the blackest day in Grangetown history. It came in the Second World War on 2 January 1941, when an air-raid during the full moon caused widespread casualties across Cardiff. It started at teatime - 6.37pm. Around 100 German planes were involved and Grangetown was the first and worst area to be hit. The 10-hour raid was said by the Nazis to be in retaliation to the RAF's bombing of Bremen.

Hollyman Brothers Bakery, on the corner of Corporation Road and Stockland Street, saw its large cellar used as a bunker for local people. But the premises took a direct hit by a landmine and 32 people in the shelter were killed. The bomb, which ended up in the cellar floor, exploded and left an 8ft pile of rubble.

The Hollyman baking family were well established. The family business had started with Charles Hollyman - son of a Somerset one-time butcher and publican - in Bute Street in the 1870s, with four of his sons at various times becoming bakers. His younger brother Robert was also a baker with his own business in Roath. His eldest son Alfred John Hollyman, after a short time in Roath, opened a bakery in Corporation Road by the late 1890s. By 1941, Alfred, was 74, a widower, and he lived above the shop in Corporation Road with one of his daughters, Ethel, 43. The bakery itself was in separate building in the yard, along with a stable for one of the bakery's two delivery horses by the lane in Stockland Street. The business was run by eldest son Bill, 38, who lived with his wife Margaret, 36, and their 12-year-old daughter Joan in a house next door at the end of Stockland Street. The bakers would call in passers-by and neighbours to use the Hollymans' shelter in the cellar during air raids. That night it was packed, including Alfred, Ethel, and Bill and his wife and daughter. All were killed. Alfred's brother Bill, 72, another baker, survived, as he was apparently sheltering elsewhere, while his son Jack, 40, who eventually re-started the business, was living in Lansdowne Avenue, Canton. Others known to have died in the shelter included Elizabeth Williams, 56, and Thomas Williams, 68, both from Stockland Street; Philip and Lilian Morgan; and Magdalene Maude Wells, 51, from Llanbradach Street.

It was thought the remains of those who perished were buried on the site, but descendants later discovered two Hollymans were buried in a city cemetery. Around 20 unknown victims were also buried at the spot. Many could have been children, as Alfred was heard to be calling children into the shelter after the air-raid siren was heard.

There were at least another 30 casualties in Grangetown that night, during 10 hours of bombing, until the all-clear sirens sounded after 4.50am on 3 January.

They included nine people in nearby Clydach Street, including Thomas and Caroline Lyons , 56 and 48,and their 14-year-old son John at No 8. Next door at No 10, David and Emma Jones, both in their 80s, were killed along with their three daughters Blanche, Annie and Emily, aged 47, 48 and 50.


The bomb damage in Jubilee Street - and surrounding streets - click for larger image

There were also a number of homes destroyed in Jubilee Street in Saltmead. There was tragedy for the Nichols/Chiaramonti family at No 66, where they were already grieving a wartime loss. Thomas and Nellie Nichols, 60 and 66, their 20-year-old daughter Muriel and four-year-old grandson, Neil Chiaramonti, were all killed in the air raid. Gertrude Chiaramonti survived - but lost her only child, her parents and sister. It was almost six months to the day Gertrude, 26,had lost her husband Francis, also 26, a Merchant Navy seaman. The son of a French sailor who served in World War One, he had been a junior engineering officer on board the MV Beignon, which was sunk off the coast of France by a U-Boat carrying a cargo of wheat and survivors from another ship's sinking.

Gertrude had been a war baby herself, the fourth child born to Thomas and Neillie Nichols at 104 Saltmead Road (now Stafford Road) in 1914, having moved from Cathays. Thomas, a builder's labourer, had tried to enlist in the Great War but a varicose vein in his leg meant he was rejected. He had married Nellie Lock, the daughter of a bricklayer from Court Road. Gertrude, who had married Francis in 1935, remarried after the war and died in 2002, aged 88.

Leonard Atwell recalled the Jubilee Street air raid for the BBC's WW2 People's War: "My father went back into the house to get some blankets despite the screams from my mother for him to return. He did return with an armful of blankets just in time, for a nearby bomb blew off the sand-bag shielded door of the shelter, and the blast lifted the shelter a few inches, then it dropped back into place. My father spread-eagled himself over us, to protect us and I could hardly breathe. Until that night my mother had been afraid of thunder and lightening, but that night cured her. The following morning after the all-clear siren had sounded we emerged into the street to discover half of it had disappeared as the result of a land-mine. I had lost most of my little friends that night, some I was later told had sought refuge under the stairs in the misbelief that they would be safe. They possibly thought that it would be warmer there than the freezing cold Anderson Shelter. I doubt that they would have survived if they had used the shelter because of the close vicinity of the land-mine."

It was likely the German bombers had been targeting the Canton railway yard, the other side of the railway. Three blocks of maisonettes were later built in the place of the damaged houses.

According to the school records from the time, as well as damage to Jubilee Street from a land mine, Compton Street, Stafford Road, Allerton Street, Monmouth Street and Court Road also sustained heavy damage. A bomb fell in Maitland Place demolishing part of Saltmead Hall. Court Road School was also closed due to the extensive damage. Three were killed in the air raid in Bromsgrove Street, while the Grangetown National School was forced to close, because of an unexploded bomb 20 yards away. All families from St Fagans Street, Knole Street and Worcester Street were evacuated.


Ferry Road and the corner of Holmesdale Street See more photos - BBC Wales/Glamorgan Archives

Seven more were killed at the corner of Ferry Road and Holmesdale Street, including brothers Ivor and William Dix - both married men, one 29 and the other 34. James Griffiths, a special sergeant, who lived in Cambridge Street had gone into one of the homes demolished by a bomb and brought out the body of a dead boy and an injured girl, crying for her mother. The girl died within hours and it was months before the body of her mother was found deep in the rubble. Sgt Griffiths, who also spent three days helping to dig at the wreckage of the Hollyman's shelter, was called to deal with many incendiary bombs in the Grangetown and Docks areas. He was awarded a BEM by King George later that year. His widow Elizabeth recalled 40 years later that the experience of civilian casualties for this Great War veteran took its toll and he died in 1952. "All he did was wander around in a daze," she recalled of the aftermath.

Others were killed in Paget Street, Penhaved Street, Pentrebane Street and the Taff Embankment, or were killed when bombs dropped while they were in Canton, Riverside and Docks. Locals recalled being kept inside the Ninian cinema, which was showing an Abbott and Costello film and not emerging until it was safe at 2am, but seeing the blazing remains of the bakery as they returned home.


Bomb damage on the corner of Clive Street - corner of Ferry Road; click on the image to how it looks now.

The 49 Grangetown named victims of the Blitz, January 1941

Charles Ayland, 56, of 45 Pentrebane St - died at Hamadryad hospital
Thomas Brooks Jones, 32, of 71 Penterbane St - died at St David's Hospital

Neil Chiaramonti, killed at 66 Jubilee Street - he was an only child and his mother Gertrude (nee Nicholls) a recent widow. His aunt and grandparents also died (see Nichols below).
Annie Irene Maud Cook, 42, of 21 Bromsgrove St - and son Terrance Charles, 12, son of Charles
George Dimond, 36, of 214 Clive St, husband of the late Rose Dimond, son of Dimonds of 69 Oakley Street.
Ivor Dix, 29, husband of Florrie, 70 Hewell Street - killed at corner of Holmesdale St and Clive St. He was son of Robert and Mary Dix of 11 Avondale Rd.
William George Dix, 34, 1 Holmesdale St - husband of Minnie, on corner of Holmesdale St and Clive Street
Thomas Alfred Fish, 37, 1 Ferry Rd
David and Emma Jones, 84 and 81, were killed along with their three daughters Blanche, Annie and Emily Jones, aged 50, 48 and 47, killed at No 10 Clydach Street.
Elizabeth Keegan, 42, of 56 Clive St and son Gerald, 8, died at 40 Glamorgan St - husband was William Keegan
Phyllis May Harris, 31, of Woodville Rd, Roath died at 30 Taff Embankment - originally from Aberdare
Alfred Hollyman, 74, daughter Ethel, 43, son Bill Hollyman, 38, and his wife Margaret, 36, and daughter Joan, 12, killed at Hollyman's bakery shelter, 64 Corporation Road.
Albert Henry Lee, 56, husband of Ada of 4 Channel View Rd, died in Ferry Rd
Margaret Jane Leworthy, 43, 6 Clydach St, wife of Richard Wesley Leworthy; daughter of John and Matilda Gwilliam, 32 Newton Rd
Thomas and Caroline Lyons , 56 and 48,and their 14-year-old son John at No 8 Clydach Street.
George Arthur Morgan, 55, 7 Llanbradach St and wife Rachel, aged 54 - died at Hollymans shelter
Kathleen Morgan, 27, of 52 Paget Street, wife of RAF AC2 Philip Morgan and daughter of RAF Capt Peter Bonar Morgan of Newport
Philip Thomas Vivian Morgan, 29, and wife Lilian, 25, died at Hollymans shelter at 64 Corporation Road; from 150 Coburn St, Cathays
William Morgan, 69, of 73 Court Rd, injured and died at St David's Hospital on 1 March. Widower of Blanche.
Thomas and Nellie Nichols aged 60 and 55 and their 20-year-old daughter Muriel died at 66 Jubilee Street
William Henry Phillips, 38, 50 Penhaved St, husband of Dorothy
Lloyd Roberts, 29, of 58 Paget St - died at 60 Paget Street
William John Roberts, 62, 8 St Fagans St (wife Margaret) - killed at Cardiff East Docks
Leonard Roodhouse, 31, of 47 Pentrebane Street, son of Samuel and Eva of 1 Avoca Place; husband of Violet Mary, died at 47 Pentrebane Street
Alfred Scantlebury, 64, of 6 Earl St - injured on the corner of Ferry Rd, died later that day in South Clive Street
Alfred Samuel Townsend, 66, husband of Jessie; of 23 Knole St; injured in Forrest St and died later on 17 January
Thomas Henry Tucker, 61, and wife Sarah Tucker, 64, of 21 Bromsgrove Street
Ivor George Warren, 57, 5 Ferry Rd, husband of Winifred, corner of Ferry Rd
Magdalen Maud Wells, 51, of 17 Llanbradach Street - died 62 Corporation Rd (Hollymans) daughter of James Enoch Wells, 8 Newport Street
Elizabeth Williams, 56, and Thomas Parry Williams, 68, both from Stockland Street (Hollymans)
Myfanwy Williams, 37, killed at 30 Taff Embankment, daughter of the late William Samuel, and Hannah Elizabeth Williams of 50 Taff Embankment.


This is a map from the 1940s - the Grangetown streets where there were casualties from bombing are marked in yellow.

The death toll across the city that night saw an estimated 165 dead, 427 hurt and nearly 350 homes destroyed or had to be demolished. Hundreds were put up in 20 feeding and rest centres in church halls and corporation buildings, including City Hall, which only a few days earlier had hosted a New Year's Eve dinner. Grangetown's gas works had been hit, cutting off supplies across the town for several days. Chapels and Llandaff Cathderal were also damaged, with the Dean and verger injured fighting the fire, which destroyed the south roof of the nave, the west window and the organ.

Riverside, neighbouring to Grangetown, also suffered when a landmine dropped on De Burgh Street, killing 50, while you can see a plaque on the rebuilt Conservative club in Neville Street and the newer houses which now stand on the spot were properties were demolished. Seven relations who had been to a family funeral earlier in the day were killed in Blackstone Street, with the homes there so badly damaged the street was never rebuilt.

Due to censorship and reporting restrictions, there were scant details in the Western Mail of the day beyond the headlines - Cardiff wasn't even named in the next day's edition as the "South Wales coast town, which underwent an intense fire blitz." What they weren't able to print in terms of names and places, they made up for in description. "A thick smoke haze hung over the town and through the haze loomed the silhouettes of tramcars and buses at the roadsides." There was a bit more detail in the Echo in the days to come. Only a few families posted notices to the dead. There was a communal funeral for 30 at the Cardiff Cemetery, attended by hundreds and the Lord Mayor, and more private burials elsewhere. There was an appeal for more blood donors for the infirmary.

But life also went on. They had A Night Train to Munich on at the Ninian cinema in Penarth Road, while in town Humpty Dumpty was the pantomime at the New Theatre, which held early performances to "beat the blackout". And in the week that followed both Rex Harrison and a young Lawrence Olivier were appearing in plays at the Prince Of Wales and Park Hall theatres.

Across Cardiff, more than 2,100 bombs fell between June 1940 - the first raid was at 12.55am - and March 1944; altogether, the death toll in air raids was 355, with more than 500 injured.

Hollymans continued as a bakery until the early 1950s, when a hardware shop was set up there. There is a plaque to those who died at the bakery site, erected by Grangetown Local History Society on the wall of Clarence Hardware's shop, which is still doing business.

'I left for work as usual, unaware of the tragedy that had happened'

JOHN WILLIAMS, who was the bread delivery boy at Hollymans, tells his story.:

In 1939, I was 13 and still in Court Road School. At 14, I started to work at Hollyman The Bakers, who had their premises at Corporation Road on the corner of Stockland Street, where the bakery was and in the yard. Joining was the stable that had one berth for horses. The family had two, one was in a field in Penarth Road. I started at 8am delivering bread in a four-wheeled covered van. Bill Hollyman showed me how to assemble all the trappings of the harness beforehand. Then in a matter of months, I was grooming, feeding and doing this job myself.

My road was Corporation Road, into Coedcae Street, Taff Embankment, across Penarth Road bridge, into Percy Street, Harpur Street, back into Penarth Road, up the hill the left into St Mary Street, across the junction of Wood Street and into High Street delivering long loaves to the Bungalow Cafe on the right hand side. Then Castle Street through the Hayes into Bute Road, left into Tyndall Street. Turn around, then left into Bute Street proper, into Mount Stuart Square where one of our customers lived in the top flat of a building, so I had to take the lift up to deliver her loaf. From there into James Street. It never happened every day but some days I had to wait for the swing bridge to open and shut to let the Bowles sand dredger leave her berth to go out into the local channel to do her dredging. This operation took at least a quarter of an hour to complete. We had a couple of customers in Hunter Street and Pomeroy Street, back over the iron Clarence Road Bridge, which was a hazard with a four-wheel van because of the tram lines. Then into Ferry Road, into Kent Street, Holmesdale Street, Grange Gardens and back into Corporation Road.

I remember a rather funny incident where I was seeing to a customer in Corporation Road with the horse stationery in the gutter, when there was a very loud noise coming from our rear. The horse shot off and galloped back to our bakery. Luckily, someone caught him. There was me running after him. The noise was an American tank trundling down Corporation Road. We had a good laugh at the time, but it was serious really.

The round I have just described was just one of three I had altogether. It was hard work for a young man like myself in all weathers; in summer and winter, in wartime. They talk about "pressure" today, but they don't know what they're talking about.

Ken LloydI call it "fate" but the night of the bombing of 2nd January 1941, when most of the Hollyman family lost their lives and many more people as well. The night before, I was actually down that shelter after my round was finished and I had bedded down the horse, Dolly. I was invited into the house and had a bowl of lovely hot soup before going home. The next night, after completing my round, Bill Hollyman said to me "I think you had better go straight home because your mother and father will be worried about you." So I left, and spent the night with my family - my parents, brother and sister - in an Anderson shelter out our back in Devon Street. It was night of bombing and indendiary bombs. The noise was incessant. It was a long night and I cannot remember whether we had any sleep that night. Well, the next morning (January 3rd), I left for work as usual, unaware of the tragedy that had happened until I turned the corner of Stockland Street.

I saw a smoking ruin of a three-storey house and shop, with bodies wrapped up on stretchers being removed. There was a thick layer of ice in patches over the ruins. It had been a freezing night and morning. The horse in the stable was all right, only yards away. As far as I can remember, Mr Jack Hollyman was there - he lived with his wife in Lansdowne Avenue East in Canton. He told me to go home and he would carry on the business in a few weeks time and would call me later.

About six weeks later, we were back on rounds and I worked in the bakery with the old baker Charlie, who lived in Channel View Road. Jack Hollyman and I stayed there until I was called up into the army on 17th August 1944.

Ken Lloyd (pictured above left) was another who remembered the raid. Aged 12 and a half at the time, he was on his way home from a children's meeting at the Ebenezer Chapel in Corporation Road, when he was among those called towards the shelter by Mr Hollyman. "I was just walking past Grange Gardens, coming home. I lived in Warwick Street and told him I didn't have far to go," said Ken, as he too recalls how fate intervened. Of the children he said, "We were with them one day, and they next day they weren't there. Everyone who had gone in there (the shelter) was killed outright."

Children's Christmas 'fairyland' ended by air raid

AVERIL GOLDSWORTHY (nee Coombs) remembers the night of the Blitz. Her father Dick had a shop at 177 Corporation Road, opposite Ebenezer Chapel and she had been at the hall there with 140 other children for the Sunday school's annual Christmas party, when the air raid siren sounded.

"These parties were renowned and there was always an increase in the numbers of pupils a few weeks before Christmas.

"The parties continued throughout the war years, the government food office allocating a basic food allowance for the children, and adult members sparing as much of their own meagre rations as they could, to top things up. The store cupboards were opened and out came the boxes of decorations collected over the years. Tinsel, paper chains, balloons, Chinese lanterns, strings of coloured fairy lights and of course there was always a large Christmas tree suitably decorated, reaching to the ceiling with a pretty fairy doll, holding her wand and gazing down upon us from the top branch.

"Luxury goods had disappeared entirely from the shops during the war, no sparkling displays in shop windows so stepping into Ebenezer basement at party time, from the blackout was like stepping into fairy land. Mothers tried to make party dresses for children often by cutting a garment of their own.

"The tradition was to hold three annual parties on separate days, one for infants, another for older children and the third was for young people. However because of the air raids, the authorities concerned advised the Chapel to condense the parties into two days as this would not require the A.R.P. to provide extra men in our area on three days of the week.

"Arrangements were made to hold the infants party at 4pm and finish by 6pm. Usually bombing raids commenced rather late in the evening or in the night.

"On the afternoon of 2nd January, 1941 140 children were brought to Ebenezer for their party which proceeded happily. However, suddenly the air raid warning siren sounded. Some parents had arrived early to collect their children, grabbed their offspring and fled. My sister myself and a friend were rushed across the road to my home and father’s shop where it had been previously arranged that two young ladies were to look after us for a few hours as both my parents were involved in running the senior party at the chapel.

"Usually there was a short lull after the siren went before the guns opened fire and the bombs crashed down but not this night. Our minders rushed us under the stairs considered the safest place in the house. Suddenly my father appeared and we were rushed back to the chapel basement considered to be stronger than mere houses. Crash after crash, splintering glass, the sound of bricks tumbling down all around us. The raid went on hour after hour and it was too risky for anyone to leave the building. Wave after wave of German aircraft came over, their peculiar irregular engine noises familiar to us.

"The shudder of our building was frightening, and the screaming bombs petrified us. A few of the men present went up into the rafters to join the fire watchers (already on duty) in order to man the stirrup pumps and sand buckets to fight the incendiary bombs as they landed.

"All of our decorations were considered a fire hazard so were speedily pulled down and taken outside – our temporary fairyland had gone. Just before midnight the doors opened and ARP wardens and policemen rushed in and a number of rescued people in various states of shock, cuts and bruises etc., were added to our number. I remember seeing one or two ladies faint and I thought that they had died never having seen anyone faint before. Because of houses being badly damaged about 100 local people lived in this basement for approximately two weeks while the soldiers cleared the area of time bombs. They worked night and day.

"Finally in the dawn we were taken home and I still remember the dust and smell of smoke and gunpowder, the glass on the roads and pavements, and pieces of shrapnel and shell cases and I picked a piece of shrapnel to keep as a souvenir which suddenly disappeared – I think that my mother was the culprit and got rid of it!

"My aunt and uncle lived nearby in a new house, but after this night it was no more, they were saved by being in their garden Anderson shelter. Not so fortunate was a bakery higher up the road, the premises had a large reinforced cellar and about 30 people were taking shelter there when they received a direct hit from a land mine and all were killed.

"There was little chance in any civilian shelter or reinforced cellar if you received a direct hit from a heavy bomb or landmine, and it was a miracle that Ebenezer with all those youngsters came through unscathed, although it had been thickly surrounded by bombs and incendiaries. Fortunately too, the munition factory (Currans) which was only separated from us by the width of the River Taff has comparatively small damage and so it did not blow up and take us with it.

"A thanksgiving service was arranged within a few days and it was very well attended, some people had never been inside any church for years."

See also Cardiff Blitz - pictures (BBC Wales/Glamorgan Archive), Cardiff's worst night of the Blitz and Video - Cardiff remembers 1941 Blitz

The hole in the roof after the air raid

By Dai's son
Our family moved to 81 South Clive Sreet in 1938, a semi detached house. With a small trap door giving access to the roof void just above the stair landing. At about 8.45pm European time on Thursday 2nd January 1941 a squadron of German bombers set of in a northerly direction from their newly captured airfield in northern France. They started to cross the English channel at Cherbourg and entered England at just about Weymouth on a cold clear moonlit night. They continued north until they reached the Bristol Channel at Bridgewater Bay and there below them lit up by the moon shining like a well lit motor way was a ribbon of water leading to the heart of England and Wales. The pathfinder aircraft new that if he followed this water way until he observed a large river on his right with an equally large river to his left, on his right hand side was Bristol, and on his left Cardiff. That night their target was to the left. At about 9pm B.M.T. the air raid warnings sounded at Cardiff.

We had an Anderson shelter in out garden but as we hadn't been having any air raids my Dad had been keeping some live ducks in ours. My mother my two sisters my younger brother and myself joined our next door neighbours the Alloways in their shelter. There were Mrs Alloway,Sylvia,Dorothy,Pamela, Valerie and Lilian, eleven persons in all squeezed in a shelter about 8ftx6ft. The two Dads were out on firewatch duty, my Dad using a metal dustbin lid in place of a helmet. That night it was a very heavy raid, anti aircraft guns blasting off including one on the railway line just across the road. High explosive bombs, land mines and hundreds of incendiary bombs rained down on Grangetown. A high explosive bomb fell on the Mansion House at the corner of Ferry Road and Holmesdale Street killing a number of people. A parachute land mine fell in the barrage balloon field at the end of South Clive Street partially destroying the last six houses in the street and damaging a number of others but not causing any injuries. We emerged from the air raid shelter at about 7am sometime after the all clear wondering if our houses had been damaged. Surprisingly everything seemed to be in order. Two houses across the road had been hit by incendiaries but they had been extinguished with sand before causing much damage, and our house with exception of having some front windows broken and a large piece of shrapnel embedded in the wooden window frame all seemed in order. I later noticed that there was a neat hole in the slate roof at the back of the house. The hole was about three to four inches in diameter and looked as if it had been cut cleanly with a knife or pair of scissors. We speculated as what could have caused this hole and it was decided that I should climb into the roof void to have a look.

My mother or father could not have got through the trap door. I was eight years of age and told to listen out for any ticking sounds and to look for anything strange but not to touch it. We didn't possess a torch in the family so I was given a box of matches. When I got into the roof void I had to balance on the beams and try not to fall through the ceiling whilst striking a match. I could see daylight through the hole in the slates but this did not give much light neither did the matches. I listened but could not hear any ticking noises and couldn't find anything near the hole.

It is probable that whatever came through the roof that night entered with great speed hit a rafter and ricochet to a far corner. I didn't think of that at the time. When I got out of the void and told my mother that I couldn't find anything it was decided that as it wasn't ticking and provided the thing was not touched it would do no harm to leave it be and that is what happened.

A week or so later workmen came removed the bottom slate and slid another in its place but the hole in the top slate was still clearly visible. When I left South Clive St at the age of 18 to join the RAF the holed slate was still visible and by that time the object was forgotten and still not found. In 2010 I returned to South Clive St, and was told the whole roof had been completely reslated a few years before. So it still remains a mystery as to what caused the hole and is it still there?

More stories from World War Two


In print: Wartime memories in Grangetown

'Scarce' was the first word I knew


Speaking to the history society at the Glamorgan Archives

Sir Malcolm Pill, who spent much of his childhood in World War Two being brought up in Grangetown, gave a talk to the Grangetown Local History Society in September 2015.

The distinguished retired appeal court judge published a book A Cardiff Family in the Forties about his father's wartime in North Africa and Italy and his Cardiff boyhood.

The Pills came from Cornwall to work in the Cardiff Docks in the 1860s and they settled in Grangetown where they became members of the Clive Street Baptist Chapel. Sir Malcolm's father Reginald, a barristers' clerk before the war, wrote letters back to his family while he served as an officer in the war. He was also a photographer and captured some fascinating images of the Army in the desert.

He told the society that war was a "natural state of affairs" for him as a child. "'Scarce' was the first word I knew." He also recalled his grandfather's collection of tinned food "which was still there in 1957 when he died".


Malcolm Pill with his parents and maternal grandfather Tom Davies in the late 1930s and with his mother during the war.

In his book he describes his grandparents' house in Clive Street, where he lived with his mother from 1941 to 1944:

"There was no electricity in the house and no inside lavatory. If, in retrospect, it lacked amenity, it did not seem so at the time. The front room, which had a light coloured sofa and a piano, was used only on Sundays and on special occasions such as Christmas; life otherwise went on in the kitchen, to which the scullery was attached.

"The kitchen was a long, rather dark room with a fireplace at one end and grandfather's armchair in the corner near it with the cat's blanket alongside... "The middle room of houses like this, of which there were many in Grangetown, was often used by another family or a different generation of the same family. That had a conservatory, often converted into a kitchen, with separate access to the back yard."

From a Grangetown boyhood to Westminster

Also recommended, including for his memories of a Grangetown childhood, is the autobiography of Labour MP Paul Flynn. The Unusual Suspect (Biteback, £19.99) includes stories of growing up in the early 1940s and the impact of war.

Mr Flynn, who was brought up in Penarth Road, describes schooldays at St Patrick's, wartime air raids and sometimes the stigma of being poor - "the context against which I judged my social security job in Parliament 50 years later was the painful, proud and honesty poverty of working-class life in Grangetown." There are moving stories, not least of his father, who was injured in the Great War and only survived thanks to the kindness of his German captor; and the strong will of his widowed mother who resisted the call of the local Catholic priest for him and his brother to be taken in by an orphanage.

The Flynns were in a Grangetown which was a "melting pot of confused identity," and Mr Flynn from his own Irish-Catholic ancestry writes passionately of his own discovery and love for the mother tongue of Wales. Here he describes experiencing air raids:

"We experienced the raids through the noises of guns and bombs and the vibration of explosions. When a bomb was heard, beginning with its screaming fall to earth, there was a ritual bowing of heads. Bodies braced themselves for a possible impact. The scream grew louder, sharper. Boom! Relief and mutual congratulations that we were in the right place, again. Alive. Untouched. Wise heads would then announce ‘That one was close’ as they guessed our distance from the sound and flash."

You can read a full extract here about when bombs hit Grangetown.

Speaking to the ITV Wales Face To Face programme, Mr Flynn recalled the "dirt poverty" with his widowed mother bringing up a family of four. "My father died when I was five and my mother had virtually no income. It was dirt poverty, the like you don't expect to see today except perhaps in third world countries. We lived entirely on charity, there was no income coming in. I remember the stigma of wearing a suit made out of a cloth which was free. A lot of pupils in Grangetown at St Pat's were poor, but there was a group of us who were dirt poor and we were stigmatised wearing these clothes, which said we were poor."


Bombing of the San Felippe

by Jack Payne

It was a sunny afternoon - July 9th 1940. There were many people about in their gardens and in the street when our attention was drawn to the drone of an aeroplane getting louder and louder. I then saw a twin engine aeroplane flying along South Clive Street. It was so low that it was almost touching the chimney pots of the houses. I cannot recall seeing any markings on the aircraft but the engine sound was similar to that of German aircraft, a rhumba rhumba beat. Mrs O’Connor who lived opposite said she did see German markings on the plane. The plane continued to the end of South Clive Street and then turned left and flew towards Cardiff Docks. It didn’t seem to be flying very fast. When the plane came over the Docks it banked and I could see little black dots falling from it. The black dots seemed as if they floated down rather than drop quickly. There followed a muffled sound of explosions and someone shouted its dropping bombs and everyone ran for their shelters.

That evening my father who worked at Cardiff Docks came home and told us that a ship - a British steamer - called the San Felippe had been bombed in the docks and a number of men had been killed. The men included Jeremiah Savage, who lived in Cornwall Street.

I have since found out that six men were killed, but two men were noted for their bravery. Tim O'Brien who jumped into the hold of the burning ship three times to rescue men trapped and J.N.Anderson who jumped onto the burning ship to help the injured.


MISERY AND EXCITEMENT - THE WAR AS A GRANGETOWN BOY

By Dai's son

Misery I will start off with the misery because it is always better to finish a story on a happy note. I was six when the war started a pupil at The Nash in Clive Street, Grangetown. Not that that was particularly miserable. When the war started we were all issued with a rubber gas mask contained in a light brown cardboard box. There was a length of string going from one side of the box to the other so that the gas mask could be carried over your shoulder. We had to take the gas mask to school. If we had enough bread in the house, which wasn't often, there was enough room in the top of the box to put a fish paste sandwich. Each day in school we had gas mask practice. This meant at a command from the teacher who would then start counting we would take the gas mask from the box and pull it over our face. I can still remember the strong smell of that rubber. We were supposed to have the gas masks on before the teacher reached ten, with the teacher calling out don't hold your breath make sure you breath. If you hadn't fitted the gas mask properly as soon as you took a deep breath the sides of the gas mask contracted and you couldn't breath at all this meant that many children would tear the mask off much to the frustration of the teacher. Eventually when all gas masks were properly fitted we had a session of walking around the classroom in file. The viewing panel of the gas masks easily steamed up with children unable to see where they were going. Bumping in to each other and tripping over desks. The problem was eventually overcome by rubbing soap on the inside of the panel. We were all issued with a small piece of coloured ribbon, red green or blue and a safety pin. This piece of ribbon had to be worn on the chest every day as it depicted where you would have to go in the event of an air raid.

Some of Dai's son's wartime memorabilia

Some children being allowed to go home, some being collected by parents and others shepherded to a meeting point and taken to a communal air raid shelter. I cannot remember what colour I had but I legged it for home as soon as the siren went. My mother couldn't collect me because she was working in White Wilson's Factory situated on the corner of South Clive Street with Ferry Road. Prior to the war this was a furniture factory now changed to making ammunition boxes and the like.

During the air raids some of the children in my class were killed and we had periods of silence to remember them. I remember the teachers were upset but I cannot remember how I felt about it at the time.

I was taken by my mother to see the devastation at Tresillian Terrace where a whole rank of houses were destroyed, I also went to Corporation Road and saw where some people had been killed at Hollymans Bakery, and of course the Mansion House opposite the Plymouth pub where the Noble family and some men sheltering from the blitz were killed.

One of the things I remember most about these blitz sites was that in nearly every house that was destroyed the stairs were still intact. It was probably for this reason that in the early days of the war before we were issued with an Anderson shelter we always took refuge in the pantry under the stairs when an air raid began.

When the Mansion House on the corner of Ferry Road and Holmesdale Street had a direct hit and was completely destroyed I had to pass this site the following morning on my way to school. The road was covered with debris, people were digging amongst the ruins looking for survivors or bodies. The road was also covered with hosepipes like a lot of spaghetti. On arriving at school I was sent back home again.

The early winters of the war were very cold with much snow and sleet. Most of the people of Grangetown had started the war with very little having just come out of the depression. Now they had even less. Food rationing was a problem for parents, "Dig for Victory" was a slogan well-publicised. This meant we started to grow our own vegetables. This also meant every time a horse came along our street I was sent out with a bucket and shovel to try and beat other boys in a race to collecting the manure.

We made up for the lack of sweets by purchasing Nippits, zubes and liquorice root from the chemist.

I can only suppose that as a result of the food rationing and shortage of fruit we were not getting enough vitamins so I and many other children suffered from boils and abscesses. We would have these on our necks, arms, legs and bottoms. The boils and abscesses were sore enough but the treatment was even worse. A poultice either of the purchased type, like sticky putty or one made from bread was smeared on a bandage or piece of rag immersed in boiling water and then whilst it was still red hot slapped onto the boil. This was meant to bring the boil to a head so that it could be squeezed and burst. It was absolute agony!

The schools and our houses had only one form of heating - a coal fire. Fuel for fires became almost impossible to get. Coal merchants stopped street deliveries. I remember bitter cold days being sent out with holes in my shoes just covered with a piece of paper or cardboard, with a pram or a sled when snow was on the ground to different coal merchants to try to buy coal or coke. I wasn't very successful. Every book in our house was eventually used as fuel. Besides heating the house the coal fire was also the only means of heating the hot water system. Consequently there was very little hot water. This meant we didn't wash very thoroughly or often and tide marks around a child's face was commonplace. Needless to say our hair wasn't washed very often either and flea-infested hair was almost the norm. The "Nit" nurse visited the school every week and all children had their hair combed with a steel nit comb which besides collecting the fleas and nits left deep furrows across ones scalp. We were sent home with a note advising or parents on methods of delousing our hair. There was at least one occasion as well when a mobile shower unit arrived at the school with the children ordered to take a shower.

About the end of 1940 our family was issued with an Anderson shelter which we erected half submerged in our back garden. When the air raids were at their height we didn't go to bed in our house but went straight to the air raid shelter. The shelter was about six feet long and four feet wide with two bunk beds either side. Lighting inside was from candles and the walls of the shelter ran with condensation, so much so that in the morning the floor of the shelter had 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of water on it. The shelter was cold, wet, with no form of heating and I think if the air raids had continued for much longer we would have stood more chance of dying from pneumonia than from a bomb. The authorities later issued us with bags of broken cork and told Dad to paint the walls of the shelter and throw the cork onto the wet paint. This was meant to absorb the water but it didn't work.

Those first few years of the war were miserable as regards to food and warmth but all was not bad.


This is a Grange Council School photo from 1946, submitted by Graham Ayres.
He is pictured front row, third from the right.

Excitement. For a boy of about my age at the time there certainly was excitement. Despite the fact that there had been deaths and serious casualties amongst people we knew I do not think any of us believed that we would be killed or injured. At night after we had retired to the air raid shelter if the air raid siren went my father had to report for "fire watch" duty. He would leave carrying a metal ash-bin lid over his head as a helmet. Only the head fire warden Mr Norris had a steel helmet.

I along with other boys had learned to distinguish the sound of a German aircraft from a British one. My mother allowed me to stand between the blast wall and the entrance to the shelter to report on the progress of the raid. Searchlights probing the night sky like giant illuminated fingers could be seen almost as far away as Newport, Swansea and Bristol. Because of the blackout there was no ambient light so the illumination was more intense. It became exciting as the planes drew nearer if a searchlight picked one out.

From the resulting fires from bombs and incendiaries I could keep the family informed of the area being attacked. When the raid came nearer to home I had to get into the shelter because of the danger from shrapnel. The following morning despite warnings from parents not to pick up strange articles the boys would race from their homes to search for remnants of the air raid. All the boys and some girls collected shrapnel and swapsies would take place in school! The larger the piece of shrapnel the more prized it became.

Other objects were also sought after. An incendiary bomb burned leaving a small pile of white powder and the metal fin intact. Occasionally one, which had fallen in the street, didn't burn out entirely so part of the bomb would still be attached to the fin. These were collectable.

Shell-nose caps still showing the height calibration settings and pieces of the parachute from a parachute bomb were all sought after. Occasionally used aircraft cannon shells could be found after a dogfight.

Ron Ayres who lived in Channel View found a live round and tried to remove the shell from the casing, The shell exploded and he was almost killed. He missed a year's schooling.

Ron's brother Graham writes in 2008: "Ron's injuries were to his chest, I was also injured - we survived. Ron will be 77 and me 72 this year."

The Rover, Hotspur and Wizard boys paperbacks all carried stories of German troops landing from submarines or being shot down, giving up and being captured by civilians and groups of boys. I suppose it was a type of propaganda.

Nevertheless our gang set about digging trenches near the tide fields where we could keep watch and storing there home made bows and arrows and wooden spears in preparation for any would be invaders.

The most exciting and dangerous escapade was yet to come. One must know that prior to the war starting except for the No7 or 12 bus and the coke fired lorries of the Gas Works there was virtually no motorised traffic in Grangetown. This being so, hardly any children had travelled on a motor vehicle other than a bus.

Once the war started lorries began to appear travelling to and from the barrage balloon site and the ordnance depot and most of all the slow moving convoy of Smoke lorries, which travelled daily from the Docks to Llandough, and Leckwith woods.

One day one of the boys, most probably Dobbin Seward, came to school and said he had had a ride on a lorry from Ferry Road to Penarth Road. He said he had been standing at the corner of Ferry Road with Clive Street, when a lorry stopped. He jumped up and grabbed hold of the tail board and hung on until the lorry stopped at the junction with Penarth Road.

This was an opportunity to good to miss. The boys gathered at the Ferry Road, Clive Street junction. About 4.45pm along came the convoy travelling at about 15mph. As the lorries reached the junction one or two boys jumped on the back of each lorry and hung onto the tailboard. All the drivers were sounding their horns to warn the one in front of the boys hanging onto their lorries it was bedlam.

The success of this made us look for more and faster vehicles with the practice spreading throughout Grangetown and possible further a field. Occasionally lorry drivers would stop and get out and chase the boys but we were too fleet of foot to get caught.

It was a practice, which continued for about a year but faded out as the volume of traffic increased making it too dangerous. The final excitement was yet to come.

After the Americans entered the war they put up a compound on the Marl where they stored the wooden crates that had been used to contain Jeeps and other vehicles that had been brought across the Atlantic on ships.

Hundreds of these crates were stored there but as the end of the war approached the guards allowed people into the compound. The crates were taken and a huge bonfire was erected on the Marl. Effigies of Hitler and Goering were placed on top.

On V.E. Day hundreds of people went onto the Marl when the bonfire was set alight. I then went to Grangetown Square where again there were hundreds of people singing and dancing in the street. Everyone was hugging and kissing each other. The excitement was intense it must have been the biggest party ever held in Grangetown.


© Grangetown Community Action and webmaster