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Boyhood Wartime Memories

In June 1986, my husband and I went on honeymoon to Wales, and whilst we were there he asked if I wouldn’t mind if we went to look for the cottage in Llwyngwril, which his father had rented during the Second World War, so that he and his mother could be close to him.  We took photographs of the cottage, as well as the school that he had attended, where he admits to have struggled a bit because a lot of the children spoke in Welsh. He also took me to the beach and past the River Gwril, which cascades down the mountain and runs through the village. He regaled me with stories of the happy days he spent there with friends, catching eels in the river and watching seals on the rocks by the sea.

His father was a batman to Brigadier Newman of the Royal Marines and he was sent to his house to help his wife. She asked him, “Can you cook Smith?”, to which he replied that he couldn’t. So she gave him a cookery book and showed him how to use the cooker, then said, “Read this Smith and if it goes wrong there are always plenty of tins in the larder”. It obviously worked because I discovered what a good cook he was, much better than me, and he often gave me recipes which I still use (what a pity he didn’t teach his son!).

 the farm in wales 1  the cottage we lived in during the  my school during the war 1
The Farm. The Cottage. The School.

The local farm used to deliver milk to them every morning straight from the cow and unpasteurised. This was deemed to be the cause of his mother’s tuberculosis, that she was found to have on their return home after the war. She was treated with a new ‘wonder’ drug called M&B and although she was very ill for a while it seemed to do the trick. The rest of the family had to take precautions not to catch it and all had regular chest x-rays for some time.

Before his father was stationed in Wales he spent a short time in Lympstone in South Devon, where once again he arranged accommodation for him and his mother. One day my husband was sitting with his mother on the beach near Exmouth, when a German warplane swooped down on the other side of the estuary and started firing at a passing train. For a small boy it was probably quite exciting but I imagine his mother must have been terrified.

My father-in-law was a lovely man and I only wish I could have known him longer.

Chrissie Smiff

© Chrissie Smiff 2010